Sonnet 104

My senior year of high school, I was President of our National Forensic League, a club that one can join only after participating in a number of events or occasions that involve oratory, public speaking, public reading, speeches, etc. We went to tournaments and competitions, loads of students from our theatre department preparing poems or monologues or extemporaneous pieces with which to compete. And I was their nerd queen. One year, I recited a creepy monologue from Five Kinds of Silence by Shelagh Stephenson; one tournament, a friend and I performed a scene from William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker; I won a few competitions with my version of Noyes’ The Highwayman; but none of these was I so proud of as my Shakespeare pieces.

The regional Shakespeare competition requires a contrasting monologue and sonnet recitation. I chose Tamora’s angry, heart-wrenching monologue from Titus Andronicus and the enlightening, inspired Sonnet 104. The words from Titus have faded from memory over time, but that sonnet – those 14 beautiful lines – have stayed with me all these years. They are practically music, and I just had to share:

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I ey’d,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold,
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d,
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah! yet doth beauty like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceiv’d;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceiv’d:
For fear of which, hear this thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

three April perfumes

in three hot Junes burn'd

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One response to “Sonnet 104

  1. I was there, at Theater Memphis, for that competition. What a performance you gave. Many students and adults came to you after the competition was over saying you brought tears to their eyes, shocked and very disappointed you did not win but was awarded first runner-up.

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