There’s nothing like a great speech in Shakespeare. Today I want to share an often overlooked monologue from an overlooked play. Can you identify this delightful trickster?
The crickets sing, and man’s o’erlabor’d sense
Repairs itself by rest. Our Tarquin thus
Did softly press the rushes ere he waken’d
The chastity he wounded. Cytherea,
How bravely thou becom’st thy bed! Fresh lily,
And whiter than the sheets! That I might touch!
But kiss, one kiss! Rubies unparagon’d,
How dearly they do’t! ’Tis her breathing that
Perfumes the chamber thus. The flame o’ th’ taper
Bows toward her, and would under-peep her lids,
To see th’ enclosed lights, now canopied
Under these windows, white and azure lac’d
With blue of heaven’s own tinct. But my design!
To note the chamber, I will write all down:
Takes out his tables.
Such and such pictures; there the window; such
Th’ adornment of her bed; the arras, figures,
Why, such and such; and the contents o’ th’ story.
Ah, but some natural notes about her body,
Above ten thousand meaner moveables
Would testify, t’ enrich mine inventory.
O sleep, thou ape of death, lie dull upon her,
And be her sense but as a monument,
Thus in a chapel lying! Come off, come off;
Taking off her bracelet.
As slippery as the Gordian knot was hard!
’Tis mine, and this will witness outwardly,
As strongly as the conscience does within,
To th’ madding of her lord. On her left breast
A mole cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops
I’ th’ bottom of a cowslip. Here’s a voucher,
Stronger than ever law could make; this secret
Will force him think I have pick’d the lock and ta’en
The treasure of her honor. No more: to what end?
Why should I write this down that’s riveted,
Screw’d to my memory? She hath been reading late
The tale of Tereus; here the leaf’s turn’d down
Where Philomele gave up. I have enough;
To th’ trunk again, and shut the spring of it.
Swift, swift, you dragons of the night, that dawning
May bare the raven’s eye! I lodge in fear;
Though this a heavenly angel, hell is here.
One, two, three: time, time!
Happy guessing and happy Monday!
S.I.A IS ARTISTIC COMPANY IN RESIDENCE AT CENTRAL TORONTO ACADEMY. © SHAKESPEARE IN ACTION 2015. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.