The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0071 Friday, 20 February 2009
Date: Thursday, 19 Feb 2009 10:43:10 -0500
Subject: Shakespeare by Heart
Last summer I was able to see at Stratford, Ontario, Simon Callow's
_There Reigns Love_, his 'performance' of a selection of the Sonnets.
I'm not sure exactly how many he recited during the performance,
certainly not all of them, but an impressive memory feat just the same.
Paul Edmonson and Stanley Wells (Shakespeare's Sonnets) describe "an
Amsterdam stand-up comedian, William Sutton" who "created his own
one-man Sonnet show. It took him four years to learn the collection by
heart." Helen Vendler (The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets) tells us that
"to arrive at the understandings proposed in my Commentary, I found it
necessary to learn the Sonnets by heart."
I recently read that Ted Hughes knew "all of Yeats" by heart, a claim
about which it would be easy to be skeptical. In Fiona MacCarthy's
Byron, it is written of Lady Jane Harlow, the sixteen year-old daughter
of Lady Oxford, that "She could recite the entire works of Shakespeare
by heart." No evidence is provided for this claim. Is the claim credible?
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