BB: Short Poems, Sonnets 18-23

Artwork - Leigh MacRae
Artwork – Leigh MacRae

Welcome Brawlers to another episode of the Bard Brawl!

Next week, pirates. But before we get to that, we’re back with another one of our sonnets podcasts. In this recording, we pick up where we left off with sonnets 18-23.

Listen to or download the podcast.

You’ll remember that sonnets 1-17 were the so-called Procreation sonnets because they were trying to convince a young man to have kids. Seems that didn’t go so well, either because the young man didn’t follow his advice or because the poet decided that human lives are too fleeting.

This means that the sonnets are still being addressed to the same young, at least until we get further along into the sonnet sequence and Shakespeare starts writing about a mysterious (but hot) dark lady who is somehow involved with both men.

I guess that if you want to immortalise someone for all time, nothing does it better than poetry, right?

It’s kind of ironic that no one knows for sure who the hell these sonnets are actually addressed to.

Sonnet 18 (Episode: King Lear, Act V, Read by: Leigh Macrae)

Leigh Macrae
Leigh MacRae

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

Argument: The totally predictable thing to do would be to compare to a summer’s day and point out how you’re just as awesome. But actually, that doesn’t work because you are even better than summer could ever be. Here’s what’s wrong with summer: it’s too hot, the winds are too violent and it’s too short. Luckily, thanks to the awesome power of poetry, that won’t happen to your summer (as long as people keep reading these poems).

Sonnet 19: (Episode: King Lear, Act I, Ready by: Kayla Cross)

Kayla Cross
Kayla Cross

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-lived phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O, carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.

Argument: Here’s the deal, Time: feel free to make the lion old, to make the tiger lose his teeth, to kill off the phoenix and everything else in the world. Go ahead and ruin everything. But, Keeps your hands of my beloved! Don’t you dare spoil a single one of their features. In the end though, joke’s on you: they’ll be young forever because I have encased them in poetic carbonite.

Sonnet 20: (Episode: Taming of the Shrew, Act II, Ready by: Melissa Myers)

Melissa Myers
Melissa Myers

A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all ‘hues’ in his controlling,
Much steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.

Argument: You have a beautiful woman’s face and a tender woman’s heart – but none of those unpredictable mood swings. You’re also way more faithful and not easily attracted by each passing hottie. In fact, whatever you look at is made better because of it. Both man and women want (to be) you. You were clearly intended to be woman but Nature was so enamoured with your that she decided to give you a penis. So women can use your for sex all they want so long as I can have your love.

Sonnet 21: (Episode: Henry VI part 1, Act II, Read by: Esther Viragh)

Esther Viragh
Esther Viragh

So is it not with me as with that Muse
Stirr’d by a painted beauty to his verse,
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse
Making a couplement of proud compare,
With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems,
With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare
That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems.
O’ let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother’s child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fix’d in heaven’s air:
Let them say more than like of hearsay well;
I will not praise that purpose not to sell.

Argument: These other poets see a person with way too much Botox and then pretend like they’re more beautiful than all of the wonders of nature. I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to be honest with you and tell you that my love is very beautiful but there’s no way they (or anyone else) are as beautiful as the stars. Since I’m not trying to impress you or trying to sell you anything, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by feeding you a load of BS.

Sonnet 22: (Episode: Henry IV part 1, Act IV, Read by: Maya Pankalla. And episode: Talking About the Weather…, Read by: Hannah Dorozio)

Maya Pankalla
Maya Pankalla

My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
So long as youth and thou are of one date;
But when in thee time’s furrows I behold,
Then look I death my days should expiate.
For all that beauty that doth cover thee
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me:
How can I then be elder than thou art?
O, therefore, love, be of thyself so wary
As I, not for myself, but for thee will;
Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary
As tender nurse her babe from faring ill.
Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain;
Thou gavest me thine, not to give back again.

Argument: I don’t care what my mirror says, I won’t be old as long as you remain young. Once I do see that you are old, then I’ll be ready for my grave. Really though, you look so good and young because I’ve got my ‘love delusion’ goggles on. Until I take them off, there’s no way we’ll be old. So, take care of yourself for my sake. I’ll take care of your heart carefully but don’t expect to ever get it back: it’s mine now, no take-backs.

Sonnet 23: (Episode: Taming of the Shrew, Act I, Read by: Stephanie E.M. Coleman)

Stephanie E.M. Coleman reading Sonnet 1
Stephanie E.M. Coleman 

As an unperfect actor on the stage
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart.
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love’s rite,
And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay,
O’ercharged with burden of mine own love’s might.
O, let my books be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love and look for recompense
More than that tongue that more hath more express’d.
O, learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.

Argument: I know I sound like a blubbering idiot when we’re together but I swear it’s just that my love for you is so strong that it overwhelms me and I just can’t speak. Kind of like and actor who forgets his lines because they’re nervous or like someone who is so too pissed for words. Instead, I hope that you will read these poems and let them speak for me. Wouldn’t that be an impressive trick – letting your eyes ‘hear’ what a have to say?

Fair warning Brawlers: things are liable to get a little weird next week.

But it probably won’t be any worse than your last family gathering where your drunk uncle hit on your girlfriend before spending the rest of the night trying to kill one of your second cousins

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BB: King Lear, Act V

Artwork - Leigh MacRae
Artwork – Leigh MacRae

Welcome Brawlers to the grand finale of King Lear!

Listen to or download the podcast.

To quote Kent: “Is this the promised end,” where Cordelia and Lear are reunited and live together for a few more years, where Lear is restored and we’re spared the worse case scenario?

In a word, nope.

In scene 1, Edmund and Regan are discussing whether or not Albany will have taken to the field or not; it seems that he has been wracked with doubt and remorse for his part in Lear’s mistreatment. They send a messenger to check on the news. Regan then asks Edmund if he truly loves her and not Goneril. She makes him swear to never have any private discussions with her and the sudden arrival of Goneril with Albany. Of course, the first thing Goneril says is that she would rather lose the battle than Edmund. Seems that Albany has chosen to take to the field in the end, motivated by what he sees as a French invasion to which they should all be opposed.

They all leave save Albany and Edgar shows up in disguise. He gives him the letter incriminating Goneril and Edmund – the one he was so conveniently was given by Oswald, remember? He tells him to read the letter before they take the field. Then, if they should win, to sound a duel so the disguised Edgar can bring his brother to justice.

The last word of the scene belongs to Edmund, however, as he considers his situation: he`s promissed to marry both. He’ll make use of Albany’s army for now but figures that once the battle is done, which ever sister wants him more can figure out how to get rid of Albany. We also learn that Albany intends to pardon Cordelia and Lear once the fight is done. Edmund can`t have any of that and plans to eliminate them.

The next scene is short exchange between Gloucester and Edgar which takes place while the battle rages around them. Edgar first makes Gloucester take shelter beneath a tree and promises that, should he survive the fight, he will take care of his father. Unfortunately, the battle does not go their way and Lear and Cordelia are taken prisoner. Edgar returns and tries to take his father with him to safety, but his father just wants to lie there and die. Edgar reminds him that the right thing to do is to endure this life until it is out time to go. Gloucester begrudgingly agrees and they leave.

Can it get any worse? In the words of Edgar, yes: “And worse I may be yet: the worst is not / So long as we can say ‘This is the worst.'”

Very uplifting stuff.

Bring on scene 3, the final scene of the play. Edmund orders Lear and Cordelia taken into custody. Lear is happy enough to simply be able tp spend his final days with his one honest daughter, even if it should be in jail. They are taken away. As soon as they are gone, Edmund sends a messenger with the order for their execution. Albany and the others come on the scene and Albany asks for Edmund to turn over the prisoners to him. Edmund tells him that he ordered them taken away but they can address this tomorrow. Albany does not approve of his temerity and calls him on his lack of authority: “Sir, by your patience, / I hold you but a subject of this war, / Not as a brother.” Or, in other words: “who the hell do you think you are?”

Regan is quick to defend her champion Edmund, stating that he basically has whatever authority Regan decides she wants to give him. In fact, she declares Edmond her husband and master. Albany tells him them that this decisions really isn’t theirs to make (Albany outranks the others because he is married to the eldest daughter. That should technically make him the next king and the king has the right to veto his family’s marriage plans.) Regan charges Edmund to fight Albany for his right but Albany instead arrests him. He shows them the letter and tells Edmund that there is someone here to challenge these claims.

Sure enough, at the third sound of the trumpet, Edgar (still in disguise) shows up to challenge Edmund, accusing him of being a traitor to his brother, father, country, gods and pretty much anything else you can think of. Edmund technically could choose to fight this duel because the challenger is not clear, but he decides that Edgar looks noble enough so says, “what the heck” and accepts the challenge.

Edmund was willing to use all the tricks to get his hands on the throne earlier but now he won’t use a legal technicality to avoid a fight. Why not? Pride? Again, who the hell knows.

Either way, they fight and Edmund falls.

Albany then accuses Goneril of being in on the plot and shows her the letter, which she does not deny. He sends someone after her because he seems worried that she will kill herself. Edmund acknowledges his crimes and asks to see who his challenger was. Edgar finally reveals his identity and is embraced by Albany. When Edgar explains how he hid himself, we learn that Gloucester dies of shock of the news of Edgar’s survival. He also explains that Kent was Caius, who had returned to watch over his king despite his banishment.

A messenger arrives with news that Goneril has stabbed herself but not before poisoning her sister Regan. That seems to jolt Albany into the sudden realisation that they totally forgot about Cordelia and Lear who are probably being murdered as they speak! Edmund decides that he wishes to atone in some small way for his actions (for no reason that I can tell) and gives them his sword to show to the captain so their lives might be spared.

As Edmund is being led off, the messenger runs off to deliver the message. Will he make it?

We`ve faulted Shakespeare’s endings in the past, the infamous ‘act V slump’ of Coriolanus, Henry VI, part 1, or even The Merchant of Venice.

No act V slump here. Instead, Shakespeare gives us a finishing move of Mortal Combat proportions.

Lear walks onto the stage, holding Cordelia in his arms. Is she dead? Is there some life left in her? As Kent asks, is this death, or an image of death? While he seems to think that she is dead at first, he desperately wants her to still be alive. Lear himself killed her would-be executioner but was he able to do so in time. The audience at this point is likely expecting her to wake up. As we’ve discussed, the Lear story has been around for a while before Shakespeare, and in it Lear and Cordelia get to live together for a while before he passes away peacefully. But not here.

Despite his pleading, she’s gone and nothing can bring her back. We then learn that Edmond has killed himself but that hardly seems to matter. Lear finally dies next to his daughter. With this final scene, Kent walks off and Albany leaves the realm in Edgar’s care.

For over 250 years this ending was thought to be so bleak that the only version staged was a version re-written by Nahum Tate where Cordelia survives and married Edgar.

Everybody is dead, Lear’s line is ended and even his “poor fool is hanged.” What does all this mean? Is it even supposed to mean anything?

Join us next week where we look at speeches from King Lear and try to make some sense of the carnage.

Also, check out ‘s Guardian article against the Bard Deniers who have been trying to prove he never wrote anything for the last decade.

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

Sonnet 18 read by Bard Scrawler Leigh MacRae.

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