Whopping 9 mentions of nothing

Found myself wondering why Winter’s Tale had the most nothing-mentions in Shakespeare’s plays and I think a lot of the reason is this passage which contains a whopping 9 mentions, the most of any single passage in his plays that I found.

… When I started looking at this, I suppose I’d hoped to find some unifying idea behind these nothings, though these days the lame view I’ve taken of the matter is that Shakespeare simply found in these words (“thing”, “nothing,” “no thing,” “something,” “everything”) opportunities for wordplay.

… That said, Shakespeare does seem preoccupied with things whose existence is in a certain sense questionable. Is a lie or deceit –Edmund’s letter– something or nothing? Is an emotion –Hamlet’s grief– something or nothing — or everything? Is seeming to be real (e.g., the theater) real or not? Metaphysically, are we to construe nothing as literally no-thing or does absence have its own sort of presence? etc.

To be or not to be — nothing is involved in that question.

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