I’m going to go on a slight diversionary tour here, and talk about Shakespeare’s sonnets. Everyone can quote them – at least a little bit – and (I think) everyone has a favourite. My own is Number 130*.
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.
And because they are so well-known, they lend themselves to endless reinvention. The phrase “shall I compare thee to a” can be ended so many ways – and my favourites include:
Sonnet 116 – “Let me not to the marriage of true minds…” – as quoted in Sense and Sensibility (the film at least) and in the Shakespeare Retold Much Ado About Nothing** – is also ripe for retelling***.
Moving in a different direction, there is also the joyous wonder that it is pop sonnet – every week, a new pop song is converted into surprisingly beautiful (and sensible) Shakespearian English – I particularly love XVI, XXV, and XXXIII. And the way they have preserved the Roman numerals – I wonder if they’ll stop when they get to 154?
Finally – and unrelatedly – the BBC is using Benedict Cumberbatch (and Shakespeare) to sell their dramas. It’s not like we needed it – but it’s very enjoyable all the same…
* Yes, I’m going to quote the whole thing. So sue me…
** I bloody love this, by the way. Sarah Parrish and Damian Lewis are fabulous.
*** I have issues with “love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds”, but I’ll happily take “Love’s not Time’s fool”….