Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Power of Words …

Lindsay & I spent the morning at Penfield High School, and what a fantastic day it was!! Not only did we have an amazing time sharing the Piano/Vocal score with the Advanced Voice class, but also, as part of the Shakespeare Sonnet Project, we are working with several of the English classes ... and … today, we started our morning’s work with a 9th Grade English class, who, in a few days, will begin reading “Romeo and Juliet”. In preparation for their reading of that play, Lindsay & I had the great privilege to introduce the class to the language of Shakespeare through #18 “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”.

It is an amazing poem, no question about it … but … what struck me most about it today is that even after having intimately worked with this sonnet since the fall, (as we translated the text into a choral work), I am still AWED by Shakespeare’s words and the significance of what he had to say.

Upon first reading, most people assume that the sonnet is about immortalizing a romantic love. However, scholars tell us that #18 was written about a male friendship. And … in 14 lines of only 140 syllables, Shakespeare goes to the heart of love in friendship as he likens his friend to something more wonderful and better than a day in summer.

Summer is lovely, but it has faults (i.e. Shakespeare complains that the sun can be too hot, or it can be cloudy … and of course, summer is never long enough). He personifies the sun (the eye of heaven) and death (that it can brag), later claiming that the essence of his friend will always live because it is captured in the written words.

What is even more astounding is that the sonnet also predicts how the friend’s beauty will only continue to grow through time. And … six hundred years later, Shakespeare’s words reign true. This was evident today as a 9th Grade English class encountered this sonnet, its form and its genius for the first time … powerful, powerful words!

“As long as men can breathe, and eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

Shakespeare was right. It does!

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