02 April 2012

With which would you woo?

Image from Shakespeare & the Players
Just in time for National Poetry Month, we come to Touchstone's fabulous catalectic trochaic tetrameter:
If a hart do lack a hind,
Let him seek out Rosalind.
If the cat will after kind,
So, be sure, will Rosalind.
Winter garments must be lined,
So must slender Rosalind.
Sweetest nut hath sourest rind;
Such a nut is Rosalind.
He that sweetest rose will find
Must find’s love’s prick, and Rosalind. 
I'm thinking this is the perfect opportunity to break out some more Shakespearean classics and maybe start a discussion of poetic style and purpose.

So first, I'll give them a choice: Touchstone's ribaldry, "My mistress' eyes," "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day," or Orlando's lame-foot verses...

But upon the fairest boughs,
Or at every sentence end,
Will I “Rosalinda” write,
Teaching all that read to know
The quintessence of every sprite
Heaven would in little show.
Therefore heaven nature charged
That one body should be filled
With all graces wide-enlarged.
Nature presently distilled
Helen’s cheek, but not her heart,
Cleopatra’s majesty,
Atalanta’s better part,
Sad Lucretia’s modesty.
Thus Rosalind of many parts
By heavenly synod was devised,
Of many faces, eyes, and hearts
To have the touches dearest prized.
Heaven would that she these gifts should have
And I to live and die her slave.

The question being: With which would you rather woo/be wooed? and of course Why?

We can talk about what sounds good, the merits of sing-song couplets versus iambic pentameter sonnets, rhyme scheme and meter.

We can talk about metaphor ("such a nut"), allusion (Helen's cheek etc), personification ("his gold complexion dimm'd), irony? ("nothing like the sun"), hyperbole ("live and die her slave"), alliteration ("I grant I never saw a goddess go"), double entendre (love's prick, et al)...

Which could bring us to What does one want in a wooer?

Is it wit? Humor? If so, Touchstone might win.

Is it intelligence or eloquence? Then we'd probably have to go with a sonnet, 18 if we like tradition and honey coating, 130 if we prefer nonconformity and brutal honesty.

If it is heartfelt abandon and unabashed corniness, then, I guess, Orlando has a chance.

And so, we can talk about characterization, the means and the ends.

Ah, Shakespeare. Ah, Poetry Month. Together perhaps we can teach beyond the test?

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