Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The "Sweet Swan of Avon!" is 450 today!

Daedalus Books is celebrating Shakespeare's nativity with a "Spotlight" collection containing a king's ransom of titles by and about the Bard of Avon. And The Daily Glean doeth its part by conjuring up an assortment of encomiums on him by other writers, as well as divers images of favorite actors and actresses in some of his plays. In the Comments section we beseech you to share your favorite quote from a Shakespeare play. Favorite play(s)? Are there any you hate?? We'll start with Dame Ellen Terry (1848-1928):
Wonderful women! Have you ever thought how much we all, and women especially, owe to Shakespeare for his vindication of women in these fearless, high-spirited, resolute and intelligent heroines?  
Left: Terry as Lady Macbeth, by John Singer Sargent, 1889. 
Below: Dame Judi Dench as Juliet with John Stride as Romeo, 1960, The Old Vic.
 Shakespeare — The nearest thing in incarnation to the eye of God.—Sir Laurence Olivier (1907-1989). Dame Maggie Smith was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Desdemona to Olivier's Othello in the 1965 film they did together. Below, Alix Kingston as Lady Macbeth in a riveting production broadcast by the National Theater.
And there are Ben [Jonson] and William Shakespeare in wit-combat, sure enough; Ben bearing down like a mighty Spanish war-ship, fraught with all learning and artillery; Shakespeare whisking away from him - whisking right through him, athwart the big bulk and timbers of him; like a miraculous Celestial Light-ship, woven all of sheet-lightning and sunbeams!—Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Historical Sketches of Notable Persons and Events in the Reigns of James I

It is sometimes suspected that the enthusiasm for Shakespeare's works shown by some students is a fiction or a fashion. It is not so. The justification of that enthusiastic admiration is in the fact that every increase of knowledge and deepening of wisdom in the critic or the student do but show still greater knowledge and deeper wisdom in the great poet. When, too, it is found that his judgment is equal to his genius, and that his industry is on a par with his inspiration, it becomes impossible to wonder or to admire too much.
—George Dawson (1821-1876), Shakespeare and other lectures
Laurence Fishburne as Othello; Kenneth Branagh as Iago
He was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature. He looked inwards, and found her there.—John Dryden (1631–1700) Essay of Dramatic Poesy
I do not believe that any writer has ever exposed this bovarysme, the human will to see things as they are not, more clearly than Shakespeare.—T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca
Helena Bonham-Carter played Olivia in the film version of Twelfth Night and Ophelia in Hamlet (Warner Brothers/ Fine Line)
When Shakespeare is charged with debts to his authors, Landor replies, “Yet he was more original than his originals. He breathed upon dead bodies and brought them into life.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Letters and Social Aims

In Shakespeare the birds sing, the bushes are clothed with green, hearts love, souls suffer, the cloud wanders, it is hot, it is cold, night falls, time passes, forests and multitudes speak, the vast eternal dream hovers over all. Sap and blood, all forms of the multiple reality, actions and ideas, man and humanity, the living and the life, solitudes, cities, religions, diamonds and pearls, dung-hills and charnelhouses, the ebb and flow of beings, the steps of comers and goers, all, all are on Shakespeare and in Shakespeare.—Victor Hugo (1802-1885), William Shakespeare

I think Shakespeare never errs in his logical sequence in character. He surprises us, seems unnatural to us, but because we have been superficial observers; while genius will disclose those truths to which we are blind.—William A. Quayle (1860-1925), "Some Words on Loving Shakespeare." From A hero and some other folk, 1900

Right: Paul Scofield and Claire Bloom in Hamlet, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1948. One of the 20th-century's greatest Hamlets, John Gielgud played the role more than 500 times, in London, in Elsinore, and on Broadway.


  1. You could have – and obviously people have compiled – entire volumes of great Shakespeare quotes. What immediately comes to mind for me, though, is always Prospero from The Tempest: “Me, poor man, my library / Was dukedom large enough.”

    1. thanks for that ... for those of us who think like you & the Duke, there's so much solace in that one phrase.

  2. I do so love Shakespeare! I tend to remember lines from the Sonnets more than anything else, besides Romeo and Juliet. My favorite being Sonnet 130 with the opening line "My mistress's eyes are nothing like the sun..." aaaahhh be still my heart.

  3. Are there any I hate? One comes close--"Troilus and Cressida." There is a scene in which Cressida is tossed between members of the Greek army that is very like gang rape. And the smarmy Pandarus seems to draw the audience into the guilt. The effect is depressing. I wish someone would dump this play on Marlowe!

    "For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
    That then I scorn to change my state with kings."
    Ah, that's the Willy I remember!

    1. I've never seen that one, but I'm sure I'd have the same reaction. I find that I get ever so much more out of seeing his plays (done well of course) than from reading them.

    2. ps Lear and Othello really creep me out. And I don't think I could stomach Titus Andronicus.

  4. Am I the only one who never felt the need to pick up Shakespeare again after my first required encounters? I get that he was a literary great, but I guess it just never appealed much to me. Perhaps it's the inaccessibility of the language, I just can't find myself enjoying reading it. I do like movies and depictions of his stories & literary concepts.

    My favorite depiction of a Shakespeare story, which may or may not count, was actually the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. It is a teen-movie, rom-com interpretation of Taming of the Shrew & it's absolutely amazing. It's definitely not high art, but it is excellent.

  5. I love the song "Fear no More the Heat of the Sun" from Cymbeline - I want it sung at my funeral. The play itself...meh. Some plays I can come back to and find new things in continually, but there's a reason some of the plays are considered back-benchers.
    On a different note, the dress Ellen Terry is pictured in as Lady Macbeth in the painting at the top of the post was made of irridescent beetle wings. It still exists and has recently been restored ....