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All The World's A Stage - the Shakespeare thread

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by JozefK, Apr 23, 2016.

  1. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
    Camden's "Britannia" (1607)

    Cymbeline uses "Britain" or its direct variant 52 times in the play; "England" gets zero usages. We've moved from the Elizabethan Age to the reign of James I, who was James VI of Scotland and is about to name his son, Henry, the first Prince of Wales; and the big new history books of the time (William Camden, John Speed, and others) are of Great Britain, not merely England.
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  2. ando here

    ando here Forum Resident

    North Pole
    Interesting. And apropos. Will was the King's man at that point. But I won't go so far, like many, to claim that he was an apologist for monarchy. Even in as late a play as The Tempest I feel he was questioning its validity as a just form of rule.
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
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  3. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
    Yes, that new Greenblatt book delves into Will's relationship with authority, and freedom. And it notes that Shakespeare was just about the only major playwright of the time who did NOT spend time in jail for 'dangerous' writing. I attribute that more to his intelligence than his obedience.
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  4. Luvtemps

    Luvtemps Forum Resident

    To be or not to be,is it noble to put finger to computer keyboard or thouest keepeth finger to self and be ever humble???
  5. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA

    Hope you're all managing well enough during these strange days.

    Cymbeline is a long play, the 5th longest, and that's making me really want to read this one live rather than via Zoom. We'll see how the summer begins to unfold and talk it over.

    Some of your texts will name our heroine 'Imogen', others 'Innogen.' Both are currently in use. The Folio gives Imogen, and because of that Imogen has been the name used by almost all productions until the late 20th Century. The Oxford edition in 1986 broke with tradition and began using Innogen, and the consensus is growing that the Folio's spelling is incorrect. Mistaking an 'nn' for an 'm' is a common typesetting mistake and the play had not been performed for many years by the time the Folio was compiled. The only extant record we have of a live performance of Cymbeline's original run is a fairly detailed account by the astrological physician(!) Simon Forman, and he uses Innogen throughout. Innogen was a fairly common name; Imogen appears only once, as a presumed typo in Holingshead. And, significantly, the play pays homage to the ancient British roots of England, and the legendary first Queen of Britain was an Innogen, wife of Brutus (or Brute) of Troy, a descendant of Aeneas who is considered the founding king of Britain. Brutus was a Roman consul who conquered Spain and overthrew the Greek king Pandrasus, for which he was awarded the hand in marriage of Pandrasus' daughter, Innogen.

    Imogen and Rosalind are the only two women in Shakespeare who have the most lines in their plays. Rosalind has the most lines of any of Shakespeare's female characters, Cleo's second, then Imogen, Portia and Juliet.

    'The Calumny Romance' is a focus of Valerie Wayne, editor of the Arden Edition, and she cites numerous early tales of the woman unjustly accused of being unchaste and her ultimate vindication. The most widey known was the story of Susanna, which is the 13th Chapter of the Book of Daniel, recognized as biblical by Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and considered apocryphal by Protestants and Jews. Susanna is falsely accused of adultery with a young man by two elders, after she refuses to sleep with them. Daniel insists on interviewing each of the elders separately, finds discrepancies in their stories, and vindicates Susanna. Curiously, about two years after Cymbeline debuted, Shakespeare's own daughter, Susanna Shakespeare Hall, won a similar case (fairly common in those days) against a man who accused her of having given him a venereal disease. In addition to Cymbeline, Shakespeare used the Calumny Romance as elements of Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, The Winter's Tale, and Merry Wives.

    There is a connection between the calumny romance and the play's misogeny (which peaks with Postumous' screed that ends Act II): "Misogynists slander womankind; slanderers blacken one woman's reputation . . ." (Woodbridge).

    In her cross-dressing role, Imogen is closer to the vulnerability of Viola than the confidence of Rosalind.

    The First Folio lists the comedies first, then histories, then tragedies. The Tempest is the opening play, and it has seemed an appropriate choice for a lead play. Cymbeline is the last play of the Folio, and in the sense that is an amalgam of all the styles that precede it, it can be seen as apt play to close with. Tragic-comedies, comedies with happy endings, and other deviations from classical forms were popular and a hot topic of literary discussion in the early 1600s. I don't think Shakespeare took it too seriously, given Polonius' daffy praise of the players' facility with "tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited." Jonathan Bate notes that Cymbeline is a perfect example of the 'tragical-comical-historical-pastoral.'


    Cymbeline uses "Britain" or a direct variant 52 times in the play; "England" gets zero usages. We've moved from the Elizabethan Age to the reign of James I, who was James VI of Scotland and is about to name his son, Henry, the first Prince of Wales; and the big new history books of the time (William Camden, John Speed, and others) are of Great Britain, not merely England. James pushed hard although unsuccessfully to unite England and Scotland, rebuked by the legislatures of both countries. But his campaign had a greater level of cultural success than political. Great Britain did not become an official term until the unification with Scotland in 1707, and United Kingdom became official with the addition of Ireland in 1801.

    Cloten and Posthumous are physically similar and never appear on stage together, so they make a logical and plot-enhancing combination for doubling the roles, recently tried in a number of contemporary productions, sometimes without a change of costume (but with a change in attitude).

    "The last scene deprives [Imogen] of her position as heir but returns her to her identities as a woman, wife, royal daughter and Briton." (Wayne)

    "Without offering illusions of ethnic purity, Roman justice or English exceptionality, [Cymbeline] gives its early modern audience reason to reckon British, Celtic and Welsh ancestry as a worthy heritage." (Wayne)

    These are the closing minutes of Derek Jarman's Tempest -- quirky (not for all tastes), highly visual, textually relatively faithful, and I thought highly enjoyable:
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  6. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA

    We have enough participants to go ahead with planning a midsummer Zoom reading of The Sonnets, with optimistic expectations that we will get to do a real life reading of Cymbeline in the fall.

    So far we have Peter, who has graciously agreed to again host our reading, . . . and Steve. Anybody else who wants in, please let me know. I'll ask for your lists of requests in late July. Depending on how the time looks, I may act on Jean's interesting suggestion that I randomly assign lesser known sonnets, in addition to the readers' choices.

    The first seventeen sonnets are the 'Procreation Sonnets,' the poet pleading with a young man to marry and multiply so his beauty and wonderfulness are not lost to the world when he dies. It's likely that they were commissioned by the subject's father in an effort to get his son married off. And it may well be that the young aristocrat liked being the subject of 'honey-tongued' Shakespeare's poetry so much he commissioned the next bunch of sonnets.

    Not counting the last two sonnets, the sequence closes with The Dark Lady of the Sonnets, 127-152, probably among the earliest in original composition although many of them were probably worked on through the years. Our Marin County member who we're still hoping will join us one day – Ron Severdia – has an fine essay on his website on the subject:


    Ron also has an appealing argument for the identity of the "Rival Poet," one of the themes of the middle sonnets (do you remember Keats' 'On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer'?):


    I confess that much as I love the sonnets there is an aspect to them that often makes me a little seasick. I think Oxford editor Colin Burrow nails my problem in his notes on the voice of Shakespeare's Sonnets:
    "We have seen that Venus and Adonis and Lucrece frequently create an unsteadying counterpoint between who is speaking and what is said. The Sonnets are best viewed . . . as poems which develop the method of the earlier narrative poems to their utmost point – a point at which one is not quite sure who is male and who is female, who is addressed or why, or what their representative social roles are. . . the many empirical uncertainties . . . seem less like damaging gaps in our knowledge, and more like an enabling condition of the delighted mystification which all readers of these poems have felt, and which they repeatedly invite."

    See, it wasn't seasickness, it was "delighted mystification!"

    Please let me know if you want to join us and aren't listed above – let's set a tentative date of August 12th for the reading and July 29th for your 4-6 choices for poems (we'll each read two or three).

    Be well,

    Amalia Rodrigues, Queen of Fado:

  7. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
    Conrad and Elizabeth are on board for this one, too! We're up to nine.

    Stephen Booth's book of The Sonnets is a landmark in Shakespeare studies, and worth a dive into if you want a serious swim in the sonnet cycle. It's an extraordinarily rich, deep, and imaginative exploration of the poems, reflecting an attention that goes beyond 'close reading' to 'microscopic reading.' It reproduces a page from the 1609 Quarto edition of The Sonnets on one page, with the corresponding plain text reading on the facing page, followed by detailed notes.

    Here's a terrific article from a scientific magazine arguing that Booth is a prescient critic, and the first literary critic to recognize the larger role of the unconscious in reading. Booth and the author argue that the near-puns, near multiple meanings, close associations, and hosts of other connections – not usually consciously noted – all factor into the whole brain's appreciation of the language.


    A key (albeit geeky) section from the article:
    >>An explicit pun is a momentary flash, and then it’s over. More valuable for Booth are the links that spread out from each word based on “its sound, sounds that resemble it, its sense, its potential senses, their homonyms, their cognates, their synonyms, and their antonyms.” Unexploded puns conserve their energy and preserve these links, creating rich, multilayered, imbricating patterns throughout a work.
    What’s essential to Booth is that for readers and audiences—for everyone but the professional critic—these patterns usually remain below the threshold of our attention. What he calls the “physics” of the verse are available to general readers, but not obtrusive. In his 1998 book Precious Nonsense, Booth argues that the experiences that Shakespeare’s poetic language evokes with such verve and subtlety are intensifications of everyday language experiences. Shakespeare achieves this by weaving incredibly rich networks from the same kinds of “substantive nonsense and nonimporting patterns” that pop up in slang, jokes, songs, and nursery rhymes. Those dense networks of patterns, Booth posits, are “the principal source of the greatness we find in Shakespeare’s work.” <<

    A couple of less abstract passages:

    >>>>According to Booth, the greatest tragedy in Macbeth occurs in the audience, in the failure of moral categories that leaves us identifying with the title character despite his repugnant actions. He points out that later scenes repeatedly offer Malcolm to the audience as a potential way out, giving us several chances to switch our moral allegiance.
    So why don’t we? The answer, Booth says, is because Shakespeare doesn’t want us to. To begin with, Malcolm’s responses to the unfolding drama never seem quite appropriate. On learning that his father has been murdered, for example, he answers “O, by whom?”—“a response from which,” Booth notes, “no amount of gasping and mimed horror can remove the tone of small talk.”
    By padding Malcolm’s later speeches with an abundance of “syntactical stuffing,” Shakespeare ensures that Malcolm comes off as plodding, bloviating, dramatically weak. “Malcolm’s style is grating in its lack of economy,” Booth explains; his “syntax is maddeningly contorted, and his pace tortuous…no quantity of alternative adjectives and nouns can fill up the cistern of Malcolm’s lust to dilate upon particulars.”
    Here, if ever, Shakespeare lays out bumpy verbal terrain. Even if we wanted to like Malcolm, the play encourages us not to simply because the way he speaks is so impedimentary. Malcolm slows things down. We never leave Macbeth; linguistically and otherwise, things are much more exciting when he’s around.
    “In the theatre, speed is good and slowness is bad,” Booth writes. “In the story of Macbeth as staged by Shakespeare, virtuous characters and virtuous actions move slowly; speed is characteristic of the play’s evil actions and their actors. What an audience approves in one dimension of its experience is at perfect odds with what it approves in another.” This, Booth maintains, is why we keep going to see Macbeth. And for him, the three-hour respite from the constraints of ordinary logical and moral systems is “an effectively miraculous experience.”<<

    >>Functional shifts occur when parts of speech are switched unexpectedly. They’re a favorite Shakespearean device, but noun-to-verb conversions are especially common: Edgar’s “He childed as I fathered” in King Lear, for example, or the hero’s lament in Antony and Cleopatra about “The hearts that spanieled me at heels.” According to [Professor Phillip] Davis [of Liverpool], the changes in EEG measurements between Shakespearean functional shifts and various control sentences demonstrate that “while the Shakespearean functional shift was semantically integrated with ease, it triggered a syntactic re-evaluation process likely to raise attention and extra emergent consciousness.” In other words, the brain noticed something odd about the use of a noun as a verb, quickly made sense of it, and was put on high alert for more unusual activity. <<

  8. the pope ondine

    the pope ondine Forum Resident


    this is fascinating, thanks for posting
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  9. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
  10. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    I wrote that in a wedding card to one of my favorite cousins.
  11. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
  12. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
    Sonnet #18, Pink Floyd's David Gilmore

  13. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
  14. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
    And we have Joe and Emily, so we're up to eleven.

    Let's take a look at the first eighteen sonnets. The first seventeen are the 'procreation sonnets,' which urge a single young man to be fruitful and multiply so the world will not be deprived of his incomparable beauty in the future. Shakespeare uses a variety of metaphors to illustrate the brevity of life and beauty and the necessity of extending one's life by breeding and creating a family.

    Sonnet #18 –– "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" -- is the first of the main body of sonnets, and may well be when the patron changed from the young man's father to the young man himself. In this sonnet, Shakespeare declares that the poem itself guarantees the young man's immortality -- "So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,/ So long lives this and this gives life to thee." There is a consistency of appeal and imagery that makes this sonnet seem of a piece with the preceding poems, as well as those that follow. Booth writes, "The imperceptibility of the dividing line between the procreation sonnets and sonnets 18 - 126 is a primary reason for assuming the 1-126 all concern the same relationship."

    Booth's edition, to a much greater extent than others, emphasizes multiple and often contradictory interpretations, and is less likely to provide coherent glosses for all difficult lines. For an example of the latter, the final line of the first sonnet -- "To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee" is rendered in my three other editions as "the greedy pig who hogged his own beauty and took it with him to the grave," "the kind of glutton who devours . . . the children one owes the world . . .first by refusing to reproduce and then by dying" (Folger), "destroyed once by self-absorption and once by death" (Oxford). But Booth writes, "Line 14 sounds clear and – since it echoes all the poem's earlier assertions – summary as well; the line feels meaningful, but it neither invites nor can sustain a precise gloss."

    This is Booth on the question of multiples meanings, specifically the line "So should the lines of life that life repair" from sonnet 16. Booth writes that editors argued for many years over the meaning of "lines" until William Empson (1930) "in effect pointed out that all the suggested glosses for the phrase are right" – the personal appearance of the young man, that same look appearing in his descendants, time's facial wrinkles, the familial lines of inheritance, lines drawn with a pen, the lines of the poem, and the life-lines of fate and palmistry. Booth writes "An editor of the sonnets who presents only the gloss demanded by the author's clear intent in the ongoing logic of the poem will not be incorrect but incomplete." Booth assumes that the unconscious plays a large role in reading, so although all the meanings may not be evident to the reader, they may be registering and resonating below the surface.

    Sonnets 5 and 6 use the image of a flower's essence being captured in a glass vial, so its fragrance can be savored in the winter when the flower itself has died, just as the young man's beauty can be captured in his children when he has passed. "But flowers distill’d, though they with winter meet,/ Lose but their show, their substance still lives sweet."

    Sonnet 7 traces the path of the sun through the day, how it is majestic and revered when it is rising, but turned away from as it sets. The proverbial phrase of the time was "The rising, not the setting, sun is worshipped by most men." Curiously, although the sun is theme of the poem, the word "sun" does not appear in it, although the poem closes with its homonym: "So thou, thyself out-going in thy noon,/ Unlook'd on diest, unless thou get a son."

    Sonnet 8 uses musical metaphors, the sweet harmonies of combined sounds. It opens with a strange conceit, wondering why the young man takes such pleasure in sad music. The idea of enjoying sad music is commonplace and unexceptional, but the poet makes it sounds as though this is an odd abberation. "Why lovest thou that which thou receivest not gladly . . ." One need only think of Jacques, who could "suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs," or John Dowland, "always Dowland, always doleful."

    Sonnet 10 concludes "Make thee another self, for love of me,/ That beauty still may live in thine or thee." This is the first suggestion of a personal relationship between the poet and the subject (given the 1609 Quarto sequence that we commonly use). In 13, he calls him "Love."

    Sonnet 11 is suggestive of sex, and one should remember that at that time it was believed that ejacuations shortened ones life.

    Sonnet 12 is a beautiful pastoral evocation of life rushing toward death and decay, including the line "That thou among the wastes of time must go," which Oxford calls "a phrase so rich in its evocation of empty destruction that it defies glossing."

    Sonnet 15 concludes with another allusion to a personal relationship, followed by a hint that the poems themselves will confer a kind of immortality on the subject: "And all in war with Time for love of you/ As he takes from you, I ingraft you new." But then in 16 he downplays the importance of his poetry, urging the youth to "fortify yourself in your decay/ With means more blessed than my barren rhyme." In 17, he tells the young man that in the future stories of his beauty may seem like fanciful exaggerations, "But were some child of yours alive that time,/ You should live twice, in it and in my rhyme."

    And with the glorious Sonnet 18 we enter the main section of the cycle, with the poet guaranteeing immortality to the young man through the power of the poems:

    Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
    Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
    And every fair from fair sometime declines,
    By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
    But thy eternal summer shall not fade
    Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
    Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
    When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
    So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
    So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

    Still looking at August 12th for the reading and July 29th for your 4-6 choices for poems.

  15. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA

    I finally got that Complete BBC Shakespeare set from e-bay for the lowlow price of $90, box notes in Korean but subtitles in English, came to $2.36 per disc! Excellent Cymbeline, solid cast overall with a charmingly icy Claire Bloom as The Queen and Helen Mirren giving the kind of magnificent performance as Imogen that makes one appreciate why the role has been so prized by actresses over the centuries.

    If the prospect of tackling the sonnets sequentially or randomly seems daunting, you might try easing into them with some of the more familiar poems, such as
    18 -- Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    29 -- When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
    30 -- When to the sessions of sweet silent thought/ I summon up remembrance of things past (last phrase is from King Solomon)
    73 -- That time of year thou mayst in me behold/ When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
    116 -- Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments.
    129 -- The expense of spirit in a waste of shame/ Is lust in action;
    130 -- My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
    138 -- When my love swears that she is made of truth/ I do believe her, though I know she lies

    "One of the startling effects of the best of [the sonnets] – a prime reason they have drawn madly fluttering biographical speculations like moths to a flame – is an almost painful intimacy. They seem to offer access to Shakespeare's most private retreat. But the other figures are carefully shrouded." (Grrenblatt)

    The likeliest candidate for the beautiful young man of the sonnets is Henry Wriothsley, the third Earl of Southhampton. "Venus and Adonis" and "Lucrece" are both dedicated to Wriothsley. The polite and deferential dedication of the earlier poem ("I know not how I shall offend") is followed in "Lucrece" by a declaration of "love . . . without end,' mirroring the progression of feelings of the procreation sonnets, which date from the same period. Southhampton was a fabulously rich young man who attended the theater nightly in the company of more than a dozen worshipful attendants (among them was John Florio, whose translation of Montaigne would later be much used by Shakespeare). Wriothsley turned down an arranged marriage at 16, saying he wasn't opposed to the particular girl but to marriage in general. When he was 18 he received a poem dedicated to him, likely commissioned by his family, about Narcissus, and the evils of self-love. If – as it eventually happened – he were to turn 21 without having married, he would lose the staggering sum of 5,000 pounds. Prior to this is when Shakespeare would have been commissioned by the custodial family to write poems to convince him to wed. Coming at a time when the theaters had been shut down by the plague and he was trying to establish himself as a published poet, such a commission would have seemed like godsend to Shakespeare.

    This is a remarkable portrait of Southhampton from that time, long thought to be a portrait of a woman until its fairly recent identification.


    It sheds light on passages like these from Sonnet 20, in which Shakespeare imagines that nature started out to create a woman, but changed her mind mid-process:
    A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
    Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion; . . .
    And for a woman wert thou first created; . . .
    By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
    But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
    Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

    What of the question of Shakespeare's declarations of love for the young man? Booth writes, "William Shakespeare was almost certainly homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. The sonnets provide no evidence on the matter.” We should make a distinction between homoerotic, which Elizabethans would have found natural and desirable given their belief in the inherent superiority of men to women, and homosexuality, which was strictly forbidden by the churches. So Shakespeare's expressions of love to his subject (who may have become his patron after the procreation sonnets) would not have seemed scandalous to his contemporaries, although it was certainly a departure from the classic sonnets.

    We should also be aware of how "love" and "lover" were used at the time, Booth writing, "'lover' is used as an almost exact synonym for 'friend.'" The use of 'lover' at the closing of letters was "as neutral sexually as the salutation 'Dear Sir' is now." Booth writes that 'lover' meant friend in the context of friendship and 'paramour' in the context of a love affair, and "the effective meaning . . . in these sonnets is a dynamic and witty conflation of both meanings, which constantly and unsuccessfully strain to separate from one another."

    Were Shakespeare's expressions of love and adoration for Southhampton genuine, or was he simply giving his audience (and perhaps financial benefactor) what he wanted to hear? We'll never be sure, and I think it's entirely possible that Southampton himself may never have been sure.

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  16. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA

    The essay following the poems in the Folger edition notes that Shakespeare's sonnets differ from other sonnet sequences of the time not only by having a male subject rather than a female, but also in something basic about the voice of the sonneteer. The most common pronoun after the first-person "I" in all other sonnet sequences is the third-person, usually "she"; but in Shakespeare it is the second person, "thee" or "you." So Shakespeare's sonnets are less like the declarations of an individual and more like conversations, "even if they get no direct answer."

    However much we delve into the themes and ideas that range over the whole cycle or sections of it, serious students of the sonnets usually preach that each poem is best appreciated on its own, as a self-contained work. I say this now because I'm about to pair and group together a number of sonnets.

    In sonnets 15 -17 Shakespeare suggests that his poetry will confer some measure of survival for his subject's beauty, but this poetic survival would be weak compared to his having children to physically carry on his beauty. But with 18 and 19, he begins to promise that his poetry itself will confer immortality on his subject:
    "So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
    So long lives this and this gives life to thee." (18)
    "Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
    My love shall in my verse ever live young." (19)
    It should be noted, however, that Southhampton is at best an educated guess by the cognoscenti, and the only obvious immortality gained through the poems is the author's.

    Sonnet 23 -- "As an unperfect actor on the stage
    Who with his fear is put besides his part"
    Like an actor overcome with stage fright who forgets his lines, the poet's love leaves him tongue-tied, so he must rely on his writing to express his feelings.

    Sonnets 27 & 28 – linked sonnets complaining that the poet works hard all day and is kept awake all night with thoughts of his beloved.
    "Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
    For thee and for myself no quiet find." (27)
    "But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer
    And night doth nightly make grief's strength seem stronger." (28)

    Sonnet 29 continues the descent of the previous two, but in the third quatrain the poet is rescued by thoughts of his love, and his spirit soars like a lark at daybreak from the ground to heaven:
    "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
    I all alone beweep my outcast state
    And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
    And look upon myself and curse my fate,
    Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
    Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
    Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
    With what I most enjoy contented least;
    Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
    Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
    Like to the lark at break of day arising
    From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
    For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
    That then I scorn to change my state with kings."
    Note the series of monetary references – fortune, rich, wealth. And note how a couple of the ambiguities in the poem are best interpreted as both/and rather than either/or – "more rich in hope" means richer in hope and having better hopes of getting rich, and "enjoy" means take pleasure in and having ready at hand.
    This sonnet and the next, #30, are "linked in a cycle of woe by their opening word" (Oxford) and the continuation of the financial references, with #30 adding some legal terms (sessions, summons, cancelled). The poet thinks of past woes and suffers through them again, mirroring the original context of the phrase from Solomon: “For a double grief came upon them, and a groaning for the remembrance of things past.” But this reliving of old griefs is erased by thoughts of his friend:
    "But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
    All losses are restored and sorrows end."

    #32 is a self-deprecating sonnet saying that future poets may write better verse, so the young man should prize these "for my love, not for their rhyme," and should think "Theirs for their style I'll read, his for his love."

    #33 – 35 refer to some unnamed hurt that the beloved has inflicted on the poet. The beloved is the sun, now clouded over. But this sun has agency over the clouds, and does "permit the basest clouds to ride/ With ugly rack on his celestial face," like Prince Hal's vow to "imitate the sun, Who doth permit the base contagious clouds/ To smother up his beauty from the world,/ That when he please again to be himself,/ Being wanted, he may be more wondered at/ By breaking through the foul and ugly mists."

    #33 concludes: "Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth," that is the stars/ suns/ sons of men are permited to be stained since the actual sun in the heavens can be stained by clouds. "If gold rust what shall iron do?" (Chaucer) In #34, the poet berates the subject for promising a sunny day and sending him out in the storm without his cloak. He says it is not enough that the sun then comes out to dry the rain from his face because it "cures not the disgrace." But when the friend cries, his tears are like pearls that "ransom all ill deeds."

    This triplet of poems finishes with a twist in #35, which starts out as a "Get over it!" sonnet, everything has a down side. He begins by telling his buddy not to worry about what he has done because:
    "Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
    Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
    And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud."
    The poet says all men have faults, but then turns it on himself and says his forgiveness of the friend's injuries to him is a fault, and he is corrupting himself by trying to take the part of the one who injured him. He is in a "civil war" (line 12) with himself. A contemporary proverb ran "a fault once excused is twice committed."

    Sonnet #36 explores the paradox of being united in their love but separated in their persons in the world. "Let me confess that we two must be twain,/ Although our undivided loves are one." The poet must never be publically acknowledged by the beloved for fear of disgracing or embarrassing the aristocrat. Lines 5 & 6 are the kinds of lines Booth loves, "meaningless and overcharged with meaning."
    "In our two loves there is but one respect,
    Though in our lives a separable spite"
    Booth's free rendering of the lines is "Our love makes us one person although unfortunately we must live separately," which Booth calls a "paraphrase that does unavoidable violence to the lines, diminishing them in the name of sanity." He notes that none of the meanings of the word "respect" in line 5 makes for a coherent gloss, although the word suggests rank, esteem, concern, etc., all of which are apt. But the phrase 'in respect to' flickers between the lines (not stated but not excluded), as though the poem never completes saying "In respect to our loves we are one, but in respect to our lives we are separate."

    Late July for your preferred poems.

    Sonnet #29, from The Globe

  17. MikaelaArsenault

    MikaelaArsenault Forum Resident

    New Hampshire
    It says that the video got removed by the uploader.
  18. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
    Yeah, gave me a damn copyright strike, too -- and for an inferior reading!
  19. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
  20. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
    Through a tip I got on this thread from ando_where?, I recently scored the complete BBC Shakespeare series, 38 discs, for under $90. Subtitles in Korean or English.

    Starting to work through them, first three here:

    Excellent Cymbeline, solid cast overall with a charmingly icy Claire Bloom as The Queen and Helen Mirren giving the kind of magnificent performance as Imogen that makes one appreciate why the role has been so prized by actresses over the centuries.


    Next up, an absolutely wonderful As You Like It. This is among the most frequently filmed plays, and this is my new favorite of all films of that play. Mirren is again a key, the first Rosalind to actually bring off the sex-disguise business with any degree of credibility. I'm not big on costumes, but I loved what they did with it in this play. It was filmed at a Scottish castle and its grounds served as the Forest of Arden. It was devoid of the gimmickry of exotic settings and famous film actors, acted with an obvious affection for the material, and put a smile on my face from start to finish.


    The BBC's Midsummer Night's Dream unfortunately doesn't rise to the level of memorable performance. It looks a little drab, has little magic and little laughter in it. I liked that it, like AYL, was free of the gimmickry and guest stars that often plague its productions, and the understated presentation allowed for a greater emphasis on the poetry of the lines, which I appreciated. Some of the visual are striking, as though they had their origins in paintings. But, overall, a lackluster Dream.

  21. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
    Hope you're all doing well. For Father's Day, Lily got me a box of fixings for pastrami and corned beef sandwiches from the old deli from the old neighborhood in The Bronx – the best!

    Sonnets 40-42 deal with the young man sleeping with the poet's mistress, a theme explored again late in the cycle, in the chronologically earlier Dark Lady sonnets.

    In #40, the poet tries to rationalize away the young man's theft of his mistress, but by the end of the third quatrain admits a wound from a lover is more painful than one from an enemy:

    "And yet, love knows, it is a greater grief
    To bear love's wrong than hate's known injury."

    The concluding couplet accepts that the young man is so beautiful and graceful that any wrongs he does will appear in a good light, and hurt the poet, so the best the writer can do is hope that they don't become enemies.

    "Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows,
    Kill me with spites; yet we must not be foes."

    In #41, the poet starts off understandingly, knows that while he and the young man are apart women must constantly be throwing themselves at the beautiful and charming and wealthy beloved, and what mother's son could turn away.

    "Gentle thou art and therefore to be won,
    Beauteous thou art, therefore to be assailed;
    And when a woman woos, what woman's son
    Will sourly leave her till she have prevailed?"

    But then the poet thinks: Will all your choices, couldn't you have taken a pass on MY mistress?
    "Ay me! but yet thou mightest my seat forbear"
    Then you wouldn't be guilty of having broken two bonds – hers to me, and yours to me.

    In #42, he explores the thought that she only slept with the young man because of his relationship to the poet, and the young man only slept with her because she was the poet's mistress; so these two gangsters of love "both find each other and I lose both twain." Line 9 reads: "If I lose thee, my loss is my love's gain," which is typically taken to mean if he loses the young man it is the gain of his mistress; but Boothe notes that 'my love's gain' makes sense with any of the three of them identified as 'my love.' The poet harkens back to sonnet #39 for the idea (or rationalization) that he and his beloved friend are one, so by her loving him she is actually loving the poet, too. And even as he says this, he knows it is self-flattery and mocks it:
    "But here's the joy; my friend and I are one;
    Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone."

    None of the three sonnets come to an emotional resolution of this betrayal. The poet's position in life means he must accept the wrong inflicted on him, since the one who wronged him was a likely patron, a dear friend or lover, and – most of all -- a social superior of great wealth and power. Remember, Shakespeare was the only major playwright of the time to avoid getting locked up for what he wrote; he must have had a keen understanding of where the uncrossable lines were drawn.

    By Sonnet 43 The Mistress is gone, but the poet and the young man are still far apart. The poet complains that all day his eyes must
    " . . . view things unrespected,"
    "All days are nights to see till I see thee,
    And nights bright days when dreams do show thee"

    The poem is filled with oxymorons, contradictions and other intricate wordplay, itemized by Booth: ANTITHESIS: wink see (line 1), shadow form (5, 6), etc.; ANTISTASIS: shadow shadows (5), form form (6), etc.; EPIZEUXIS: bright, are bright (4), see til I see (13); ANTIMETABOLE: darkly bright are bright in dark (4), "as well as rhetorically uncategorized word plays."

    44 & 45 are linked poems on the theme of the four elements. (And you thought there were 118!?) As any tarot reader will tell you, the elements are earth, water, air and fire, and have been so since the ancients Greeks, endorsed by Aristotle.


    The poet wishes he were mad of thought, but thought is of the lighter elements, fire and air, and he is made of slow earth and water. If he were thought, he could close the distance between him and his beloved in a moment, but the world's earth and water keep the earth and water that is him from flying to his beloved.
    "If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
    Injurious distance should not stop my way . . .
    For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
    As soon as think the place where he would be. . .
    But that so much of earth and water wrought
    I must attend time's leisure with my moan,
    Receiving nought by elements so slow
    But heavy tears, badges of either's woe."

    45 continues with the four elements theme, ascribing the two lighter elements to the beloved:
    "The other two, slight air and purging fire,
    Are both with thee, wherever I abide;
    The first my thought, the other my desire"
    And when the lighter elements are all with the other,
    "My life, being made of four, with two alone
    Sinks down to death, oppress'd with melancholy"
    The belief at the time being that melancholy was caused by an imbalance among the four elements within the individual. So the poet waits to hear of good news (fire and air) from the beloved, and is gladdened when he hears it but then sends back wishes (fire and air) in return and is again gloomy:
    " . . . assured
    Of thy fair health, recounting it to me:
    This told, I joy; but then no longer glad,
    I send them back again and straight grow sad."

    Quick and geeky stylistic diversion. All the poems but three are in the form of the Shakespearean sonnet -- fourteen lines consisting of three quatrains followed by a couplet, the rhyme scheme being: abab cdcd efef gg
    The lines are in iambic pentameter, meaning that the lines are composed of five two-syllable feet with the accent on the second syllable, like the opening line of 43: "When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,"
    These are the exceptions:
    99 – has an extra line in the first quatrain, 15 line poem
    126 – 6 couplets, 12 lines
    145 – in tetrameter instead of pentameter, 8 syllables a line instead of 10

    This is Pete Seeger at Obama's inauguration:
  22. MikaelaArsenault

    MikaelaArsenault Forum Resident

    New Hampshire
  23. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA
    Hope you're all doing well, coping with the sheltering and sweltering.

    Sonnet 46 stages a dispute between the eye and the heart over who has best claim on the beloved's love. The poem assumes the reader is familiar with the Renaissance distinction between the true love of the heart and the superficial love of the eye.
    “Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear,
    So soon forsaken? young men's love then lies
    Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.” (R&J, II, iii)
    The eye and heart plead their cases, and 46 is filled with legalese – bar, plead, plea, defendant, quest, impaneled, title, verdict, due and right. The jury is composed of all the poet's thoughts, and they decide that that the beloved's image belongs to the eyes but his love belongs to the heart.
    In 47, the eye and heart have made peace with each other and take turns hosting the other in appreciation of the beloved.

    In Sonnet 48 the poet writes of taking great care to protect his material treasures, locking them away from thieves. But his love, which is worth so much more than any of his possessions, can't be locked up and is free to come and go as it pleases. And a beautiful treasure like his beloved will inevitably become the object of desire and thieves. “Rich preys make true men thieves.” (Venus and Adonis) “Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold.” As You Like It “The prey entices the thief.” (proverbial)

    Sonnet 49, like 35, finds the poet arguing against his own interest. Preparing for the day his beloved will leave him,
    “Against that time when thou shalt strangely pass
    And scarcely greet me with that sun thine eye”
    the poet will be able to provide no reason why he should be loved, why he shouldn't be left, “Since why to love I should allege no cause.”
    Line 11 reads: “And this my hand against myself uprear,” with three relevant meanings – to testify against oneself, to defend by force the other's rights, and the poem itself in 'this my hand.'

    Sonnets 50 and 51 deal with being at a distance from the beloved. Sonnet 52 comes to an appreciation of the distances, like a rich man who who looks at his treasures only rarely, to more keenly appreciate them, or like feasts spread out over the course of the year, or jewels spread across a crown.
    “If all the year were playing holidays,
    To sport would be as tedious as to work . . .” 1HIV
    Absence from the beloved makes his love more precious.

    Sonnet 53 draws on the Neoplatonism of the time. Plato taught that the embodied world is a shadow of the ideal world, that a beautiful object is an inferior imitation of the perfect, disembodied beauty. Shakespeare's hyperbole in the sonnet supposes that the beloved is the source of the world's beauty and grace, Adonis and Helen are inferior counterfeits of his beauty, even Spring and harvest time are shadows of the beloved's beauty and generosity. And the final couplet praises the beloved for a 'constant heart,' in contrast to the others. The Oxford edition notes although both Adonis and Helen were indeed beautiful, neither was promising as a lover – Adonis preferred hunting to romancing Venus and Helen triggered the Trojan War.

    Rzewski – The People United Will Never Be Defeated (variations on a Chilean song):

  24. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA

    Sonnet 54 celebrates the beloved's possessing not just beauty, but also truth. The rose is fairer because of its “sweet odor.” The canker-blooms have as rich a color as the rose but “their only virtue is their show, ” so they live unwanted and unrespected. But roses die loved and prized, and “Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odors made.” And, as the perfume preserves the essence of the dead rose, so the poet will preserve the beloved's essence in the poems, “my verse distills your truth.”

    55 opens with a continuation of the idea of the couplet of 54, that the beloved will live forever in the poet's work: “Nor marble nor the gilded monuments/ Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme.” While time and war will destroy statues and memories, this poem will keep you alive until Judgment Day. Horace and Ovid have similar themes in passages that would have been familiar to Shakespeare's readers.
    Horace, Ode 3.30:
    “I have created a monument more lasting than bronze
    and loftier than the royal structure of the pyramids,
    that which neither devouring rain, nor the unrestrained North Wind
    may be able to destroy nor the immeasurable
    succession of years and the flight of time.”
    Ovid, XV, 871-9:
    “And now the work is done, that Jupiter’s anger, fire or sword cannot erase, nor the gnawing tooth of time. Let that day, that only has power over my body, end, when it will, my uncertain span of years: yet the best part of me will be borne, immortal, beyond the distant stars. Wherever Rome’s influence extends, over the lands it has civilised, I will be spoken, on people’s lips: and, famous through all the ages, if there is truth in poet’s prophecies, –vivam - I shall live.”

    line 4 has the startling (and acoustically beautiful) phrase “ . . . unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time,” which sounds as if “sluttish time” was being smeared on the stone, like grease, rather than the stone being sluttishly smeared by the agency of time, or over the course of time. (All three meaning are in play, of course.)

    56 seems to personify Love in the opening lines,
    “Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
    Thy edge should blunter be than appetite”
    "Love must remain keener than lust, “
    “. . . do not kill/ The spirit of love with a perpetual dullness.”
    The last quatrain and couplet return to the theme that separation should keep their love eager for their reunion.

    57 & 58 explore the courtly love convention of the lover as the slave of the beloved, waiting upon his beck and call, with nothing of his own to do until summoned by his love, all done without bitterness at the absence of the beloved, rather with gladness that the beloved is bringing happiness to those he is with now. The poet will endure any disappointment from the lover, who is free to enjoy his pleasures as he will.
    “I am to wait, though waiting so be hell;
    Not blame your pleasure, be it ill or well.”
    As the servant waits upon his master, the poet waits upon his love.

    59 opens:
    “If there be nothing new, but that which is
    Hath been before . . .”
    which echoes
    “ . . . there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1, 9
    If this is true, why should the poet labor to describe his beloved's beauty? He should look “in some antique book” to see how “the old world” described “the wonder of you.” In the final couplet, the poet thinks his beautiful beloved must be superior to the ones described in the old books, but puts an ironic spin on it:
    “O, sure I am, the wits of former days
    To subjects worse have given admiring praise.”
    The Oxford edition suggests the insinuation that “they were even worse than you” and Booth gives “You could have done worse.”

    Regarding the overall theme of 59, that there is nothing new under the sun, Booth writes that there have been three mutually contradictory views of time which have co-existed in “the minds of most people through the whole course of western civilization,” these being the idea of progress through time, of cyclical and repeating time, and of an older Golden Age from which we have fallen.

    60 As there are sixty minutes in an hour, Sonnet 60 deals with the passing of hours of time, the inevitability of time aging and destroying everything. As in Ovid, “Things ebb and flow: and every shape is made to pass away.” The concluding couplet offers a kind of muted hope that the poetry will survive time:
    “And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
    Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.”

    61 The poet wonders if the beloved is invading his thoughts to keep him awake at night and in order to spy on him. But he realizes:
    “It is my love that keeps mine eye awake;
    Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,
    To play the watchman ever for thy sake”
    Booth writes “This sonnet is a perverse play on the proverb 'One friend watches for another.'”

    63 One day the beautiful beloved will be as ravaged by time as the poet is now, so the poet labors so
    “His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
    And they shall live, and he in them still green.”

    64 Again on the powers of time, and resignation to the eventual final parting from the beloved the poet will someday have to make,
    “That Time will come and take my love away.
    This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
    But weep to have that which it fears to lose.”

    I've watched two more plays from the BBC boxes, both solid productions although not fabulous and exceptional as Helen Mirren's Cymbeline and As You Like It were.

    Othello was . . . (Is enjoyable is ever the right word for Othello?) let's say engrossing, once I got over the shock of seeing Anthony Hopkins with Man Tan in the title role. He was understated in the opening, vulnerable in the middle scenes, and a little over the top at the end, but always commanded attention and acted masterfully. The surprising revelation in the film was Bob Hoskins as Iago, who was terrific in the role in a unique and totally successful interpretation. Hoskins was always the shortest person on the set and frequently spoke in a whisper, so he seemed to be flirting with invisibility; he was charming and engaging even as he figured out his villainies before us in the soliloquies. A solid production.

    The Tempest was quite good, more like a stage play than any of the juiced up films of the play I've seen. It's not a knockout, like the Jarman film, but it's a solid reading of the complete text, well acted, and features some wonderful dancing by the spirits in the pageants. Definitely worth seeing.

    I'll be asking for your short-lists of sonnets you'd like to read on July 22, reading on August 12.

  25. Steve Minkin

    Steve Minkin Forum Resident

    Healdsburg CA

    One week to get your 'short list' of sonnets to me, in the order of how much you'd like to read them. We should all be able to read three or perhaps four sonnets during our Zoom reading. I will select our names at random, the first pick gets their top pick, next gets their top available pick, etc. Then I'll draw a second order for the next round, and so forth.

    The next series of poems after this one will start off dealing with “the rival poet.” Shakespeare's sonnet cycle is so personal and involving that trying to figure out who's who in the sonnets is irresistible, the intimacy of the poems practically cry out for that. But at this point, halfway through this rereading of the cycle, I'm struck by the almost analytical explorations of love's nuances, which is leading me to a new appreciation for the view that all the sonnets should be viewed as a fiction, and you should view its people as you would characters in a play. As with everything else about the sonnets, these opposing views are a both/and rather than an either/or.

    Sonnet 65 – Another sonnet on “sad mortality,” wondering how “shall beauty hold a plea,/ Whose action is no stronger than a flower?” The poet asks who can hold against Time's “swift foot,” and concludes “O, none, unless this miracle have might,/ That in black ink my love may still shine bright.”

    Sonnets 66-68 are linked, sharing a gloomy view of a world fallen from its Golden Age into a corrupt and morally bankrupt time.

    66 is one of the most famous poems in the cycle, opening: “Tired with all these, for restful death I cry.” The next eleven lines itemize what the poet hates about his modern world, finishing with “Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,/ Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.”
    “Tired with all these . . . “ introduces the list in line one, and wraps it up in line thirteen.
    Line 9 – “Art made tongue-tied by authority” refers both to contemporary censorship and to the weight given to the classic texts.

    67 – Continuing the idea from the previous sonnet that the world has degenerated, the poet laments the fact that someone as wonderful as the lover had to be born into such miserable times and “with infection should he live.” The poet asks “Why should he live, now Nature bankrupt is?” and answers that Nature keeps him alive “to show what wealth she had/ In days long since, before these last so bad.”

    68 – Opening with the word “Thus,” this poem continues the previous two sonnets' view of a world fallen from grace. The lover is the face of natural beauty in a world that paints cosmetics on faces and puts wigs on heads to disguise the effects of aging. But the lover's beauty is natural and legitimate, “To show false art what beauty was of yore.”
    Lines 1 and 13 refer to the lover's beauty as a “map” to the true beauty of Nature's past.
    Sonnet 59 presented Time as cyclical, eternal return; these three sonnets gave us the Fall From The Golden Age world view.

    69 – Everyone who looks on the beloved can only praise his beauty, even his enemies. But those who look further into him are troubled because they suspect he is less beautiful on the inside. The poet knows this is not true, but thinks the young man invites such suspicions by spending time with low lifes.

    70 – Expands on the previous sonnet's theme of public critics, taking a somewhat opposing view, that the beloved's beauty itself provokes criticism, “slander's mark was ever the fair.”

    With the expected term of life being three-score and ten, sonnet 71 begins a series of four poems on the theme of the poet's death.
    71 – Takes the “I wanna be your dog” theme to its inevitable end, with the poet advising the lover to ignore the poet's death when it happens, so the world will not laugh at him for being associated with the poet.

    72 – Again, the lover is urged to forget the poet once he is dead. If anybody asks him to say something good about the poet, he would have to lie to come up with anything, and thereby ruin his own reputation. The poet is ashamed of his work, so the lover would be shamed to love anything as valueless as the poet and his writings.

    73 – Opens with a beautiful description of the poet in Autumn:
    “That time of year thou mayst in me behold
    When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
    Upon those boughs which shake against the cold”
    The lover can see death approaching the poet, “ . . . which makes thy love more strong,/ To love that well which thou must leave ere long.”
    line 8: “Death's second self” is conventional for sleep.

    74 – Tells the lover not to grieve for him when he dies because death will only take the physical part of him, while the best of him, his spirit, will live on in the poems and his heart.

    77 – There are several references to books and blank pages in this sonnet, which lead many scholars to agree with George Steevens' inference (1780) that the poem accompanied the gift of a book to be written in. It may have been a bound book with blank pages or a table-book (Hamlet, I, v). Table-books were pocket-sized books with waxed pages designed to be written on with a stylus while the writer was on the move; the pages would be erased later, after the notes or drawings were transferred to a more permanent medium. The poet urges the lover to look in the mirror and watch clocks, and write down his thoughts in the book. Those written thoughts are like children that he can later nourish and help grow, to his benefit.

    Here's the BBC's shelter-in-place Swan Lake, wonderful dancers performing in the privacy of their own bathtubs:


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