Is there a meaning to life? If so, what is it?
Deck:The Shakespeare Tarot
Card: 6 of Crowns Theseus & The Rude Mechanicals
Answer: Yes. Albeit a play-within-a-play, no more yeilding but a dream.
The scene depicted here is the marriage of Theseus and Hyppolyta from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Rude Mechanicals are a group of amateur actors employed as the wedding’s entertainment. The troupe is comically bad, with one of them portraying the moon and another acting the part of a wall. Unlike most of Shakespeare’s other plays, there is no original source for MND, the bard just made it up from scratch, likely for his own daughter’s wedding. The implication, then, concerning life’s meaning is: the meaning of life is the one we invent for it. As the title suggests, there is much play in the play on the idea of dreams – that which is invented by the passions. The Rude Mechanicals are risible, but they have tremendous pluck. Indeed, their leader – Bottom – desires in his excitement to play every character. Aside from the meaning of life being what we make it, the further implication is that whatever meaning one comes up with, one has to really mean it – no matter how fantastic or bad. With the various themes of love and marriage in MSN, the meaning of life centers around true emotions and partnerships with people.
This is the 6 of Crowns, so one of the central ideas here is charity. Theseus is throwing the Rude Mechanicals a bone by letting them perform at his wedding, but he’s rather cranky about their incompetence and about art generally. His bride, on the other hand, loves the players and their play, and is generous of spirit to them. This implies that one of life’s meanings is to be charitable, to enjoy what is given, and not be so quick to turn one’s mind off to that which is borne of “the lunatic, the lover, and the poet.” As quoted on the card itself, Theseus says: “The best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst are no worse if imagination amend them.” to which Hyppolyta replies: “It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.” Translation: whatever meaning life lacks, it is up to us – our imagination – to amend it.
One final thought: with the machinations of Puck, the faeries, the Indian changeling, and the pagan gods Oberon and Titania, MND suggests that while in life there are many meanings at play, most of them must remain unknown to us mere mortals.