Forgiveness and Shakepeare

I have seen many of Shakepeare’s works and while I can agree that there are some great theatrical elements, his plays on a whole tend to be terribly sad and dark. However, I have recently seen his play ‘The Two Gentleman of Verona’. This play is acclaimed by critics as one of Shakepeare’s worst plays because the ending is so very unrealistic, at least in their eyes.

You see, the story is about to friends, Valentine and Protius, who set out on different journeys from their home in Verona, Italy. Through a series of events, which I will not go into due to the fact that they would require a long explanation and I believe you should watch the show, Protius plots to steal away Silvia from Valentine. In order to do so, Protius takes part in many acts of trechery which through the course of the play, changes the character of Protius from a good friend to an evil scoundrel of a man. In the final scene, Protius rescues Silvia from her capturers, Silvia explains should would have rather died then to be rescued by ‘False Protius’ and Protius seeks to ‘woo her like a soldier at arms lenth; unbeknownst that Valentine is watching all the while. A duel insues in which Valentine has the opportunity to do away with his betrayer, yet he chooses not to and in turn not only forgives Protius but offers his love Silvia to him. Here is what he says:

And once again I do receive thee honest. Who by repentance is not satisfied, is nor of heaven nor of earth. For these are pleased; By penitence th’Eternal’s wath’s appeased. And, that my love may appear plain and free, All that was mine in Silvia I give thee.

This ending may seem very unrealistic from ┬áthe world’s standpoint that depicts only revenge these days. In our world, self-preservation is the name of the game and if someone gets in the way or betrays you, you cut them off. Yet, this approach leaves people empty and broken. And on the flip side, sometimes the world knows how to demonstrate forgiveness better than we ourselves do.

In scripture we are commanded to forgive others, lest we not be forgiven. There are many stories throughout the Bible that demonstrate forgiveness and what it brings forth. For instance, take this passage from Luke: “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Or the phrase in the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Or the passage in Matthew 18 when Peter asked the Lord: “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus answered, I tell you, not as many as seven but 70 times 7.”

Our forgiveness of others should not be limited by circumstance, degree of wrong, mood, or any other factor. I dare say, if God forgave us the way that we often forgive others, we would be in a big hole. Yet, the Lord sets the example of how we are to forgive others: without limitation. As Christ said, His Father would do to us if we did not forgive others FROM OUR HEART. Not a simple ‘I forgive you’, but indeed forgiving from the heart and showing it, instantly. No excuses, no exceptions, no delays.

Believe me, this is not an easy lesson. I know first hand how hard it can be to forgive. This lesson really hits home with me due to the fact that prior to applying this lesson to my own life, it took my six years to forgive one individual. But I am glad to say that the Lord reminded me of His forgiveness to me and how I should model it. If God has forgiven me of my sin and my daily wrongs against him and counts it not against me, how could I do any less? I submit that if we do not follow the example, we not only take for granted the great forgiveness that has been bestowed upon us, but we also slap God in the face because we have blocked His forgiveness from trully changing us.

Let us follow the example of Valentine and our Gracious God in our lives and show true heartfelt forgiveness to those who wrong us.