Friday, December 12, 2008

Poetry Friday: Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds

On love, age and alteration...

 Take #1: What to do with worn books culled from the library?

Give them to art students who will lovingly alter them.  (link via Layers Upon Layers) After the gallery show, the aged books went back into the library system as new items, where you can now borrow such things as that Shakespearean-looking book ruff.  

Take #2:  the BBC's remake of Much Ado About Nothing.

Be warned: it's witty, well-acted and highly entertaining, but the director's changed the old play almost out of recognition, setting the feuding Benedick and Beatrice in a modern day newsroom. There's hardly a word of Shakespeare's original verse in it ... except ... in a wholly new scene, the director has Beatrice and Benedict examine at length some of Shakespeare's words from somewhere else:  Sonnet 116. 

Take #3:

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 wandering 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 proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

---William Shakespeare

Such blatant alteration, not only to modernize the play, but to stick in words that never belonged in it in the first place! Yet, it's brilliant.  In a movie with modern dialogue, to finally use Shakespeare's real words, as if to say: see? here he is, the Bard you love, changed yet unchanged, and listen! he's speaking unchanging.  I think Shakespeare would have approved.

Maybe that's what great writing or interesting art or a lasting love affair is: a pattern of alterations that does not alter the essence of what is first loved.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Wild Rose Reader


  1. Brilliant is right! I think I would enjoy this production, but my mind would stubbornly refuse to file it under the "Shakespeare" category.

  2. Oh my, all these wonderful Big Questions about the function of literature this week...I also am interested in that Much Ado. I agree that it sounds clever and wonderful. (Is it rent-able?)

  3. Lots to think about here. Those altered books are amazing! I'd also love to see the BBC's Much Ado. Was nice to read one of my fave Shakespearean sonnets again!

  4. Oh, I especially love this because I had it read at my wedding. (This one and My Mistress' Eyes, which was far more amusing.) Very wisely put: the pattern of alterations alters not the essence of what is first loved. I think you've got it in one.

  5. Oh, bestill my heart. This is a lovely and intriguing post...

  6. I really need this line in particular:

    "That looks on tempests and is never shaken;"

    Somehow I see it as related to parenting these days. Oy.

    Thanks for posting it!

  7.'ve got me thinking about change and constancy. And now I want to see that BBC production!

  8. 'Tis rentable, Jules. I just put it in my Netflix queue.

  9. Yup, Netflix is how I found them.

    Macbeth (on the same disk as Much Ado) is AWESOME. So scary, and the twist on the three witches...loved it.

    The first disk has an utterly hilarious Taming of the Shrew, and an amusing but a bit slow Midsummer Night's Dream.


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