Monday, April 23, 2007

A Second Shakespeare

Shakespeare's poetry within his plays is also remarkable, and worthy of quoting here. Many artists have been inspired by his words to create their own renditions of his songs; many of them have done so for productions by the Stratford Festival. One such speech set to music is from Cymbeline, sung by Loreena McKennitt.

Fear no more the heat o' the sun
Nor the furious winters' rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
The sceptre, learning, physic, must

All follow this and come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' th' great;

Thou art past the tyrant's stroke
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak.
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this and come to dust.
All lovers young, all lovers must

Consign to thee and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning flash,

Nor th' all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan.
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee and come to dust.

A group of songs was written for the recent production of As You Like It, by Steven Page of Canadian band The Barenaked Ladies, with a cd available at the Stratford Festival that year.
One of my favourite productions is the reading of Twelfth Night recorded in 2000, songs written by Berthold Carriere and sung by Steven Sutcliffe as Feste (he may be better known for his Broadway role of Younger Brother in Ragtime, for which he received a Tony nomination.) It is unfortunately not shareable as it is only on audiocassette. This verse is sung beautifully:

O mistress mine! where are you roaming?
O! stay and hear; your true love's coming.
That can sing both high and low.
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know.
What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet-and-twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure.

Shakespeare spoken and sung is always a treat; each year I await a new version of something well known. This year Shakespeare's tragedies are being highlighted: Othello, King Lear and The Merchant of Venice, with only one comedy, The Comedy of Errors. So I will have to wait and see what will be sung.


  1. You have a lovely blog. Your passion for beauty is apparent and contageous.

    I haven't heard this McKennitt song yet but I love the Tennyson poetry she sings. It's a great way to aquaint oneself with poetry.

    Thanks for adding me to your blog links. I feel like I've just won an award.

  2. Petunia, thank you! You're making me blush! I'm glad I found your blog, too; it is inspiring.


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