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He prays to High Heaven every moment and kisses the cross. And his toothless old mouth interjects prayers to God and curses on man in the same breath.
If anyone is talking to him he looks the other way, slips down until his shoulders occupy the throne. Then he scratches his leg, and keeps up a running comment of insult. “Aye,” “Oh,” “Of course,” “Certainly,” “Ugh,” “Listen to him now!”
There is a comedy side to all this which relieves the tragedy and keeps the play from becoming disgusting.
Glimpses of Ivan’s past are given in his jerky confessions he is the most miserable and unhappy of men. And you behold that he is reaping as he has sown.
All his life he has been preparing for this. Each day has been a preparation for the next.
Ivan dies in a fit of wrath, hurling curses on his family and court dies in a fit of wrath into which he has been purposely taunted by a man who knows that the outburst is certain to kill the weakened monarch.
Where does Ivan the Terrible go when Death closes his eyes?
I know not. But this I believe: No confessional can absolve him, no priest benefit him, no God forgive him. He has damned himself, and he began the work in youth.
He was getting ready all his life for this old age. And this old age was getting ready for the fifth act.
The playwright does not say so, Mansfield does not say so, but these are the lessons:
Hate is a poison. Wrath is a toxin. Sensuality leads to death. Clutching selfishness is a lighting of the fires of hell. It is all a preparation cause and effect.
If you are ever absolved, you must absolve yourself, for no one else can. And the sooner you begin, the better.
Again, the beauty of old age
We often hear of the beauties of old age. But the only old age that is beautiful is the one the man has long been preparing for. Living a beautiful life. Every one of us are right now preparing for old age.
There may be a substitute somewhere in the world for Good Nature. But I regret I do not know where it can be found.
The secret of salvation is this: Keep Sweet.
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