10 romantic moments in Shakespeare: part 2

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10.02.2022

With Valentine’s Day just a heartbeat away, our expert panel has picked 10 of Shakespeare’s most amorous moments. Today we swoon over three more.

Compiled by Andy McLean

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Which moments in Shakespeare have you fallen in love with? Do you agree or disagree with the experts’ selections? Share your view on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.

7. Centuries ahead of his time, Shakespeare thinks up Love Island

Stranded on a desert island, two beautiful young people are drawn inexorably into one another’s arms. Let the love fest begin.

No, it’s not a reality TV series – it’s The Tempest by William Shakespeare. And specifically, it’s the moment when Ferdinand and Miranda seal the deal and declare their love for one another. “This scene is so beautiful,” says Bell Shakespeare Artistic Director Peter Evans. “Almost out of nowhere, Miranda asks, ‘Do you love me?’ It’s like she’s realising, ‘Oh is this what love is? Is that what is happening between us right now?’

“Then there are these lines that are so gorgeous they make me weep: Ferdinand says, ‘Here’s my hand’ and Miranda replies, ‘And mine, with my heart in’t’. I was told the other day that, in some yogic traditions, the hand is directly connected to the heart – and I thought, ‘How amazing! There is no way that William Shakespeare could have known any of that.’”

6. The mighty Antony dies in the arms of Cleopatra

When we first encounter Antony (back in Julius Caesar) his political passion is so strong that he sways his fellow Romans into a mutinous uprising. But in Antony and Cleopatra, it’s his romantic passion with the Egyptian queen that’s centre stage. Whether they are flirting, partying, or arguing – the chemistry between Antony and Cleopatra is irresistible. So much so that the two of them risk everything for love. Antony turns his back on his Roman allies and joins Cleopatra to fight them in battle.

As is so often the case in Shakespeare, it doesn’t end well for the lovers. The war is lost and, as the Romans close in and confusion reigns, Antony attempts suicide before dying in the arms of Cleopatra. Alluding to the magnitude of their shared loss, some of Antony’s final few words address Cleopatra as if she were her entire nation: ‘I am dying, Egypt, dying’. Moments after her lover dies, Cleopatra laments that her once-glittering existence has lost all lustre. She now lives in a ‘dull world’ that is ‘No better than a sty’, where there is ‘nothing left remarkable / Beneath the visiting moon’. Further proof, as if it were needed, that nobody does romantic tragedy quite like Shakespeare.

5. Shakespeare’s powerful poetry gives eternal life to a young man

No discussion of romance in Shakespeare would be complete without a nod to his gorgeous sonnets. Some of them appear to be addressed to a mysterious ‘dark lady’ while others pay homage to an equally mysterious ‘young man’. Choosing between the 154 sonnets in Shakespeare’s original collection is a tough task, but Sonnet 18 certainly nails it when describing the fragility of young love and the enduring power of words to describe it.

The famous opening lines (‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate’) suggest the beauty of the young man exceeds even that of a summer day. Later, the sonnet is tinged with heartache, as the writer laments how fleeting youth and good looks can be. But then he concludes that such beauty can be immortalised through poetry: ‘So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee’.

Read part 1 in our series about romantic moments in Shakespeare.

To be continued…

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