All right, for real

Posted: June 3, 2009 in Braak, poetics
Tags: ,

I am, for real, going to get REAL WORK done today, so I can’t spend all afternoon fiddling around with POSTING, even though I’ve made a kind of tacit commitment to do that.

So, here, I’m going to give you this speech from Henry V.  It’s pretty easy, especially as an actor, to get kind of blase about Shakespeare.  You get so familiar with it that you start thinking of it in terms of its rude mechanics, and not the high poetry.  But, I had an audition the other day, and found myself obliged to commit a new monologue to memory, and reading this one literally gave me chills.

Henry V, act IV, scene ii


Now entertain conjecture of a time
when creeping murmer and the poring dark
fills the wide vessel of the universe.
From cap to camp through the foul womb of night
the hum of either army still sounds,
that the fixed sentinels almost receive
the secret whispers of each other’s watch:
fire answers fire, and through their pal flames
each battle sees the other’s umber’d face;
steed threatens steed, in high and boastful neighs
piercing the night’s dull ear, and from the tents
the armourers, accomplishing the knights,
with busy hammers closing rivets up,
give dreadful note of preparation:
the country cocks do crow, the closk do toll,
and the third hour of drowsy morning name.
Proud of their numbers and secure in soul,
the confident and over-lusty French
do the low-rated English play at dice;
and chide the cripple tardy-gaited night
who, like a foul and ugly witch, doth limp
so tediously away.  The poor condemned English,
like sacrifices, by their watchful fires
sit patiently and inly ruminate
the morning’s danger, and their gesture sad
investing lank-lean; cheeks and war-worn coats
presenteth them unto the gazing moon
so many horrid ghosts.  O now, who will behold
the royal captain of this ruin’d band
walking from watch to watch, from tent to tent,
let him cry “Praise and glory on his head!”
For forth he goes and visits all his host.
Bids them good morrow with a modest smile
and calls the brothers, friends and countrymen.
Upon his royal face there is no note
how dread an army hath enrounded him;
nor doth he dedicate one jot of colour
unto the weary and all-watched night,
but freshly looks and over-bears attaint
with cheerful semblance and sweet majesty;
that every wretch, pining and pale before,
beholding him, plucks comfort from his looks:
a largess universal like the sun
his liberal eye doth give to every one,
thawing cold fear, that mean and gentle all,
behold, as may unworthiness define,
a little touch of Harry in the night.
And so our scene must to the battle fly;
where–O for pity!–we shall much disgrace
with four or five most vile and ragged foils,
right ill-disposed in brawl ridiculous,
the name of Agincourt.  Yet sit and see,
minding true things by what their mockeries be.

  1. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Amanda sums it up.

    It breathes…drawn, then in shudders. This stuff is never about tapping out a pleasant beat, it’s too humanistic for that. There’s always a rawness that cuts through all the pretty and conjures up beings; Shakespeare never feels “frou-frou” or precious–even The Sonnets. Thanks for this pause.

    Would you consider posting a reading of it on here?

  2. Hsiang says:

    Saw this earlier and thought, “Oh cool, the classics an’ shit”, then closed the window. T’was not for such as proles as I, and went back to liquor abusing. Hours later I came back and read through it so slow with my lips a’moving, and then again declaiming out loud (as best I could) despite my dumbshit roomates’ disproving. Aw dang, what a kick-ass piece! so fresh! These words have no need of re-grooving. The Bard’s tight language still enflames the soul, yet with a beat ever so soothing.

  3. Amanda says:

    And by the way, I SO was going to audition for them too, but at 4pm on a work day???? CRAYZINESS! Who has an audition at that time?

  4. threatqualitypress says:

    Amanda: Oh, man, I auditioned for the Henry IV at Philly Shakes. They called me the night before and said, “Hey can you bring two monologues tomorrow at 11:30 AM?”

    Okay, so I do that, and then I read, and around noon they say, “Hey, can you come back at 2 for the Midsummer Auditions?” So, where am I going to go, I don’t know, I hang out for two hours. Then the auditions start, and I wait around for two hours. Then I read one side, once, in a scene that’s really about Helena/Hermia, and then they send me home. All afternoon I waited around, to read ten seconds of sides. Bleh.

    VIP: Yeah, I might do that. I could use some practice with the speech, and it might help me to listen to myself saying it.

  5. Amanda says:

    Chris: Exactly! I mean, I guess that’s some sort of indication of what the rehearsal schedule would be like – silly me for thinking all theatre takes place in the evening. So in that case, I guess it’s for the best that I couldn’t take off of work to go. But heyyy- did you get called back or whatever? You rock at ‘peare, so they had to be impressed. What do you think?

  6. threatqualitypress says:

    Not so far. I don’t think I was particularly impressive this time out. We’ll see, I guess.

  7. Amanda says:

    @Chris: Do you think it’s because you are rusty? I had this horrible thought today: I used to be pretty all right at performing (that’s not the horrible thought!), but now I’ve finished school and I work in an office and barely speak – vocally – to anyone all day or night. I literally communicate with the world via typing and texting and hardly anything else- confined to silence, really. So, my horrible thought is this: am I slowly forgetting how to speak/convey emotions via verbal communication???? If I tried to get up now in front of an audience and perform, would I be as stiff and flat as a board??? Is speech – the mouth, the voice, the part of the brain that controls these things – something that needs to be continually primed in order to stay sharp? It’s a horrible thought…I wish I could stay in practice….

  8. threatqualitypress says:

    No, I think it’s because I was never really as good as I had hoped I was, and only I didn’t notice it because I spent most of my time around people who also weren’t that great. I mean, when do I get to study Shakespeare? To practice Shakespeare? Never. I was watching the video of John Barton’s Playing Shakespeare series from the BBC, and it’s got Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan and David Suchet (who is doing that exact speech, by the way), and I think to myself, “Jesus shit, what the fuck am I doing?”

  9. Amanda says:

    @Chris: Oh.

    Well all right. But I always thought you were good…

    Anyway, at the risk of sounding nausiatingly positive (which I know you hate), all those guys – McKellan, Suchet – well they were once like us too…

  10. threatqualitypress says:

    I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure Ian McKellan’s first words were “Now is the winter of our discontent.”

  11. Amanda says:

    Hahaha. You know what? I think you’re right!

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