Featured Poem: Sonnet 150 by William Shakespeare

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Following the nationwide – and even international – celebrations of the Bard this past weekend, there could be no other choice of author for this week’s Featured Poem.

It was hard to go anywhere or do anything this past weekend without encountering some words by one William Shakespeare, arguably one of the finest wordsmiths in the English language. In fact, given how much of Shakespeare is in our everyday speech – think of phrases such as ‘fight fire with fire’, ‘dead as a doornail’ and ‘the world is my oyster’ (amongst many, many more) – you’re quite likely to have quoted the Bard yourself at some point or another, unknowingly.

The debate on his birth – and death – date is likely to rage on for some years to come, but it is generally accepted as being 23rd April. This year was even more celebratory as it marked the 400th anniversary since Shakespeare’s death, with major events happening in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as The Complete Walk from Shakespeare’s Globe which took place in London and Liverpool (very handily, two of The Reader’s bases!). Condesing all 37 of the Bard’s famous plays, from All’s Well That Ends Well to The Winter’s Tale, into 10-minute long films featuring a host of acting royalty and set in the same locations as each play took place in, The Complete Walk was a treat for all Shakespeare lovers – and certainly inspired us to carry on with our reading of as much of the Bard’s work as we can.

We also celebrated Shakespeare’s big day at our London Penny Readings at Southwark Playhouse yesterday, where actress Claire Skinner teamed up with our Head of Communities and Communications Ben to read from Romeo and Juliet, an extract featured in our latest A Little, Aloud with Love anthology. To carry on the love, here’s a particularly puzzling sonnet – number 150 of 154 that Shakespeare composed – which will keep you pondering for quite a while.

Sonnet 150

Love is too young to know what conscience is,
Yet who knows not conscience is born of love?
Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,
Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove:
For, thou betraying me, I do betray
My nobler part to my gross body’s treason;
My soul doth tell my body that he may
Triumph in love; flesh stays no farther reason,
But rising at thy name doth point out thee,
As his triumphant prize. Proud of this pride,
He is contented thy poor drudge to be,
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.
No want of conscience hold it that I call
Her love, for whose dear love I rise and fall.

William Shakespeare

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