I've decided to focus on two monologues: the opening speech in Shakespeare's Richard III and Browning's My Last Duchess. Last year Teresa Carson and I team-taught a session on the Browning poem, and I'll be missing her today. But I've never taught the Richard III excerpt before; and because my plan is to use both of these poems as anchors in a two-day poetry/prose workshop in November, today will be good practice for that immersion.
Have you read the Shakespeare speech lately? Maybe you ought to.
from the Tragedy of Richard the Third
act i, scene i
Enter Richard, Duke of Gloucester, solus.
[Gloucester]. Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York;
And all the clouds that low’r’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums chang’d to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visag’d War hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;
And now, in stead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shape’d for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them—
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to see my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity.
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villainAnd hate the idle pleasures of these days.