Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: What Dreams Cost

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was the first piece of art that I was intensely interested in the first thing that affected me so powerfully that I was driven to understand why I owe so much to gaymans sweeping epic about the Lord of dreams it started me on a path that’s led to here dream or Morpheus says he’s most commonly called in the series has done the same for a lot of people indeed when Gaiman made his lead character the personification and master of dreams he played on both meanings of the word the visions we have when asleep and the wishes that consume us when awake there is so much to explore and Sandman and I may do more on this but today I want to zero in on the unique place that William Shakespeare has in the series and how his presence helps game and communicate some themes about writing Dreams and genius Shakespeare makes three appearances in Sandman’s 75 issues the first time we see em is toward the beginning of the series in the context of another person’s story dream and his sister death make an agreement in a 14th century tavern when they overhear a man saying that the only reason people die is because everyone does it death agrees not to take this man hob gatling until he desires it and dream agrees to meet him in the same bar once every hundred years to discuss how he’s feeling on their second meeting in 1589 dream and hob over here a man named will shacks berg pining to his friend and fellow playwright kit Marlowe about his great wish to give men dreams that would live on after I’m dead so dream strikes another bargain with him the details of which we learn on their second meeting this time on the South Downs of Sussex England where Shakespeare travelling with a troupe of players is preparing his new play a midsummer night’s dream this play we learn was written for during one of two plays about dreams in exchange for Shakespeare becoming the figure we know today the vessel for the great stories of mankind shakespeare’s troupe are enticed to perform for the real inhabitants Fairey who are visiting the earthly realm at dreams invitation perhaps for the last time in the process of this story which takes place toward the middle of the series dream begins to question if he was right for giving Shakespeare what he wanted he did not understand the cost he says mortals never do they only see the prize their hearts desire their dream but the price of getting what you want is getting what you once wanted here we begin to see the purpose behind shakespeare’s inclusion in this series through Shakespeare and analog for dream and Gaiman himself we get a meditation not only on genius but on the cost of genius the fir Gaiman that cost is isolation isolation of all forms in this issue we meet him shakespeare’s son Shakespeare seems to regard Hamnett as a nuisance and Hamnett laments to another actor he’s very distant he doesn’t seem like he’s really there anymore not really it’s like he’s somewhere else anything that happens he just makes stories out of it I’m less real than any of the characters in his plays in his eagerness to write great stories Shakespeare becomes isolated from his family and his life such as the cost of extreme focus but works of genius also become isolated from their context at the intermission of the play dream breaks the news to Shakespeare that his friend Christopher Marlowe has been killed the timing is no accident here the rise of Shakespeare beginning with plays like a midsummer night’s dream signaled the disappearance of his contemporaries like Christopher Marlowe from the historical record in modern cultural memory or in academia their presence has been overshadowed by isolated genius a gay man picks up this theme again in the final appearance of Shakespeare and Sandman which is also not accidentally the final issue of the series here Shakespeare is writing his final play The Tempest the second play at the end of his career that fulfills his bargain with Greene his friend and sometimes critic Ben Johnson comes to visit him and asks about the new play have you been raiding poor Holland shed again or does plutarch bear the brunt of your depredations this of course references the fact that shakespeare famously took many of his plots from prior sources and histories like those of raphael holland shed and Plutarch yet these sources like small planets like Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson do not register against the massive star that is Shakespeare an example back in the first issue in 1789 at their fourth meeting hobb Gatling tells dream he has seen a production of King Lear mentioning the idiots have given it a happy ending that will not last dream says the great stories will always return to their original forms here Gaiman is playing with us he knows what the average man epitomized by hob Gatling does not that it was Shakespeare who changed the ending the original versions on which Lear was based did have a happy ending but those versions are forgot and yet by having dreams say the great stories will always return to their original forms Gaiman indicates perhaps the key theme of the whole series the power of dreams to supplant reality in the second issue Oberon king of fairy watches Shakespeare’s play about himself and says to dream but things never happened thus dream responds apropos of this theme things need not have happened to be true tales and dreams are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgot the very next panel features the line from A Midsummer Night’s Dream that criticizes the power of stories the best in this kind are but shadows Oh Gaiman like Shakespeare disagrees these shadows these illusions of reality incomplete as they are may come in time to replace the real thing indeed Shakespeare was the vessel for extremely powerful stories his treatments of of love and madness in many ways created the age we still live we are all in a very real sense living in the dreams of Shakespeare Sandman is a singular work of art coming and propelling comics into a higher literary appreciation and pulling like Shakespeare’s work on a vast catalogue of mythological religious and literary references it’s fitting that Gaiman is more interested in Shakespeare the man than his work Shakespeare dream and Gaiman like I said are all analogues for one another and each in their turn have to examine the costs of telling great stories the largest part of that cost it seems is isolation I watched my life as if it were happening to someone else Shakespeare tells dream my son died and I was hurt but I watched my hurt and even relished it a little for now I could write a real death a true loss and three issues that span the series Neil Gaiman treats these themes of genius and isolation within a larger framework of a story that is essentially about stories the inclusion of Shakespeare highlights the uneasy relationship between stories collective dreams and those who create them history and imagination amend Shakespeare to fit their purposes just as Gaiman does by bringing him to life in the pages of Sandman a Gaiman imagines him isolated from his own life as history has isolated him above his time and place even as we make our work our work makes us and it can obliterate us too in other words dreams really do come true hey everybody thanks for watching and welcome to everybody who is new to the nerdwriter that inside-out video I can’t believe so many people watch that that was just an awesome experience last week but this is a great example of the kind of stuff that we do here the nerd writer we take art and culture and science and politics and explore them and go in-depth and put ideas to work that’s what this is all about and the channel is made possible by your pledges on my patreon page right here as little as a dollar per video you know the money that you guys give me goes directly into these videos and to toward improving the channel and that is really what I want to do is push this medium farther you know create new styles new ways of exploring and explaining ideas and there’s a lot more that I want to do this was awesome I’ve been thinking about how to analyze comics for a long time hope you enjoyed it anyway thank you again and welcome to the nerd writer we have a lot of fun here I will see you guys next Wednesday

100 thoughts on “Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: What Dreams Cost

  1. I will watch every video you do, but I will watch sandman videos as many times as possible, please do more.

  2. I read the whole series just to watch this video because I knew it was good and it took me two years from reading the comic on and off and after i finished, i watched this video and i teared up because it spoke to me and was basically reading my mind.

  3. Visiting as I pull my collection of Sandman graphic novels out of storage after 20 yrs to re read.

  4. Patron Saint of gothic chicks because of how morbid it is. You can't achieve greatness, hyper focus or even realized imagination without great sacrifice. What a twisted shitty deal of the Faustian spirit. And then it hit me. GaiMAN. Big Nose. Talk of sacrificed babies and 'blood libel' even in this short clip. These are not written dreams of dreams, but poison, alluring and enticing as they may be.
    edit: Start video again and immediately you have some warped version of reality that Shakespear or whatever he was proudly and self-involvingly admitting to relishing in his own Son's death. Wow, what poetry and tragedy… yeah. Only if you're a ratman poisoning the host.

  5. Wait a minute, I just realized something as I watched this video again. It has been implied that Titania and Morpheus might have had an affair together. What if Midsummer Night's Dream was Morpheus' way of thumbing his nose at Auberon?

  6. It's no accident Gaiman has written moments in Sandman where dreams actually completely reshape reality, in A Dream of a Thousand Cats and Overture, both these moments and the points made in this video demonstrate how Sandman is a thesis on the power of stories.

  7. Wow I've seen a production of a midsummer night's dream on the Sussex downs in England, just because it's close by. Cool that it's in something.

  8. Can you make a video reviewing Watchmen and V for vendetta from Alan Moore? That would be nice

  9. Shit! Sandman is one of my favorite pieces of art ever, and what an amazing video you made, I even cried. You get a new sub.

  10. You're a beautiful person who I deeply adore, thank you for the beautiful content that touches me every damn time. I would like to hear your opinion on Donnie Darko and Dancer in the Dark.

  11. It's invigorating and a pleasure to watch your videos with the vitality you put into them. This particular one resulted so splendid I watched it twice, subscribed, and ordered the 1st volume of Sandman Absolute collection. 🙂 Thank you for introducing this to me! -Keep up the great work!:)

  12. I was speechless. That was absolutely incredible. I have every Sandman comic, it was my favorite series growing up. I am so much more appreciative looking back on them 15-20 years later. Thank you for this magnificent discussion about one of the arcs. Thank you for sharing.

  13. You need to read "Y: The Last Man". I definitely want to see how you break down such a compelling story.

  14. I love the way you say something mindblowing and then the arpeggiated piano comes in at the end of every video

  15. The Sandman es una historia muy valorada en el mundo Hispano,así que gracias por los subtítulos en español

  16. I would love for you to do a break down on all the Endless ones and their relationship in metaphor.

  17. Great video. I'm a big Neil Gaiman fan and I discovered him through my love the Sandman comics.

  18. The best thing about the imagination is how Your idea can flourish into someone's elses.

  19. Life in itself has no essential meaning or value. All art in one way or another is a story, a narrative. It's through the stories that we tell ourselves and adopt from others that we acquire meaning and value for ourselves, each of us.

  20. This was how I felt when I first read Neverwhere and American Gods. Neil Gaiman is amazing.

  21. If DC made a Sandman movie, it would have to be a Series, and very long.

  22. The curse is simple but brutal in its execution. For we dream and abhor the waking lives that bind us, yet our dreams, themselves, remain ever elusive.

  23. 20 years i beem waiting for a sandman movie tv show this is gold

  24. Midsummer Night's Dream won a Hugo award, a lot of serious literary types got butthurt it was given to a comic book and the next day they amended the rules so that it could never happen again. Neil likened it to "closing the barn door after the horse had left, and won the Kentucky Derby."

  25. please do more of these. there will never be too much about sandman and dream

  26. What! I read the first volume in my kindle, honestly thought the black and white was an artistic choice now I have to buy the physical color copy

  27. won't we have more on sandman before they make a netflix series out of it? 😐

  28. I remember reading the series in the 90's and it blew my mind. Niel Gaiman broke barriers and expectations taking comics into new possibilities with Sandman.
    The comic series didn’t pigeonhole itself into one genre. It was epic fantasy at its finest, grand in scope and ideas. The examination of Shakespeare in the series was particularly an eye opener!

  29. But in sponsoring A Misomernight's Dream, he interested Puck to the the world, and that would ultimately lead to Morpheous' downfall, but not Dreams

  30. If you wanted to do another review I would vote for Mike Carey's Lucifer.

  31. This reminds me of the song “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George. Sondheim has the artist sing about watching the world “from a window” as he works on his art. This whole play explores the idea of how an artist has to distance themselves from their world to create.

  32. Cool vid, but I’d argue that it’s still a low price to pay for guaranteed mega-success doing what you like.

  33. watched this every time i see it on YouTube. It always give me chills.

  34. You mentioned you wanted to do more episodes on Sandman. Since Netflix picked it up for a series, would you consider doing more Sandman episodes?

  35. I love Sandman so much, and just liek you, I can't quiet explain why, it just… touchs me very deep, the visual ara also simply beautiful, i feel like I'm dreaming while reading it.
    Please make more videos about it!

  36. Rarely anyone could beat Morpheus in giving the last quote in a debate…of course, his siblings will have something to say about it

  37. Well, an unpopular opinion. What does a dream matter to somebody who does not dream?

  38. today i learned that Neil Gaiman is in a lot more of my favorite books than i thought

  39. This video sucks for the same reason the Shakespeare sideplot sucked: It’s just famous writers jacking eachother off over how stories can be important. It’s utterly pretentious and boring, and fails absolutely in capturing what made the Sandman series special or interesting

  40. This is video is what got me to read sandman and love it.

  41. Sandman is the greatest comic I've read. The endless exist perfectly in this universe

  42. It's so sad that morpheus's son had such a fate. Morpheus was intelligent but not wise.

  43. I follow your chanel for some years now, Sandman is my favorite comic book ever and I've never seen this video! Just cried a couple of times, I'll be fine (in one year of therapy, maybe), but please I hope there is a series of videos about Sandman already made, checking out NOWWW!!!

  44. I love the sandman series . I loved this video and your voice is so soothing :).

  45. For Halloween this year you should use the music from the beginning and read The Halloween Tree.

  46. Gaiman is pretty clearly a literary genius… I can only hope that the cost he writes about in Sandman is maybe a bit 'dramatic' (Humans are not meant to live isolated – it's… hard). I've generally not been drawn to the graphic novel approach to storytelling but Gaiman could write on McDonalds napkins and I'd pay money for it.

  47. I loved this comic book soooo much when I was this tall /. After watching this video I want to read these books again.

  48. I loved this video! Looking forward to you exploring more. If so, a spin-off well worth the read is Mike Carey’s Lucifer. Great job regardless!!

  49. Another meaning could have been hidden there in Dream telling Shakespeare that Great Stories find their true form. A hint that Gaiman himself may have had to make some unknowable change to Sandman to tell it in its greatest form, that perhaps he himself intended a different kind of ending to the story.

  50. upon watching this video I realized that the death of Morpheus was the price he paid for telling us his story

  51. I know I am a few years late to this video but I gotta say; do you know that one moment in Doctor Who that showed the episode of Van Gogh's reaction on visiting the art museum in the present? Just imagine William Shakespeare's reaction in reading the "ode to joy" that Neil Gaiman gave to him in The Sandman.

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