Alan Cumming: The Head that Wears a Crown

Internationally acclaimed actor and Tony Award Winner, Alan Cumming performs Shakespeare’s most important and beloved Royal speeches including, “To be or not to be,” “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” “Now is the winter of our discontent,” “O that this too too sullied flesh would melt,” and many more. These speeches from As You Like It, Coriolanus, Hamlet, Henry V, Henry VIII, King Lear, MacBeth, Richard II, The Tempest, Titus Andronicus and Twelfth Night,were personally chosen by Cumming. Michael Boyd, recent Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company explaimed, “Alan Cumming brings to Shakespeare the lyricism of a genuine singer, the sharp edge of a wicked comic, and the embodied intelligence of a major actor.” This is a must for any English student, drama student, actor and lover of Shakespeare, in other words, EVERYONE!

 



 

See the MOVIE PREVIEWhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2iKw4b4uvM

 

SEE ALAN and COLBERT talk about Shakespeare and the CD!!!!

http://broadwayworld.com/videoplay.php?colid=491795

Alan is one of the most extraordinary artists of his generation. His range as an actor is altogether remarkable, and his Shakespeare is illuminated by his incredible musicality.

John Kander, Composer

 

The Speeches

 

 

  1. O for a Muse of fire (Chorus from Henry V)
  2. Now is the winter of our discontent (Richard III)
  3. You common cry of curs! (Coriolanus)
  4. I have been studying how I may compare This prison (Richard II)
  5. Look here, upon this picture (Hamlet)
  6. Mad world! mad kings! mad composition! (Bastard from King John)
  7. If it were done when ‘tis done (Macbeth)
  8. Go call the Earls of Surrey and of Warwick; (Henry IV from Henry IV Part 2)
  9. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; (Henry V)
  10. To be, or not to be: that is the question; (Hamlet)
  11. What must the king do now? (Richard II)
  12. Methinks I am a prophet new inspired (John of Gaunt from Richard II)
  13. Why, lords, what wrongs are these! (Saturninus from Titus Andronicus)
  14.  O that this too too sullied flesh would melt, (Hamlet)
  15. Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile, (Duke Senior from As You Like It)
  16. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, (Macbeth)
  17. What’s he that wishes so? (Henry V)
  18.  Hear, Nature, hear!  (King Lear)
  19.  How all occasions do inform against me, (Hamlet)
  20. Let me speak, sir, (Cranmer from Henry VIII)
  21. If music be the food of love, play on; (Duke Orsino from Twelfth Night)
  22. Now my charms are all o’erthrown, (Prospero from The Tempest

The Mature Man and Artist

No one who saw him can forget Alan Cumming as the elfin, androgynous EmCee in the Sam Mendes production of “Cabaret.” So layered and theatrical was his turn as the show’s official greeter and guide that one is tempted to say it was Shakespearean. How delightful it is to encounter Cumming, the mature man and artist, as he demonstrates his range in this gallery of Shakespeare royals. Like the M.C. we have a Henry V and a Prospero who directly address the audience, asking us to behold the ephemeral majesty of theater, those fleeting experiences that allow us to sit together and examine what it means to be human in this vast imperfect universe.

Cumming is meticulous in his delineation of Richard III – whose sneering condemnation of the world gives way to pure self pity when he considers his own pain, the indignity of his deformity seeming to him to justify, even to demand, causing chaos and grief for others. Using his native Scottish lilt, Cumming gives us a masterful Macbeth, a man whose punishment for losing his humanity is horrific unassuageable boredom.  Then there is Hamlet, who vibrates with awareness, whether asking “what is a man?” or the ultimate question of existence – “to be or not to be.” In this recording we encounter a vocal performance so textured we can close our eyes and see a parade of Shakespeare’s indelible characters, see them whole in their naked pain and glory.

Laurie Winer, Critic and Writer

 

A Thousand, Thousand Blessings

 

This collection takes us on a thrilling ride with some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters and speeches.  Bad boys, heroes, kings, and renegades.  Love-sick dukes and homicidal hunchbacks.  Alan puts us inside Hamlet’s doubts and bloody thoughts; he reveals Macbeth’s vaulting ambition and ultimate weariness of never-ending tomorrows; and he transports us into the middle of battle as King Henry Vurging us to follow him unto the breach once more.

But this project is so much more than Shakespeare’s greatest hits.  Some of my favorite moments are when Alan goes further off the beaten path.  He gives us Cranmer (from Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Henry VIII) who celebrates “the royal infant” Elizabeth, who grows up to be Shakespeare’s mighty queen:  ”though in her cradle, yet now promises upon this land a thousand thousand blessings, which time shall bring to ripeness.”  He gives us a piece from As You Like It in which the exiled Duke Senior inspires his followers to make the Forest of Arden their Utopia by finding “tongues in trees, books in these running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”  Alan’s nuanced performance finds the subtle double-back humor when Richard “fails” to compare his prison to the world, “I cannot do it.  Yet I’ll hammer it out.”   His Richard II is simply sublime.

Experiencing great art, particularly Shakespeare, allows us to see, hear, feel, experience different parts of the human condition.  Delving into the human condition can and should help us be better people.  Being better people makes the world a better place to be.  As silly as it may sound, experiencing Shakespeare helps change the world.  Alan Cumming, deftly delivering some of the greatest speeches ever written, can get you a glimpse into that magic, into the transformative power of great art.  Until I can get Alan to come do Shakespeare in repertory in front of live audiences in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, this project is the next best thing.

Jim Warren

Co-founder and Artistic Director

American Shakespeare Center

 

The Greatest Mystery

 

Why is it that in these days of tumbling dictatorships and struggling new democracies, both trying to cushion their fall by crushing human rights, whose history unfolds before our eyes through Reality TV, blogs and Instagram, are we still drawn to Shakespeare’s kings and princes? How is it that while our leaders are meticulously examined under society’s amorous looking glass, every word analyzed, every gesture ridiculed and every action echoed in posts, and tweets, and memes, we still turn to those magnificent noble villains?

It cannot be just the lack of heroes, the lack of role models, for Richard III, or King John or Macbeth are anything but paradigms of virtue. Perhaps, it’s a way of escaping the all-encompassing effect of the media – where villains and saints, and kings and beggars are all flattened and condensed into an almost tasteless, senseless vision, proving to ourselves that all the world’s not a screen, but still a stage. And that in this world, in Shakespeare, we have real characters: complex, flawed, multi-faceted, and most importantly, humane. If one quality stands out in this astonishing recording, it is the vast variety of human expression, emotions, states of mind explored and manifested by Alan Cumming. His unparalleled ability to encompass the “great globe itself, yeah all which it inherit,” switching from character to character, is what makes this recording set our indulgences free.

Cumming proves to us again and again, that human nature, as wonderfully captured by William Shakespeare, is and always will be the greatest mystery, and the only one worth depicting.

Dan Meridor, Politician

 

A Journey of Story

No wonder this recording by Alan Cumming sounds simply delicious, he’s played nearly half the roles and has his eyes on the other half. And quite rightly, he points out that nothing ought get in his way of playing Shakespeare’s entire canon, after taking on the complete cast list of Macbeth. After all, they were all written to be played by men, regardless of the characters sex, and it really does come down to a question of the talent and skill of the actor, a question which Cumming has again answered in this transcendent rendition of speeches for the Bard’s most royal of Royal.

I’ve heard nearly all of these speeches (included on the album are thankfully both likely and unlikely selections) spoken on England’s finest Shakespearean stages; yet here Cumming’s spoken performances reveal something deeper in neurosis, self-loathing and hating, paranoia and pathology; something that hits you instantly, and without question, theatrically. But he’s not on the stage, he’s in the recording studio. I’m not in an auditorium, I’m listening to this on my MacBook. How is it possible that what I’m hearing is clearer, less distracted and tangled up than if it were on the stage? These renditions are free of all sets and costumes that can be cumbersome in the theatre, and instead, my imagination and my senses are released to float pleasurably with him and characters of great royal disparity.

Cumming’s interpretations here carry his trademarks: unique, unapologetic and exhilarating. Characters are immediately recognizable as the fruits of an actor’s preparation and process as if he were preparing to play the character on stage or screen. Cumming has distilled entire roles and stories into his voice, gloriously, without losing a skerric of the full actor. You can feel his entire body and being devoted totally and utterly to the story, character and work; even when he breathes in at the end of a phrase, such inhaling designed only to allow him to physically continue, the incoming breath is loaded with meaning so rich and transportative. He wastes nothing and uses everything.

Alan Cumming’s ability to place his voice dynamically; his timbre, rhythm, pitch, accents, everything, render Alan Cumming one of the greatest chameleons of Shakespeare’s words and worlds. His voice and this album take you on a journey of story, and that’s the whole point of Shakespeare.

Adam Spreadbury-Maher, Artistic Director – King’s Head Theatre

 

THE SPEECHES

TEXT for the SPEECHES

 

TRACK 1. O for a Muse of fire (Chorus from Henry V)

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention,

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene! 5

Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,

Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,

Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire

Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,

The flat unraised spirits that have dared 10

On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth

So great an object: can this cockpit hold

The vasty fields of France? or may we cram

Within this wooden O the very casques

That did affright the air at Agincourt? 15

O, pardon! since a crooked figure may

Attest in little place a million;

And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,

On your imaginary forces work.

Suppose within the girdle of these walls 20

Are now confined two mighty monarchies,

Whose high upreared and abutting fronts

The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:

Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;

Into a thousand parts divide on man, 25

And make imaginary puissance;

Think when we talk of horses, that you see them

Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;

For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,

Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times, 30

Turning the accomplishment of many years

Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,

Admit me Chorus to this history;

Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,

Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play. 35

 

TRACK 2. Now is the winter of our discontent (Richard III)

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;

Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;

Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,

Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;

And now, instead of mounting barded steeds

To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,

He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber

To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,

Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;

I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty

To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;

I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,

And that so lamely and unfashionable

That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,

Have no delight to pass away the time,

Unless to spy my shadow in the sun

And descant on mine own deformity:

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,

By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,

To set my brother Clarence and the king

In deadly hate the one against the other:

And if King Edward be as true and just

As I am subtle, false and treacherous,

This day should Clarence closely be mew’d up,

About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’

Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.

Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here

Clarence comes.

 

TRACK 3. You common cry of curs! (Coriolanus)

You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate

As reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize

As the dead carcasses of unburied men

That do corrupt my air, I banish you;

And here remain with your uncertainty!

Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!

Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,

Fan you into despair! Have the power still

To banish your defenders; till at length

Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels,

Making not reservation of yourselves,

Still your own foes, deliver you as most

Abated captives to some nation

That won you without blows! Despising,

For you, the city, thus I turn my back:

There is a world elsewhere.

 

TRACK 4. I have been studying how I may compare This prison (Richard II)

I have been studying how I may compare

This prison where I live unto the world:

And for because the world is populous

And here is not a creature but myself,

I cannot do it; yet I’ll hammer it out.

My brain I’ll prove the female to my soul,

My soul the father; and these two beget

A generation of still-breeding thoughts,

And these same thoughts people this little world,

In humours like the people of this world,

For no thought is contented. The better sort,

As thoughts of things divine, are intermix’d

With scruples and do set the word itself

Against the word:

As thus, ‘Come, little ones,’ and then again,

‘It is as hard to come as for a camel

To thread the postern of a small needle’s eye.’

Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot

Unlikely wonders; how these vain weak nails

May tear a passage through the flinty ribs

Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls,

And, for they cannot, die in their own pride.

Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves

That they are not the first of fortune’s slaves,

Nor shall not be the last; like silly beggars

Who sitting in the stocks refuge their shame,

That many have and others must sit there;

And in this thought they find a kind of ease,

Bearing their own misfortunes on the back

Of such as have before endured the like.

Thus play I in one person many people,

And none contented: sometimes am I king;

Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,

And so I am: then crushing penury

Persuades me I was better when a king;

Then am I king’d again: and by and by

Think that I am unking’d by Bolingbroke,

And straight am nothing: but whate’er I be,

Nor I nor any man that but man is

With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased

With being nothing. Music do I hear?

Music

Ha, ha! keep time: how sour sweet music is,

When time is broke and no proportion kept!

So is it in the music of men’s lives.

And here have I the daintiness of ear

To cheque time broke in a disorder’d string;

But for the concord of my state and time

Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;

For now hath time made me his numbering clock:

My thoughts are minutes; and with sighs they jar

Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch,

Whereto my finger, like a dial’s point,

Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears.

Now sir, the sound that tells what hour it is

Are clamorous groans, which strike upon my heart,

Which is the bell: so sighs and tears and groans

Show minutes, times, and hours: but my time

Runs posting on in Bolingbroke’s proud joy,

While I stand fooling here, his Jack o’ the clock.

This music mads me; let it sound no more;

For though it have holp madmen to their wits,

In me it seems it will make wise men mad.

Yet blessing on his heart that gives it me!

For ’tis a sign of love; and love to Richard

Is a strange brooch in this all-hating world.

Track 6 Mad world! Mad kings! mad composition (Bastard from King John)

Mad world! mad kings! mad composition!
John, to stop Arthur’s title in the whole,
Hath willingly departed with a part,
And France, whose armour conscience buckled on,
Whom zeal and charity brought to the field
As God’s own soldier, rounded in the ear
With that same purpose-changer, that sly devil,
That broker, that still breaks the pate of faith,
That daily break-vow, he that wins of all,
Of kings, of beggars, old men, young men, maids,
Who, having no external thing to lose
But the word ‘maid,’ cheats the poor maid of that,
That smooth-faced gentleman, tickling Commodity,
Commodity, the bias of the world,
The world, who of itself is peised well,
Made to run even upon even ground,
Till this advantage, this vile-drawing bias,
This sway of motion, this Commodity,
Makes it take head from all indifferency,
From all direction, purpose, course, intent:
And this same bias, this Commodity,
This bawd, this broker, this all-changing word,
Clapp’d on the outward eye of fickle France,
Hath drawn him from his own determined aid,
From a resolved and honourable war,
To a most base and vile-concluded peace.
And why rail I on this Commodity?
But for because he hath not woo’d me yet:
Not that I have the power to clutch my hand,
When his fair angels would salute my palm;
But for my hand, as unattempted yet,
Like a poor beggar, raileth on the rich.
Well, whiles I am a beggar, I will rail
And say there is no sin but to be rich;
And being rich, my virtue then shall be
To say there is no vice but beggary.
Since kings break faith upon commodity,
Gain, be my lord, for I will worship thee.

 

Track 7. If it were done when ‘tis done (Macbeth)

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well

It were done quickly: if the assassination

Could trammel up the consequence, and catch

With his surcease success; that but this blow

Might be the be-all and the end-all here,

But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,

We’ld jump the life to come. But in these cases

We still have judgment here; that we but teach

Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return

To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice

Commends the ingredients of our poison’d chalice

To our own lips. He’s here in double trust;

First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,

Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,

Who should against his murderer shut the door,

Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his great office, that his virtues

Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against

The deep damnation of his taking-off;

And pity, like a naked new-born babe,

Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, horsed

Upon the sightless couriers of the air,

Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,

That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself

And falls on the other.

Track 8. Go call the Earls of Surrey and of Warwick; (Henry IV from Henry IV Part 2)

Go call the Earls of Surrey and of Warwick;

But, ere they come, bid them o’er-read these letters,

And well consider of them; make good speed.

Exit Page

How many thousand of my poorest subjects

Are at this hour asleep! O sleep, O gentle sleep,

Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,

That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down

And steep my senses in forgetfulness?

Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,

Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee

And hush’d with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,

Than in the perfumed chambers of the great,

Under the canopies of costly state,

And lull’d with sound of sweetest melody?

O thou dull god, why liest thou with the vile

In loathsome beds, and leavest the kingly couch

A watch-case or a common ‘larum-bell?

Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast

Seal up the ship-boy’s eyes, and rock his brains

In cradle of the rude imperious surge

And in the visitation of the winds,

Who take the ruffian billows by the top,

Curling their monstrous heads and hanging them

With deafening clamour in the slippery clouds,

That, with the hurly, death itself awakes?

Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose

To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,

And in the calmest and most stillest night,

With all appliances and means to boot,

Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

 

TRACK 9. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; (Henry V)

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;

Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;

Let pry through the portage of the head

Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it

As fearfully as doth a galled rock

O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,

Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.

Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,

Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit

To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.

Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!

Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,

Have in these parts from morn till even fought

And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:

Dishonour not your mothers; now attest

That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.

Be copy now to men of grosser blood,

And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,

Whose limbs were made in England, show us here

The mettle of your pasture; let us swear

That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;

For there is none of you so mean and base,

That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

 

Track 10. To be, or not to be: that is the question; (Hamlet)

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover’d country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action. – Soft you now!

The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remember’d.

 

 

Track 11. What must the king do now? (Richard II)

What must the king do now? must he submit?

The king shall do it: must he be deposed?

The king shall be contented: must he lose

The name of king? o’ God’s name, let it go:

I’ll give my jewels for a set of beads,

My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,

My gay apparel for an almsman’s gown,

My figured goblets for a dish of wood,

My sceptre for a palmer’s walking staff,

My subjects for a pair of carved saints

And my large kingdom for a little grave,

A little little grave, an obscure grave;

Or I’ll be buried in the king’s highway,

Some way of common trade, where subjects’ feet

May hourly trample on their sovereign’s head;

For on my heart they tread now whilst I live;

And buried once, why not upon my head?

Aumerle, thou weep’st, my tender-hearted cousin!

We’ll make foul weather with despised tears;

Our sighs and they shall lodge the summer corn,

And make a dearth in this revolting land.

Or shall we play the wantons with our woes,

And make some pretty match with shedding tears?

As thus, to drop them still upon one place,

Till they have fretted us a pair of graves

Within the earth; and, therein laid,–there lies

Two kinsmen digg’d their graves with weeping eyes.

Would not this ill do well? Well, well, I see

I talk but idly, and you laugh at me.

Most mighty prince, my Lord Northumberland,

 

 

Track 12. Methinks I am a prophet new inspired (John of Gaunt from Richard II)

Methinks I am a prophet new inspired

And thus expiring do foretell of him:

His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,

For violent fires soon burn out themselves;

Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;

He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;

With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder:

Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,

Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.

This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself

Against infection and the hand of war,

This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall,

Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happier lands,

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,

This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,

Fear’d by their breed and famous by their birth,

Renowned for their deeds as far from home,

For Christian service and true chivalry,

As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,

Of the world’s ransom, blessed Mary’s Son,

This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,

Dear for her reputation through the world,

Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,

Like to a tenement or pelting farm:

England, bound in with the triumphant sea

Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege

Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,

With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:

That England, that was wont to conquer others,

Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.

Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,

How happy then were my ensuing death!

 

 

TRACK 13. Why, lords, what wrongs are these! (Saturninus from Titus Andronicus)

Why, lords, what wrongs are these! was ever seen

An emperor in Rome thus overborne,

Troubled, confronted thus; and, for the extent

Of egal justice, used in such contempt?

My lords, you know, as know the mightful gods,

However these disturbers of our peace

Buz in the people’s ears, there nought hath pass’d,

But even with law, against the willful sons

Of old Andronicus. And what an if

His sorrows have so overwhelm’d his wits,

Shall we be thus afflicted in his wreaks,

His fits, his frenzy, and his bitterness?

And now he writes to heaven for his redress:

See, here’s to Jove, and this to Mercury;

This to Apollo; this to the god of war;

Sweet scrolls to fly about the streets of Rome!

What’s this but libelling against the senate,

And blazoning our injustice every where?

A goodly humour, is it not, my lords?

As who would say, in Rome no justice were.

But if I live, his feigned ecstasies

Shall be no shelter to these outrages:

But he and his shall know that justice lives

In Saturninus’ health, whom, if she sleep,

He’ll so awake as she in fury shall

Cut off the proud’st conspirator that lives.

 

TRACK 14. O that this too too sullied flesh would melt, (Hamlet)

O that this too too solid flesh would melt,

Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!

Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d

His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter!

O God! God! 
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable

Seem to me all the uses of this world!

Fie on’t! ah, fie! ‘Tis an unweeded garden

That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature

Possess it merely. That it should come to this!

But two months dead! Nay, not so much, not two.

So excellent a king, that was to this 
H

yperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother

That he might not beteem the winds of heaven

Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!

Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him

As if increase of appetite had grown

By what it fed on; and yet, within a month-

Let me not think on’t! Frailty, thy name is woman!-

A little month, or ere those shoes were old

With which she followed my poor father’s body

Like Niobe, all tears- why she, even she

(O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason

Would have mourn’d longer) married with my uncle;

My father’s brother, but no more like my father

Than I to Hercules. Within a month,

Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears

Had left the flushing in her galled eyes, 
She married.

O, most wicked speed, to post

With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!

It is not, nor it cannot come to good.

But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue!

 

 

TRACK 15. Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile, (Duke Senior from As You Like It)

Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,

Hath not old custom made this life more sweet

Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods

More free from peril than the envious court?

Here feel we not the penalty of Adam,

The seasons’ difference, as the icy fang

And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,

Which when it bites and blows upon my body

Even till I shrink with cold, I smile, and say

’This is no flattery. These are counsellors

That feelingly persuade me what I am.

’
Sweet are the uses of adversity

Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;

And this our life, exempt from public haunt,

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,

Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

 

 

TRACK 16. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, (Macbeth)

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

 

TRACK 17. What’s he that wishes so? (Henry V)

What’s he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:

We would not die in that man’s company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day: then shall our names.

Familiar in his mouth as household words

Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

 

 

TRACK 17  What’s he that wishes so? (Henry V)

What’s he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:

We would not die in that man’s company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day: then shall our names.

Familiar in his mouth as household words

Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

 

TRACK 18  Hear, Nature, hear!  (King Lear)

 

Hear, nature, hear; dear goddess, hear!

Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend

To make this creature fruitful.

Into her womb convey sterility,

Dry up in her the organs of increase,

And from her derogate body never spring

A babe to honour her. If she must teem,

Create her child of spleen; that it may live,

And be a thwart disnatured torment to her!

Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,

With cadent [accent] tears fret channels in her cheeks.

Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits

To laughter and contempt, that she may feel

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is

To have a thankless child! Away, away!

 

TRACK 19 How all occasions do inform against me, (Hamlet)

 

How all occasions do inform against me, (35)

And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,

If his chief good and market of his time

Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.

Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,

Looking before and after, gave us not (40)

That capability and god-like reason

To fust in us unused. Now, whether it be

Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple

Of thinking too precisely on the event,

A thought which, quarter’d, hath but one part wisdom (45)

And ever three parts coward, I do not know

Why yet I live to say ‘This thing’s to do;’

Sith I have cause and will and strength and means

To do’t. Examples gross as earth exhort me:

Witness this army of such mass and charge (50)

Led by a delicate and tender prince,

Whose spirit with divine ambition puff’d

Makes mouths at the invisible event,

Exposing what is mortal and unsure

To all that fortune, death and danger dare, (55)

Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great

Is not to stir without great argument,

But greatly to find quarrel in a straw

When honour’s at the stake. How stand I then,

That have a father kill’d, a mother stain’d, (60)

Excitements of my reason and my blood,

And let all sleep? while, to my shame, I see

The imminent death of twenty thousand men,

That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,

Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot (65)

Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,

Which is not tomb enough and continent

To hide the slain? O, from this time forth,

My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!

 

 

TRACK 20 Let me speak, sir, (Cranmer from Henry VIII)

 

Let me speak, sir,

For heaven now bids me; and the words I utter

Let none think flattery, for they’ll find ‘em truth.

This royal infant–heaven still move about her!–

Though in her cradle, yet now promises

Upon this land a thousand thousand blessings,

Which time shall bring to ripeness: she shall be–

But few now living can behold that goodness–

A pattern to all princes living with her,

And all that shall succeed: Saba was never

More covetous of wisdom and fair virtue

Than this pure soul shall be: all princely graces,

That mould up such a mighty piece as this is,

With all the virtues that attend the good,

Shall still be doubled on her: truth shall nurse her,

Holy and heavenly thoughts still counsel her:

She shall be loved and fear’d: her own shall bless her;

Her foes shake like a field of beaten corn,

And hang their heads with sorrow: good grows with her:

In her days every man shall eat in safety,

Under his own vine, what he plants; and sing

The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours:

God shall be truly known; and those about her

From her shall read the perfect ways of honour,

And by those claim their greatness, not by blood.

Nor shall this peace sleep with her: but as when

The bird of wonder dies, the maiden phoenix,

Her ashes new create another heir,

As great in admiration as herself;

So shall she leave her blessedness to one,

When heaven shall call her from this cloud of darkness,

Who from the sacred ashes of her honour

Shall star-like rise, as great in fame as she was,

And so stand fix’d: peace, plenty, love, truth, terror,

That were the servants to this chosen infant,

Shall then be his, and like a vine grow to him:

Wherever the bright sun of heaven shall shine,

His honour and the greatness of his name

Shall be, and make new nations: he shall flourish,

And, like a mountain cedar, reach his branches

To all the plains about him: our children’s children

Shall see this, and bless heaven.

 

 

TRACK 21 If music be the food of love, play on; (Duke Orsino from Twelfth Night)

If music be the food of love, play on;

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.

That strain again! it had a dying fall:

O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound,

That breathes upon a bank of violets,

Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:

‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before.

O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,

That, notwithstanding thy capacity

Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,

Of what validity and pitch soe’er,

But falls into abatement and low price,

Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy

That it alone is high fantastical.

 

TRACK 22 Now my charms are all o’erthrown, (Prospero from The Tempest)

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,

I must be here confined by you,

Or sent to Naples. Let me not,

Since I have my dukedom got

And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell

In this bare island by your spell;

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands:

Gentle breath of yours my sails

Must fill, or else my project fails,

Which was to please. Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults

Mercy itself and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardon’d be,

Let your indulgence set me free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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