Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, July 13, 2013

RICHARD II--At Last ...

Last night--July 12--Joyce and I saw Richard II, the only Shakespeare play we had never seen onstage.  Lenox, Massachusetts.  Shakespeare & Co.  In the audience with my brother Dave and his wife, Janice.  It was an emotional evening for Joyce and me, for any number of reasons, and my tears did not fail me.  At the end, we stood in the aisle and embraced, and I thought about all those years--all those playhouses--from Cleveland to Akron to Stratford to Staunton and elsewhere--where we have driven to see the Bard's words brought to life on the stage.  There have been few things more precious in my life than sitting beside her in the dark while Shakespeare's mind dances in the light before us.

I want to do a more thorough post (or posts?) about all of this in the next few weeks.  I'm on the road and don't have the time or resources to do this properly.  But just one thing ...  Near the end of the play, Richard, who has lost his crown (to Bolingbroke, now Henry IV), is living alone in Pomfret Castle (known today as Pontefract; the ruins are in West Yorkshire).  He knows his time is short (it is: a murderer is about to arrive), and he is onstage, thinking aloud about his life.  It is one of Shakespeare's greatest speeches, and the actor last night (Rocco Sisto) delivered it masterfully--truly one of the finest moments I have ever seen on the stage.  Maybe the finest.

Here's that speech ... and I'll be posting more later on about the production and about our journey through all of the Bard's plays ...

I have been studying how I may compare
This prison where I live unto the world:
And for because the world is populous
And here is not a creature but myself,
I cannot do it; yet I'll hammer it out.
My brain I'll prove the female to my soul,
My soul the father; and these two beget
A generation of still-breeding thoughts,
And these same thoughts people this little world,
In humours like the people of this world,
For no thought is contented. The better sort,
As thoughts of things divine, are intermix'd
With scruples and do set the word itself
Against the word:
As thus, 'Come, little ones,' and then again,
'It is as hard to come as for a camel
To thread the postern of a small needle's eye.'
Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot
Unlikely wonders; how these vain weak nails
May tear a passage through the flinty ribs
Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls,
And, for they cannot, die in their own pride.
Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves
That they are not the first of fortune's slaves,
Nor shall not be the last; like silly beggars
Who sitting in the stocks refuge their shame,
That many have and others must sit there;
And in this thought they find a kind of ease,
Bearing their own misfortunes on the back
Of such as have before endured the like.
Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented: sometimes am I king;
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am: then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king;
Then am I king'd again: and by and by
Think that I am unking'd by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing: but whate'er I be,
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing. Music do I hear?
Ha, ha! keep time: how sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!
So is it in the music of men's lives.
And here have I the daintiness of ear
To cheque time broke in a disorder'd string;
But for the concord of my state and time
Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;
For now hath time made me his numbering clock:
My thoughts are minutes; and with sighs they jar
Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch,
Whereto my finger, like a dial's point,
Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears.
Now sir, the sound that tells what hour it is
Are clamorous groans, which strike upon my heart,
Which is the bell: so sighs and tears and groans
Show minutes, times, and hours: but my time
Runs posting on in Bolingbroke's proud joy,
While I stand fooling here, his Jack o' the clock.
This music mads me; let it sound no more;
For though it have holp madmen to their wits,
In me it seems it will make wise men mad.
Yet blessing on his heart that gives it me!
For 'tis a sign of love; and love to Richard
Is a strange brooch in this all-hating world.

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