William Sterling

Music and Art Inspired by Shakespeare 2


No. 2: Love’s Labours

Some Music and Art inspired by Shakespeare’s great love stories, especially Romeo and Juliet but also Othello, Much Ado About Nothing and others.

Opening Music – Opening of Act III of Prokofiev’s Ballet “Romeo and Juliet”

That music is not the most conventional for a love scene but the dramatic chords echo Romeo’s plight after he has killed Juliet’s cousin Tybalt in a duel following Tybalt’s slaying of Romeo’s friend Mercutio. Romeo knows that this condemns him at best to exile, never to see Juliet again, or at worse, death. Prokofiev’s is probably the best ballet music inspired by Shakespeare and one of the most dramatic scores ever. The story also inspired Gounod’s second most popular opera (after Faust).

My wife and I are celebrating our anniversary on this trip along with some of you I imagine. Others may be on their honeymoon or single and looking for romance so I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate Shakespeare’s interest in lovers.

Music – Part of the ending Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture “Romeo and Juliet” with the famous love theme, the conflict theme and the Friar Lawrence theme transformed into a dramatic statement.

Probably his most famous love story is the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet. Fated to belong to the opposite sides in a war between two families in Verona based on the real hatred between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines in Florence and elsewhere which had started in the 13th century and raged up to about 1500. Romeo and Juliet marry in secret but events conspire against them and their tragic ending is well known. It is one of the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays for artists, particularly Juliet waiting for Romeo and the balcony scene where Romeo and Juliet declare their feelings for each other, and especially for 19th century artists. Ford Madox Brown was a follower of the Pre-Raphaelites and well known for his history paintings. Artists inspired by Juliet alone include George Dawe (Royal Academician (RA) in 1814), Thomas Dicksee (who painted many of Shakespeare’s heroines, with two versions for Dundee and Sunderland), French-born Philip Hermogenes Calderon (RA 1867), William Waterhouse (RA 1895, another follower of the Pre-Raphaelites) and William Hatherell. The balcony scene inspired, as well as Madox Brown and others, Richard Dadd (the artist who went mad, killed his dad and ended up in an asylum painting mystical and magical works) and Sir Frank Dicksee (RA 1891, son of Thomas).

Juliet’s nurse provides some comic relief in the tragedy and inspired Henry Perronet Briggs (RA 1832), Roddam Spencer Stanhope and John Masey Wright. In the first talk I mentioned the symphony by Berlioz inspired by Romeo and Juliet and how the only named character was Friar Lawrence. Berlioz considered his role in trying to reconcile the warring families to be the pivotal part of the story. He features in many paintings of the play, especially the clandestine marriage, including those by Henry Bunbury, the Italian Francesco Hayez, the German Carl Becker, William Hatherell and Scotsman John Pettie (RA 1873). Mercutio’s death is one of the highly dramatic events in the play and produced some great music in Prokofiev’s ballet but little art. The American born Edward Austin Abbey (RA 1898) was one of the few to paint this scene. The drama quickly unfolds after this: Romeo kills Tybalt, has one last night with Juliet (depicted by Hayez in the Last Kiss), and Friar Lawrence comes up with the risky scheme of Juliet’s sham death (depicted by Lord Leighton – RA 1868), Romeo hears of her death without receiving the message about the deception and finds Count Paris at the tomb, killing him in the resulting duel (depicted by Fuseli who also painted Romeo gazing on the body of his wife). Friar Lawrence arrives too late to stop Romeo taking poison just as Juliet wakes (painted by James Northcote – RA 1787). Finally, after Juliet stabs herself the two families discover what their feud has caused and a reconciliation takes place in the tomb (painted by Pre-Raphaelite leader Sir John Everett Millais (RA 1863) and Lord Leighton).

Other lovers whose names form the title of plays are Antony and Cleopatra and Troilus and Cressida. They also end in tragedy but not after some very moving scenes together. Antony commits suicide after he thinks Cleopatra has killed herself and she commits suicide rather than be taken prisoner so that she can be reunited with Antony in the afterlife. Among the works of art this inspired is Cleopatra in pensive mood by William Waterhouse who was particularly interested in Shakespeare’s heroines such as Ophelia, Juliet and Miranda. Dutch born Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (RA 1879) was a great history painter and imagined the first meeting of Antony and Cleopatra with considerable drama. The much admired sculptress Anne Seymour Conway, Mrs Damer, produced a bas relief of a dignified Cleopatra with Antony’s body and French artist Alexandre Bida depicted the moment before as Antony died in Cleopatra’s lap. Her dramatic death poisoned by an asp also inspired artists such as Thomas Dicksee, who showed the moment before she was bitten, and Reginald Arthur, the moment itself. Not many composers have been inspired by this play but Hector Berlioz’s cantata on the Death of Cleopatra was probably based on his reaction to Shakespeare even if the words were not taken from the play and American Samuel Barber, best known for his romantic Adagio for Strings, composed an opera based on it in 1966. The redoubtable Dame Ethel Smyth composed a Concert Overture based on the play which is now sadly neglected as is the “Tragic Poem For Orchestra, The Vision of Cleopatra” by Havergal Brian. The Song “Come Thou Monarch of the Vine” has been set by a number of composers, notably Franz Schubert.

Music – Chorus on Cleopatra’s Death from Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra

Troilus is mortified when he finds that Cressida has forsaken him but the play ends with their relationship unresolved. In Homer Troilus is killed before the end of the war so can never be reunited with Cressida. If the play is named after both of you there is an unhappy ending in store. Few artists have been inspired by the play but the duplicitous Cressida has been shown by Sir Edward Poynter (RA 1876), John Opie (RA 1788), Frenchman Jean-Michel Moreau, Fuseli and Kauffmann at various stages in her duplicity. Walton’s opera “Troilus and Cressida” is based on Chaucer but his widow acknowledged that he was also inspired by Shakespeare as he was for several film scores with Laurence Olivier.

Even if it is named after the hero only it can end badly. Othello ends up believing lies about his wife Desdemona and kills her only to commit suicide when he discovers he has been tricked. Hamlet’s affair with Ophelia is doomed in a different way but I will cover that later. Like Romeo and Juliet the doomed love affair between Othello and Desdemona has inspired many artists. Their initial meeting has been painted by Frenchman Théodore Chassériau (follower of that most romantic of painters, Eugène Delacroix), Irishman Daniel Maclise (RA 1840), William Powell Frith (RA 1852), friend of Dadd and Dickens, in an unusually intimate painting for someone famous for his crowd scenes such as “Derby Day,” “Ramsgate Sands” and “The Railway Station,” James Clarke Hook (RA 1860) and German Carl Becker who included Desdemona’s father listening to Othello’s adventures. Delacroix painted the dramatic moment when Desdemona was cursed by her father, a curse that was all too effective. Holman Hunt chose the unusual subject of Bianca, lover of Cassio, the innocent victim that Iago persuades Othello Desdemona has been unfaithful with. The denouement with Desdemona contemplating her destiny was imagined by Chassériau, the third of the leading Pre-Raphaelites, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lord Leighton and Spaniard Antonio Muñoz Degrain. She sings the Willow Song before retiring to bed, a song set by several composers including Hubert Parry, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (who also wrote a suite based on his incidental music to the play), Ralph Vaughan Williams, Erich Korngold and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Desdemona on her deathbed either asleep or after being suffocated by her deceived husband is the topic of artists including Brazilian Rodolfo Amoedo, Hungarian Adolphe Weisz, German Christian Köhler, Degrain, Frenchman Alexandre-Marie Colin, Delacroix and William Salter.

Music – Funeral March from Coleridge-Taylor’s Othello Suite conducted by Sir Malcom Sargent

Othello also inspired two of the greatest Italian opera composers, Rossini and Verdi with the Italian title “Otello”. Verdi’s was his penultimate opera and like his final opera, Falstaff based on The Merry Wives of Windsor, is considered a late masterpiece with beautifully adapted libretto by Arrigo Boito, himself a talented composer and librettist much earlier of the less well known “Amletto,” based on Hamlet and set to music by Franco Faccio. Orchestral works inspired by Othello include an overture by Dvořák, a Symphonic Poem by fellow Czech Zdeněk Fibich, and another overture by their older contemporary Swiss-born Joachim Raff, much admired in its day.

If the play does not mention your name you are more likely to live happily ever after. In All’s Well That Ends Well, Helena loves Bertram but he thinks he is above her (much like Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice but Shakespeare’s influence on other writers is a whole different lecture series). After swapping places with Diana, a lady Bertram is intent on seducing, Helena succeeds in trapping Bertram – ridiculous promises and the obtaining of a ring also are involved. As early as 1793 Francis Wheatley painted the scene where Bertram first rejects Helena but few artists have followed suit. The play has yet to inspire many composers and Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s opera based on it (one of two based on Shakespeare, the other being The Merchant of Venice, out of five operas) has yet to be performed.

In As You Like It Rosalind loves Orlando and he loves her but does not recognise her when she appears in disguise as Ganymede and he discusses how he can woo Rosalind with his new “male” friend. Shakespeare often liked the deception of a male actor playing a woman playing a man which adds to the comedy for his audiences. The play within a play is a device Shakespeare used frequently, sometimes just two of the characters acting out an imaginary scene rather than an actual play. One complication is that Ganymede has an admirer in Phoebe, with whom Silvius is in love. Touchstone the clown (who has fled into exile with Rosalind (Ganymede) and Celia (disguised as Aliena)) has fallen in love with Audrey who already has an admirer called William. Aliena (Celia) meanwhile falls in love with Oliver, Orlando’s older brother who has repented forcing him into exile. In the end after much confusion and misunderstandings (not least by the audience) there are four weddings (but no funerals). The mock marriage was painted by Walter Howell Deverell, Orlando pinning poems to a tree by Irishman Hugh Thomson and Rosalind reading them dressed as Ganymede by Scotsman Robert Walker Macbeth (RA 1903). Philip Richard Morris (Associate Royal Academician (ARA) 1877) chose unusually to depict one of the minor characters, Audrey.

Musically, apart from a couple of early operatic ventures by Sir Henry Bishop (whose most famous song “Lo, here the gentle lark” is taken from Venus and Adonis another love story but a long poem rather than a play) and Italian Francesco Veracini (“Rosalinda”), it is three songs that have inspired many composers: “Blow, blow thou winter wind,” “It was a lover and his lass” and “Under the Greenwood tree.” The long list includes Thomas Morley, Thomas Arne, Hubert Parry, Roger Quilter, Erich Korngold, Madeleine Dring, Gerald Finzi, Peter Warlock, Ivor Gurney, Herbert Howells, Edward German, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ralph Vaughan Williams and William Walton. American composer John Knowles Paine also wrote a Concert Overture.

Cymbeline is based on a real Bronze Age British king called Cunobelinus who had dealings with the Romans but is an entirely fictitious story with the heroine being his daughter Imogen. She secretly marries Posthumus exchanging a bracelet and a ring. Her father is furious as his sons have been abducted as children and he wants Imogen to marry someone of royal descent to succeed him. Cymbeline’s wife is a cross between the Empress Livia and Snowwhite’s stepmother. She wants Imogen to marry her son Cloten to secure her position and then poisons both Cymbeline and Imogen. In exile in Italy Posthumus agrees with Iachimo to allow him to try to seduce Imogen and acquire her bracelet as proof. He steals the bracelet and Posthumus gives him the ring whilst plotting to kill Imogen. She escapes to Wales and disguises herself as a boy called Fidele. Cloten disguises himself as Posthumus to meet up with Imogen who has met up with her lost brothers, not knowing who they are. One of them fights Cloten and beheads him. Fidele (Imogen) has become ill and is thought to be dead. He/She is laid next to the headless Cloten and wakes to see a headless corpse dressed as her husband Posthumus – very shocking. Meanwhile the Romans have invaded Britain and are defeated. The queen dies of grief but confessed her crimes on her deathbed. The ring trick is also revealed, Cymbeline is reunited with his sons so is happy for Imogen to be married to Posthumus. Not a conventional love story but it does have a happy ending. The character of Imogen has attracted a number of artists including Scotsman John Faed, Henry Justice Ford, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (with a portrait of actress Ellen Terry in the role), German Wilhelm Ferdinand Souchon (apparently showing the mole that Iachimo spied on the sleeping Imogen though close examination on my part has failed to reveal it so far), American born Louis Rhead (somewhat more modestly) and English born of a German father Herbert Gustave Schmalz (or Carmichael as he called himself after the First World War) who imagined Imogen in belligerent male disguise.

Like As You Like It, Cymbeline’s songs have been more influential on composers than as a larger work: “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun” (sung over Imogen when she is thought to have died) and “Hark, Hark! The Lark” (sung as an entertainment when Cloten is trying to woo Imogen). Finzi, Quilter, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Vaughan Williams are among those who set the former and Schubert is the most famous setter of the latter, along with Warlock and Shakespeare’s contemporary Robert Johnson.

The play that I borrowed the title from, Love’s Labour’s Lost, is a sort of love story. Ferdinand King of Navarre and three of his courtiers have taken a vow to devote themselves to study and fasting rather than the pleasures of female company. Predictably this vow is short lived but in the meantime the king chastises a servant called Costard for making love to Jacquenetta. The Princess of France arrives with three companions and it does not take long for the king to fall for her and his companions for hers. After donning disguises as Muscovites the men woo the women who have also put on disguises. There is then a pageant of the None Worthies to entertain them but all is interrupted when it is announced that the princess’s father has died and she has to return. All avow to wait a year before resuming their relationships so there is not really a happy ending. The play has inspired very little art or music although two songs “If Love Make Me Forsworn” and “When Icicles Hang By the Wall” were illustrated by Sir John Gilbert in a collection of songs published in 1901 after his death. The latter is just about the last thing in the play following another song “When Daisies Pied and Violets Blue.” These last two songs have been set by many composers including Arne, Dring, Finzi, Warlock, Quilter and Vaughan Williams as well as Shakespeare’s contemporary William Byrd and more surprisingly Igor Stravinsky.

Measure for Measure is also classed as a comedy but with few laughs and serious overtones. The Duke of Vienna Vincentio wants to find out how his dukedom is running so pretends to leave with his strict judge Angelo in charge. He remains in disguise (as Friar Lodowick) to observe events. Angelo has decided to enforce a law which states that fornicators will be put to death. This is bad news for Mistress Overdone, the brothel keeper, and her pimp, Pompey Bum. Even worse for Claudio who has married Julietta but failed to complete all the paperwork before she falls pregnant and is condemned to death. Claudio’s sister Isabella, a novice nun, pleads for his life but Angelo agrees only if she will yield her virginity to him. Isabella visits Claudio and tells him to prepare for death. Friar Lodowick (Duke Vincentio) suggests Isabella agree to Angelo’s demand but swap places with his former betrothed Mariana whom he has abandoned after her dowry was lost at sea. Despite this Angelo still insists on Claudio’s execution and demands his head. Fortunately, a pirate called Ragozine who looks like Claudio has died of a fever so his head is sent to Angelo. Eventually the duke reveals his true identity and condemns Angelo to death only relenting when both Mariana and Isabella plead for him. The dilemma faced by Isabella has been a productive source of inspiration for artists including William Hamilton, William Holman Hunt (in one of his most famous paintings now in the Tate) and Francis William Topham. Mariana has also been an inspiration to artists such as Philip Calderon and Sir John Millais, albeit in the latter’s case via Tennyson. Calderon’s painting illustrates the one well known song from the play “Take, O Take, Those Lips Away” sung to Mariana and set by composers such as the Americans Amy Beach and Rebecca Clarke as well as Bishop, Parry, Quilter, Dring, Warlock, American Virgil Thomson and Edmund Rubbra. The most important attempt at an opera on the subject was by none other than Richard Wagner as “Das Liebesverbot oder Die Novize von Palermo.” An early work it is not performed often but the overture is surprisingly cheerful with lavish use of the triangle.

The Merchant of Venice is chiefly about Shylock and his relationship with Antonio but has two important sub plots with love interest: Jessica and Lorenzo, and Bassanio and Portia. Bassanio needs money to woo Portia and asks his friend Antonio (the eponymous Merchant of Venice). He does not have funds at present but is willing to stand surety if the Jew Shylock will lend the money. Shylock and Antonio are enemies and Shylock agrees on condition Antonio gives him a pound of flesh if he fails to pay back by a certain date. Bassanio woos Portia, successfully choosing the right casket when offered three to choose from in an unlikely test of her suitors insisted on by Portia’s wealthy father. Shylock’s daughter Jessica has eloped with a Christian, Lorenzo and converted which enrages Shylock even more so when Antonio fails to pay back the loan he insists on his pound of flesh. The case goes to court where a mysterious lawyer appears on Antonio’s behalf – Portia disguised as a man, Balthazar. Having failed to appeal to Shylock’s merciful side she tells him to go ahead but mind he spills no blood and take exactly a pound. He admits defeat but Balthazar accuses him of threatening a Venetian’s life and he should be condemned to death. The Duke pardons him on condition he converts to Christianity and endows his fortune on Jessica and Lorenzo. There is also some nonsense about rings and Portia is reunited with Bassanio. Like other Shakespeare heroines both Jessica and Portia have inspired artists: the former includes three Academicians Joseph Mallord William Turner (RA 1802), William Quiller Orchardson (RA 1877) and Edwardian favourite Sir Luke Fildes (RA 1887) as well as Polish artist Maurycy Gottlieb; the latter includes American born Washington Allston (ARA 1818), Millais (portraying actress Kate Dolan) and Henry Woods (RA 1893).

Two moderately successful operas based on The Merchant of Venice are Czech Johann Bohuslav Foerster (called “Jessika”) and Frenchman Reynaldo Hahn (“Le Marchand de Venise”) and incidental music by Sir Arthur Sullivan, Engelbert Humperdinck, Dag Wirén and Gabriel Fauré (“Shylock”) is still performed from time to time. The song “Tell Me Where Is Fancy Bred” has been set by Benjamin Britten, François Poulenc, Thomson and Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

The Merry Wives of Windsor could also be interpreted as a love story. The hero (or anti-hero) is Sir John Falstaff. He has already appeared in Henry IV parts 1 and 2 as the unruly companion of the Prince of Wales, Hal, later Henry V and Queen Elizabeth I loved the character so much Shakespeare wrote the play especially for her. Falstaff is short of funds as usual and decides to court two wealthy married women Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. Sending them identical letters is a mistake as they compare them and decide to have some fun with him. Both their husbands find out about Falstaff’s intentions but whereas Page is unconcerned Ford is fiercely jealous and disguises himself as Master Brook to try and trap his wife. Meanwhile Page’s daughter Anne is pursued by three suitors, one favoured by her mother, one by her father and one by her. Falstaff’s first assignation ends with him hiding in a laundry basket which is dumped in the river. The second ends with him disguising himself as the fat woman of Brentford whom Ford hates and beats ‘her’ out of the house. The third assignation is by the oak in Windsor Forest and Falstaff has to dress as Herne the Hunter. He is attacked by children dressed as fairies and in the confusion of disguises Anne and her preferred suitor, Fenton, are married. All ends well and even Falstaff can laugh at the jokes played on him.

Falstaff’s attempts to woo the ladies attracted some artists such as George Clint (ARA 1821) as did the tricks with the buck (laundry) basket (Fuseli) and the fat woman of Brentford disguise (James Durno). James Stephanoff imagined Falstaff as Herne the Hunter in Windsor Park. Thomas Dicksee and George Dunlop Leslie (RA 1876) preferred to paint the beautiful Anne Page whereas Leslie’s father Charles Robert Leslie (RA 1826) painted her with her father’s favourite suitor, Slender, as did Richard Parkes Bonnington. This paly has fared better with composers than some with Verdi’s “Falstaff” being one of the supreme operas inspired by Shakespeare. Mozart’s great rival Antonio Salieri had earlier had a hit with an opera of the same name. Michael Balfe and Adolphe Adam also tried their hand at an operatic version and Otto Nicolai’s “Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor” enjoyed success with its overture often played as a separate concert work. Ralph Vaughan Williams never succeeded as an operatic composer but his “Sir John In Love” has some fine music in it. Holst’s opera “At The Boar’s Head” and Elgar’s Symphonic Study “Falstaff” are both based on Henry IV not The Merry Wives.

Midsummer Night’s Dream is all about love but this is for the next lecture. Much Ado About Nothing has two loving couples. Claudio loves Hero and, unknown to themselves at first, Benedick loves Beatrice. Claudio and Benedick have been fighting for Don Pedro and the troops arrive at Leonato’s house to stay after their battle. Leonato’s daughter Hero loves Claudio and his older niece has a well-known ‘merry war’ with Benedick. Claudio and Hero arrange to marry but Pedro’s wicked brother Don John tricks Claudio into thinking Hero unfaithful and he condemns her at the wedding. She faints and it is reported that she has died. Claudio finds out he has been duped and is mortified that he has caused her death. Meanwhile Leonato and his family trick Benedick and Beatrice to thinking that each is in love with the other. They fall for it and then realise they have been in love all along. Beatrice persuades Benedick to challenge Claudio to a duel but he instead is persuaded to marry Hero’s ‘cousin.’ At the ceremony she is revealed to be Hero who has not died and all are happy. Marcus Stone (RA 1887) and Irishman Alfred Elmore (RA 1857) were inspired by the dramatic scene when Claudio condemns Hero at their wedding. Sir John Gilbert portrayed the song “Sigh No More, Ladies” and both Thomas and his son Sir Frank Dicksee chose to paint Beatrice. John Sutcliffe depicted the moment Beatrice is tricked over Benedick by her cousin Hero and her maid Ursula and the comic lovers have been painted as depicted by great actors such as Ellen Terry and Henry Irving and Herbert Beerbohm Tree and Winifred Emery (by Max Cowper).

The finest opera on Much Ado is Berlioz’s late work “Béatrice et Bénédict” which has been part of the Glyndebourne season this year as part of the Shakespeare celebrations. Sir Charles Villiers Stanford also wrote an opera based on it but with less success. Both Korngold’s and German’s incidental music was somewhat more successful and the song “Sigh No More, Ladies” has been set by several composers including Quilter, Thomson, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Warlock.

Like The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Taming of the Shrew is a somewhat unconventional love story. This is the longest example of a play within a play so it is unlikely that Shakespeare intends us to accept it as a true story. Baptista Minola of Padua has two daughters, the shrew Katherine and the meek Bianca. Baptista has vowed that Bianca cannot marry till Katherine is wed. She has three suitors, one of whom, Lucentio, disguises himself as a tutor to gain close access to Bianca. One of the others, Hortensio, recruits his friend Petruchio to the task of wooing Katherine. He succeeds and takes her back to his home in Verona where he treats her very badly in order to tame her. Lucentio marries Bianca secretly and Hortensio finds a rich widow to marry. The fianl scene shows Katherine obedient to her husband whilst the others are not suggesting that her marriage will be the happiest of the three for both her and Petruchio. Katherine has been painted by Edward Hughes and Edwin Long (RA 1881) as well as drawn in belligerent mood by Louis Rhead. Sir James Drogmole Linton, an artist favoured by Queen Victoria, painted her with Petruchio and scenes from the play have been painted by Washington Allston, Augustus Egg (RA 1860), the Germans Carl Gerhts and Wolfgang Boehm, and drawn by Arthur Rackham. Several less well known composers havea ttempted operas based on this play of which the best is probably “Sly” by Ernesto Wolf-Ferrari and it was also the subject of one of Castelnuovo-Tadesco’s Shakespearean Symphonic Poems, “La Bisbetica Domata.”

In Twelfth Night Orsino loves (or thinks he loves) Olivia, Viola (disguised as Cesario) loves Orsino but Olivia loves (or thinks she loves) Cesario (unknowing he is a she) but then falls for Cesario’s (I mean Viola’s) twin, Sebastian. Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a friend of Olivia’s uncle Sir Toby Belch, also thinks he loves Olivia, and Malvolio, Olivia’s steward, is tricked into thinking Olivia loves him. In the end Orsino gets Viola, Olivia gets Sebastian and Sir Toby gets Maria (Olivia’s clever maid). At the start of the play Olivia is in mourning for her brother and this is how Edmund Blair Leighton painted her. Walter Howell Deverell painted her would be suitor, Orsino, listening to Feste sing whilst Viola (Cesario) looks longingly at her would be lover. Frederick Pickersgill was also inspired the love triangle with Viola trying to resist Orsino and Olivia for different reasons. William Powell Frith also liked this dilemma showing the moment when Olivia first realised she was attracted to Cesario (Viola) and drops her mourning outfit. Daniel Maclise was more interested in Malvolio trying to impress Olivia dressed in cross garters as requested in the letter forged by Maria knowing her mistress hated this fashion. William Hamilton showed the moment Olivia proposed to who she thought was Cesario but is her brother Sebastian, who surprisingly accepts this proposal from a stranger. Still in her wedding dress Olivia is painted by George Clint stopping a duel between her new husband and her uncle who has mistaken Sebastian for the timid Cesario.

Feste, the melancholy clown who serves Olivia but also entertains Orsino, sings several songs, three of which “O Mistress Mine,” “Come Away, Death” and at the very end of the play “Hey, Ho, The Wind And The Rain” which have been set variously by several composers including Morley, Arne, Finzi, Stanford, Parry, Sullivan, Warlock, Vaughan Williams, Dring, Beach, Coleridge-Taylor, Percy Grainger, Korngold, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Quilter as well as Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Jan Sibelius. Joseph Haydn also set one of Viola’s speeches as the song “She Never Told Her Love.” Czech composer Bedrich Smetana wrote an opera based on the play called “Viola” and Incidental Music was composed by Humperdinck and Scot Sir Alexander MacKenzie.

Music – “Come Away, Come Away, Death” by Gerald Finzi sung by Bryn Terfel.

Two Gentlemen of Verona is also a love story. The two gentlemen are Valentine and Proteus. Valentine wants to leave Verona to broaden his horizons but Proteus is in love with Julia and wants to stay. His father orders him to go to Milan to join Valentine and Proteus and Julia exchange rings before he departs. In Milan Silvia, the duke’s daughter has three suitors including Valentine and the faithless Proteus. When Proteus tells the duke of Valentine’s plan to elope with Silvia, Valentine is banished and joins a band of outlaws. Meanwhile Julia has come to Milan disguised as Sebastian and realises Proteus is two-timing her, even getting her to try and woo Silvia with the ring Julia gave him. Silvia loves Valentine so runs into the forest and is captured by the outlaws. Proteus rescues her but is unwilling to accept she is in love with Valentine who then appears and rescues her from Proteus. Sebastian reveals he is really Julia and Proteus realises how badly he has behaved and reavows his love for Julia. Finally Silvia’s father is captured but is persuaded to let her marry Valentine and he pardons all the outlaws into the bargain. Silvia has been painted many times in various parts of the story by Italian born Charles Edward Perugini, Edward Austin Abbey, Alfred Elmore, Henry Perronet Briggs, Henry James Haley, Angelica Kauffmann, Francis Wheatley and William Holman Hunt, the last three in the dramatic rescue by Valentine before Proteus can force himself on her. I think Shakespeare used the word “gentlemen” ironically. Silvia also inspired one of the most famous songs of all time Schubert’s “An Silvia” – “Was ist Silvia, saget an?” (“Who is Silvia, What is She?”) The words have also inspired Arne, Bishop, Quilter, Finzi and Castelnuovo-Tedesco as well as Shakespeare’s contemporary English born son of an Italian musician and spy, Alfonso Ferrabosco the Younger.

A Winter’s Tale is perhaps the oddest love story. King Polixenes of Bohemia has been staying with his friend Leontes King of Sicilia but wants to return home. Leontes sends his wife Hermione to persuade Polixenes to stay but when she succeeds Leontes suspects her of having an affair with Polixenes and goes mad with jealousy. Polixenes escapes but Hermione is imprisoned. She gives birth to a daughter but Leontes believes it to be illegitimate so orders it to be exposed. When the Delphi oracle proclaims Hermione innocent Leontes does not believe it, she faints and is reported dead at which point Leontes regains his reason and realises what he has done and needs to find his daughter. Meanwhile she has been named Perdita and abandoned on the coast of Bohemia (Shakespeare clearly did not study Geography) with gold and trinkets. Antigonus, who has left her there, is wrecked in a storm and then pursued and eaten by a bear. 16 years pass and Perdita has been adopted by a shepherd. Prince Florizel, Polixenes’s son has fallen in love with her and disguised as a shepherd (Doricles) is betrothed to Perdita. Polixenes, disguised, has seen it and forbids the match so Florizel and Perdita take ship for Sicilia. Polixenes has followed them and all are reconciled with Leontes. Hermione has been hiding at the home of her friend, Paulina, and now pretends to be a statue. When Leontes sees her he is overcome and suddenly the statue comes to life to give a happy ending.

Frederick Sandys painted Perdita and Charles Leslie showed her with Florizel. He also painted one of the lesser characters, Autolycus, selling trinkets to admiring ladies. I do not have much art from this play but thought I would end with two illustrations, one of Hermione’s statue coming to life and one of Antigonus exiting pursued by a bear, one of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions. I included this as one of you commented to me that there were no bears in the talk by one of my fellow lecturers the other day on The Russian Bear. There are several songs in A Winter’s Tale including “When Daffodils Begin To Peer” which has been set by John Ireland and Roger Quilter as well as Shakespeare’s contemporary Anthony Holborne. Max Bruch’s opera “Hermione” is based on the play and Engelbert Humperdinck wrote Incidental Music for it.

In the next talk we return to love with A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the title of the talk is “Midsummer Dreams” inspired by the fact that we are here during midsummer which is an important festival for the Swedes.

Below is a printable PDF copy of the slides.

Lecture 2 slides to print

These episodes from Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time might be of interest

Shakespeare’s Work

Shakespeare’s Life

Is Shakespeare history? The Romans