Beautiful Writing: Part 2: Shakespeare





I am happy to return to this series about writing that has beauty in it. 

I would certainly be avoiding the truth and not doing duty to writing if I did not include in this series the man who is certainly the best and most important writer in English Drama and Literature: William Shakespeare.

In full disclosure, I am a Shakespearean. I have made the study of his work one of my areas of my Ph.D. in English, I have taught Shakespeare many times, I have presented papers on Shakespeare, and I have directed and acted in his plays. So, I do come with a particular bias, but I maintain that his work is the core of English Literature.

You certainly do not have to agree with me.

I will offer a few examples:

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.”


Henry V (Act 4. Scene 3. Lines 21-70)


“What’s he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:

We would not die in that man’s company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day: then shall our names.

Familiar in his mouth as household words

Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”


Hamlet (Act 5. Scene 2. Lines 206-211)


“Not a whit, we defy augury: there’s a special

 providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,

 ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be

 now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the

 readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he

 leaves, what is’t to leave betimes?”

20 thoughts on “Beautiful Writing: Part 2: Shakespeare

  1. Oh, Charles, how I envy you your knowledge! I so enjoyed the Shakespeare mentioned, particularly the Love Sonnet. I have been married for 69, happy years to the most charismatic man. He is now 93, has a retentive memory (fortunately); is loving and loyal with a pronounced sense of humour. I couldn’t have asked for more!!

    As a World War 11 child, I was evacuated three times, which meant three different schools, most over-crowded, so lessons and pupils suffered. Luckily, my parents could afford to send me to Pitman’s college (by scrimping!) so I learned shorthand and typing for two years, missing out on more academic subjects, I had a passion for reading though and read some of the classics: Dickens, Bronte, et al and almost anything that came my way. Of course ‘life’ then took over::marriage. three sons, business, and travel. I was 66 years old before I took my A level Literature exam and learned about Shakespeare, several notable poets and American authors. I just loved Hamlet…Since then, now retired in Spain, I have written nine, modest books, 10th just finished, many short stories and poems. You once mentioned re-igniting interest in previously published books and my only novel: The Catalyst could do with some tender attention. If still interested, could I borrow some of your time and send you the Foreword and first page? I would be most grateful. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. HI Charles, I always preferred Dickens to Shakespeare, probably because it was easier for me to read as a youngster and I didn’t get much guidance with my reading from anyone. I bought all the junior Shakespeare’s and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for my kids when they were small. I will never forget Gregory sitting and laughing while he read The Taming of the Shrew and Chaucer’s tales. There is some beautiful language in Hemingway’s books and also in some of the war novels like All Quiet on the Western Front. I am working on my Dante post for you. I had to put everything aside for over a week because I was quite unwell with covid, but I am doing much better now and hope to send it to you soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My goodness, Charles. You are the Shakespeare scholar, thank goodness. The students who are in your class are lucky, and the bloggers who get to read, yet again, the brilliant writings are equally lucky. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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