When In Romeo!
Ah, love is in the air! It’s Valentine’s Day once more, when Hershey and Hallmark add millions of dollars to their bottom line and we are subjected to couples fawning over each other at the local Longhorn. If we’d wanted dinner and a show we’d have gone to see Cirque Du Soleil, am I right?
Oh, I jest. I’m not quite that cynical…yet. Love is the greatest human foible, is it not? It has toppled dynasties and even created brand new religions. People have killed rivals and themselves because of it. It has been one of the greatest literary topics known to man, and one of its greatest scribes is The Bard. Billy S.; known as William Shakespeare in more formal circles.
While one tends to immediate correlate Shakespeare with his most famous romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet, (dutifully portrayed by Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio in the picture above in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 adaptation – BTW, the two actors apparently despised each other on set!), he wrote many other remarkable professions of love in his plays and poetry, along with dialogue that makes it clear he knew quite a bit about love and all that it entails. In celebration of St. Valentine, I’m sharing some of the lesser known snippets for you to enjoy. Or possibly memorize. As nothing’s more impressive than quoting Shakespeare on Valentine’s Day!
Now, a great one for those with photographic memories (albeit hardly lesser known to Shakespeare aficionados), Sonnet 130 is a beautiful contradictory accolade to the speaker’s lover. If you click on the title you can hear it read by Alan Rickman, and then tell me it isn’t the sexiest thing you’ve heard. Now that’s setting a bar to live up to! (Or you could just play the YouTube video and still impress your love):
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess go; My mistress when she walks treads on the ground. And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare.
If you’re the shoulder your BFF’s crying on right now this may be a good snippet for you. In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Shakespeare laments on unrequited love:
She dreams on him that has forgot her love; You dote on her that cares not for your love. ‘Tis pity love should be so contrary; And thinking on it makes me cry “alas!” (4.4)
Still in the dizzying moments of your romance? In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he explains the sheer madness of falling in love:
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends. (5.1)
For those who’ve been together a while, In Sonnet 104, Shakespeare’s speaker tells his lover of many years that she is still as beautiful as ever:
To me, fair friend, you never can be old, For as you were when first your eye I eye’d, Such seems your beauty still. (104)
And along the same lines, in The Two Noble Kinsmen, marriage vows include the hope for a long life together. Kind of cute, in a morbid kind of way!:
Give me your hands. Receive you her, you him, be plighted with A love that grows as you decay. (5.3)
If I haven’t got you in the Cupid spirit yet, or if you’re perfectly happy being single, I haven’t forgotten you, I just saved the best for last. As The Bard eloquently states in The Life of Henry the Fifth:
Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin As self-neglecting. (2.4)
With that in mind, if you’re with the one you love, especially if that happens to be you, be kind, pour yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up and relax….Happy Valentine’s!
And I shall bid you Adieu! (As I exit backwards, stage right, with my head bowed).