Shakespeare on Fukushima

Credit for concept of this posting goes to David Ritchie, a resident of South Korea who has been writing about the Fukushima Daiichi disaster from the other side of the Sea of Japan, or, as they call it in South Korea, the East Sea.

Living in South Korea, David Ritchie seems to be more concerned with local contamination than most people here in Japan. Some might think that indicates an over-reaction, but he has blogged about recent news in South Korea that locally harvested seaweed is contaminated above safety levels – and that’s seaweed not offshore from Fukushima, but to the west, across the Japanese islands and across the Sea of Japan. How did it get over there?

David’s best posting was his use of Shakespeare’s words to describe events in Northern Japan this past year. He has these first four citations on his blog. I took up the game and added the rest that follow. 

Shakespeare was definitely writing about other things besides nuclear disasters, so it is a bit dubious to put his words in another context like this, but I do it to underscore the power of his language. The extraordinary nature of a nuclear disaster requires extraordinary powers of expression, and Shakespeare's words seem to fill this need.

On radioactive plumes: 
The storm is up, and all is on the hazard
Julius Caesar, Act 5, Scene 1

On radionuclide uptake: 
Yet have I something in me dangerous
Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 1

On the beauty of Fukushima, despoiled by invisible dust:

Never came poison from so sweet a place.
Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2

And on post-3/11 realities:
Let me embrace thee, sour adversity,
For wise men say it is the wisest course.
Henry VI, part 3, Act 3, Scene 1


My additions:

On the government regulators, and General Electric and TEPCO executives who hid themselves during the crisis:
Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Julius Caesar Act 2, Scene 2

On the fallout and black rain that fell on Northern Japan, March 2011:

Now is the winter of our discontent
And all the clouds that low'r'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Richard The Third Act 1, Scene 1

Something wicked this way comes.
Macbeth Act 4, Scene 1

What, will the line stretch out to th' crack of doom?
Macbeth Act 4, Scene 1

On the health effects of radiation:
Out, damned spot.
Macbeth Act 5, Scene 1

Fukushima Daiichi, Reactor 3 explodes on March 14, 2011 (off by a day, but damn close):

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2

And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.
Twelfth Night Act 5, Scene 1

On the colossal hubris of Japan’s nuclear industry:
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!
A Midsummer Nights Dream Act 3, Scene 2

Merciful heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Splits the unwedgeable and gnarlèd oak
Than the soft myrtle; but man, proud man,
Dress'd in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd—
His glassy essence—like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.
Measure For Measure Act 2, Scene 2

On the confusing and contradictory scientific information about nuclear hazards, and the general abandonment of the irradiated people of Fukushima and beyond:
Let every eye negotiate for itself
And trust no agent
Much Ado About Nothing Act 2, Scene 1

On citizens left begging for protection from their perpetrator of the damage:
For in the fatness of these pursy times
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg.
Hamlet Act 3, Scene 4

On hope lying only in people standing up and rejecting those plans where “expectation failed:”
Oft expectation fails, and most oft there
Where most it promises; and oft it hits
Where hope is coldest, and despair most fits.
All's Well That Ends Well Act 2, Scene 1

We all were sea-swallow'd, though some cast again
(And by that destiny) to perform an act
Whereof what's past is prologue; what to come,
In yours and my discharge.
The Tempest Act 2, Scene 1

On the wisdom of leaving Fukushima to be uninhabited:
What's gone and what's past help
Should be past grief.
The Winter's Tale Act 3, Scene 2

Using those thoughts which should indeed have died
With them they think on? Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what's done, is done.
Macbeth Act 3, Scene 2

On the profits to be had by a few in the senseless reconstruction and decontamination on poisoned land:
Ill blows the wind that profits nobody.
Henry VI, Part 3, Act 2, Scene 5

On the likelihood of Japanese nuclear plant operators following lawful, sensible and ethical procedures:
...it is a custom more honor'd in the breach than the observance
Hamlet Act 1, Scene 4

On the illusory promise of a technology that could fulfill all our “energy needs:”
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
Brief as the lightning in the collied night,
That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth;
And ere a man hath power to say "Behold!"
The jaws of darkness do devour it up:
So quick bright things come to confusion.
A Midsummer Night's Dream Act 1, Scene 1

And the final question

To be or not to be?
Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1

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