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Courage & Cowardice - Venus & Adonis - 3rd June 2018, Shakespeare Sunday

‘They that love best their loves shall not enjoy’

Below are heart-rending verses, likely to echo for any who did ever ‘suffer love’ and to provide fodder for those who wish to ‘speak ill’ of it.

I found them in Shakespeare’s narrative poem ‘Venus and Adonis’ while searching for a quote for today’s #ShakespeareSunday theme of Courage & Cowardice (chosen by @anne_obrien for creators @HollowCrownFans).

Venus, Goddess of Love, in mourning the death of Adonis, curses love:

‘Wonder of time,’ quoth she, ‘this is my spite,
That, thou being dead, the day should yet be light.

‘Since thou art dead, lo, here I prophesy:
Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend:
It shall be waited on with jealousy,
Find sweet beginning, but unsavoury end,
Ne’er settled equally, but high or low,
That all love’s pleasure shall not match his woe.

It shall be fickle, false and full of fraud,
Bud and be blasted in a breathing-while;
The bottom poison, and the top o’erstraw’d
With sweets that shall the truest sight beguile:
The strongest body shall it make most weak,
Strike the wise dumb and teach the fool to speak.

It shall be sparing and too full of riot,
Teaching decrepit age to tread the measures;
The staring ruffian shall it keep in quiet,
Pluck down the rich, enrich the poor with treasures;
It shall be raging-mad and silly-mild,
Make the young old, the old become a child.

It shall suspect where is no cause of fear;
It shall not fear where it should most mistrust;
It shall be merciful and too severe,
And most deceiving when it seems most just;
Perverse it shall be where it shows most toward,
Put fear to valour, courage to the coward.

It shall be cause of war and dire events,
And set dissension ‘twixt the son and sire;
Subject and servile to all discontents,
As dry combustious matter is to fire:
Sith in his prime Death doth my love destroy,
They that love best their loves shall not enjoy.’

*Shivers*

Notes on Playing

Note the wonderful use of sound, there to be played with when acting / reciting.

Perhaps, as I did, when looking at ‘fickle, false and full of fraud’, you might imagine another ‘f’-word feeling apt for the grieving and raging Venus!

Consider, too, changes, such as where she might be ranting and where quiet; where bitter, where despairing.

Explore the images created and sense them – what is it like to be ‘raging-mad’ and ‘silly-mild’? Tap into such rich description even as you speak these words.

‘The bottom poison, and the top o’erstraw’d / With sweets’ – what do you imagine, thinking about this?

Historically, floors could be covered with rushes and sweet-smelling herbs, the latter used to combat nasty odours. Useful to know, and I’d always advise looking up anything you are unsure of – this is a basic connection needed with the text: know what you are saying!

For your own personal connection, you can also use other images and ideas that spring from Shakespeare’s words, ones that come from your imagination responding to his.

While knowing of strewn rushes or straw as floor covering, I also found myself responding to ‘The bottom poison, and the top o’erstraw’d / With sweets’ by mentally creating a layered drink with sweet colourful juices above the initial poison, disguising it visibly and to the taste: a lethal cocktail with a couple of straws and one of those little umbrellas on top. Nice!

Yes, this is a different use of ‘straw’, but provided we know what was originally meant, and our version responds to that meaning, we can use different images and ideas to connect us with what we are saying.

Finding your own connections is a huge part of owning the words – written centuries ago, you can make these lines live now! 

Go on: read out loud, explore, and comment to let me know what you find and feel…

PS – if you’d like some basic help with the rhythm, see this article: Shakespeare’s Verse: Iambic Pentameter – It’s Easy!
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I love the quote I found to illustrate today’s #ShakespeareSunday theme of Doctors, Medicine & Mortality, chosen this time by @teenytinyflame for event creators @HollowCrownFans.

"Your doctors ... thought it good you hear a play And frame your mind to mirth and merriment, Which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life." Messenger, Taming of the Shrew - Prologue

The full section this quote is taken from reads:

“Your honour’s players, hearing your amendment,
Are come to play a pleasant comedy;
For so your doctors hold it very meet,
Seeing too much sadness hath congeal’d your blood,
And melancholy is the nurse of frenzy.
Therefore they thought it good you hear a play
And frame your mind to mirth and merriment,
Which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life.”

In other words, Shakespeare is prescribing the arts to combat depression – a great prescription and one which we can all do with being aware of in our times!

Of course, he – being a playwright (and I an actress) – could be said to have a vested interest in prescribing plays for the good of our health, but that makes them no less effective as wonderful medicine.

Plays have long been known as cathartic, uplifting and enlightening – and long may that continue!

 

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@HollowCrownFans are celebrating their 5th anniversary, and this Sunday tweeted:

“Good morning and welcome to another #ShakespeareSunday! Today’s theme: THE HOLLOW CROWN PLAYS! (Rich II, Henry IV, V, VI & Rich III)”

The Hollow Crown is a televised series of Shakespeare’s plays from the BBC – this banner has covered Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 & 2, and Henry V (first series) and Henry VI part 1, Henry VI parts 2 & 3 amalgamated, and Richard III (second series, subtitled The Wars of the Roses). The high profile actors involved are far too numerous to fully list (including – to name but a handful – Judi Dench, Julie WaltersSophie Okonedo, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch & Jeremy Irons), so do check out the above link!

@HollowCrownFans began #ShakespeareSunday and it has taken on in a big way – yes, it ‘trends’! Part of the fun of getting involved is finding new people to interact with on Twitter via the likes and follows gained when tweeting a quote inspired by the weekly themes put forward.

Here’s my offering for this five year anniversary…

 

 

5 year, congrats - Henry IV, pt 1 9th July 2017, Shakespeare Sunday

The quote comes from a time that Prince Hal (later Henry V, ‘the warlike Harry’) is joking / teasing Francis, ‘a drawer’ (tapster, barman). I like to think he’s also pictured here, along with Falstaff (wielding the sword), Bardolf (rednosed behind the sword, probably with Pistol and Nym), Hal, and likely Poins (the fine gentlemen watching).

I like to think Francis is the boy just in front of Falstaff – with those 5 years still to serve his apprenticeship – but he could be the chap coming up out of the cellar.

What think you?

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Studying Shakespeare is made overly complicated by assuming that it is too difficult to understand, Professor David Crystal says…

How Shakespeare invented ‘unfriend’ 400 years before Facebook – Telegraph.

How Shakespeare invented 'unfriend' 400 years before Facebook - Telegraph

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Interesting article by Maria Popova about a book by Dan Falk…

 

Article by Maria Popova on book by Dan Falk: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/06/02/the-science-of-shakespeare-astronomy-dan-falk/

William Shakespeare, Astronomer: How Galileo Influenced the Bard | Brain Pickings

 

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Sam Wanamaker’s vision for two theatres comes to fruition – the indoor theatre has now joined the famous Globe, and opens this month with Gemma Arterton as The Duchess of Malfi (by John Webster).

Candlelit performances, companies of boys, a radio programme and various historical titbits can be found here:

BBC News – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse: A Jacobean theatre on Bankside

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Includes mention of documentary currently available as well as thoughts on playreading and Shakespeare…

Why so many people hate Shakespeare | Players-Shakespeare.com.

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