BB: Short Poems, Sonnets 12-17

Artwork - Leigh McRae
Artwork – Leigh MacRae

This podcast did not upload to iTunes originally. I’m reposting in the hopes that I’ve corrected the problem. Apologies from the Bard Brawl.

— DJR.

This week, we’re continuing with the next six sonnets in Shakespeare’s cycle, sonnets 12 to 17. As always, these sonnets are read by our lovely volunteer sonneteers.

Listen to or download the podcast.

Here’s where you can listen to sonnets 1-5, and 6-11, in case you missed them the first time.

So, why have we arbitrarily decided to end our recording with sonnet 17? Because (as those who have been following along will know) these first 17 of Shakespeare’s sonnets are generally lumped together because they are all addressed to an unknown young nobleman and written to encourage him to go forth and multiply.

This group of 17 sonnets has since been given the oh-so-poetic name of “procreation sonnets” by Shakespearean scholars.

Sonnet 12 (Episode: Henry VI, Part I, Act V, Read by: Kayla Cross)

Kayla Cross
Kayla Cross

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

Argument: When I look at the signs of time’s passage like the sky darkening as the sun sets, or leaves falling from trees when winter’s coming, it makes me think about your beauty. let’s be honest: you’re not getting any younger, and sooner than you think, you’ll be dead and gone. But, beauty grows as fast as it fades. Don’t leave yourself defenseless against the passage of time – have some kids!

Sonnet 13 (Episode: Merchant of Venice, Act V, Read by: Stephanie E.M. Coleman)

Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Stephanie E.M. Coleman

O, that you were yourself! but, love, you are
No longer yours than you yourself here live:
Against this coming end you should prepare,
And your sweet semblance to some other give.
So should that beauty which you hold in lease
Find no determination: then you were
Yourself again after yourself’s decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold
Against the stormy gusts of winter’s day
And barren rage of death’s eternal cold?
O, none but unthrifts! Dear my love, you know
You had a father: let your son say so.

Argument: You’re not going to be around forever so you should give away some of your good looks away. You’re really only leasing your beauty – you’ll lose it unless you can find someone to inherit it. And seeing as you inherited it from your father who took good care of it, make sure to have a son who can be thankful to you for having kept your family attractiveness in near-mint condition.

Sonnet 14 (Episode: Merchant of Venice, Act I, Read by: Maya Pankalla)

Maya Pankalla
Maya Pankalla

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well,
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

Argument: Listen, I can’t predict the future by looking at the stars, the planets or the weather. But, I can see in your eyes that truth and beauty go hand in hand. So, if you won’t have any kids then I can predict this: truth and beauty will die when you die. (And that’s bad.)

Sonnet 15 (Episode: Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Read by: Melissa Myers)

Melissa Myers
Melissa Myers

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and cheque’d even by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.

Argument: Everything that grows is perfect and ripe for just a few moments, and appearances are often deceiving. Also, the same sun watches over both plants and people. So, when I see that you are fresh-looking and beautiful and will be always, I need to remind myself that this is not really the case: time and decay are killing you even as we speak. But, while time takes away your youth and beauty, I give it back to you in my poetry!

Sonnet 16 (Episode: Merchant of Venice, Act II, Read by: Miki Laval)

Miki Laval
Miki Laval

But wherefore do not you a mightier way
Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time?
And fortify yourself in your decay
With means more blessed than my barren rhyme?
Now stand you on the top of happy hours,
And many maiden gardens yet unset
With virtuous wish would bear your living flowers,
Much liker than your painted counterfeit:
So should the lines of life that life repair,
Which this, Time’s pencil, or my pupil pen,
Neither in inward worth nor outward fair,
Can make you live yourself in eyes of men.
To give away yourself keeps yourself still,
And you must live, drawn by your own sweet skill.

Argument: Why don’t you wage war with time properly and find a better way to defeat it than to rely on my poetry? There are plenty of women right now who would love to have your kids which, let’s face it, make better duplicates than paintings. My poetry just isn’t going to be good enough, man. You need to use your own… er, pen to create a copy of yourself.

Sonnet 17 (Episode: Henry VI, Part I, Act III, Read by: Hannah Dorozio)

Hannah Dorozio
Hannah Dorozio

Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill’d with your most high deserts?
Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say ‘This poet lies:
Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces.’
So should my papers yellow’d with their age
Be scorn’d like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term’d a poet’s rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice; in it and in my rhyme.

Argument: No one’s going to believe my poems about you in the future even if it’s filled with details about just how awesome you are. Really, my poems will leave out way more than they can show. They’ll just think I made all of this stuff up. Unless one of your descendants were around so they could see that you live again: in your son’s life and in my kick-ass poems!

(Podcast recorded and edited by Daniel J. Rowe, Show notes by Eric Jean)

Stay in touch, Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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BB: Short Poems, Sonnets 12-17

Artwork - Leigh McRae
Artwork – Leigh MacRae

This podcast did not upload to iTunes originally. I’m reposting in the hopes that I’ve corrected the problem. Apologies from the Bard Brawl.

— DJR.

This week, we’re continuing with the next six sonnets in Shakespeare’s cycle, sonnets 12 to 17. As always, these sonnets are read by our lovely volunteer sonneteers.

Listen to or download the podcast.

Here’s where you can listen to sonnets 1-5, and 6-11, in case you missed them the first time.

So, why have we arbitrarily decided to end our recording with sonnet 17? Because (as those who have been following along will know) these first 17 of Shakespeare’s sonnets are generally lumped together because they are all addressed to an unknown young nobleman and written to encourage him to go forth and multiply.

This group of 17 sonnets has since been given the oh-so-poetic name of “procreation sonnets” by Shakespearean scholars.

Sonnet 12 (Episode: Henry VI, Part I, Act V, Read by: Kayla Cross)

Kayla Cross
Kayla Cross

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

Argument: When I look at the signs of time’s passage like the sky darkening as the sun sets, or leaves falling from trees when winter’s coming, it makes me think about your beauty. let’s be honest: you’re not getting any younger, and sooner than you think, you’ll be dead and gone. But, beauty grows as fast as it fades. Don’t leave yourself defenseless against the passage of time – have some kids!

Sonnet 13 (Episode: Merchant of Venice, Act V, Read by: Stephanie E.M. Coleman)

Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Stephanie E.M. Coleman

O, that you were yourself! but, love, you are
No longer yours than you yourself here live:
Against this coming end you should prepare,
And your sweet semblance to some other give.
So should that beauty which you hold in lease
Find no determination: then you were
Yourself again after yourself’s decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold
Against the stormy gusts of winter’s day
And barren rage of death’s eternal cold?
O, none but unthrifts! Dear my love, you know
You had a father: let your son say so.

Argument: You’re not going to be around forever so you should give away some of your good looks away. You’re really only leasing your beauty – you’ll lose it unless you can find someone to inherit it. And seeing as you inherited it from your father who took good care of it, make sure to have a son who can be thankful to you for having kept your family attractiveness in near-mint condition.

Sonnet 14 (Episode: Merchant of Venice, Act I, Read by: Maya Pankalla)

Maya Pankalla
Maya Pankalla

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well,
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

Argument: Listen, I can’t predict the future by looking at the stars, the planets or the weather. But, I can see in your eyes that truth and beauty go hand in hand. So, if you won’t have any kids then I can predict this: truth and beauty will die when you die. (And that’s bad.)

Sonnet 15 (Episode: Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Read by: Melissa Myers)

Melissa Myers
Melissa Myers

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and cheque’d even by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.

Argument: Everything that grows is perfect and ripe for just a few moments, and appearances are often deceiving. Also, the same sun watches over both plants and people. So, when I see that you are fresh-looking and beautiful and will be always, I need to remind myself that this is not really the case: time and decay are killing you even as we speak. But, while time takes away your youth and beauty, I give it back to you in my poetry!

Sonnet 16 (Episode: Merchant of Venice, Act II, Read by: Miki Laval)

Miki Laval
Miki Laval

But wherefore do not you a mightier way
Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time?
And fortify yourself in your decay
With means more blessed than my barren rhyme?
Now stand you on the top of happy hours,
And many maiden gardens yet unset
With virtuous wish would bear your living flowers,
Much liker than your painted counterfeit:
So should the lines of life that life repair,
Which this, Time’s pencil, or my pupil pen,
Neither in inward worth nor outward fair,
Can make you live yourself in eyes of men.
To give away yourself keeps yourself still,
And you must live, drawn by your own sweet skill.

Argument: Why don’t you wage war with time properly and find a better way to defeat it than to rely on my poetry? There are plenty of women right now who would love to have your kids which, let’s face it, make better duplicates than paintings. My poetry just isn’t going to be good enough, man. You need to use your own… er, pen to create a copy of yourself.

Sonnet 17 (Episode: Henry VI, Part I, Act III, Read by: Hannah Dorozio)

Hannah Dorozio
Hannah Dorozio

Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill’d with your most high deserts?
Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say ‘This poet lies:
Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces.’
So should my papers yellow’d with their age
Be scorn’d like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term’d a poet’s rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice; in it and in my rhyme.

Argument: No one’s going to believe my poems about you in the future even if it’s filled with details about just how awesome you are. Really, my poems will leave out way more than they can show. They’ll just think I made all of this stuff up. Unless one of your descendants were around so they could see that you live again: in your son’s life and in my kick-ass poems!

(Podcast recorded and edited by Daniel J. Rowe, Show notes by Eric Jean)

Stay in touch, Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

BB: Henry VI Part 1, Act V

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Welcome to the final act of Henry VI, Part I.

Listen to the podcast – here

Download the podcast.

After the deadly siege of Bourdeau and the deaths of Talbot and his sons, at the start of act V the English nobility is gathered in London to hear a letter from the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor. (The War of the Roses takes place before England becomes protestant. Catholic is the only kind of Christian around.) They strongly suggest that England and France work out their differences. The French Duke of Armagnac, who also signs this letter, offers to have his daughter marry Henry to cement this peace. Henry’s not pleased at that thought but he agrees to do what’s best for his country. We also discover that the bishop of Winchester has since bought a cardinal’s office and that with his increased authority, he intends to undermine Gloucester‘s authority.

Back to France. At the start of scene 2, the French forces are gathered at Anjou and prepared to march to Paris to support the locals fighting there but a messenger arrives and informs them that the English army – routed earlier – has since regrouped and is ready to fight.

The next scene stars with Joan alone on stage. She is pleading, not with agents of God but rather with fiends from the “regions under earth.” She asks them for one last favour, which would drive the English from France but they abandon her.She leaves the stage and when she returns, she’s fighting with the Duke of York who manages to capture her. The French forces flee as soon as she is taken. She curses both York and Charles before she’s carried off to be burned at the stake for witchcraft. The stage is cleared and Suffolk comes on with his ‘prisoner,’ Margaret, daughter of Reignier. (You’ll remember, and this will be important in a bit, that while the King of Naples has an impressive title, it’s a title almost devoid of actual power.) The rather creepy Suffolk, who is in love with Margaret but who is also married, decides to woo her an Henry’s behalf. He convinces her to agree to marry the king (where he hopes he will be free to pursue an adulterous love affair with her). He then tells Reignier who is all too happy at the thought of his daughter marrying a king.

Scene 4 is the scene of Joan’s burning. She’s escorted in by a guard and is accompanied by a shepherd who claims to be her father. Joan denies this, claiming descent from aristocracy. he tries to get her to repent. She tells him off so he just says, the hell with it, burn her! She tries to convince York that she is noble born but he doesn’t seem either to belive her or care. Warrick asks them – because she’s a virgin – to make it a big fire so it will be over quickly. Seeing that this has had no effect, she tells them that she’s pregnant. York seems to have guessed she would say that, and suggests that she’s the furthest thing from virginal. She then names pretty much every member of the French court as potential fathers. York has heard enough and orders her to be carried off and burned (No, we don’t get to see it). Winchester then arrives from England and informs York and the others that there will be a peace treaty and the that wars in France are over. York is worried this means they’ll lose france, but Warrick is more optimistic. The French court join them in the camp. The cardinal delivers the terms: if the French swear fealty to henry, he’ll let Charles govern France as viceroy. He agrees.

We return to the palace in London for scene 5. Suffolk is hard at work convincing Henry to marry Margaret. The king – who seemed more interested in books before – now becomes obsessed with marrying this woman he has never seen. Henry asks Gloucester to give his consent. He refuses, reminding Henry how, in the interest of peace with France, he is supposed to marry the Duke of Armagnac’s daughter. Suffolk tries to play in Reignier’ title as King of Naples but Gloucester deflates him by mentioning that, despite his titles, the King of Naples is a broke nobody. Suffolk plies the king hard and he eventually convinces henry to marry Margret, regardless of what Gloucester says.

So much for peace.

I’ve been trying to make a case for what works in this play. But here are some of the problems.

One of the confusing aspects of this play is how many plot events appear to come out of nowhere. This whole business with the marriages in the final scene feels a little tacked on and, after the tragic deaths of Talbot and son, is a bit of a downer. Fact is though, this isn’t a problem of just this so-called “bad play.” Even some of our favourites suffer from some plot problems like this. In fact, we’ve said this about act V in Coriolanus which is a Bard Brawl favourite. I’m tempted to call this the “Act V Slump.”

Also, the Cardinal of Winchester-Gloucester subplot seems to go nowhere. The play opens with this power struggle between them, and their forces come to blows over the course of the play, but nothing seems to come of it. Even at the end of the play, after he’s been made cardinal by the Pope, Winchester is still talking about how he’ll show Gloucester. Except we’ve heard this about five acts ago and nothing has changed since. He said he would steal the king, that he would be a force of evil against England… but here he is in act V delivering the peace terms as ordered. The only sinister thing in the scene is how he tells the legate to take the cash he needs to pay the Pope for his office. Not exactly the “chiefest stern of public weal” he vowed to be back in act I! In fact, lust-sick Suffolk seems to do a much better job of screwing the kingdom and the Lord-Protector than Winchester ever even comes close to doing in this play.

And of course, there’s the Joan of Arc problem which comes up in this act. In act V, scene 3, Shakespeare pretty explicitly confirms the English’s interpretation of Joan of Arc as a sorceress when he has her speaking and pleading with demons. Up until this point, it was entirely possible to side with either the English or the French, to think of her as either a witch or a saint. This is probably one of the moments which are the least “Shakespearean” in the play and which – despite the many enjoyable part so the play – make it inferior to some of his later history plays.

As a rule, Shakespeare is much more interested in asking questions than in providing answers. His plays rarely seem to completely support one interpretation over another, especially when it comes to controversial figures. Like Joan of Arc. Remember how, when I wrote about act II of Coriolanus, part of the appeal was that the play asked us to decide what to make of Coriolanus: despot or war hero? Same thing with Shylock, or Antonio’s ‘mercy’ in The Merchant of Venice. the interpretation is up for grabs.

By writing in this scene the way he does in Henry Vi, part 1 he robs us of that decision. That weakens the tension and the drama of the play by breaking things up into clear categories of good and bad. If he had written this play later in his career, I’m pretty sure that this scene would have been changed or left out.

(In my opinion, this type of ‘talking to demons’ scene is much more typical of Marlowe. Very much Doctor Faustus stuff. Fun fact: Doctor Faustus would likely have been staged around the same time – within a year or so – as Henry VI, part 1. Could it be that demons were just the “in” thing that year?)

Next week, we’ll go over some of our favourite moments of this play.

Sonnet 12 read by Kayla Cross.

(Podcast recorded and edited by Daniel J. Rowe, Show notes by Eric Jean)

Stay in touch, Brawlers!

Leave a comment on the blog.

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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