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: Taming of the Shrew, Act I

In this podcast, the Brawlers take on the first act of the confusing and controversial Taming of the Shrew.

Listen to the podcast –here

Download the podcast.

The Brawlers clockwise: Shaun Malley, Daniel J. Rowe, Virginie Tremblay, David Wheaton, Eric Jean, Andre Simoneau, and Stephanie E.M. Coleman.

The Taming of the Shrew opens with a prologue which takes place in front of an alehouse. It seems the drunk Christopher Sly’s been kicked out of the bar by the hostess after refusing to pay for his tab. The hostess threatens to call the watch but instead of leaving Sly falls asleep in front of the tavern. Soon, an unnamed lord and his huntsmen show up and, for some reason, the nobleman decides it would be fun to take Sly back to his estate, clean the drunkard up and make him think he’s an amnesiac lord whose just awoken from a long illness. Just then an acting troupe shows up and the lord hires them to help him with his prank.

By the start of scene 2, Sly has just woken up and he calls out for some more booze. He’s expecting Pabst Blue Ribbon but greeted by servants who offer him wine and want to know which of his many outfits he plans to wear today. Sly argues with them but the servants and the lord manage to convince him at last that he’s a rich lord and that the cross-dressing page is his wife. Sly wants to sleep with his wife, but the page instead convinces him to watch a play first, in case having sex might bring about a new bout of madness. Doctor’s orders. So instead they decide to watch a play.

The actual play itself begins in act I, scene 1 with the young bachelor Lucentio’s arrival in Padua where he hopes to pursue his studies. He’s accompanied by his servant Tranio who reminds him that while he’s here he may as well have a good time. While they talk, Baptista, his daughters Katharina and Bianca, as well as Bianca’s suitors Gremio and Hortensio, walk by them. The suitors are trying to plead their case with Bianca’s daughter but Baptista won’t budge: neither of them can marry Bianca unless his eldest daughter Katharina (Kate) is married off first. The problem? Katharina’s a shrew which no man in Padua wishes to marry. As soon as they leave, Lucentio admits that’s he’s smitten by Bianca and he and Tranio devise a plan to allow Lucentio to woo her freely: Tranio will pretend to be Lucentio and take care of his master’s affairs in the city while Lucentio will pretend to a scholar which Gremio will offer to Baptista as a tutor for his daughters. This will give him access to Bianca. When Biondello, one of Lucentio’s father’s servants, arrives, Lucentio convinces him to go along with their plan.

The start of act I, scene 2 is similar to the previous scene: a young bachelor, called Petruchio, arrives in Padua with his servant Grumio (not to be confused with the suitor Gremio). There’s a short slapstick scene where Grumio gets slapped around by Petruchio just outside Hortensio’s house. The two friends talk for a few moments and Hortensio learns that Petruchio is in the market for a rich wife. Seeing an opportunity to open the way to Bianca, he tells Petruchio about Katharina. Petruchio decides that he’s the one to take on Kate and the two head off to Baptista’s house. When they get there, they see Gremio, Bianca’s older suitor, and with his is Lucentio disguised as a tutor who promises to woo Bianca on the old man’s behalf. Hortensio and Gremio exchange words until Tranio – disguised as Lucentio – shows up and tells them he also intends to woo Bianca. While they’re not happy to see him, they realise that neither of them can get Bianca unless they first marry off Kate. They agree to collaborate to help Petruchio win Katharina.

If you’re already confused about who’s who in the play, you’re not alone. Taming of the Shrew is a tough play to read because the characters are constantly disguising themselves. Some invent entirely new names while others (to make it even more confusing) pretend to be other characters in the play. With that in mind, here’s a short list of some of the characters and the roles they take on in the play:


      A young bachelor and scholar. He pretends to be one of Katharina and Bianca’s tutors,


      , so he can woo Bianca.


      Lucentio’s servant. He pretends to be Lucentio so his master can woo Bianca without arousing suspicion.


      A servant of Lucientio’s father.

Baptista Minola:

      The father of Katharina and Bianca.

Katharina (Kate):

      Baptista’s eldest daughter, a shrew which Petruchio will marry for money.


      Baptista’s youngest daughter, who has three suitors: Gremio, Hortensio and Lucentio.


      An old man and friend of Baptista’s who wants to marry Bianca. He hires the tutor Cambio (Lucentio in disguise) to woo Bianca on his behalf.


      A younger suitor to Bianca and one of Petruchio’s friends. He disguises himself as a music teacher named




      Petruchio: a young impoverished bachelor looking to marry into money. Katharina’s suitor.


      Petruchio’s servant. He often gets slapped around by his master.


    Later on, this character will be recruited to play the part of Lucentio’s father.

I’d bookmark this page: I’m sure you’ll want to jump back here more than once over the next few weeks.

If you’ve ever seen this play staged, or watched an adaptation of it, you won’t remember the prologue. That’s because it’s almost always edited out. In fact, if anyone out there is aware of any production that does include the prologue, let us know.

Truth is, ignoring the prologue is the easy thing to do and removing it doesn’t affect the action of the play at all. So why is it there in the first place? This is a tough question to answer.

Let’s try to imagine how The Taming of the Shrew might have been stage back in 1592. For that, it might be helpful to know what the actual theatre might have looked like as well:

If we’re lucky, we can afford to by a spot in the covered balconies but most likely we’re just groundlings who paid a cheap rate to stand in the pit all around the stage.

Once the play starts, Sly, the hostess, the lord and his attendants come on stage. They play out the first scene of the prologue. Then, after they’ve dragged Sly off-stage, he reappears on the balcony at the back of the playhouse with the page disguised as Sly’s wife. There’s a good chance the lord and the household servants are up there as well. However, at the end of the scene, the players hired by the lord walk out onto the main stage and start performing a play. This is where act one of the actual play starts.

Sly has a few more lines after act I, scene 1 so we know he’s still around. And it’s likely that he’ll stay up on that balcony for the entire show. That means that we’re watching Sly and the page watch the Taming of the Shrew as we watch the Taming of the Shrew. It also means that the actors the lord has hired for his prank on Sly are the same ones acting out the Taming of the Shrew for us, the audience. Are we supposed to be the butt of a strange joke like Christopher Sly? I’m not sure. If so, I don’t really get it. What this weird half-frame does though is make us aware that we’re watching a play because it keeps the audience of the play – Sly – in view the whole time.

Shakespeare’s big on theatre metaphors in his plays. He’s constantly reminding us that we’re watching a play, and that everything else in our lives also involves a lot of acting and pretending too. However, Taming of the Shrew is an early play, one of Shakespeare’s first. Later in his career, Shakespeare will really become a master of using theatre to comment on theatre and life. He just hasn’t really figured it out yet and this experiment falls a little flat.

That about does it for this week. Be sure to read Jay Reid’s critique of Ralph Fiennes’ recent film adaptation of Coriolanus. If you don’t want to miss anything, subscribe to the blog as well as the podcast on iTunes.

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

Artwork - Leigh Macrae
Artwork – Leigh Macrae

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