The Seventh Age of Man-Shakespeare’s Character Deaths

Shakespeare“Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

-Jacques, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

This, of course, is the final part of the famous, “All the world’s a stage” speech, but I am highlighting this one specific part for a reason. Saturday, April 23rd was not only Shakespeare’s 452nd birthday, but it was also the 400th anniversary of his death.

The cause of Shakespeare’s death is a topic of some debate. This, however, did make me think about the deaths of so many of Shakespeare’s characters. So, rather than talk about the death of Shakespeare, I figured I would elaborate on the death of his characters.

Many of Shakespeare’s characters met with an untimely demise, particularly in his histories and tragedies, with three of his comedies also having character deaths; these deaths though, are more minor characters, and happen offstage.

Stabbing and poison tended to be the two most popular means by which a character died. Execution, (i.e. for a crime, etc), was also common. It would be safe to assume that, in Shakespeare’s day, anyone condemned to execution was probably either beheaded or hanged. And anyone who died in combat or a battle, was most likely stabbed. But as you will see below, almost nothing was off-limits. I will do my best to include all characters who die in a play, in the order that they die, including even the most minor characters, and the ones who die offstage or before the beginning of the play.

I’ll go by play and begin with the histories.

Shakespeare wrote these plays out of order. This is to say, that he did not write the histories in the order in which these events actually occurred. Nonetheless, with the exception of Henry VIII, when read in the correct order, one history play leads right into the next one. I will go through the histories chronologically.

 

The Life and Death of King John

Limoges, Duke of Austria:  Beheaded during battle by the Bastard. Austria was believed to have been the one responsible for the death of King Richard.

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First page of King John in the 1623 First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays.

Arthur: Jumps off a wall, though it is unknown whether this was an act of suicide or an attempt to escape his English captors.

Melun: A Frenchman who is already dying when he warns the English nobles that King Louis plans to kill them following his victory. Melun is a very minor character, only appearing this one time, and cause of death unknown, but most likely wounded during the battle.

King John: As is common, the titular character of Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies usually meets his or her demise eventually. And for King John, it happens when a discontented monk poisons him.

 

The Life and Death of Richard II

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster: Dies of an illness. Richard than immediately seizes all Gaunt’s land and money, that would rightfully belong to Gaunt’s temporarily exiled son, Bolingbroke. The latter, by the way, becomes King Henry IV.

Bushy and Green: Two faithful supporters of Richard, who are executed by Bolingbroke, to win over the Duke of the York and gain his support.

Duke of Aumerle’s co-conspirators: Bolingbroke has now crowned himself King Henry IV, and the Duke of Aumerle, along with a group of others plan to rebel against Henry. Henry executes Aumerle’s company, but spares Aumerle himself.

King Richard II: Executed by mistake when a nobleman, Exton, murders him, falsely believing that was King Henry’s wish.

 

King Henry IV, Part One

Harry Percy, Hotspur: Killed by Prince Hal in single combat.

Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester: Captured during the Battle of Shrewsbury and sentenced to death by Henry.

 

King Henry IV, Part Two 

King Henry IV: Dies of an illness. His son, Prince Hal, becomes King Henry V.

 

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Depiction of the Battle of Agincourt.

The Life of King Henry V “Once more unto the breach, dear friends.”

 

Earl of Cambridge, Lord Scrope, and Sir Thomas Grey: This trio plans to kill King Henry, and when Henry learns of their plot, he calls for their executions.

Sir John Falstaff: Falstaff’s death is not seen; we only hear about his passing. We learn that he died of a broken heart, after King Henry, who was one of Falstaff’s dearest friends when he was a prince, rejected him when he came to Henry’s castle and said that he never wanted to seem him again.

 

King Henry VI, Part One

King Henry V: He dies unexpectedly at the prime of his life, leaving England in turmoil, and his son to succeed him.

Duke of Bedford: Dies in France, following the Battle of Rouen.

Lord Talbot and his son, John Talbot: They become trapped by the French Army and then subsequently killed by them, when Lord Talbot’s request for reinforcements goes unanswered.

Joan la Pucelle, a.k.a. Joan of Arc: Burned to death by the Duke of York.

 

King Henry VI, Part Two  

Duke Humphrey of Gloucester: Accused of treason, Suffolk has Gloucester imprisoned and then executed before he can be tried.

Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester: Contracts a fever and subsequently dies.

Wars of the Roses

The beginning of the Wars of the Roses in King Henry VI, Part 2.

William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk: Killed by pirates while banished for his role in the death of Gloucester.

Jack Cade: Looking for food, Cade climbs into the garden of Alexander Iden and killed by Iden himself.

Duke of Somerset: Killed by Richard during a battle at St. Albans.

Lord Clifford: Killed by York during a battle at St. Albans.

 

King Henry VI, Part Three

Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Rutland: During an attack on York’s castle, York’s son, twelve-year-old Rutland, is murdered by Clifford.

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York: Stabbed to death by Clifford and Margaret, but not before they forced him to stand on a molehill and wipe his brow with a handkerchief smeared with the blood of his son, Rutland.

Earl of Warwick: Killed at the Battle of Barnet.

John Neville, Marquis of Montague: Warwick’s younger brother, also killed at the Battle of Barnet.

Father (Son Who Has Killed His Father): During the Battle of Barnet, a young man enters dragging the body of a man he has killed. He lifts the man’s helmet off and realizes that he unknowingly killed his own father.

Son (Father Who Has Killed His Son): Shortly thereafter, during the Battle of Barnet, a man enters dragging the body of a younger man that he has killed. When he lifts this young man’s helmet, the older man realizes that he unknowingly killed his own son. Henry witnesses both of these incidents.

Duke of Somerset: During the Battle of Tewkesbury, he is captured with three others, and sentenced to death.

Prince Edward: Also captured at the Battle of Tewkesbury, and stabbed to death by York’s three sons when Edward refused to recognize the House of York as the legitimate royal family.

King Henry VI: Henry was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Richard goes there to kill him, and after an argument between the two, Richard stabs Henry in a rage. This is the Richard who goes on to become Richard III.

 

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King Richard III.

The Life and Death of Richard III “Now is the winter of our discontent.”

George, Duke of Clarence: Sent to the Tower of London based on false accusations made to King Edward by Richard. Richard later orders two men to kill Clarence. Believing that Edward ordered his death, Clarence tells his murderers that his brother, Gloucester (Richard), will pay them more for his life than the king will for his death, and refuses to believe them when his murderers tell him that Gloucester ordered his death.

King Edward IV: King Edward is already ill, and Richard uses the news of Clarence’s death to bring about the King’s death quicker.

Rivers: With Clarence and Edward out of the way, Richard orders the murder Lord Rivers to isolate the Queen and prevent the immediate crowning of the Prince.

Lord Hastings, Lord Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughan: Relatives of the Queen, who are arrested and then beheaded by Richard, as they accompany the young Prince en route to his coronation.

Edward, Prince of Wales and Richard, Duke of York: After being led to the Tower of London by Richard, the latter orders Buckingham to kill them. When Buckingham refuses, Richard hires Sir James Tyrell, who finishes the job.

Lady Anne Neville: Richard’s queen, yet he poisons her so that he can be free to woo his niece, and Edward’s remaining heir, Elizabeth of York.

Duke of Buckingham: After being Richard’s ally before, Buckingham later rebels against him, is captured and executed.

Sir Robert Brackenbury: It is announced that Sir Brackenbury has died fighting for Richard in The Battle of Bosworth Field.

King Richard III: At the climax of the Battle of Bosworth Field, Richard is unhorsed, (“A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”) and subsequently killed by Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who now becomes Henry VII.

 

The Life of King Henry VIII

Duke of Buckingham: Cardinal Wolsey falsely accuses Buckingham for treason and has him arrested. He is later executed.

Cardinal Wolsey: After his villainous scheming is discovered by the king, Wolsey quickly falls from grace. Now following the path of humility and honesty, Wolsey leaves the court for a monastery, where dies soon after.

And now, onto the tragedies.

I will do these in a certain order as well, from the least bloody play with the least amount of deaths, leading up to the bloodiest play with the most fatalities.

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A scene from the final act of Coriolanus, where Volumnia pleads with her son to reconsider his attack on Rome.

 

The Tragedy of Coriolanus

Caius Marcius, Coriolanus: He is killed by Volscian conspirators for betraying them. He halted his attack on Rome and formed a peace treaty between the Volscians and the Romans, after he had told the Volscians that he would lead them to a victory against Rome.

 

Timon of Athens

Man: A junior officer of Alcibiades kills a man in “hot blood”. This man is a minor character, and this is all we know about his death.

Timon: He dies in the wilderness, having lost all money and means. His overt generosity and compassion has undone Timon, causing his friends to take advantage of him and ultimately betray him.

 

Troilus and Cressida

Patroclus: Killed by Hector during battle.

Hector: Captured by Achilles who then instructs the Myrmidons.

 

othello

Othello and Iago.

Othello, the Moor of Venice

Rodrigo: Stabbed in secret by Iago, to stop Rodrigo from revealing their plot to kill Cassio.

Desdemona: Smothered to death by Othello, who thinks that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him.

Emilia: When she realizes Iago’s plan to make Othello think that Desdemona had been unfaithful, she exposes her husband to Othello, and Iago fatally stabs her for it.

Othello: Othello then realizes Desdemona’s innocence and overcome with grief and guilt over killing her, kills himself.

 

The Life and Death of Julius Caesar “Beware the ides of March”

Julius Caesar: Assassinated by Cassius, Marcus Brutus, Casca, Decius Brutus, Lucius Cinna, Metellus Cimber, Trebonius, and Caius Ligarius in the Capital.

Cinna: An innocent poet who, mistaken for the conspirator Lucius Cinna, is killed by a mob who has formed to drive Caesar’s murderers from Rome.

Portia: Brutus’s wife who, under the stress of his absence from Rome, committed suicide by swallowing hot coals.

Cassius: Asks his servant Pindarus, to kill him after hearing that his best friend Titinius has been captured.

Titinius: It turns out that he was not captured, but upon seeing Cassius’s corpse, kills himself.

Marcus Brutus: After losing his latest battle, he commits suicide by asking another soldier named Strato to hold his sword while Brutus runs onto it.

 

Romeo and Juliet

Mercutio: Tybalt challenges Romeo to a duel and when Romeo declines, his best friend, Mercutio, agrees to fight Tybalt instead. Tybalt ends up fatally stabbing Mercutio.

Tybalt: Stabbed by Romeo for killing Mercutio.

Count Paris: A suitor to Juliet. He is stabbed by Romeo when he startles the latter at Juliet’s gravesite.

Romeo: Believing that Juliet is dead, Romeo drinks poison and then lays down beside her.

romeojulieta

Romeo and Juliet.

Juliet: Wakes up from the deep sleep she was in; the reason everyone thought she was dead. When she sees Romeo’s dead body beside her, she stabs herself with her dagger.

Lady Montague: Romeo’s mother, who we hear died from grief over the death of her son.

 

Antony and Cleopatra

Fulvia: Third wife of Mark Antony, who prior to the beginning of the play, had rebelled against Octavius and then died.

Enobarbus: He deserts Antony and goes to Octavius’s side. Antony sends Enobarbus his goods rather than confiscating them. Enobarbus is so overwhelmed that he dies from the shame of his disloyalty.

Eros: Antony asks Eros to kill him by running him through with a sword. Unable to do it, Eros kills himself.

Mark Antony: In an attempt at suicide, he manages to only wound himself. He is hoisted up to Cleopatra’s monument and dies in her arms.

Cleopatra: She refuses to surrender. Betrayed and captured by the Romans, Cleopatra learns that Octavius will parade her once he triumphs. She kills herself by getting bitten by an asp.

Iras and Charmian: Cleopatra’s serving-maids who kill themselves after Cleopatra dies.

 

The Tragedy of Macbeth “Double, double, toil and trouble.”

King Duncan: Stabbed by Macbeth, in order to fulfill the Witches’ prophecy that Macbeth will one day become king.

Two Guards: Framed for Duncan’s death by Lady Macbeth, Macbeth later kills them to keep them from professing their innocence.

Banquo: Killed by three assassins that were hired by Macbeth. They were supposed to kill Macbeth’s son, Fleance, as well, but he escapes. Macbeth arranges for the murder of Banquo and Fleance, because he fears a prophecy that says that Banquo will father a line of kings.

Lady Macduff and her son: When Macbeth learns that Macduff has fled to England, he demands that Macduff’s castle be seized and that he and his family be killed. Macduff is not at the castle when it is seized by his wife. Lady Macduff, and their young son, are killed.

Lady Macbeth: Overcome with guilt for the deeds that she and her husband have committed, Lady Macbeth goes mad and eventually kills herself.

Macbeth-Hamlet

Macbeth and Banquo encounter the three Witches (top) Hamlet and Horatio in the graveyard with Yorick’s skull (bottom).

 

Young Siward: Killed in combat by Macbeth.

Macbeth: Macbeth was told by the Witches that he cannot be killed by any man of woman born, so he does fear Macduff when he encounters him in battle. Macduff reveals that he was born, not naturally but, “from his mother’s womb, untimely ripp’d”, meaning that he was born by Caesarean section. He then beheads Macbeth, thus fulfilling the Witches’ final prophecy.

 

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark “To be, or not to be. That is the question.”

King Hamlet: Hamlet’s father, who is killed before the play begins. It is said that he died of a snakebite, but his ghost comes to Hamlet and tells him that he actually died at the hands of his own brother, Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, who poured poison into his ear. This way, Claudius could marry Gertrude and become the King.

Polonius: Stabbed by Hamlet, while hidden behind an arras. Hamlet kills Polonius, thinking that it is the king who is hidden there.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Hamlet’s friends who, at the King’s request, escort him to England. Unbeknownst to them, they carry a commandment from the King that orders Hamlet’s death. Hamlet figures out what’s going on and secretly switches the commandment for his death, with one that orders the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet escapes them when they are attacked by pirates. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern continue onto England and their fate. In the final scene of the play, we learn that indeed, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.”

Ophelia: Driven mad by the death of her father, Polonius, at the hands of Hamlet no less, she drowns herself in the nearby brook.

Queen Gertrude: The first of several deaths that occur in the final act. The King has poisoned a cup of wine that he intends to give to Hamlet if he survives his challenge with Laertes. When Hamlet gets a hit on Laertes, the Queen, not knowing that the cup is poisoned, raises the cup to him. The King tries to stop her, but she drinks from it anyhow and dies.

Laertes: He had conspired with the King to kill Hamlet, as he was angry with Hamlet for killing his father, Polonius. He envenomed the tip of his sword and cut Hamlet, there was then a skirmish, in which Laertes and Hamlet switched swords, and Hamlet cut Laertes with the poisoned tip. With his dying breath, he tells Hamlet that the King is to blame and offers peace between himself and Hamlet. He dies shortly after the King does.

King Claudius: Hamlet, enraged at Claudius for everything that he has done, stabs him with the poisoned sword and pours the poisoned wine between his lips, thus killing the King.

Hamlet: By now, the poison from Laertes’s sword is overtaking Hamlet. He calls Horatio to his side and proclaims Fortinbras as his successor, before dying and…”The rest is silence.”

 

King Lear

Duke of Cornwall: Killed by a servant of his who is enraged when he sees Cornwall and Regan gouging out Gloucester’s eyes.

Servant who killed Cornwall: Killed by Regan for killing her husband, the Duke of Cornwall.

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King Lear and his Fool, as Lear madly rages at the wind.

Oswald: Killed by Edgar, when he tries, on Regan’s orders, to kill Edgar’s father, Gloucester.

Regan: Poisoned by her sister Goneril, when she learns that Regan planned to marry Edmund, who was wooing both sisters at the same time.

Edmund: Wounded by his brother, Edgar, in a trial by combat.

Earl of Gloucester: Edgar announces that Gloucester has died. He believed Edgar to be dead, and then died himself from the shock and joy of learning that Edgar was still alive, once Edgar revealed himself to him.

Goneril: Commits suicide when she realizes that all of her evil plans have failed.

Cordelia: Prior to his death, Edmund had sent Cordelia and Lear off with secret joint-orders from him and Goneril for the execution of Cordelia. As he dies, Edmund tries to stop the order for her death, but he is too late.

Executioner: Killed by Lear when he killed Cordelia.

King Lear: He dies from a combination of grief over Cordelia’s death and all of the hardships he has recently endured.

 

And yet, of these last three, neither Macbeth, Hamlet, nor King Lear is Shakespeare’s bloodiest play, nor the one with the most deaths.

That prestige goes too…

Titus Andronicus

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Aaron cutting off Titus’s hand, as the handless Lavinia looks on.

Titus Andronicus is so rarely performed today because of its gory content. In fact, during the Victorian era in England, this play was banned. Understandable, as the play includes stabbings, beheadings, rape, loss of body parts, and a pie reminiscent of something that could have been served by Hannibal Lector.

Alarbus: Oldest son of Queen Tamora. Sacrificed by Titus in order to avenge the deaths of his own sons during the war.

Mutius: Accidentally killed in a scuffle by his own father, Titus.

Bassianus: On the advice of Aaron, Bassianus is killed by Demetrius and Chiron, so that they can rape Lavinia.

Martius and Quintus: Titus’s sons whom Aaron frames for the death of Bassianus. Enraged that they murdered his brother, Saturninus sentences them to death.  Aaron then falsely tells Titus, that Saturninus will spare Martius and Quintus. When Titus cuts off his hand and sends it to Saturninus, the latter sends him the severed heads of his sons along with Titus’s own severed hand.

Nurse: Tamora gives birth to a mixed-race baby fathered by the Moor, Aaron. To keep the race of the child a secret, Aaron kills the Nurse.

Demetrius and Chiron: Tamora’s sons who raped Lavinia and then cut off her hands and cut out her tongue so that she could not identify them. But she wrote their names in the dirt using a stick held with her mouth. Because of what they did to his daughter, Titus cuts their throats and drains their blood. He then says he will “play the cook.” He grinds their bones into a powder and bakes them into a pie that he later serves to their mother.

Clown: Titus encounters the Clown and asks him to deliver a message to Saturninus on his behalf for payment. The Clown agrees, but when he delivers the message to Saturninus, the latter has the Clown hanged, and it seems that there is no apparent reason for this.

Lavinia: Titus asks Saturninus if a father should kill his daughter if she has been raped. When Saturninus answers yes, Titus kills Lavinia and tells Saturninus what had happened to her.

Tamora: She did not know what had happened to her sons, Chiron and Demetrius. Titus serves her the pie that he baked her sons into, and she, not knowing of the ingredients, eats it. Once she is done, Titus tells Tamora that her sons had been baked into the pie that she was just eating. Titus then kills Tamora.

Titus Andronicus: Immediately after Titus kills Tamora, Saturninus, who was married to Tamora, kills Titus.

Saturninus: Right after Saturninus kills Titus, then he is killed by Titus’s son, Lucius.

Aaron: For all of his evil deeds and schemes, Aaron is buried chest-deep and left to die of thirst and starvation.

Last, but not least, the three comedies that included character deaths.

 

Cymbeline “Fear no more.”

Cloten: Guiderius meets Cloten outside of the cave where Guiderius lives with his two Faed_postumus_and_imogensons. Cloten does nothing but insult Guiderius which leads to a sword fight, that ends with Guiderius beheading Cloten.

Queen: She has been slowly wasting away because of the disappearance of her son, Cloten. It is later announced that she has died suddenly, and that, upon dying, she was unrepentant and that she confessed to villainous schemes against her husband and his throne.

 

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Cleon and Dionyza: Cleon is the governor of Tarsus and Dionyza is his wife. When Pericles leaves to rule Tyre, he leaves Marina, his infant daughter, with the couple. As she grows, however, they realize that Marina is more beautiful than Philoten, the true daughter of Cleon and Dionyza, so the latter decides to murder Marina. Pirates soon kidnap Marina, and when Pericles arrives in Tarsus, Cleon and Dionyza falsely tell him that Marina has died. They are later killed by the people of Tarsus for their plot to kill Marina, and for lying about her fate.

 

The Winter’s Tale

Mamillius: Died of a wasting sickness and grief that was brought on by the imprisonment of his mother Hermione, by his father Leontes.

Wheatley, Francis, 1747-1801; 'The Winter's Tale', Act IV, Scene 3, Perdita, Florizel and Polixenes

Polixenes (seated), Perdita, and Florizel.

Antigonus: Exit, pursued by a bear. One of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions, and while we don’t see or hear about Antigonus meeting his end, it tells us exactly how he died.

So, while the true cause of Shakespeare’s death may be uncertain, the fate of several of his characters most certainly is not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy 450th Birthday to William Shakespeare!

Today, April 23, 2014, marks the birth of William Shakespeare, exactly 450 years ago. Shakespeare’s process of play writing began in 1591 with Henry the Sixth, Part One and ended with the The Two Noble Kinsmen in 1613, three years before Shakespeare died, on his birthday, in 1616.

Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (April 23, 1564-April 23, 1616).

However, I would bet that at no point in his illustrious career did Will ever dream that over 400 years later, his plays would still be read, studied, performed, and brought into mediums that did not exist in his day, such as television and film.

I would like to focus a bit on the latter two, as well as music and songs inspired by Shakespeare. Each of Shakespeare’s plays was at one time filmed and shown on BBC, and these versions can sometimes be found on DVD. And of course, movies of Shakespeare’s films have made their appearance as well. Laurence Olivier did many Shakespeare films, and he did some stage acting as well. However, I think that Olivier’s version of Hamlet, may be one of the earliest filmed versions of the play.

Yorick-KB

“Alas, poor Yorick!” Kenneth Branagh in Hamlet.

More recently, Kenneth Branagh directed, and usually starred in, film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. These are the ones that I own and have watched countless times. His first one was Henry V, where Branagh played the title character, in 1989. These were followed by Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996), Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000), and As You Like It (2006). Henry V, Much Ado, and Hamlet were film adaptations of the full play; and as Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play, the movie is 242 minutes (4 hours and 2 minutes) long, and split onto two DVDs or two Blu-ray discs. However, it is the best and most comprehensive film version of Hamlet that I have seen yet, and it is well worth the time spent watching it.

Love's Labour's Lost-Branagh

A scene from Branagh’s musical version of Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Branagh’s version of Love’s Labour’s Lost is in the style of a 1930s musical. The dialogue in between songs is strictly Shakespeare’s words, but included are song and dance numbers to famous musical songs such as “I’d Rather Charleston”, “The Way You Look Tonight”, and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” among many others; not to mention that there is also some tap dancing in iambic pentameter. As I mentioned, the dialogue is Shakespeare’s, and so is the plot, it’s just set in a later time period with musical numbers that move the story along. Still a lot of fun to watch.

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Gary Oldman and Tim Roth in the film version of Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

A 1966 play by Tom Stoppard called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a comedic play told from the viewpoint of the two title characters, who are of course, somewhat minor characters, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The play was made into a movie in 1991 starring Gary Oldman as Rosencrantz, Tim Roth as Guildenstern, Richard Dreyfuss as the Player, and Iain Glen as Hamlet. The play and the movie are both hilarious, and it is a brilliant retelling of Hamlet seen through the eyes of his two friends, who really don’t know what their doing in Elsinore to begin with.

And in 2012, Joss Whedon did a version of Much Ado About Nothing. The movie is in black and white, was filmed over a span of a few days at Whedon’s home, and takes place in the present day, but using Shakespeare’s language. The film includes Clark Gregg (Don Leonato), Nathan Fillion (Constable Dogberry), Sean Maher (Don John), Reed Diamond (Don Pedro), Alexis Denisof (Benedick), Amy Acker (Beatrice), Fran Kranz (Claudio) and Jillian Morgese (Hero).

Benedick and Beatrice-Whedon

Alexis Denisof (Benedick) and Amy Acker (Beatrice) in Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing.

There was also a new version of Romeo and Juliet released last year with Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld as the title characters.

The Broadway musical “Kiss Me, Kate” was adapted from Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew. This show had many wonderful songs, however my favorite one is a song called “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”. It’s a fun song, with many puns using the title of Shakespeare’s plays, and the song is enjoyable even if you’ve never seen the play, though it is a good show and I do recommend it. There is also a longer version of the song; the one in “Kiss Me, Kate” is shorter. It’s good too of course, but if one were going to look for this song, I would suggest finding the full version of it.

Kiss Me, Kate

Movie poster for “Kiss Me, Kate”.

Speaking of musicals and songs, the musical “Hair” has a song called “What A Piece of Work Is Man”, which of course is from Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2. The song uses Hamlet’s entire speech from this scene and puts it to music, and even though it doesn’t rhyme as most songs do, it is done beautifully.

One more note on Shakespearean-themed songs: in the late 1990s, there was an animated television show called “Histeria!”, it aired on Kids’ WB and was a show about history and historical events that were told in a factual, yet humorous way. They did one episode on famous writers, and this of course, included Shakespeare. The cast then did an entire song where they told the plots of all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays. I don’t believe that show is on DVD, but one may be able to find the song somewhere, maybe on YouTube or something like that. Anyway, it’s a great song if you can find it.

The Comedy of Errors-Folger Edition

Folger Library Edition of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors.

I’m certain that there are some stage, film, television, and song adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays that I did not mention here, and of course, any of them are worth checking out. And I encourage anyone, if you have never read one of Will’s plays, pick one up. If you think you won’t understand it, I have seen versions of his plays where they have the original text alongside modern English. Read the modern English, and then go back and read it the way it was originally written, and you’ll see that Shakespeare’s language isn’t too hard to grasp, and that in fact, many things that he said then, have the same meaning and translation today.

And if you, like me, have read Shakespeare’s plays, keep doing so, and continue to find ways to share his work.

Ben Jonson was a contemporary playwright of Shakespeare’s; Shakespeare’s acting company, the King’s Men, often performed Jonson’s plays at the Globe. Upon the death of Shakespeare, Jonson wrote a long, touching, and beautiful poem in memory of William Shakespeare. Just Google: Ben Jonson’s poem about Shakespeare–and you should be able to find it.

Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson.

I will end here with a poem that I wrote about Shakespeare. However, I will preface this by saying that I am writer, but I am not a poet. So I know that this poem isn’t among the greatest, could have probably been a lot better, and certainly pales in comparison to Jonson’s poem. I have a deep level of respect for poets and their ability to take words and phrases and transform them into beautiful and visionary verses, rhyming or not. And I love to read poetry, but writing it is a whole other animal, and not something I excel in. Yet, I decided to give it a shot, so here it is:

 

Birthday Ballad for the Bard

 

In Stratford-Upon-Avon was a boy born,

on April twenty-third, fifteen sixty-four.

 

For John and Mary Shakespeare

having lost two daughters previously,

now had their first son to hold dear.

The oldest of six was he.

 

However, no one yet knew what treasures William Shakespeare would bring,

to the world on and off the stage.

For he was to teach us that ‘the play’s the thing’

and his wonderful wit would soon fill many a page.

 

He was married to Hathaway, first name Anne,

Susanna was their first child, then the twins Judith and Hamnet.

And so in order to support his clan,

William left to find trade in his talent.

 

In London, Will found the King’s Men

and joined their acting troupe.

Full plays he would write for them with ink and pen,

he was a well-respected member of their group.

 

His first play was Henry the Sixth, a history,

and from here would he write thirty-six more.

Will also composed a total of four works of poetry.

Not to mention his sonnets; all one-hundred and fifty-four.

 

Most noted for his dramatic works though,

Shakespeare presented us with some of today’s most well-known plays.

Many words and phrases to him do we owe.

We use them to these very days.

 

Amongst his famous histories

were Henry the Fifth and Richard the Third.

Characters like Falstaff gave us comic memories

and the past brought to life through Will’s every word.

 

His comedies include such celebrated titles as

Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

To make us laugh, these and many others written he has,

with frivolity as their collective theme.

 

Tragedies by him of course are well-noted,

giving us Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth.

Darker plays, though often well-quoted,

of usurpation, ill-fated love, and death.

 

Will gave us lore as timeless as he is,

and as legendary too.

For his words and wit, ageless ‘tis,

Gentle Shakespeare, we owe much to you.

 

These characters, and these plays, all are Shakespeare’s,

and timeless, he will last much longer, than even another 450 years.

 

 

Happy birthday Mr. William Shakespeare!  And now, to use my favorite stage direction by the Bard…

(Exit, pursued by a bear).

 

Poetry of the Bard–His Shorter Poems

Last time, I discussed William Shakespeare’s narrative poems: Venus and Adonis, and The Rape of Lucrece. This time around, I will discuss his remaining poems,Poems written by William Shakespeare A Lover’s Complaint, The Phoenix and the Turtle, and the five of his poems that appeared in a collection entitled, The Passionate Pilgrim.

A Lover’s Complaint

This poem focuses on a young girl who was spurned by a young man that she loved. She sits upon a hill, throwing letters, jewelry, and other favors that he has given her, over the side of it. This is witnessed by the poem’s narrator:

From off a hill whose concave womb reworded                                                                                                                                                                             A plaintful story to a sistering vale,                                                                                                                                                                                   My spirits to attend this double voice accorded,                                                                                                                                           And down I laid to list the sad-tuned tale;                                                                                                                                                         Ere long espied a fickle maid full pale,                                                                                                                                                                Tearing of papers, breaking rings a-twain,                                                                                                                                                   Storming her world with sorrow’s wind and rain.                                                                                                                               

Upon her head a platted hive of straw,                                                                                                                                                       Which fortified her visage from the sun,                                                                                                                                               Whereon the thought might think sometime it saw                                                                                                                                    The carcass of beauty spent and done:                                                                                                                                                          Time had not scythed all that youth begun,                                                                                                                                                   Nor youth all quit; but, spite of heaven’s fell rage,                                                                                                                                   Some beauty peep’d through lattice of sear’d age.

Here the narrator lists some of the things that the young girl is discarding:

Of folded schedules had she many a one,                                                                                                                                                                                     Which she perused, sigh’d, tore, and gave the flood;                                                                                                                                                                                Crack’d many a ring of posied god and bone                                                                                                                                                                                  Bidding them find their sepulchres in mud;                                                                                                                                                                                         Found yet moe letters sadly penn’d in blood,                                                                                                                                                                            With sleided silk feat and affectedly                                                                                                                                                                   Enswathed, and seal’d to curious secrecy.

Soon, an old shepherd tending to his flock nearby, sees her and sits beside the young girl, curious about her grief, and willing to lend a sympathetic ear:

A Lover's Complaint-1609

A Lover’s Complaint in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 1609.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       A reverend man that grazed his cattle nigh                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Sometime a blusterer, that the ruffle knew                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Of court, of city, and had let go by                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The swiftest hours, observed as they flew–                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Towards this afflicted fancy fastly drew,                                                                                                                                                                                                                       And, privileged by age, desires to know                                                                                                                                                            In brief the grounds and motives of her woe.

So slides he down upon his grained bat,                                                                                                                                                          And comely-distant sits he by her side;                                                                                                                                                       When he again desires her, being sat,                                                                                                                                                              Her grievance with his hearing to divide:                                                                                                                                                          If that from him there may be aught applied                                                                                                                                             Which may her suffering ecstasy assuage,                                                                                                                                                    ‘Tis promised in the charity of age.

The young girl begins telling the shepherd about the boy that she loved.  He had curly brown hair, enchanting eyes, and a handsome face. He had but an early growth of a beard, was courteous, and could ride a horse well:

‘His browny locks did hang in crooked curls;                                                                                                                                               And every light occasion of the wind                                                                                                                                                            Upon his lips their silken parcels hurls.                                                                                                                                                    What’s sweet to do, to do will aptly find:                                                                                                                                                     Each eye that saw him did enchant the mind,                                                                                                                                                For on his visage was in little drawn                                                                                                                                                            What largeness thinks in Paradise was sawn.

‘Small show of man was yet upon his chin;                                                                                                                                                    His phoenix down began but to appear                                                                                                                                                              Like unshorn velvet on that termless skin                                                                                                                                                      Whose bare out-bragg’d the web it seem’d to wear:                                                                                                                                           Yet show’d his visage by that cost more dear;                                                                                                                                               And nice affections wavering stood in doubt                                                                                                                                                    If best were as it was, or best without.

A Lover's Complaint Ill. John Bell, 1774 ed.

A Lover’s Complaint illustration by John Bell, in the 1774 edition of Shakespeare’s works.

He impressed both men and women, and many of the latter fantasized about being his mistress. This girl however, had always kept her distance. All too soon however, she too, gave in to his charms, even though she knew that he could not be trusted, that he was unfaithful, treacherous, and had many illegitimate children:

“So many have, that never touch’d his hand,
Sweetly supposed them mistress of his heart.
My woeful self, that did in freedom stand,
And was my own fee-simple, not in part,
What with his art in youth, and youth in art,
Threw my affections in his charmed power,
Reserved the stalk and gave him all my flower.

“Yet did I not, as some my equals did,
Demand of him, nor being desired yielded;

Finding myself in honour so forbid,
With safest distance I mine honour shielded:
Experience for me many bulwarks builded
Of proofs new-bleeding, which remain’d the foil
Of this false jewel, and his amorous spoil.”

Yet this young man was able to woo her nonetheless. He asks her to have pity on him, and says that he never loved a woman as much as he loves her:

“And long upon these terms I held my city,
Till thus he gan besiege me: ‘Gentle maid,
Have of my suffering youth some feeling pity,
And be not of my holy vows afraid:
That’s to ye sworn to none was ever said;
For feasts of love I have been call’d unto,
Till now did ne’er invite, nor never woo.”

He offers to her, favors that he received from other women:

”Look here, what tributes wounded fancies sent me,
Of paled pearls and rubies red as blood;
Figuring that they their passions likewise lent me
Of grief and blushes, aptly understood
In bloodless white and the encrimson’d mood;
Effects of terror and dear modesty,
Encamp’d in hearts, but fighting outwardly.”

Next he tells her of a nun who, once she saw him, wished that she had never taken her vows and wanted to leave the cloister to be loved by him. He tearfully says that his heart aches because of the young girl’s resistance, and this is to further convince the girl of this young man’s faithfulness:

”My parts had power to charm a sacred nun,
Who, disciplined, ay, dieted in grace,
Believed her eyes when they to assail begun,
All vows and consecrations giving place:
O most potential love! vow, bond, nor space,
In thee hath neither sting, knot, nor confine,
For thou art all, and all things else are thine.

”When thou impressest, what are precepts worth
Of stale example? When thou wilt inflame,
How coldly those impediments stand forth
Of wealth, of filial fear, law, kindred, fame!
Love’s arms are peace, ‘gainst rule, ‘gainst sense,
‘gainst shame,
And sweetens, in the suffering pangs it bears,
The aloes of all forces, shocks, and fears.A Lover's Complaint book

”Now all these hearts that do on mine depend,
Feeling it break, with bleeding groans they pine;
And supplicant their sighs to you extend,
To leave the battery that you make ‘gainst mine,
Lending soft audience to my sweet design,
And credent soul to that strong-bonded oath
That shall prefer and undertake my troth.”

Because of his tears, and his words of passion, she gives herself to him, believing that he would be true to her. Instead, he broke her heart and left, just as he had with others before:

“For, lo, his passion, but an art of craft,
Even there resolved my reason into tears;
There my white stole of chastity I daff’d,
Shook off my sober guards and civil fears;
Appear to him, as he to me appears,
All melting; though our drops this difference bore,
His poison’d me, and mine did him restore.

“In him a plenitude of subtle matter,
Applied to cautels, all strange forms receives,
Of burning blushes, or of weeping water,
Or swooning paleness; and he takes and leaves,
In either’s aptness, as it best deceives,
To blush at speeches rank to weep at woes,
Or to turn white and swoon at tragic shows.

She ends, saying that even though she regrets falling for him once, she would fall for him again. His infectious tears, his blushing, and words of love, could all betray her once more:

“Thus merely with the garment of a Grace
The naked and concealed fiend he cover’d;
That th’ unexperient gave the tempter place,
Which like a cherubin above them hover’d.
Who, young and simple, would not be so lover’d?
Ay me! I fell; and yet do question make
What I should do again for such a sake.

O, that infected moisture of his eye,
O, that false fire which in his cheek so glow’d,
O, that forced thunder from his heart did fly,
O, that sad breath his spongy lungs bestow’d,
O, all that borrow’d motion seeming owed,
Would yet again betray the fore-betray’d,
And new pervert a reconciled maid!”

The Phoenix and the Turtle

The Phoenix and the Turtle

The Phoenix and the Turtle, first published in Robert Chester’s Love’s Martyr, 1601.

This is an allegorical poem, and is much shorter than A Lover’s Complaint and the two narrative poems. It is about a phoenix and a turtledove who were in love with each other, and died engulfed in the phoenix’s flames. Other birds have come to the funeral, yet some birds are not allowed to attend.

This poem I will post in its entirety, and under each verse, I will describe what that verse means:

Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.    
“The bird of loudest” is the nightingale, and he sits on the Arabian tree where he calls the two birds, (the phoenix and the turtledove), together.

But thou shrieking harbinger,
Foul precurrer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever’s end,
To this troop come thou not near.                                                                                                                                                                    
The “shrieking harbinger” is the owl, who was known to be an omen of death, and is therefore unwelcome at the funeral of the two dead birds.

From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather’d king:
Keep the obsequy so strict.
                                                                                                                                                                                 “Every fowl of tyrant wing” refers to birds of prey, who are also unwelcome. The exception to this is the eagle, who is allowed to come in, and stand guard as it were, to make sure the unwelcome birds stay out.

Let the priest in surplice white
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.
                                                                                                                                                                   Because of his white coat, the swan will be the priest. “Defunctive music” referring to the fact that swans cannot sing as other birds can, and he will speak the requiem.

And thou treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender mak’st
With the breath thou giv’st and tak’st,
‘Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.
                                                                                                                                                               The crow, already in mourning black, and believed to be able to take and give life, is also allowed inside.

Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phœnix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence.
                                                                                                                                                                         Love and truth died when the phoenix and the turtledove died.

So they lov’d, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
                                                                                                                                                                               Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.                                                                                                                                                                          They were two beings, but had only one soul. No division could come between them; the idea of numbers was meaningless to them.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
‘Twixt the turtle and his queen:
But in them it were a wonder.                                                                                                                                                                          
There was no distance nor space between their hearts.

So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phœnix’ sight;
Either was the other’s mine.
 
Between them did love shine bright; they belonged to each other.

 Property was thus appall’d,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature’s double name
Neither two nor one was call’d.
                                                                                                                                                                         One of them being by themselves was not the same as being together. Their souls were merged with each other, and were not two separate souls.

Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together;
To themselves yet either neither,
Simple were so well compounded,
                                                                                                                                                                       Reason was confused by their union.

That it cried, “How true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none,
If what parts can so remain”.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Reason could see that love has no reason, and reason has no love.

Whereupon it made this threne
To the phœnix and the dove,
Co-supremes and stars of love,
As chorus to their tragic scene.
                                                                                                                                                                          And so, Reason made the following threne in memory of the phoenix and the turtledove, as a chorus to the ends of their lives.

The Phoenix and the Turtle audioThrenos

Beauty, truth, and rarity,
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos’d in cinders lie.
                                                                                                                                                                               Beauty–the phoenix, truth–the turtledove, along with rarity and grace, are now all burnt to ashes.

Death is now the phœnix’ nest;
And the turtle’s loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,
                                                                                                                                                                                               In death, the phoenix and the turtledove are together forever.

Leaving no posterity:
‘Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.
                                                                                                                                                                                    They did not have any children, but it was not because they were infertile, but because they were chaste.

Truth may seem, but cannot be;
Beauty brag, but ’tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.
                                                                                                                                                                            Truth cannot exist, nor can beauty boast, because both are buried with the two birds.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.
                                                                                                                                                                 Anyone who is either true or fair, particularly in love, should pray for the phoenix and the turtledove.

The Passionate Pilgrim

The Passionate Pilgrim-1599

Title page of The Passionate Pilgrim, 1599.

This was a collection of twenty poems, that were collected and published by William Jaggard, and the entire collection was  attributed to “W.  Shakespeare” on the title page. Further study however, could only prove five of the poems as being authentically written by the Bard.  Two of them are two of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. The other three are from his comedic play, Love’s Labour’s Lost.

The first poem in The Passionate Pilgrim is an early version of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138. Even the authorship of this version of the sonnet has been in dispute, but it is more widely accepted as Shakespeare’s own. Especially as the last line mirrors a line from Shakespeare’s tragic play, Othello, the Moor of Venice. In his collection of Sonnets, number 138, is a part of his series of Sonnets about the Dark Lady:

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her (though I know she lies)
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unskillful in the world’s false forgeries.
Thus, vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although I know my years be past the best,
I, simply, credit her false-speaking tongue,
Outfacing faults in love, with love’s ill rest.
But wherefore says my love that she is young?
And wherefore say not I, that I am old?
O, love’s best habit’s in a soothing tongue,
And age in love loves not to have years told.
Therefore I’ll lie with love, and love, with me,
Since that our faults in love thus smothered be. 

He believes his love when she says that she is true to him, even though he knows that she is lying. She thinks him too young to know that she is being false, but he is old enough to know. Even so, he lies with her, hoping that their faults will be smothered by love.

The second poem in The Passionate Pilgrim, is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 144. Up until Sonnet 126, Shakespeare’s sonnets were addressed to a young man. In Sonnet 127, the Dark Lady comes in. This Sonnet 144, portrays the conflicted relationship of the speaker, the Dark Lady, and the young man:

Shakespeare's Sonnets

Title page of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 1609.

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still:
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour’d ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turn’d fiend
Suspect I may, but not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another’s hell:
Yet this shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

The speaker talks of two loves he has, (the young man–“a man right fair”, and the Dark Lady–“a woman coloured ill”). He sees the young man as the good spirit, and the Dark Lady as the evil spirit; he is also convinced that the Dark Lady will attempt to steal the young man away from him. She will seduce him and turn him to evil as well. He cannot say whether or not his angel (the young man), will be turned into a devil, but as both the young man and the Dark Lady are away from him and yet friend to each other, he figures that one angel is in the other’s hell. He must live in doubt until the bad angel drives away the good one.

The remaining three poems in The Passionate Pilgrim that have Shakespeare as their original author, are from his comedy, Love’s Labour’s Lost. In that play, the King of Navarre, and his three fellow scholars, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumain, all swear to study for three years, and during that time, they also swear not to see women, and not to love any either. So of course, this is when the Princess of France shows up with her three women, Rosaline, Maria, and Catherine. The King falls in love with the Princess, Berowne with Rosaline, Longaville with Maria, and Dumaine with Catherine. Yet because of the vows that the men made against women, the three men attempt to hide from each other, the fact that they are in love.

The following three sonnets in the The Passionate Pilgrim are letters written by the men for the women that they love. This first is Longaville’s letter to Maria:

Love's Labour's Lost title page-1598

Title page of the first quarto of Love’s Labour’s Lost, 1598.

Did not the heavenly rhetoric of thine eye,
‘Gainst whom the world could not hold argument,
Persuade my heart to this false perjury?
Vows for thee broke deserve not punishment.
A woman I forswore; but I will prove,
Thou being a goddess, I forswore not thee:
My vow was earthly, thou a heavenly love;
Thy grace being gained cures all disgrace in me.
My vow was breath, and breath a vapour is;
Then thou, fair sun, that on this earth doth shine,
Exhale this vapour vow; in thee it is:
If broken, then it is no fault of mine.
If by me broke, what fool is not so wise
To break an oath, to win a paradise?

Here, Longaville is attempting to justify his love for Maria, by saying that he swore not to see women, but that she is a goddess, so therefore he is not forsworn in loving her. His vow was earthly, and she is of heaven. His vow was only breath, and breath is only a vapor. She is the sun who shines on the earth and dissolves that vapor.  So if his vow is broken, it is not broken by him. But even if it is broken by him, who would be so foolish, that they would not break their oath to gain paradise?

The next one is Berowne’s poem to Rosaline:

If love make me forsworn, how shall I swear to love?
O, never faith could hold, if not to beauty vowed:
Though to myself forsworn, to thee I’ll constant prove;
Those thoughts, to me like oaks, to thee like osiers bowed.
Study his bias leaves, and makes his book thine eyes,
Where all those pleasures live that art can comprehend.
If knowledge be the mark, to know thee shall suffice;
Well learned is that tongue that well can thee commend;
All ignorant that soul that sees thee without wonder;
Which is to me some praise, that I thy parts admire:
Thy eye Jove’s lightning seems, thy voice his dreadful thunder,
Which (not to anger bent) is music and sweet fire.
Celestial as thou art, O, do not love that wrong,
To sing heLove's Labour's Lost-Folgeraven’s praise with such an earthly tongue.

Berowne is saying that if love makes him forsworn than how can he swear his love for Rosaline; faith could never hold a vow made to beauty. He will be forsworn to himself, yet be constant and true to her. These thoughts are like oaks on a tree to him, like a willow to her, both that can easily bend and possibly be broken. He sees in her eyes a book of all of life’s pleasures. If knowledge be all, then it is enough to know her. Intelligent is the person who can speak of her with praise, and ignorant is the person who looks at her, and does not wonder about her beauty. This is praises himself as well, since he so admires her, (and is therefore intelligent). Her eye is like Jove, and her voice is like Jove’s thunder, which sounds like music and sweet fire. She is celestial, and he does love wrong, to praise she who is heavenly, with earthly words.

The last of the poems by Shakespeare in The Passionate Pilgrim, is Dumaine’s sonnet to Catherine:

On a day (alack the day)
Love, whose month was ever May,
Spied a blossom passing fair,
Playing in the wanton air.
Through the velvet leaves the wind
All unseen, gan passage find;
That the lover (sick to death)
Wished himself the heaven’s breath.
“Air,” quoth he, “thy cheeks may blow;
Air, would I might triumph so.
But (alas) my hand hath sworn
Ne’er to pluck thee from thy thorn:
Vow (alack) for youth unmeet;
Youth, so apt to pluck a sweet.
Thou for whom Jove would swear
Juno but an Ethiope were;                                                                                                                                                                                  And deny himself for Jove,
Turning mortal for thy love.” 

On a day in May, which is the month of love, is when Dumaine saw Catherine–“a blossom passing fair”. Through leaves, wind can pass unseen and find passage, and thus a lovesick man might wish himself to be nothing but air, so that he can pass by unseen as well. But he has sworn his vow. It was a vow for unseemly youth, and he is that youth who is likely to fall in love–“pluck a sweet”–even though he swore that he would not love. For Catherine, would Jove, (the supreme god in Roman mythology), himself swear love. And would Jove then deny Juno, (Jove’s wife), and choose to become  mortal for Catherine’s love.  The interjection, “alack”, is used to express sorrow, grief, or regret.

Love's Labour's Lost-Branagh

A scene from Kenneth Branagh’s musical version of Love’s Labour’s Lost, 2000.

A Lover’s Complaint is only summarized here, but it, as wells as The Phoenix and the Turtle,  are meant of course, to be read in their entirety. And I would encourage anyone who is interested, to find the full text of these poems, (either in books or online), and read them through. And also for his longer, narrative poems, that I covered in my previous post, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. And while you’re at it, you may just want to take a look at Shakespeare’s 154 Sonnets as well.

Enjoy the upcoming weekend everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving!