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Tuesday, 06 September 2005


Stefan Sittig


Great sonnet! That's one of the ones I chose when I was a wee-acting pupil back in my undergrad days! (I am not saying how long ago..)

And because I know this sonnet so well, I thought I'd just point out a small typo, that while minor, does alter completely the meaning of the sonnet.

You typed:

O! let my looks be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,

That should actually be "books" and not "looks". It makes a big difference.

The speaker (you in this case), is unable to express his love in words, therefore uses his "books" (his work, his poetry) as that form of expression instead. He writes what he can't say.

Okay, so I'm pedantic...but that's one of my fav sonnets and I love the Bard and like to keep his work somewhat pristine. :)

As much as I can that is...Cheers,


Urp. That wasn't me, that was the online collection I got it from. Sure 'nuf, I find others with "books." Which certainly would change the import of things.... Thanks.

Urp again. Enotes.com has "looks." And here I am hundreds (soon to be thousands) of miles from my Riverside. Arrrrrrrgh.

still alert

We're all here for you, T-Boy! And in that spirit, I've checked Riverside for you, and they prefer Books, though they footnote the possibility of Looks. Yale prefers Books as well, and the final authority on all things Sonnety, (Barnes & Noble...hey, they were cheap) uses Books as well.

Which one of us has not suffered through the hell of the Turning Sonnets Into Drama assignment? Am I in the minority to believe that it is NOT an effective introduction to the Playing of Shakespeare? Yes, the "speeches" (let's be truthful, they are NOT speeches) are short, and self-contained. But I can find no other reasons why Dramatizing the inherently Un-dramatical sonnets is always assigned! Perhaps appropriate for the beginning STUDY of Shakespeare as LITERATURE, but a losing proposition in the study of Shakespeare as DRAMA. Students are much more likely to become engaged with the material dramatically if the material is actually dramatic. Lots of speeches in Romeo and Juliet fill that bill (and are just as "easy" as the sonnets), as well as Love's Labour's, Midsummer, and, well, everyone has their favorites.

And yet, it seems without fail, the first assignment in any Acting Shakespeare Class is to dramatize a sonnet.

...but not in my class.

Stefan Sittig

I agree that Sonnets are not the best way to teach an actor how to interpret the Bard's texts, but they are a fast and easy way to introduce Shakespeare spoken out loud to novice actors who are scared to death of him.

That's probably why it is used so much in Acting 101 for Freshmen. However, I first encountered them in my Voice for the Actor 101 class, where our teacher used them more to get us to explore the vocal possibilities of Shakespeare's texts than for any Acting lesson. That's all..:)

Stefan Sittig

Oh and one more thing..in terms of the context of the sonnet being discussed, "books" seems to make more sense than "looks".

The whole point of the sonnet seems to be that the writer can't seem to express his feelings clearly through speech, ("as an unperfect actor"..)therefore needing his "books" to speak for him.

If you use "looks" it loses power and does not fit the overall theme of the sonnet as well, IMHO.

But I'm not Harold Bloom or Riverside...:) So let the grains of salt be taken...copiously!


As an avowed Linklater acolyte, I say that if you start a student off with the sonnet, you provide a strong foundation for everything you want your students to know about the poetry and scansion. The in-a-nutshell goodness of a sonnet cannot be beat as a teaching tool--it's the protoplasm for everything that comes after.

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