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Archive for the ‘William Shakespeare’ Category

Twelfth Night, celebrated on January 5 (and also called Epiphany Eve), is the traditional last day of the Christmas holiday festivities. It also marks the adoration of the Magi, and many cultures celebrate it as almost a second Christmas Eve. It marks the start of the Carnival Season which ends on Mardi Gras. Beginning in Tudor England (1485-1603), Twelfth Night was often commemorated with a large festive party - lots of cake and ale - to mark the end of the Winter Festival. William Shakespeare wrote his joyous comedy, "Twelfth Night, or, What You Will" (1600), to be performed at Twelfth Night feasts. The illustration shown here is William Harrison Ainsworth's "Mervyn Clithroe's Twelfth Night Party by 'Phiz'" (c 1840).

William Shakespeare’s high comedy, “Twelfth Night, or, What You Will,” (1600), centers on themes of love – unrequited love, lost love, secret love, fickle love. But another theme is also explored – carpe diem, or “seize the day.” The idea that we should embrace life and live it to the fullest and in the present was a very modern philosophy for Shakespeare (1564-1616) to tuck into a 17th Century play.  Plays during the Elizabethan Era were generally moralistic in nature, reflecting the prevailing Puritanism.  

Now let’s slip into a scene in “Twelfth Night” in which carpe diem is expressed:  

"Olivia" (1888) from "Twelfth Night" by Edmund Blair Leighton

detail from painting, "Twelfth-Night (The King Drinks)" 1634-40 by David the Younger Teniers show the Court Jester entertaining a crowd.

Act II, Scene iii opens in Olivia‘s vast house in dreamy Illyria on the Adriatic Coast. As Olivia is a rich noblewomen in step with the fashion of the day, she keeps a clown on staff whose name is Feste. Feste is a witty jester dressed in crazy clothes. His job is to say clever things, tell his mistress the truth (as would any decent court jester), and amuse her and her guests, who, at this moment, include her alcoholic uncle Sir Toby Belch and his drinking buddy, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a bumbling knight who has his eye on Olivia for a bride.  

It is quite late at night when we join Sir Toby and Sir Andrew in the drawing room. They have been drinking quite a lot. By the time Feste the Clown joins them, they have gotten so noisy and stinking drunk, they are disturbing the peace of the sleeping household.   

"Twelfth Night, or, What You Will," Act II, Scene iii: (l to r) Feste the Clown, Sir Toby Belch, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek whoop it up with a drink and a song, rousing the household in the wee hours of the morning.

Both Sir Toby and Sir Andrew are in the mood to hear a song. Sir Toby gives Feste sixpence to sing a love song. Feste obliges. His beautiful song –  “O Mistress Mine” –  is an ode to free-spirited, impulsive, and delicious love. Life is short; you’ve got to grab joy when it’s within reach:  

 

O mistress mine, where are you roaming?

O, stay and hear! your true-love’s coming,

That can sing both high and low.

Trip no further, pretty sweeting,

Journeys end in lovers meeting—

Every wise man’s son doth know.

 

What is love? ’Tis not hereafter;

Present mirth hath present laughter;

What’s to come is still unsure:

In delay there lies no plenty;

Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,

Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

 

(1) The Complete Pelican Shakespeare. New York: The Viking Press, 1969.

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Sonnet #130 by William Shakespeare

Pass the breath mints! 

The Bard paints an unflattering portrait of his mistress.

 

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun [brown],

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damasked [mingled red and white], red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath than from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak; yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound:

I grant I never saw a goddess go [walk];

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

     And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

    As any she belied [deceived] with false compare [comparison].

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Romeo wears a mask to disguise himself so he may enter his father's enemy's ball. Romeo is played with Leonard Whiting in Franco Zeffirelli's masterpiece film, "Romeo and Juliet," made in 1968 with Olivia Hussey starring as Juliet

Romeo wears a mask to disguise himself so he may enter his father's enemy's ball. Romeo is played by Leonard Whiting in Franco Zeffirelli's masterpiece film, "Romeo and Juliet," made in 1968 with Olivia Hussey starring as Juliet.

Yesterday, I cut my finger with a knife. My daughter asked me, “Is it bad, Mom?” I thought of the street fight scene from “Romeo and Juliet” when Mercutio gets wounded. Romeo says to Mercutio, “Courage, man. The hurt cannot be much.”

Read today’s post to discover Mercutio’s famous response.

“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare, 1595

Our story so far:  Sixteen-year-old Romeo Montague and his friends – in disguise – boldly crash a masquerade party at the home of Romeo’s father’s enemies, the Capulets. There Romeo meets and falls in love with an enchanting young lady. We know that it is Juliet, the 13-year-old daughter of Lord Capulet.

Romeo, watching Juliet dance, asks a servant her name:

“Who is that lady who gives richness to the hand of that knight by simply holding it?”

Unbeknownst to Romeo, Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, hears Romeo’s voice and recognizes it as the son of his sworn enemy, Lord Montague. He swears revenge, although the ruler of the city has forbidden any more bloodshed between the two rival families.

Romeo approaches Juliet and they kiss. Romeo does not know that he was seen by Tybalt. Here is that scene from the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version of “Romeo and Juliet.”

Several scenes later, the two lovers secretly wed.

Act III, Scene I. A public place…

Meanwhile, Romeo’s two best friends, Benvolio, a good-natured guy, and Mercutio, a sassy, hot-headed fellow, are bored, out walking the streets with nothing to do and missing their lovesick friend, Romeo.

Benvolio urges Mercutio to go inside. He senses that the Capulets also might be out, idly about, and up to no good. Neither Benvolio nor Mercutio know that Tybalt saw Romeo at the Capulet ball and has sworn to kill him but the street fighting between the two families has been a long-standing problem.  Benvolio pleads with Mercutio:

“I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire. The day is hot, the Capulets abroad, and if we meet, we shall not [e]scape a brawl, for now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.”

An arrogant Mercutio laughs at Benvolio’s suggestion that he is a quarrelsome fellow and foolishly ignores his friend’s warning that trouble lies ahead….

Enter Tybalt and others.

Ben: By my head, here come the Capulets.

Mer: By my heel, I care not.

Tyb: [To his men] Follow me close, for I will speak to them. [To Mercutio and Benvolio] Gentlemen, good den. A word with one of you.

Mer: And but one word with one of us? Couple it with something; make it a word and a blow [a slash of your sword].

Tyb: You shall find me apt enough to that, sir, and you will give me occasion [good reason].

Mer: Could you not take some occasion without giving? [I'm sure you could find a reason without having it given to you].

Tyb: Mercutio, thou consortest [play around] with Romeo.

Mer: Consort? What, dost thou make us minstrels [silly musicians]? And thou make minstrels of us, look to hear nothing but discords [angry sounds].  Here’s my fiddlestick [sword]; here’s that shall make you dance. Zounds, consort! [By God's wounds, Benvolio, do you hear these insults?]

Ben: We talk here in the public haunt of men. Either withdraw unto some private place and reason coldly of your grievances, or else depart. Here all eyes gaze on us.

Mer: Men’s eyes were made to look, and let them gaze. I will not budge for no man’s pleasure, I.

Enter Romeo who has just married Juliet. No one knows yet. He is now married to a Capulet and thus, unknown to Tybalt, his cousin by marriage.

Tyb: Well, peace be with you, sir. Here comes my man [meaning Romeo].

Mer: But I’ll be hanged, sir, if he wear your livery [uniform]. Marry, [Indeed], go before to field [leave town to fight], he’ll be your follower! Your worship in that sense may call him man.

Tyb: Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford no better term than this: thou art a villain. [villain is the nicest name I can call you, I hate you so.]

Rom: [not wanting to fight] Tybalt,the reason that I have to love thee doth much excuse the appertaining rage to such a greeting. Villain am I none. Therefore farewell. I see thou knowst me not. [as your cousin; you haven't heard the news.]

Tyb: Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries that thou hast done me; therefore turn and draw.

Rom:  I do protest I never injured thee, But love thee better than thou canst devise till thou shalt know the reason of my love; And so, good Capulet, which name I tender as dearly as mine own, be satisfied.

Mercutio is incensed that Romeo returns Tybalt’s insults with loving words, so draws his own sword to defend Romeo.

Mer: O calm, dishonorable, vile submission! Alla stoccata [At the thrust] carries it away. Tybalt, you ratcatcher, will you walk?

Tyb: What wouldst thou have with me?

Mer: Good King of Cats, nothing but one of your nine lives….

Tyb: I am for you. [Draws.]

Rom: Gentle Mercutio, put thy rapier up.

Mer: Come, sir, your passado! [a forward thrust of the sword as the foot steps forward]

They fight.

Rom: Draw, Benvolio; beat down their weapons. Gentleman, for shame! Forbear this outrage! Tybalt, Mercutio, the Prince expressly hath forbid this bandying in Verona streets. Hold, Tybalt! Good Mercutio!

Romeo steps between them. Tybalt, under Romeo’s arm, stabs Mercutio. Tybalt runs away.

Mer: I am hurt. A plague o’ both your houses! [Curse the Capulets and Montagues.] I am sped [done for]! Is he gone and hath nothing?

Ben: What, art thou hurt?

Mer: Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch. Marry, ’tis enough. Where is my page? Go, villain, fetch a surgeon.

The page exits.

Rom: Courage, man. The hurt cannot be much.

Mer: No, ’tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door; but ’tis enough, ’twill serve. Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I am peppered [mortally wounded], I warrant, for this world. A plague o’ both your houses! …Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm.

Rom: I thought all for the best.

Mer: Help me into some house, Benvolio, or I shall faint. A plague o’ both your houses! They have made worms’ meat of me. I have it, and soundly, too. Your houses!

Exit, supported by Benvolio. Mercutio dies.

 

Here is the fight scene from Zeffirelli’s 1968 film, “Romeo and Juliet.” The clip opens with a wet-haired Mercutio challenging Tybalt to a duel. Tybalt wears a red cap and orange vestments.

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Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in Zeffirelli's 1968 film, "Romeo and Juliet." The scene is at the Capulets' ball, before Romeo and Juliet know each other's identity.

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in Zeffirelli's 1968 film, "Romeo and Juliet." The scene is at the Capulets' ball, before Romeo and Juliet know each other's identity.

Juliet: O, Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?

is probably the most well-known Shakespeare line of all time – and the most misunderstood. The line is from “Romeo and Juliet,” Act II. Scene II.

To give Juliet’s words some context, let’s start at the beginning. Our play takes place in 16th Century Verona in Northern Italy. It’s evening. Young Juliet Capulet’s parents are giving a fancy dress ball where Juliet meets and kisses the dreamiest guy. But the young man mysteriously slips away from her before she can get his name. Quickly, Juliet pulls her nurse (nanny) aside, points toward the fleeing young man, and asks her nurse:

Juliet: What’s he that follows there, that would not dance?

Nurse: I know not.

Juliet: Go ask his name….

Nurse: His name is Romeo, and a Montague, The only son of your great enemy.

Juliet: My only love, sprung from my only hate!

Juliet despairs that she has fallen in love with a Montague, the son of her father’s sworn enemy. Juliet goes upstairs to her bedroom to undress for bed. Then she walks onto the balcony that overlooks the dark orchard to collect her thoughts.

Olivia Hussey as Juliet in the balcony scene from Zeffirelli's 1968 film, "Romeo and Juliet."

Olivia Hussey as Juliet in the balcony scene from Zeffirelli's 1968 film, "Romeo and Juliet."

Juliet is distraught that an age-old feud between her family (the Capulets) and Romeo’s (the Montagues) should keep her from having a relationship with Romeo. She wants to know: Why – for what purpose – is he Romeo???? Why is he not named Jack Sprat – anything! – but the name of my father’s enemy’s son? She is not asking where Romeo is.

Juliet: O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore [why] art thou Romeo? [Why is your name Romeo, the name of my father's enemy's son?]

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.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to fair Juliet talking to herself up on the balcony, Romeo has leapt over the orchard wall and is hiding amongst the trees, spying on Juliet.

Leonard Whiting in Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet." As Romeo, he is hiding in the Capulet orchard, eavesdropping on Juliet on the balcony.

Leonard Whiting in Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet." As Romeo, he is hiding in the Capulet orchard, eavesdropping on Juliet on the balcony.

Romeo hears what Juliet is saying and whispers to himself:

Romeo: Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

She does not hear him and continues speaking.

Juliet: ‘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 called,

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.

Romeo: (speaking out from the orchard) I take thee at thy word.

Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;

Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

 

Click below to see the balcony scene from Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet.” It won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3BfBIzz6vQ&feature=related

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William Shakespeare as we have come to know him in Martin Droeshout's 1623 engraving for the First Folio

William Shakespeare as we have come to know him in Martin Droeshout's 1623 engraving for the First Folio

Today is William Shakespeare’s 445th birthday. In honor of the occasion, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley wants us all to celebrate by using the Bard’s words, declaring that today is “Talk Like Shakespeare Day.” The official website offers some suggestions as to how you can talk like Shakespeare:

Instead of you, say thou. Instead of y’all, say thee.

Rhymed couplets are all the rage.

Men are Sirrah, ladies are Mistress, and your friends are all called Cousin.

Instead of cursing, try calling your tormenters jackanapes or canker-blossoms or poisonous bunch-back’d toads.

Don’t waste time saying “it,” just use the letter

“t” (’tis, t’will, I’ll do’t).

Use verse for lovers, prose for ruffians, songs for clowns.

When in doubt, add the letters “eth” to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth).

To add weight  to your opinions, try starting them with methinks, mayhaps, in sooth or wherefore.

When wooing ladies: try comparing her to a summer’s day. If that fails, say “Get thee to a nunnery!”

When wooing lads: try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the Tower, banish his friends and claim the throne.

 

This newly-discovered painting, known as the Cobbe, purports to be a portrait of William Shakespeare (reported in March, 2009)

This newly-discovered painting, known as the Cobbe, purports to be a portrait of William Shakespeare (reported in March, 2009)

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) also made his mark upon our vocabulary and many common expressions had their origin in his plays. The following is a smattering:

"Ophelia" by John Everett Millais. Hamlet was in love with Ophelia, whose death by drowning may have been a suicide. In the play, Hamlet's mother, Queen Gertrude, laments her death, strewing her grave with flowers, and saying: Sweets to the sweet: farewell!

"Ophelia" by John Everett Millais. Hamlet was in love with Ophelia, whose death by drowning may have been a suicide. In the play, Hamlet's mother, Queen Gertrude, laments her death, strewing her grave with flowers, and saying: Sweets to the sweet: farewell!I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife;I thought thy bride-bed to have deck'd, sweet maid,And not have strew'd thy grave.

“Hamlet” 

  • in my mind’s eye
  • to the manner born
  • the primrose path
  • it smells to heaven
  • there’s the rub
  • the dog will have his day
  • method in his madness
  • neither a borrower nor a lender be

  “Othello”

  • the green-eyed monster
  • who steals my purse steals trash
  • a foregone conclusion
  • wear my heart on my sleeve

 

Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, Edwin Booth, and Junius Booth, Jr. appear in a production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," 1864

Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, Edwin Booth, and Junius Booth, Jr. appear in a production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," 1864. Although Shakespeare did not coin the word assassin, which means hash eater, the first recorded use of the word assassination occurred in his play, "Macbeth." Assassin John Wilkes Booth was a skilled and popular Shakespearean actor.

“Julius Caesar”

  •  it was Greek to me
  • a dish fit for the gods
  • masters of their fates
  • the dogs of war

 

 “1 Henry IV”

  • give the devil his due
  • the better part of valor is discretion

 “2 Henry IV”

  • he has eaten me out of house and home
  • the weaker vessel

 “Macbeth”

  • the milk of human kindness
  • a sorry sight

  

“As You Like It”
  • that was laid on with a trowel
  • too much of a good thing

 “Romeo and Juliet”

  • what’s in a name?
  • a fool’s paradise
  • wild goose chase

 “King Lear”

  • the wheel is come full circle

Leslie Howard as Romeo and Norma Shearer as Juliet in the 1936 film, "Romeo and Juliet." Romeo had been hiding in the garden when Juliet came out on the balcony and began her famous soliloquoy.

Leslie Howard as Romeo and Norma Shearer as Juliet in the 1936 film, "Romeo and Juliet." Romeo had been hiding in the garden when Juliet came out on the balcony and began her famous soliloquoy: "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?"

 “Anthony and Cleopatra”

  • my salad days

 

“The Merry Wives of Windsor”

  • throw cold water on it

 “Love’s Labor Lost”

  • out of the question
  • play fast and loose

 “The Merchant of Venice

  • my own flesh and blood

 “Richard II”

  • a spotless reputation

 “The Comedy of Errors”

  • something in the wind

 “The Tempest”

  • we are such stuff as dreams are made on

 “Troilus and Cressida”

  • good riddance

 “The Comedy of Errors”

  • neither rhyme nor reason

 “The Merry Wives of Windsor”

  • what the dickens

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