Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

24 June 2011

Spending Time with Shakespeare

I am in Sweet Briar, Virginia again this year, working for a company called Endstation Theatre. This year's Shakespeare production is the Twelfth Night, and I am having a delightful time.

There are more penis jokes and ass jokes and vagina jokes than I remember ever seeing in a Shakespeare play. Or maybe I am just more attuned to them these days.

There's a great moment when Sir Toby Belch tells Cesario (who is actually the lady Viola in disguise as a boy) to dismount thy tuck which in our more modern idiom means something like unsheathe your knife and get ready to fight, but it also cannot help but mean: somebody's coming to fight you, dude, so get your dick out.

But it's not just penis jokes and bawdy humor, Shake-a-speare has down pat, and I'm gonna share another sonnet, since I'm thinking about him. The following is sonnet 14, which my friend Linda (she's calling herself the sonnet-bearer!) will be reciting at the wedding of two of my absolute best friends in the world. This sonnet contains some absolutely lovely sentiments, that I think bear directly on lasting love.

So, imagine the following as said to two people very much in love, as though it is advice from another.


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 aught 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 thyselves, to store thou wouldst convert:

Or else of thee this I prognosticate,
Thy end is truth's and beauty's doom and date.