Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing some of Shakespeare’s delightful romantic comedy, “As You Like It,” directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch and produced by Folger Theatre in association with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Cast member Antoinette Robinson introduces this scene, in which Rosalind (disguised as a shepherd boy named Ganymede) helps to tutor Orlando in the ways of courtship—while pretending to be his beloved, Rosalind. This lovely bit of wit and wordplay features Lindsay Alexandra Carter as Rosalind and Lorenzo Roberts as Orlando. For more on this production, visit https://bit.ly/3tRaVza
The word “love” appears 2,146 times in Shakespeare’s collected works (including a handful of “loves” and “loved”). Add to that 59 instances of “beloved” and 133 uses of “loving” and you’ve got yourself a “whole lotta love.” So, what does Shakespeare have to say about the subject? Here are 20 quotations from the Bard about love.
“What is Love?”
What does Shakespeare have to say about love? Let’s start with the basics.
“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.”
In an interview on Shakespeare Unlimited, Folger Director Emerita Gail Kern Paster noted that Sonnet 116 is a frequent choice for wedding toasts. Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, editors of The Folger Shakespeare, wrote of this famous sonnet, “The poet here meditates on what he sees as the truest and strongest kind of love, that between minds. He defines such a union as unalterable and eternal.”
“A lover’s eyes will gaze an eagle blind.
A lover’s ear will hear the lowest sound,
When the suspicious head of theft is stopped.
Love’s feeling is more soft and sensible
Than are the tender horns of cockled snails.
. . .
And when love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Make heaven drowsy with the harmony.”
– Love’s Labor’s Lost, Act 4, scene 3, lines 328 – 339
In Love’s Labor’s Lost, the King of Navarre and his three friends vow to spend three years cloistered from the world, studying, fasting, and seeing no women. But as soon as they’ve signed the contract, the Princess of France and her three pals show up to meet with the King. Of course, everyone immediately falls in love and the four men have to figure out how to extricate themselves from their solemn oaths. In Act 4, scene 3, Berowne, the wittiest of the four fellows, argues that love, not rigorous study, will make them better men. In fact, Berowne says, love is like a superpower that “gives to every power a double power.” The full speech is a beautiful testament to the gifts of love.
– A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 1, scene 1, lines 240 – 241
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
Over the past few months, my wife and I have been using our non-voluntary time staying at home to watch our way through performances of all Shakespeare’s dramatic works, using the BBC productions filmed between 1978 and 1985 (and available on Britbox). I posted about this project, and now we have completed the process, 37 out of 37. But who’s counting? (!). I am here offering some further thoughts, referring to the plays we have watched more recently. Most of these plays were certainly not new to me, but seeing them produced changes and sharpens perceptions.
I am absolutely not suggesting that these BBC plays were the best productions ever made, and a couple were frankly not that good, but some were cosmic. If there ever was a better Hamlet than Derek Jacobi’s, I don’t know it. Then there was the Richard II, starring, um, Derek Jacobi. I see a theme emerging here. Anyway, there were lots more fine non-Jacobite plays as well. Much of the appeal of the BBC series was that, for better or worse, they served as a time capsule of concepts of performing and visualizing Shakespeare as they existed in that long-dead geological era forty years back. And yes, 1981 probably was the last time you could do a major Othello production with a white actor in the lead, even if it was Anthony Hopkins.
Spiritual And/Or Religious?
Watching or reading Shakespeare, you get an unparalleled look into the values and assumptions of the Early Modern world, and that is so critical for teaching or researching on the era. That is doubly true in matters of religion and the spiritual, broadly defined.
Shakespeare’s own religious attitudes have been a matter of mystery and debate for centuries. Yes, you can certainly find biographical hints of Shakespeare’s Catholic ties, or make him an atheist, as you wish. But it’s the perpetual dilemma of deducing an author’s personal views from what s/he writes. Because they write something, does that mean that it reflects their personal beliefs or attitudes? Are we hearing the singer or just the song? Continue reading
By Haylie Swenson
Owls were bad omens for Shakespeare and his contemporaries, but the prophecy and wisdom they symbolized also made them objects of satire.
Owls were bad omens for Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The general of the French forces, facing an English emissary in Henry VI, Part 1, calls him “Thou ominous and fearful owl of death, / Or nation’s terror and their bloody scourge!” (4.2.15) Similarly, when Richard III receives bad news on the battlefield, he reacts by shouting “Out on you, owls! Nothing but songs of death” and striking the messenger: “There, take thou that till thou bring better news” (4.4.536-537). When in King Henry VI, Part 3 the titular king wants to wound Richard, he says “The owl shrieked at thy birth, an evil sign” (5.6.36). Continue reading
The Hobbledehoy often wonder what William Shakespeare sounded like. Unfortunately, we remember what our high school teacher sounded like while reading Macbeth.