Tarquin’s ravishing stride

"This is too long", exclaims Polonius in the midst of the First Player's speech, much to Hamlet's disdain. Listening to The Rape of Lucrece, I remind myself whose side I'm on in that interchange. Though written in rhyming stanzas, Shakespeare's long narrative poem is as heavy in its rhetoric, as formidable to the ear, as…

Venus, if you will.

Years ago, at a second hand record store, I got an LP re-release of Toscanini's 1936 recording of Beethoven 7th Symphony with the NBC Symphony orchestra. I was delighted, especially with the final movement, which seemed to me to be dizzyingly swift. A few days later I was pontificating about this to a musician friend…

Miss Phoenix, Mr. Turtle and Mr. Partridge.

There's a passage in Tom Jones, the great comic novel by Henry Fielding, where the title character takes the mild-mannered Partridge to see David Garrick play Hamlet. Partridge is dismissive of Garrick's performance, complaining that he acts just as anyone would in his (Hamlet's) situation. The best actor, in his opinion? "The king for my money!…

Sonnets

Shakespeare really likes to pun on his first name. A lot. And it's frankly difficult to imagine some unknown but much discussed Elizabethan Dark Lady being seduced by the revelation that the noun "will" and the nickname "Will" sound alike. Imagine! When you're an undergraduate working toward a B.A. in English, it's easy to get…

Introduction

This year I decided to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death by taking a trip through his "complete works" as a listener. Decca, the venerable classical music label, had just reissued a legendary historic recording of the complete works published in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the Argo record company. What better…