Thursday, May 16, 2013

SONNET 29 Performed

Poetry holds a very strong musical background, especially sonnets.  With devices like iambic pentameter, rhyme sequence, and the set amount of syllables and lines, sonnets become a more formulaic form of poetry.  Music is as well formulaic; there is a set percussion (often unchanging), bass tones to complement the treble tones, everything aspect of a musical piece has to fit with each other.

I came across a musical interpretation of Shakespeare's Sonnet 29 by Robert Wilson and Rufus Wainwright. This music video/performance was done by the Berliner Ensemble in 2009.  Like interpreting literature, this piece definitely required me to re-watch and review multiple times before I could really begin interpreting. 

Performance Here

The original Sonnet 29 is lonely, reflective, regretful, and coming from a sense of heartbreak.  In the video, there are four characteres dressed in gaudy black gowns, and with very dramatic and stylized makeup and hair.  For the first few minutes of the performance (and first four lines of the sonnet), the singers/speakers are kept in the dark with their faces not revealed, only hearing their voices.  For me, this was a way of relaying to the audience the loneliness, sadness and self pity.  Then starting with the 5th line: "Wishing me like to one more rich in hope," the audience finally sees the face of the poetic speaker.  With this line comes the first hint of hope in the sonnet, therefore the first shot of somewhat happiness in the musical performance.

At the very end of the performance, the music and singing halts and the poetic speaker simply speaks in German, which unfortunately I could not understand, but the background visuals are in place for a reason.  On a TV behind the cast shows a young boy being slowly stabbed in his heart.  I assume that this disturbing visual is representative of how the speaker is feeling, heartbroken, and done so through an excruciating and slow manner. 


  1. You really do need to watch it more than once and focus on what they are saying and trying to get across. I think you really interpreted it well. I was too distracted by the guys all made-up like women. They seemed a little creepy and with the boy getting stabbed it all took away from the poem for me. I couldn't even focus on the words.

    I needed to read the poem through first then I would have had a better understanding of what they were trying to portray. I think I would have seen it differently if I understood the poem first.

    1. Yeah, I was thinking along similar lines when I first saw it. It is an uncomfortable thing, but I do not think that we should lose respect for it right off the bat. It was definitely a new vision of Shakespeare for me!