March 04, 2010

Shakespeare's Greatest Speeches

John Singer Sargent's "Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth"

Washington D.C. Theatre is sponsoring a contest: Vote for your favorite Shakespeare speech.

The entries are somewhat predictable; the comedies are only slightly represented, and one of them is by the melancholic Jacques, so it hardly counts. My sentimental favorite is, of course, Crispin's Day. But if I had to vote, I'd have to pick Lady Macbeth's speech in Act 1, scene 5:
The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature’s mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry ‘Hold, hold!’

Interestingly, there are no Hamlet soliloquies in the running.

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