for the first time sung by the rhapsodies, we too are made tonexperience vicariously those ceremonies of passion andnadventure that are eagerly desired by the human soul ofnevery civilization. The fire that Shakespeare lit when henrecreated in his tragedies and comedies the Elizabethannuniverse — from the plebeian street gossip with its fresco ofnpicturesque types and its rich vulgarity, to the refinednastuteness of the struggle for power of rulers and warriors, ornthe delicacies and torments of love and the feast ofndesire — still burns every time those stories materializenbefore us on a stage, embracing us, over time and distance,nwith their verbal enchantment. Brooding over the flesh-andbonenbeings and the demons of his time, Shakespearensketched certain images in which men of every era discoverntheir own faces.nThis miracle would not have been possible if the old poetnfrom the beginnings of Greek civilization and the Englishnplaywright had not enjoyed, apart from their marvelousncommand of language and an incandescent imagination, thenpossibility of giving free rein to their private phantoms,nletting them move around as they wished, and submitting tontheir dictates when confronted with the papyrus or the piecenof paper.nThe civilization to which both of them belonged werenrepressive ones that managed to maintain themselves by thendiscrimination and exploitation of the poor and the weak.nBut in the specific field in which Homer and Shakespearenoperated, artistic creation — what we, making use of anmodern concept, would call “permissibility” — was almostnabsolute. For the Greek, the poet was a spokesman of thengods, an intermediary from the other world in whom thenartistic and religious values entwined in an indissolublenmanner. How could a culture that, unlike ours, did notnseparate literature and art from morality and religion, thenspirit from the body, have hindered the work of a man whosenfunction was that of a priest and a seer as well as that of annillusionist? To that unconditional freedom that the poetnenjoyed, the artist and the thinker — the communicationnbridges between men and gods, this world and the other —nthe Greek culture owes its particular development, thenevolution that allowed it both to attain a prodigious richnessnof invention and knowledge in the fields of ideas, art, andnliterature, and to fix a certain pattern of beauty and thoughtnthat changed the history of the world, imposing upon it anrationality from which the entire technical and scientificnprogress as well as the gradual humanization of society werento derive.nIt has been said that the history of Greece represents thenvictory of reason over the irrational straitjackets of pre-nGhristian civilizations. This may be true. But that triumphantnawakening of reason over the coat of mail ofnsuperstitions and taboos that was to precipitate the worldntowards its unstoppable development would not have beennpossible without that latitude for thinking and creating thatnthe Hellenic culture allowed its philosophers and artists. Thentriumph of reason followed the triumph of liberty. Perhapsnfor the first time in the course of human history the poet wasnnot a man simply in charge of putting rhythm and music tonwhat already existed — the legends and collective myths, thenenthroned religion — and of illustrating in fables the establishednmorality, but was instead an independent individual.n16/CHRONICLESnnnleft to his own devices, authorized to explore the unknownnusing imagination, introspection, desire, and reason and tonopen the doors of the city to his private ghosts.nShakespeare’s genius could not have flourished withoutnthe unlimited freedom he had to show human passions (asnDr. Johnson wrote) with the impunity that he did. Not all ofnhis contemporaries, however, enjoyed this freedom. ThenTudor Era was not tolerant, but rather a despotic and brutalnone, so much so that the historian G.B. Harrison, referringnto the Vandalic destructions of statues, images, paintings,narchitectural works, and religious books that followed thenfirst reform of Henry VIII, has compared that age tonGermany and the Soviet Union under Hitler and Stalin. Butndrama was considered a vulgar and plebeian amusement,ntoo far below the world of salons, academies, and librariesnwhere the prevailing culture was produced and preserved, tonbe worthy of the punctilious control that was exerted overnreligious or political texts, for example. Power, in the age ofnElizabeth I, prohibited English historical works and also shutndown theaters on several occasions. But fortunately thendramatists were disdained and left in peace, so that—naccording to Harrison — the theater of London was the onlynplace where the common man could hear direct and honestncommentaries about life. No one made better use thannShakespeare of this accidental privilege granted to dramatistsnin Elizabethan England. The result is that fresco of man andnhis demons — political, social, religious, or sexual — thatndazzles us because of its variety and subtlety, while enlighteningnus more than an army of psychologists, anthropologists,nand sociologists on the vertiginous complexity ofnhuman nature. In the Shakespeare character, for the firstntime, flowered that man in whom, as Georges Bataillenwrote, “contradictions immerse and empathize.”nAs in literature, so in almost all fields of human affairs,nfreedom awakens in an unforeseen way, by accident ornthrough the negligence of the dominant culture, that fails tonlegislate or organize certain areas of activity. Thanks to thisnexceptional privilege, individual initiative can copiouslynmanifest itself there. The result is always, sooner or later,ncreative impetus, winds of change. The activity that, due tonchance or to prejudices or distractions of those who exercisenpower, is let loose, develops very quickly, and begins tontransform its surroundings.nThat does not mean, of course, that once political, moral,nor religious censorship vanishes, genius immediately flourishes.nIt only means that when freedom does not exist or isnfaint, human creativity shrinks and literature and art becomenpoor.nWhy was colonial literature in Latin America so clamorouslynmediocre that today we have to search very hard tonfind an author in those 300 years who deserves to be read?nFor every one Juana Ines de la Cruz or Inca Garcilaso de lanVega how many hundreds of indistinguishable poets andnwriters are there, abstruse chroniclers, incontinent dramatistsnwithout a single original idea? This literary scarcity isnnot gratuitous, nor can it be attributed to an intellectualndeficiency common to our colonial versifiers. The compressingnsteamroller of ecclesiastic censorship prohibited andncondemned the novel as impious. This prohibition of anliterary form was a unique case in history. Every printedn