Yes this is my 100th post since I started The Shakespeare Blog just over six months ago. It’s a good time to reassess the site, and over the past week I’ve been planning a few changes which will go live in the next few days. I hope you’ll enjoy them: as well as the blog there will a new front page where you’ll find links to new pages and easier ways of locating past blogs.
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I can’t write a post without including a bit of Shakespeare, and because it’s Remembrance Weekend, this is Talbot’s dying speech, from one of his early plays, Henry VI Part 1. Talbot is a great military hero who goes into battle alongside his young son John against the French. John is killed and his father mortally wounded. Much later in his career Shakespeare wrote another scene in which a father dies grieving over the body of his dead child. I’m referring of course to the final scene of King Lear. The scene in Lear is a far more accomplished piece of writing, but this speech, especially the last four lines, is moving too.
Thou antic Death, which laugh’st us here to scorn,
Anon, from thy insulting tyranny,
Coupled in bonds of perpetuity,
Two Talbots winged through the lither sky,
In thy despite shall scape mortality….
Poor boy! He smiles, methinks, as who should say,
Had Death been French, then Death had died to-day.
Come, come, and lay him in his father’s arms:
My spirit can no longer bear these harms.
Soldiers, adieu! I have what I would have,
Now my old arms are young John Talbot’s grave.