Sunday, May 24, 2020

Art is Essential: Shakespeare in Quarantine

Critical Read put out a call recently for short nonfiction posts about art that is seeing you through the pandemic. They rejected my submission, but were kind about it and invited me to submit something else, with a focus on an American artist. I probably will. In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out the posts on their site (and, of course, mine below).

Shakespeare in Quarantine

I often turn to poetry when my soul is troubled, especially older, metered poetry. The rhythm soothes me while the language pulls me out of my here and now and transports me to another time and place. This time, it’s Shakespeare seeing me through the quarantine.

Shakespeare’s birthday, April 23, is also the day that my husband and I had our first date, on which we watched a movie production of one of the Bard’s plays, 10 Things I Hate About You. We’ve made a tradition of celebrating our anniversary with a Shakespearean performance every year since as near to the day as we can manage, live when possible, recorded when not.

So, it seems apropos that it is Shakespeare in a thoroughly modern context that is pulling me through right now. Each day, I wait for Patrick Stewart to upload his daily sonnet video to social media and I find a quiet space to sit and listen alone, just me and Sir Patrick and the day’s verse. As I write this, he’s been recording a sonnet a day for nearly two months.

He began with Sonnet 116 “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments” which of course, I already loved. I fell in love with it when I first read it as an undergrad, and again when Kate Winslet’s Marianne of Sense and Sensibility quoted it breathlessly, and yet again when Sir Patrick Stewart read it to his wife who held a phone to record the moment for us.

Words written more than four hundred years ago are performed for me by a spaceship captain in the privacy of my own home. What a gift!


What art is seeing you through quarantine? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!


  1. Hi Samantha, I Really enjoyed this post and your sharing. I too have been listening to Patrick! There are so many wonderful sharings and readings going on that one can seek comfort from. I find these sonnets very peace inducing. My granddaughter and I are reading Harry Potter to each other (she's 10) but I hear there are a group of actors reading it aloud. There is something for everyone at the moment. It is a lovely response to the current situation.
    with love

    1. Yes! I'm also loving Yo-Yo Ma's mini concerts.