Tonight, Mike S finishes off the collection entitled The Wake.
A Doll’s House recaps here: KatherineMW took on the first two issues, then the next two issues. KatherineMW and Jason Tank then reviewed the fifth and sixth, respectively. Mike Schilling reviewed the final two issues.
Dream Country recaps here: Glyph reviewed Calliope then Jaybird and Maribou reviewed Dream of a Thousand Cats in the first review post for Dream Country. Alan Scott reviewed A Midsummer Night’s Dream then Mike Schilling reviewed Façade in the second.
Season of Mists recaps here: Jaybird reviewed the first two in this post. Jason Tank reviewed the next two here. Boegiboe reviewed the next two after that here and here. Ken reviewed the final two here.
Fables and Reflections recaps here: Ken and Jaybird reviewed the preview plus the first two issues here. Mike Schilling and Jaybird did the next two issues here. KatherineMW did the next issue here. Glyph, Ken, and Russell did the Sandman Special issues here.
Brief Lives recaps here: Jason Tank recapped Chapter 1 and Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 2 here. Reformed Republican recapped Chapter 3 and Jaybird recapped Chapter 4 here. Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 5 and Glyph recapped Chapter 6 here. Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 7 and Glyph recapped Chapter 8 here.
World’s End issues #51 (A Tale of Two Cities) and #52 (Cluracan’s Tale) reviewed here by Jason Tank and James K. Issues #53 (Hob’s Leviathan) and #54 (The Golden Boy) reviewed here by KatherineMW and Reformed Republican. Ken reviewed Issues #55 (Cerements) and #56 (“World’s End”) here.
The Kindly Ones recaps here: Mike Schilling recapped the Prologue to and Part One here. Glyph and Jaybird recapped parts two and three, respectively, here. Jason Tank recapped parts four and five here. Mike Schilling recapped issues six and seven here. Jaybird and Jason Tank tackled issues eight and nine here. Jaybird recapped ten and eleven here. Mike recapped twelve and thirteen here.
It’s very difficult to discuss this book without discussing the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that (if there were one after that, anyway.[/efn_note] If you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Everybody who has done the reading, see you below!
This is told in first person and drawn in an unusual style for Sandman, almost like a heavily illustrated conventional story rather than a fully graphic one. The narrator is Master Li, an elderly Chinese bureaucrat who, because of his son’s unwise political decisions, has been exiled to a far city, quite possibly with the intention that he die before arriving there. He is composing in his mind the story of his downfall and exile, some of it quite real, some in dreams, like his encounter with his dead son (who was executed, not exiled).
Li has brought a kitten for companionship, not the brightest thing to do in a trackless desert. When it runs off, he chases it into the tent of a certain pale, unruly-haired person who knows his name, and indeed seems to know quite a lot about everything. He explains that Li has wandered into one of the Soft Places, and is hundreds of years off track. Li expresses astonishment, but lets it go. He asks Morpheus instead to grant him the boon of a cup of wine. Morpheus agrees and (of course) refuses payment. Morpheus tells the story of a friend (yeah, a friend) who also lost his son, but refused to mourn him. Li says, quite justly, that that ws foolishness. Morpheus wishes him farewell.
Li somehow wanders into an amusement park, complete with a hysterically laughing clown-in-a-box and a claw machine. From the latter he wins a toy bridge and uses it to cross a chasm. On the other side he meets Morpheus again, apparently hundreds of years later, although the kitten is still a kitten. A band of horseman approach. They have been condemned to ride through this desert for centuries, apparently since Roman times. Morpheus frees them, though whether back to Rome or to their final reward, we aren’t told. Morpheus offers Li a job in the Dreaming, but Li chooses to obey his Emperor by going to his appointed place of exile. And he remembers what the Roman soldier said just before Morpheus sent him to … wherever. “Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost”.
William Shakespeare is writing a play, His last, actually, of the same name as the current, and last, issue of Sandman. It’s especially written for the king, but not James I of England; I think we can all guess which king Will means. Temporarily blocked, Will goes out to the inn for a pint, though there’s a hell of a storm out.
At the inn, Will is mocked as a writer of godless plays, but the landlady, whose husband Will once did a huge favor, defends him. She alludes to his work on the King James bible, but he shushes her. Her son Tommy seems sweet on Will’s daughter. Two sailors bring a waterlogged corpse to the inn, and show it off for a few pennies. Later, their drunken singing awakens Will at his home.
The next day, Ben Jonson comes to visit. He patronizes Will, considering himself far the superior playwright. Will is uninterested in disputing this. They discuss the Guy Fawkes plot, which is appears that Ben betrayed, and together create the famous verse
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Will insists that The Tempest will be his last play, and that he is glad to be done writing. (We see a fragment of it, with Caliban looking remarkably like Despair.)
Will’s daughter Judith chides him for having been away from his family in London for most of her childhood. He half-apologizes that he was chasing a dream, but he’s almost done now. Will’s wife Anne is glad that Judith and Tommy appear headed for marriage, but Will is not, remembering that the favor he’d done Tommy’s father was to lend him thirty pounds when he’d spent all of his money on whores.
Will falls asleep and dreams of Morpheus. He complains that his plays give him no pleasure; rather than art, he sees the compromises he had to make to keep the actors happy. Morpheus reminds Will that he owes two plays: the first was the Midsummer Night’s Dream, and this is the second.
A priest has come down from London to congratulate Will for his work on the Psalms, and wishes that God had blessed him with Will’s talent for words. What, Will asks, if the talent came not from God, but from some Other Power? The priest cries that the result would be damnation, and insists on knowing why Will would even ask. Oh, replies Will, I have a character with that problem. (Sure, a character.) The priest suggests that Prospero renounce his magic at the end of the play.
Having finished the play, Will is visited by Morpheus, and suggests they visit the Dreaming for a celebratory libation. On the way, they discuss the play: Will sees all the characters as facets of himself. He is a bit taken aback by the wonders of the Dreaming. After a glass of wine, they discuss their bargain: Will receives the power to create dreams that will live forever; Morpheus, two plays. Had they not made that bargain, Will would have written a few unremarkable plays, returned to Stratford, and been successful but frustrated. But, Will says, I would have lived my life, rather than observing it as raw material for my work.
Now religion arises. Will accuses Morpheus of being a pagan god. (That’s not quite true, of course.) He also confesses hiding his name in Psalm 46. (The 46th word of which is “shake”; the 46th from the end “spear”. He translated it at age 46.) And he asks again, why did Morpheus want this play? Because it’s about a magician who renounces his magical kingdom and thus leaves it.