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. ColemanĀ 

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

Stay in touch, Brawlers!

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Or leave us a comment right here!

Talking About the Weather – Man vs. Wild… er, Nature?

Artwork - Leigh MacRae
Artwork – Leigh MacRae

Listen to or download the podcast.

Welcome Brawlers, to a special episode of the Bard Brawl!

I promised you a post on the weather, astrology and nature in King Lear. However, we’ve done one better: Daniel and I got together yesterday for a short discussion of the play – and yes, we did talk about the weather.

There are a lot of different themes in Lear, a bunch of which we list and touch upon in this episode. However, King Lear is really a play about “Nature”.

Notice the scare quotes and the capital ‘N’? Yeah, there’s a good reason for that.

When we think of nature, we tend to think of birds, trees, hiking, national parks, Bear Grylls, whatever. And yes, nature could mean that to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, too. However, Shakespeare is much more interested in Nature, as in human nature.

The idea of Nature, what is it, and whether it is in fact good or bad, is very much up for grabs in this play. One of the (many) reasons Lear is still so popular is that even in the present, we haven’t managed to agree on the character of “Human Nature”. Is there even such a thing?

While this is grossly oversimplifying things, there tends to to be two models of Nature in the play.

On the one hand, we have the model which Lear and Gloucester subscribe to. In their view, daughters and sons are ‘by nature’ inclined to love their parents. That natural bond is supposed to ensure that children and parents get along and that children will take care of their parents when they are no longer able to care for themselves.

Also, Gloucester is very much interested in astrology and celestial events which he sees as portents of things to come in the realm of human affairs. It is entirely natural to him to see a comet streak across the sky and to associate that with some impending disaster in society. Why? because it suggests that some part of this well-oiled system is out of balance. When everything is working naturally, the natural world is sympathetic to and connected with humanity – and has humanity’s best interests at heart.

Another way of saying this is that Nature programs these behaviours into us in order to prevent society from crumbling into chaos. As a result, Lear and Gloucester place a tremendous amount of trust in this system.

What does Lear call Goneril and Regan after he is refused admittance with his knights: “You unnatural hags!” That is, their behaviour runs contrary to the natural model of the parent-child relationship.

And then there’s Edmond.

Clearly, he’s got no interest in his daily horoscope.

And why would he? According to his father’s model of the universe, he’s supposed to be the reject, the one left out, somehow less important or valued because of a simple accident of birth.

In his first speech, Edmond days; “Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law / My services are bound.” Clearly, he’s not talking about the same ‘Nature’ which Lear and Gloucester are referring to. His understanding of nature is the complete opposite of Lear and Gloucester’s.

Yet it is perhaps much closer to what we might think of when we consider human nature.

Lear and Gloucester live in a world where Nature runs everything, where your successes and failures are the result of the world working for or against you. However, Edmund sees human nature as self-directed and he’s pretty straight-forward with us: You think I’m ruthless and conniving because I was born out of wedlock?

father compounded with my mother under the
dragon’s tail; and my nativity was under Ursa
major; so that it follows, I am rough and
lecherous. Tut, I should have been that I am,
had the maidenliest star in the firmament
twinkled on my bastardizing.

Edmond admits that he chose to act this way. He wasn’t born this way, and the planets had nothing to do with it.

Can’t get enough of the Lear? Check out Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time podcast on the fated king.

Enjoy your holidays and we’ll be here again next week for act IV of King Lear.

Bonus sonnet 22 read by Hannah Dorozio.

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

Stay in touch, brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at

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BB: Henry VI Part 1, Act IV

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

Welcome fellow Bardophiles to act IV of Henry VI, part 1!

Listen or download the podcast.

This act is a prolonged, action-packed epic battle in which the fate of the English holdings in France will be decided forever. However, act IV starts in Henry VI’s palace in Paris. Gloucester, Winchester and the other nobles are present at a coronation intended to remind the French governor who is his rightful king. While they are gathered together, they learn of Burgundy’s defection to the French and Talbot swears that he will make him pay for his betrayal. After Talbot leaves to take the field, Vernon (white rose, Yorkist) and Basset (red rose, Lancastrian) show up asking to be allowed to duel for the honour of their respective lords. (Remember them from our last episode?) King Henry, completely missing the whole point, says that there’s no significance in wearing roses and then he puts on a red one (Lancastrian). He dismisses the whole thing and orders everyone to be friends. The Duke of York does not appreciate the king’s choice of rose.

In scene 2, Talbot comes on stage before the gates of Bourdeaux and demands the French general defending the city accept Henry VI as his sovereign. He refuses. As the general is letting Talbot have it, Charles the Dauphin’s forces are heard approaching and Talbot readies his forces for war.

Not far away in Gascony, the Duke of York is stationed with his men when scene 3 starts. He is waiting for Somerset to send the knights he has promised so they can ride to Talbot’s aid. Lord Lucy arrives to urge him to come to Talbot’s aid anyhow but York refuses, saying that it’s a lost cause. He blames everything on Somerset.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Gascony, Lord Somerset faces a similar choice and decides not to send his men either. He blames York and Talbot for being too brash and attacking before he was ready. Lord Lucy blames them both, and their quarrel, for the immanent death of Talbot (oops).

But Talbot hasn’t breathed his last! He is reunited with his son, whom he hasn’t seen in several years, at the start of the next scene. Talbot senior sees that the situation is grim and he tries to plead with his son to flee the camp. Junior wants nothing to do with that and says that he will die with honour like the Talbot he is. Talbot senior is resigned (and probably secretly pleased) and father and son promise to live or die fighting together. (Sorry. It doesn’t look good, folks.)

They take to the field in scene 6 to what I have to assume was one of Shakespeare’s loudest alarums! Talbot junior is surrounded by the enemy and dad runs in a rescues him. Senior tries to convince his son to run away one more time but he refuses and they both rush back into the fray.

When Talbot next walks out on stage to start the last scene of the act, he is severely wounded and being led around by a servant. He asks about his son and some soldiers arrive carrying John Talbot junior’s body. Talbot gives a great speech comparing himself and his son to Daedalus and Icarus, before he also succumbs to his wounds. It’s a very powerful scene despite Talbot junior showing up just a few scenes earlier. (Listen for this one in the speeches podcast for sure!) Lord Lucy arrives a little too late and is met with the French and Joan of Arc who rub Talbot’s death in Lucy’s face. Nevertheless, they honour the codes of war and allow Lucy to collect the bodies of their dead.

The more time we spend with this play, the more interesting it gets! Who got to decide there was nothing valuable in this play? They clearly never read it!

This is, in my view, one of the best acts of the play. Talbot’s speeches are particularly good, I think, worthy of the near-mythic, superhero reputation he would have enjoyed.

Here’s part of the speech I mentioned just a few lines back:

Thou antic death, which laugh’st us here to scorn,
Anon, from thy insulting tyranny,
Coupled in bonds of perpetuity,
Two Talbots, winged through the lither sky,
In thy despite shall ‘scape mortality.
O, thou, whose wounds become hard-favour’d death,
Speak to thy father ere thou yield thy breath!
Brave death by speaking, whether he will or no;
Imagine him a Frenchman and thy foe.
Poor boy! he smiles, methinks, as who should say,
Had death been French, then death had died to-day.

He mentions that he and his son shall escape mortality despite their deaths. Certainly at the time Henry VI, part 1 was first staged, Talbot was a very popular and well-known historical figure. It’s too bad that this play has fallen to the wayside in the wake of the other set of Henry plays (Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V). Maybe a comic book is the solution?

Any brawlers out there want to volunteer to illustrate?

Also very interesting in this act: Lords Exeter and Lucy seem to have developed prophetic powers! At the end of scene 2, Exeter seems able to read the Duke of York’s mind and even goes so far as to commend him on not letting on about his secret ambition to take the throne. At the end of scene 3, Lucy moralizes about the fact that Henry V is only recently deceased and already the English have messed things up and lost most of what he conquered.

Dark tidings!

In the infamous words of Lord Wessex from Shakespeare in love: “How is this to end?” (Spoiler alert: not so good for Joan la Pucelle!)

You’ll have to listen to act V to find out!

Need to figure out how we got here? Listen to Act I, Act II, and Act III to get up to speed.

Those confused with the history can check out David Starkey‘s documentary series Monarchy. The end of the first series involves the War of the Roses.

Sonnet 22 read by Maya Pankala

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