BB: Short Poems, Sonnets 1-5

Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

In our first ever Short Poems podcast, Daniel, Maya Pankalla and I discuss Shakespeare’s Sonnets 1 through 5.

(Bonus maple syrup fun facts from David Kandestin)

Listen to the podcast here.

Every week we cap off our recording with a sonnet. In this episode of the Bard Brawl, we gather some of them up and discuss the first five of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Join us as we take you through them and add our many voices to 400+ years of debate: just who are these things supposed to be addressed to? Are they even supposed to go together? Why should we care?

Sonnet 1 (Episode: Coriolanus, Act I, Read by: Stephanie E.M. Coleman)

Stephanie E.M. Coleman reading Sonnet 1

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’st flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.

Argument: We want beautiful creatures to reproduce so that when they age they leave behind a fresh, young replacement to carry on the legacy. But you’re so enamoured with yourself that you’ll end up denying us an offspring. If you keep this up, you’ll burn up all of your beauty by keeping it for yourself to look at.

Sonnet 2 (Episode: Coriolanus, Act II, Read by: Melissa Myers)

When fourty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask’d where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

Argument: When you’re old (apparently 40 meant something different then than now) your beauty will be a thing of the past. If anyone asks you where you’re beauty’s gone you’ll have nothing to say unless you have a child with whom to leave your beauty in trust. In this way you’ll still feel young even if you’re old.

Sonnet 3 (Episode: Coriolanus, Act III, Read by: Esther Viragh)

Esther Viragh reading Sonnet 3

Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose unear’d womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime:
So thou through windows of thine age shall see
Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.
But if thou live, remember’d not to be,
Die single, and thine image dies with thee.

Argument: Tell your reflection that now is the time to sire another copy of yourself in the flesh. By keeping to your reflection you rob mothers of sons and daughters. After all, you are your mother’s reflection and she re-lives her youth through yours. If you don’t have any children whose looks will be the memory of yours, you’ll die alone and forgotten. (Weren’t these supposed to be about love or something?…)

Sonnet 4 (Episode: Coriolanus, Act IV, Read by: Virginie Tremblay)

Virginie Tremblay reading Sonnet 4

Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Upon thyself thy beauty’s legacy?
Nature’s bequest gives nothing but doth lend,
And being frank she lends to those are free.
Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse
The bounteous largess given thee to give?
Profitless usurer, why dost thou use
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?
For having traffic with thyself alone,
Thou of thyself thy sweet self dost deceive.
Then how, when nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst thou leave?
Thy unused beauty must be tomb’d with thee,
Which, used, lives th’ executor to be.

Argument: Why do you store up your wealth of beauty? Nature doesn’t give out gifts but rather lends them. You should give back freely of what nature has given you. What account of your fortune can you give if you hoard your beauty? It will just be buried along with you, no one will remember you and you will have nothing to show for it. (Compare this sonnet with the character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice who is accused of hoarding both his money and his daughter.)

Sonnet 5 (Episode: Merchant of Venice, The Speeches, Read by: Kayla Cross)

Kayla Cross reading Sonnet 5

Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
Will play the tyrants to the very same
And that unfair which fairly doth excel:
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter and confounds him there;
Sap cheque’d with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o’ersnow’d and bareness every where:
Then, were not summer’s distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it nor no remembrance what it was:
But flowers distill’d though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.

Argument: Just as the passage of time turned you from a boy into a man, it will keep passing until you reach your winter years and eventually die. Then, if you haven’t distilled your beautiful essence while it was still time, it will be snowed over and lost forever. But, if you pass your beauty on to another it will survive even though you won’t.

Next week the Brawlers begin a new play. Which one will it be? You’ll have to listen to find out!

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

The brawlers for this week are Daniel J. Rowe, Eric Jean and Sonneteer Maya Pankalla

BB: Merchant of Venice, The Speeches

This week, we present the first of our new series of ‘Speeches’ podcasts!

Daniel and I have picked out a handful of our favourite moments from The Merchant of Venice and we’ve gathered them together into one awesome show. Then poured ourselves some drinks and had a chat about our selections. Feel free to do the same as you listen in!

Daniel and Eric go through some of their favourite speeches in the Merchant of Venice

Listen to the podcast here.

Download the podcast.

So you can follow along with the text if you’d like, here are the passages we’re discussing in this episode.

“I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano…”Act 1, Scene 1 lns 79-107
Speakers: Antonio and Gratiano
Gratiano offers up this speech to Antonio who he accuses of playing the role of the melancholic older man to make himself seem more wise and dignified than he really is. His basic point: forget what anybody else thinks and lighten up! Is Antonio’s sadness just an act, though?

“When Jacob grazed his uncle Laban’s sheep…” Act 1, Scene 3 lns 68-93
Speakers: Shylock and Antonio
In this passage, Shylock and Antonio confront each other about their differing business philosophies: Shylock argues in favour of thrift and cleverness, Antonio in favour of risk-taking and faith. Which is the better ‘Merchant of Venice’?

“Why, I am sure if he forfeit thou wilt not take his flesh.” Act 3, Scene 1 lns 42-60
Speakers: Salerio and Shylock
Probably the most famous speech in this play, Shylock makes it clear that he’s serious about getting revenge on Antonio if he doesn’t get his money on time. He certainly has plenty of reasons to be pissed off. Is it possible to listen to this speak and not be moved to sympathy for Shylock?

A song, the whilst BASSANIO comments on the caskets to himself.Act 3, Scene 2 lns. 64-116
Speakers: Portia (singing) and Bassanio
This the scene where Bassanio finally tries his luck at picking from the three caskets. He offers his justification for his choice: one shouldn’t judge by appearance but by the weight of one’s feelings. Portia’s not supposed to cheat but she clearly wants Bassanio to make the right choice. She’s seen the other two – Morocco and Aragon – mess up, so she knows which choice is correct. Does she slip him any hints or does his reasoning just make sense?

“Now, Balthazar…” Act 3, Scene 4 lns. 46-80
Speakers: Portia, Balthazar and Nerissa
The mandatory Shakespearean comedy’s gender-reversal scene. Portia sends a letter to the lawyer Bellario for some legal advice and a cover story. She and Nerissa then dress up as a lawyer and clerk to play dress-up at court and brag about women with the boys. I was never clear on how she knew to contact the same guy the Duke of Venice had consulted with or how she convinced Bellario to go along with her plan.

“What judgement shall I dread, doing no wrong?” Act 4, Scene 1 lns. 90-104
Speaker: Shylock
We picked this scene instead of the equally famous “The quality of mercy” speech which comes a little later in the scene (lns. 188-209). Shylock delivers his speech about property rights. He argues that just as the nobles in attendance are free to do what they wish with their slaves, he should be free to use his own legally obtained property as he sees fit. Aren’t we inclined and encouraged to agree with his point?
For the full effect, you really should go back and listen to the (in studio!) recording of act iv.

“How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank.” Act 5, Scene 1 lns. 61-76
Speakers: Lorenzo and Jessica
Daniel selected this passage because it contains Jessica’s last line of the play. Lorenzo is waxing poetic about the power of poetry and music but Jessica calls bullshit. Totally oblivious, Lorenzo then gives her a patronizing speech about why she doesn’t get it. Are Lorenzo and Jessica living in a dream world or is this a nightmare waiting to happen?

Hope you enjoy the show!

Feel free to download and listen to any of the previous recordings of The Merchant of Venice.

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

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