Napa Valley College’s Shakespeare Napa Valley presents Shakespeare Sonnet a Week, with local community members and actors performing Shakespeare sonnets.
Week 11: Sonnet 104
To me, fair friend, you never can be old, For as you were when first your eye I eyed, Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride, Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned In process of the seasons have I seen, Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned, Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green. Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand, Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived; So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand, Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived: For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred: Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.
Week 10: Sonnet 43
When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see, For all the day they view things unrespected; But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee, And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed. Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright, How would thy shadow’s form form happy show To the clear day with thy much clearer light, When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so! How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made By looking on thee in the living day, When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay! All days are nights to see till I see thee, And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
Notes via Shakespeares-Sonnets.com
After the torment and anguish of betrayal, the poet in this and the following sonnets analyses his own disturbed mind and the dark brightness that love has cast upon it. This is a sonnet of antitheses, seeing and not seeing, day and night, shadow and form, dark and bright, dead and living. It is also a poem of absence, and links itself thematically with the next seven sonnets (43-52, excluding 49).
The exuberance with which he uses the language of shadows and forms blunts the biting edge of absence, which otherwise cuts into his heart. Shadows, substance, form and dreams are part of the machinery of Plato’s cave in which the real world is unknown, and only flickering shadows of people cast on the wall of the cave by a sickly light are interpreted as if they were reality. Real form, or essence, was something which only the spiritual eyes, or the eyes of the mind, could see. The theme of shadow substance duality was a common one in Elizabethan literature. Lyly for example frequently mentions it: ‘Well gentlemen, answered Lucilla, in arguing of the shadow we forgo the substance.‘ (Euphues (c.1578). L.Scragg, ed., p.20).
In this sonnet the shadows seem to flicker and in the end one enters a dream world which is as real to the poet as the world of absence from which he strives to escape. The days become nights and nights days, and the natural order of things is inverted and confounded.
Week 9: Sonnet 50
Brian Lym, Napa Valley College Director of Library Services, recites Shakespeare Sonnet #50.
How heavy do I journey on the way,
When what I seek, my weary travel’s end,
Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
‘Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend!’
The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,
As if by some instinct the wretch did know
His rider lov’d not speed being made from thee.
The bloody spur cannot provoke him on,
That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,
Which heavily he answers with a groan,
More sharp to me than spurring to his side;
For that same groan doth put this in my mind,
My grief lies onward, and my joy behind.
Week 8: Sonnet 56
This Sonnet a Week we’re sharing a video of Sonnet 56 directed by Sofia Mayorga. It inspired us and we hope it inspires you too!
Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but to-day by feeding is allay’d,
To-morrow sharpen’d in his former might:
So, love, be thou; although to-day thou fill
Thy hungry eyes even till they wink with fullness,
To-morrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of love with a perpetual dullness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be
Which parts the shore, where two contracted new
Come daily to the banks, that, when they see
Return of love, more blest may be the view;
Else call it winter, which being full of care
Makes summer’s welcome thrice more wish’d, more rare.
Week 7: Sonnet 30
Week 6: Sonnet 29
Week 5: Sonnet 27
Week 4: Sonnet 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove. O no! it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wand’ring bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me prov’d, I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
Week 3: Sonnet #18
Performed by St. Helena Mayor, Geoff Ellsworth
Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Napa Valley College Adjunct Faculty of Humanities, Nicolette Morales, presents Shakespeare’s Sonnet #18 in Tagalog.
Week 2: Sonnet LXV
Sonnet LXV in Portuguese!
Performed by Napa Valley College student Jefferson Sbrissa
Shakespeare Sonnet LXV
Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea, But sad mortality o’ersways their power, How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea, Whose action is no stronger than a flower? O! how shall summer’s honey breath hold out, Against the wrackful siege of battering days, When rocks impregnable are not so stout, Nor gates of steel so strong but Time decays? O fearful meditation! where, alack, Shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid? Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back? Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid? O! none, unless this miracle have might, That in black ink my love may still shine bright.
Week 1: Sonnet XXIII
Sonnet XXIII by William Shakespeare
As an unperfect actor on the stage, Who with his fear is put beside his part, Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage, Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart; So I, for fear of trust, forget to say The perfect ceremony of love’s rite, And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay, O’ercharged with burthen of mine own love’s might. O! let my looks be then the eloquence And dumb presagers of my speaking breast, Who plead for love, and look for recompense, More than that tongue that more hath more express’d. O! learn to read what silent love hath writ: To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.
Sonnet XXIII in Spanish
Presented by Maria Villagomez, Napa Valley College Senior Dean of Language Arts, Library, and Social Sciences.