Shakespeare on Common Sense and its Pitfalls

and what impossibility would slay in common sense“And what impossibility would slay
In common sense, sense saves another way.”
(All’s Well That Ends Well, act 2, sc. 1)

Tips for Use.  A way to justify your going along with an idea suggested by others, though you rate its success unlikely. The lines also illustrate the inherent paradox of common sense. If common sense were the supreme arbiter of decisions, innovations would be either stifled or impossible. Just think of the notion (supported by the common sense of observation and the sanction of theology), that the sun rotates around the earth. An idea already suggested in antiquity by the astronomer-philosopher Aristarchus of Samos but let dormant for 1800 years until the times Copernicus and Galileo. And we know what Galileo had to go through for publicizing his views. Sometimes the will to adhere to old notions is so strong as make the holder of the notion blind to the absurd consequences. Galileo, using his perfected telescope, discovered that Jupiter had satellites, thus destroying the geo-centric theory of the universe. Whereupon the bishop of Pisa declared that it was sinful to look through a telescope because it showed objects that did not exist. History, even recent, is full of lunatic conclusions reached on the same principle.
Which is to say that common sense may not make sense all the time.
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In the play. Helena has staked her life and reputation on her power to cure the King. That is, either the cure is effective or she is prepared to die. The King begins to yield to Helen’s attempt at a cure and she will be successful.

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