A Bit of Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is my second favourite writer.

Like many people, my first experience of Shakespeare was his eponymous tragedy Romeo and Juliet. During an English class at school, the teacher handed out copies of the play and told us to study the text and write an essay about it. In order to encourage us and help us understand the narrative, we were shown two film adaptations:

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann, Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes

I really enjoy the modern setting of this adaptation. While it features a lot of action and violence, this doesn’t ever distract from the story or its main themes.

Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey

This version stays very true to the original text, and anyone that knows me will know that is how I like stories to be told.

After Romeo and Juliet, the class went on to study Julius Ceaser. This was a bit heavy-going for me at the time. Again, we were shown a film adaptation of the play:

Julius Ceaser (1970)
Directed by Stuart Burge, Starring Charlton Heston, Jason Robards and John Gielgud

I found this film a bit long-winded. I have recently watched it again and fell asleep halfway through, but in all honesty I find this to be the case with most of Charlton Heston’s films.

I believe the essay I eventually wrote was something like: ‘How Cassius manipulated Brutus to be the figurehead in the plot to bring down Ceaser’s tyrannus rule’ (in their opinion).

More recently, I have decided to actually watch some of Shakespeare’s plays performed in a theatre. The first one chose had to be Romeo and Juliet, which I saw in December 2008. The production was amazing, and again it took a slightly modern angle. This performance really awoke the Shakespeare fan within.

The next play I went to see was Twelfth Night. I had no idea what to expect as I hadn’t read it (to this day i still haven’t got round to reading it). I found this play a lot more comical in comparison to Romeo and Juliet, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it featured a few songs.

A few months back I watched The Taming of the Shrew on TV. I really wanted to see this play for two reasons:

  1. I hadn’t read it
  2. One of my favourite films is based on this play - 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

The Taming of the Shrew (1967)
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

This was very good. I really liked seeing Katherina being humbled and then rising back to become a better version of herself.

Well that’s about enough from me… Here are a few bits from Shakespeare I really like:

Sonnet 27

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee and for myself no quiet find.

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Romeo and Juliet

ROMEO (coming forward)
He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
(Enter Juliet above)
But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.
It is my lady. O, it is my love!
O that she knew she were!
She speaks. Yet she says nothing. what of that?
Her eye discourses. I will answer it.
I am too bold, ‘Tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp. Her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
Ay me!
She speaks.
O, speak again, bright angel! for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o’er my head,
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned wondering eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy, puffing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name.
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.
ROMEO (aside)
Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized.
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.
What man art thou that thus bescreened in night
So stumblest on my counsel?
By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am.
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,
Because it is an enemy to thee.
Had I it written, I would tear the word.
My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words
Of that tongue’s utterance, yet I know the sound.
Art thou not Romeo, and a Montague?
Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike.
How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
The orchard walls are high and hard to climb,
And the place death, considering who thou art,
If any of my kinsmen find thee here.
With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls.
For stony limits cannot hold love out,
And what love can do that dares love attempt.
Therefore thy kinsmen are no let to me.
If they do see thee, they will murder thee.
Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords! Look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.
I would not for the world they saw thee here.
I have night’s cloak to hide me from their eyes.
And but thou love me, let them find me here.
My life were better ended by their hate,
Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.
By whose direction found’st thou out this place?
By love, who first did prompt me to inquire.
He lent me counsel, and I lent him eyes.
I am no pilot; yet, wert thou as far
As that vast shore washed with the farthest sea,
I would adventure for such merchandise.
Thou knowest the mask of night is on my face,
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
For that which thou hast heard me speak tonight
Fain would I dwell on form - fain, fain deny
What I have spoke. but farewell compliment!
Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say ‘Ay.’
And I will take thy word. yet if thou swearest,
Thou mayst prove false. at lovers’ perjuries,
Then say, Jove laughs. O gentle Romeo,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully.
Or if thou thinkest I am too quickly won,
I’ll frown, and be perverse, an say thee nay,
So thou wilt woo. but else, not for the world.
In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond,
And therefore thou mayst think my ‘havior light.
But trust me, gentleman, I’ll prove more true
Than those that have more cunning to be strange.
I should have been more strange, I must confess,
But that thou overheardest, ere I was ware,
My true-love passion. Therefore pardon me,
And not impute this yielding to light love,
Which the dark night hath so discovered.
Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear
That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops-
O, swear not by the moon, th’inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.
What shall I swear by?
Do not swear at all.
Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,
Which is the god of my idolatry,
And I’ll believe thee.
If my heart’s dear love-
Well, do not swear. Although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract tonight.
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say ‘It lightens.’ Sweet, good night!
This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.
Good night, good night! as sweet repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast!
O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?
What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?
Th’exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine.
I gave thee mine before thou didst request it:
And yet I would it were to give again.
Wouldst thou withdraw it? for what purpose, love?
But to be frank, and give it thee again.
And yet I wish but for the thing I have.
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep. The more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
I hear some noise within; dear love, adieu!
Nurse Call within
Anon, good nurse! - Sweet Montague, be true.
Stay but a little, I will come again.
Exit Juliet
O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard,
Being in night, all this is but a dream,
Too flattering-sweet to be substantial.
Enter Juliet above
Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed.
If that thy bent of love be honourable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,
By one that I’ll procure to come to thee,
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite,
And all my fortunes at thy foot I’ll lay
And follow thee my lord throughout the world.
NURSE (within)
I come, anon - But if thou meanest not well,
I do beseech thee-
NURSE (within)
By and by, I come -
To cease thy strife and leave me to my grief.
Tomorrow will I send.
So thrive my soul -
A thousand times good night!
Exit Juliet
A thousand times the worse, to want thy light!
Love goes toward love, as schoolboys from their books:
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks.
Enter Juliet above again
Hist! Romeo, hist! O, for a falconer’s voice,
To lure this tassel-gentle back again!
Bondage is hoarse, and may not speak aloud,
Else would I tear the cave where Echo lies
And make her airy tongue more hoarse than mine,
With repetition of ‘My Romeo!’
It is my soul that calls upon my name:
How silver-sweet sound lovers’ tongues by night,
Like softest music to attending ears!
My nyas?
What o’clock to-morrow
Shall I send to thee?
By the hour of nine.
I will not fail. ‘Tis twenty years till then.
I have forgot why I did call thee back.
Let me stand here till thou remember it.
I shall forget, to have thee still stand there,
Remembering how I love thy company.
And I’ll still stay, to have thee still forget,
Forgetting any other home but this.
‘Tis almost morning. I would have thee gone.
And yet no further than a wanton’s bird,
That lets it hop a little from his hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silken thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty.
I would I were thy bird.
Sweet, so would I.
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
Exit Juliet