Stranded Whales
The Chicken Gazette, 1.19.08

Poetry Friday: Twelfth Night

"When that I was and a little tine boy,
With hey ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day."

So begins the clown's song at the end of "Twelfth Night," which is my favorite of Shakespeare's comedies. I'm in the middle of re-reading it as I gave myself the Complete Arkangel Shakespeare for Christmas. This week I've been playing the "Twelfth Night" CD and following along in my Riverside Shakespeare. I started doing that on occasion years ago when I lived in the city and tried to see a lot of the Bard's work.  (The free Shakespeare in the Park was especially fun. In the old days, you'd have to wait on line for tickets for hours and hours, which was part of the experience.) It often helped to know the play a little bit, so I would look for recorded versions beforehand.

Sometimes the audio strategy backfired. I remember listening to a splendid "Two Gentlemen of Verona" on tape, and then the live production sagged in comparison. On the other hand, I still recall with fondness an Off Off Broadway version of "Measure for Measure" in a tiny theater next to a loading dock in Tribeca. For a long time afterward, I kept a quote from the play on my desk: "Our doubts are traitors,/And makes us lose the good we oft might win,/by fearing to attempt."

Here's my plan. We'll see if it works out. Read and listen to a play, and then rent a DVD of a good production. And, of course, seek out live professional performances when I can. Since I'm not in the middle of London or New York, I will have to look a little harder for those. After "Twelfth Night," I'll move on to "Richard II" (love that "royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle" speech) and then tackle "Henry V." And keep going after that, of course. Why do any of this? I think you can't see, hear, or read too much Shakespeare. That's all.

"A great while ago the world begun,
With a hey ho, the wind and rain,
But all that's one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day."

The weekly roundup of other Poetry Friday posts hies over to my friend Becky's place, Farm School, on January 19th.

If you have a favorite book about Shakespeare or a favorite production or DVD, please do leave a comment. I'd love to include some criticism and biography in my reading. (I have Harold Bloom's door-stopper and Northrop Frye on Shakespeare.) In March my pals at Constant Reader on GoodReads discuss "Romeo and Juliet." Stop by!


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Oh after all that national board stuff maybe I should try listening to Shakespeare. Sounds wonderful and I am illiterate when it comes to his works. A colleague recites him all the time!

"I think you can't see, hear, or read too much Shakespeare." I agree. Never enough.

If you ever want to take a Shakespeare road trip, I highly recommend the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. We had season tickets for two years, and in addition to Shakespeare, they do classic plays and host the Southern Writers Project, and even do new children's plays. If you time it right, you can see four plays in a weekend!! They also have an email newsletter, The Shakespeare Times, and I think they're going to offer audio streaming of their educational series, Theater in the Mind. The link is here.

Also wonderful is the American Shakespeare Center at the Blackfriars Stage in Staunton. I see that they have a podcast now, too. We saw As You Like It there, and it was fabulous.

Jone, it's really fun, and listening to a comedy is a treat at the end of the day. I wish I could quote Shakespeare, but the lines just don't stay in my head. My niece, when she was 12, had no problem memorizing them for a production, though! Youth. Sheesh.

Sara, the Alabama Shakespeare Fest. sounds awesome. Maybe I'll have to get my mom to go on a road trip with me; she'd love it. We could drive over from Miss., where my folks live. I also love Shakespeare & Company, which performs in Lenox, Mass. I looked up the Yale Rep's schedule, and they did "Richard II" back in the fall. Shoot. I missed it.

Ooh, the Riverside Shakespeare. I have a sad story about mine; I had to sell it to make my rent in my first apartment in college. I was just sick at that! Textbooks always cost so much more to buy than to sell-back to the campus bookstore! And I wanted to keep that one! But someday I will treat myself, the same as you. Enjoy!

TadMack, textbooks are wicked expensive, aren't they? That is a sad story about your Riverside! The good news is that it looks like there's a relatively new edition that looks quite spiffy. When you do treat yourself, you can get that one!

I went to a Shakespeare festival up in Stratford">">Stratford Ontario when I was in college. It was fabulous. My favorite play has always been "Midsummer Night's Dream". I have one of Shakespeare's sonnets posted today so we are thinking on similar lines!

What a phenomenal idea, Susan! I really love the movie version of Twelfth Night, which I watched by myself one New Year's Eve and it's still one of my most-memorable and most fondly-recalled New Year's Eves. Do productions of Kiss Me, Kate count as Shakespeare, or are you looking for actual Shakespearian productions?

"you can't see, hear, or read too much Shakespeare. That's all."

Amen! I'll have to come back to this post for a proper visit when I'm not rounding up!

Cloudscome, one day I want to see that festival in Stratford. I've heard about it forever. I like Midsummer Night's Dream, too. Will dash over and see your sonnet. We both have Shakespeare in mind today!

Kelly, sure, Kiss Me Kate counts! I have not seen a movie version of Twelfth Night but plan to watch the most recent when I finish reading and listening to it. The audio proceeds at a nice clip--since there's no scenery to be changed and such.

Becky, thanks so much for rounding up all the posts today. I'm hoping to have some more time tomorrow to savor them.

I'm another Midsummer Night's Dream person. My most precious book is my copy of the version with Arthur Rackham's illustrations.

Are you going to read fiction about Shakespeare too?


Hey, Charlotte. What a cool edition of Midsummer's Night Dream you have. Right now I probably won't delve into fiction, though perhaps at some point in the future.

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