Full of fair words

I hope I’m not straining anyone’s patience here with the Annabel Capper stuff, but since I’ve dug it out …

Act Three, scene one of William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, as directed by Clive Brill in 1998. Part of the Arkangel Shakespeare, a collection of 38 recordings of Shakespeare plays that’s received several awards, includes important artists, and has been described as the definitive audio Shakespeare of the century. Also available for purchase as a single play from multiple sources. Ms. Capper plays Helen of Troy, and yes, we can hear her this time! It turns out she has a beautiful alto voice and a talent for playing innuendo.

It begins in best Shakespeare style with a veritable “Who’s on First?” of double entendres between Pandarus and the servant. The jokes may be clearer if you read along with the text as you listen:

Troilus and Cressida

Act III. Scene I.

Troy. PRIAM’S Palace.
Enter PANDARUS and a Servant.
Pan. Friend! you! pray you, a word: do not you follow the young Lord Paris?
Serv. Ay, sir, when he goes before me. 4
Pan. You depend upon him, I mean?
Serv. Sir, I do depend upon the Lord.
Pan. You depend upon a noble gentleman; I must needs praise him.
Serv. The Lord be praised! 8
Pan. You know me, do you not?
Serv. Faith, sir, superficially.
Pan. Friend, know me better. I am the Lord Pandarus.
Serv. I hope I shall know your honour better. 12
Pan. I do desire it.
Serv. You are in the state of grace.
Pan. Grace! not so, friend; honour and lordship are my titles. [Music within.] What music is this?
Serv. I do but partly know, sir: it is music in parts. 16
Pan. Know you the musicians?
Serv. Wholly, sir.
Pan. Who play they to?
Serv. To the hearers, sir. 20
Pan. At whose pleasure, friend?
Serv. At mine, sir, and theirs that love music.
Pan. Command, I mean, friend.
Serv. Who shall I command, sir? 24
Pan. Friend, we understand not one another: I am too courtly, and thou art too cunning. At whose request do these men play?
Serv. That’s to ’t, indeed, sir. Marry, sir, at the request of Paris my lord, who is there in person; with him the mortal Venus, the heart-blood of beauty, love’s invisible soul.
Pan. Who, my cousin Cressida?
Serv. No, sir, Helen: could you not find out that by her attributes? 28
Pan. It should seem, fellow, that thou hast not seen the Lady Cressida. I come to speak with Paris from the Prince Troilus: I will make a complimental assault upon him, for my business seethes.
Serv. Sodden business: there’s a stewed phrase, indeed.
Enter PARIS and HELEN, attended.
Pan. Fair be to you, my lord, and to all this fair company! fair desires, in all fair measures, fairly guide them! especially to you, fair queen! fair thoughts be your fair pillow! 32
Helen. Dear lord, you are full of fair words.
Pan. You speak your fair pleasure, sweet queen. Fair prince, here is good broken music.
Pan. You have broke it, cousin; and, by my life, you shall make it whole again: you shall piece it out with a piece of your performance. Nell, he is full of harmony.
Pan. Truly, lady, no. 36
Helen. O, sir!
Pan. Rude, in sooth; in good sooth, very rude.
Par. Well said, my lord! Well, you say so in fits.
Pan. I have business to my lord, dear queen. My lord, will you vouchsafe me a word? 40
Helen. Nay, this shall not hedge us out: we’ll hear you sing, certainly.
Pan. Well, sweet queen, you are pleasant with me. But, marry, thus, my lord. My dear lord and most esteemed friend, your brother Troilus—
Helen. My Lord Pandarus; honey-sweet lord,—
Pan. Go to, sweet queen, go to: commends himself most affectionately to you. 44
Helen. You shall not bob us out of our melody: if you do, our melancholy upon your head!
Pan. Sweet queen, sweet queen! that’s a sweet queen, i’ faith.
Helen. And to make a sweet lady sad is a sour offence.
Pan. Nay, that shall not serve your turn; that shall it not, in truth, la! Nay, I care not for such words: no, no. And, my lord, he desires you, that if the king call for him at supper, you will make his excuse. 48
Helen. My Lord Pandarus,—
Pan. What says my sweet queen, my very sweet queen?
Par. What exploit’s in hand? where sups he to-night?
Helen. Nay, but my lord,— 52
Pan. What says my sweet queen! My cousin will fall out with you. You must know where he sups.
Par. I’ll lay my life, with my disposer Cressida.
Pan. No, no, no such matter; you are wide. Come, your disposer is sick.
Par. Well, I’ll make excuse. 56
Pan. Ay, good my lord. Why should you say Cressida? no, your poor disposer’s sick.
Par. I spy.
Pan. You spy! what do you spy? Come, give me an instrument. Now, sweet queen.
Helen. Why, this is kindly done. 60
Pan. My niece is horribly in love with a thing you have, sweet queen.
Helen. She shall have it, my lord, if it be not my Lord Paris.
Pan. He! no, she’ll none of him; they two are twain.
Helen. Falling in, after falling out, may make them three. 64
Pan. Come, come, I’ll hear no more of this. I’ll sing you a song now.
Helen. Ay, ay, prithee now. By my troth, sweet lord, thou hast a fine forehead.
Pan. Ay, you may, you may.
Helen. Let thy song be love: this love will undo us all. O Cupid, Cupid, Cupid! 68
Pan. Love! ay, that it shall, i’ faith.
Par. Ay, good now, love, love, nothing but love.
Pan. In good troth, it begins so:

Love, love, nothing but love, still more!
For, oh! love’s bow
Shoots buck and doe:
The shaft confounds,
Not that it wounds,
But tickles still the sore.
These lovers cry O! O! they die!
Yet that which seems the wound to kill,
Doth turn O! O! to ha! ha! he!
So dying love lives still:
O! O! a while, but ha! ha! ha!
O! O! groans out for ha! ha! ha!
Heigh-ho! 72
Helen. In love, i’ faith, to the very tip of the nose.
Par. He eats nothing but doves, love; and that breeds hot blood, and hot blood begets hot thoughts, and hot thoughts beget hot deeds, and hot deeds is love.
Pan. Is this the generation of love? hot blood? hot thoughts, and hot deeds? Why, they are vipers: is love a generation of vipers? Sweet lord, who’s a-field to-day?
Par. Hector, Deiphobus, Helenus, Antenor, and all the gallantry of Troy: I would fain have armed to-day, but my Nell would not have it so. How chance my brother Troilus went not? 76
Helen. He hangs the lip at something: you know all, Lord Pandarus.
Pan. Not I, honey-sweet queen. I long to hear how they sped to-day. You’ll remember your brother’s excuse?
Par. To a hair.
Pan. Farewell, sweet queen. 80
Helen. Commend me to your niece.
Pan. I will, sweet queen.  [Exit. A retreat sounded.
Par. They’re come from field: let us to Priam’s hall
To greet the warriors. Sweet Helen, I must woo you 84
To help unarm our Hector: his stubborn buckles,
With these your white enchanting fingers touch’d,
Shall more obey than to the edge of steel
Or force of Greekish sinews; you shall do more 88
Than all the island kings,—disarm great Hector.
Helen. ’Twill make us proud to be his servant, Paris;
Yea, what he shall receive of us in duty
Gives us more palm in beauty than we have, 92
Yea, overshines ourself.
Par. Sweet, above thought I love thee.  [Exeunt.

~ by Servetus on December 20, 2010.

4 Responses to “Full of fair words”

  1. Not straining mine, and if Annabel Capper ever stumbled on this blog, I think she would be flattered.


  2. […] we’ve seen her as composer’s muse and grieving sister in non-speaking roles, and as Shakespearean siren, and as whatever you want to call her role in Sensitive Skin (I’ve only seen clips, so […]


  3. […] Ms. Capper mixes these elements skillfully with the agitation of the unhinged murderess and the same luxurious voice quality that we heard from her as Helen in “Troilus and Cressida.&#82… The performance calls attention to itself via its understatement, and one can understand why the […]


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