So it’s Sonnet 144, huh?

Screen shot 2015-02-01 at 1.18.50 PMHere’s the text of Sonnet 144.

~ by Servetus on February 1, 2015.

63 Responses to “So it’s Sonnet 144, huh?”

  1. Say what?? What does Sonnet 144 even mean? I can’t figure it out. I am wondering if it is a current favourite because of his current work? So much I don’t understand.

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    • If you click on that link, there’s a further link to paraphrase. The author seems to be torn between a good impulse and a bad impulse in his soul (which are personified as an attractive man and a woman of ill complexion) and is uncertain what the outcome will be.

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    • Yeah, I’m thinking it has something to do with Dolarhyde and Reba.

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      • I meant the Red Dragon and Reba. The Red Dragon having to do with his soul and stuff and Reba his physical fulfillment. (So, having said this now you know why I am not very literary).

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  2. Interesting choice…Mine is 66

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    • wow, that is a very melancholic one!

      I don’t know that I have a favorite, although I like 73 a lot, I think because I am always leaving places. 94 is also one I think about a lot.

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      • I believe it’s my favourite because I first read it translated in Russian by my favourite Russian poet Boris Pasternak, who was genius himself. And well it’s still relevant to me.
        As to #144, I guess Richard is in character already…

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        • Переде́лкино was one of the places I visited when I was in Moscow — on the trip where I saw the McDonalds, lol — and we went to his dacha and his grave. Жизнь прожить – не поле перейти. Sigh.

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          • Wow! You are simply amazing! (ups, sorry for the compliment 😉 The poems from Doctor Zhivago are my favourites, I know them all by heart. Seeing his verses here in Russian is very touching…

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  3. Come to The Dark Side, Richard…we have chocolate. 😀 (MJ’s quick ‘n dirty Shakespeare analysis.)

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    • I was wondering if it was Dolarhyde’s favorite sonnet, I confess 🙂

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      • I am thinking it is Richard’s favourite as Dolarhyde’s, not RA’s as in his personal, or private, life. Because that Sonnet would totally fit the part of the book The Red Dragon I am at now…he’s in the museum about to eat the painting and the whole Reba/dragon thing would really fit.

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      • Good point – because that’s the whole deal with Francis. He’s actually got some good left in him, but feels deep down that his “worser spirit” will eventually win.

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        • Hey, what happened with the chocolate? I’m all-in on the chocolate 🙂 Even if it means I’ll have to join ‘The Dark Side’.

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          • don’t tell me the chocolate has been eliminated in the latest round of budget cuts!

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            • 🙂 Well, I can diversify. My latest guylty-passion is chocolate-coated, sweet liqorice.
              Not only budget cuts, but taxes have been rumoured.

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              • man, I’m already struggling with downward mobility. No new taxes! Ouch. Suddenly I sound like a Republican.

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                • I was implying to the so-called well-fare state I’m living in. Budget cuts, layoffs and additional taxes. And we’re called ‘the Happiest People on Earth’.
                  Anyway, we have similar paths you and I. My tenure as an external lecturer expires this summer, and it cannot be renewed due to new rules – and to my despair.
                  Fortunately, I have my part-time administrative job at my university. Consequently, I can totally relate when you speak of downward mobility – not only in terms of profile, but also in terms of personal finance.
                  Nevertheless, and this is what I wanted to write to you as a comment to your earlier post, we have to consider – at least that’s what I do – the perks.
                  The perks are better hours – free time in the evenings, during weekends and also during holidays – and for me (I get the feeling for you too) a chance to do exactly what I love to do. It doesn’t have to cost much. Take writing, for instance, a computer, an internet connection, and the odd cup of coffee.

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                  • no, there are absolutely perks (and I think this is pretty clear from the blog, that on the whole I am a happier person than I have been in a while). I miss the classroom exactly not at all, at this point at least.

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                • So, chocolate for me, please 🙂

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  4. If not Dolarhyde, then it makes me wonder who betrayed his trust.

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    • I find the theme of conflicting directions controlling one interesting for him as well. He’s said similar things about himself before — for instance, regarding fidelity.

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      • I agree. It may not have anything to do with ‘Red Dragon’. It may be the private Richard Armitage’s personal favourite.

        Doesn’t the sonnet resonate with most of us? The duality of who we are – our personal complexity. One side good, the other…not so good.

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        • I actually dislike that construction of it, but that’s because of my hypermoralistic childhood. Human impulses are not that easily categorizable, IMO. I know what the poet was trying to say, but I find that dichotomous approach to the problem quite unhelpful.

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          • At the time this sonnet was written, I guess it was either heaven or hell, was it not so?

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            • or Purgatory. Which is still true for a lot of people. I’m not criticizing the poem as an artifact of the culture that produced it, or negating that it has parallels elsewhere (Judaism has the concept of the yetzer hara and its competitor whose name I always forget, for instance, or I think of Paul’s statements about “the good I want to do, I do not do”), just saying I don’t find it useful as a life guide myself.

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            • (I’ve had way too much preaching about “bad impulses” in my life …)

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              • Perhaps it’s the protestant belief (Lutheran myself)? I’m not really religiously influenced on a daily basis; I’m very selective in that respect, I take what I can use, and most Danes have this kind of relationship to our (state)religion. So it doesn’t play a huge part. But there’s the clear dichotomy between good and evil, which we hear in church – when we go to church – and which I also grew up with. It doesn’t bother me so much, though.

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      • Or if you look at it from another angle. Who we are, and who we aspire to become?

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  5. I’m starting to feel jealous and neglected due to Weibo, or whatever it’s called. (I’m being facetious). (Actually I’m not….kidding that is).

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    • I’m cheering him on because this is hugely in his interest. China only shows 34 non-Chinese films per year. If he can show he already has a big audience in China, that is a selling point for a studio that is making a big film that it wants to aim at that market. Speaking from a professional perspective, he should flirt with those fans until he’s out of sonnets and then he should write a few more. I can read weibo — Chinese fans cannot read Twitter without all kinds of IT gymnastics.

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    • I wonder if he’ll get around to asking his Twitter followers which sonnet is our favorite? It’s a step in the right direction, I think the Weibo post is a cautious first step toward actual interaction with his fans. Probably not, but hope springs eternal. Some actors – Anson Mount from “Hell on Wheels” comes to mind – are quite good at interacting with their fans online.

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      • I doubt it. I think this is primarily motivated by the Chinese market, not by the desire to interact. He’s had months to interact on Twitter and the only time he did anything like this was toward the end of the Crucible when he was starting his Hobbit publicity. However, perhaps I am too cynical.

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        • I don’t think you are too cynical, just realistic. I agree there is major courting of the Chinese market for BOFA and to raise his profile there, as well. If BOFA is to join the billion dollar club, China is the only way to get there. I don’t know if 144 is his favorite sonnet, but I think it speaks to the actor in him. He seems to like to explore complicated characters with inner good/evil turmoil.

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  6. What has he said about fidelity? (There’s a lot I’ve never read).

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    • In any interview from 2006, I think it was, he said that he struggled with fidelity and felt that there was a conflict between the ideal of one person and what he termed the biological construction of men to spread their seed (paraphrasing)

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  7. I’ve been having a private discussion with several people over this. It’s interesting what some are attempting to prove with it.

    I think sometimes, we, as fans, over-analyze things. There are those who desire to prove their point about who he may – or may not – be seeing at this time. They want this particular piece, this choice, to ‘prove’ this or that.

    I don’t think it means any of that. Richard KNOWS Shakespeare, knows his stuff quite well, I would think. It’s a gorgeous piece, beautiful and thoughtful. Can’t he JUST like it for the beautiful written word that it is? Read it outloud! It pours from the tongue.

    Right this minute, I’m (re) reading a book about a threesome. It’s beautiful. Really. Their love is beautiful. Does it mean I desire to be part of a menage-a-tois? Heck no! Not even once to try it out! I enjoy BDSM fics. Does this mean I want to be flogged? NO! OW! I’m looking for my tender warrior! But it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate this written love story. It doesn’t pertain to my personal life.

    This whole being-deep thing is very uncomfortable for me.

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    • Fans are going to be fans, and we are going to discuss things. The vast majority of us will never have enough information to judge with absolutely certainty. I have zero problem with fan discussions of whatever sort that avoid fans making personal attacks on other fans.

      The thing is that one person’s analysis is always going to be someone else’s over-analysis. For someone like me, the more detail, the better, even if people claim things that I ultimately find implausible or disagreeable. I’m sure I have done the same with regard to them at some point or other. If one wants to claim that an argument involves an over-analysis or leads in the wrong direction, then one has to set up criteria about why. There are general cultural rules for doing that in different places which are also fine with me. I apply them from time to time (e.g., the rules of semantic logic in the West). But meaning is never established absolutely from only one direction. What something means to Richard Armitage is not necessarily what it means to me, and I see no problem with that. Neither of us is more important than the other in relationship to each other.

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    • You also might consider the possibility that occasionally Richard Armitage intends to provoke.

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      • Yes. And he teases and I honestly believe he enjoys watching people chase sticks and red herrings.

        But I also think he enjoys and appreciates beautiful things and this sonnet is a beautiful thing.

        The Pepper Steak I am about to eat is a beautiful thing. And I’m going to eat it!

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        • well, to be honest with you, I don’t think this sonnet is even in the top half of the sonnets Shakespeare wrote for beauty, and I find it philosophically inadequate to the task it appears to attempt to undertake. I find it cutesy rather than beautiful. Would that be too much disagreement? Over-analysis? Disrespectful of Armitage? I don’t see what the problem is with discussion. If you don’t want to discuss, eat, it’s no skin off my nose. But I don’t see the inherent problem with what you call “over analysis.”

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          • I’m not familiar with Shakespeare. Truth is, he’s not my cup of tea. I do find many of his works to be beautiful, nonetheless. I simply like the way his words flow over the tongue.

            But I also like how Olde English flows over the tongue and I don’t understand a word of it. Go figure.

            By over-analysis, I’m taking into consideration discussions from a LOT of places. There are places that are over-analyzing the heckers out of this particular sonnet in attempt to prove some theory. If I thought THIS particular forum was over-analyzing, I wouldn’t have said anything. Truth is, this thread is probably the more on target than places I would rather not delve into. The forum where it’s being over-analyzed to death, I am, truth be told, not very welcome.

            So no disrespect was meant, no offense meant. Cheesecake?

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        • I also think he likes to tease and give out cryptic clues and I am often impressed by his cleverness. But, I think it is only in regards to his ‘secret’ projects to keep us guessing, to keep us interested and make it interesting for us. And that is a big part of what I enjoy and find fun about his tweets. It also exposes me to things and has me think about things that normally I wouldn’t….cause I certainly wouldn’t be reading Shakespeare sonnets and learning their meaning on a Saturday afternoon otherwise, or any other day of the week actually. I really don’t think he is trying to send secret messages about his personal life if that is what is meant by some fans/forums’ “attempt to prove some theory” — anyways, that’s my theory!

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          • And it is really interesting how other people people have such different interpretations of the same thing.

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          • A direct one to one personal correspondence would certainly not be the main reading I immediately embraced, but people always have reasons for interpreting evidence the way they do.

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      • Yes 🙂 and I love it!

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  8. To be honest, I don’t think this particular choice is supposed to be some kind of red herring. I’m sure he KNOWS the sonnet has it’s implications, but if he says it’s his favourite, I believe him.

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    • well, if he doesn’t know about those implications, he’s much more naive or unlettered than I would guess.

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      • Yes, and the discussion here is fascinating, as always. A few things I believe about Richard:
        -He says virtually nothing by accident- he’s a master of subtext.
        -He’s more complicated than many people try to make him…. he loves to dwell in shades of gray both professionally and (I can admittedly only suspect) personally.
        -I interpret this fascinating post from him in that wondering light, and continue to only love him more.

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  9. The 16th c. was my academic backyard, so I will tend to view these differently than some readers. That said, I wasn’t offended. I’ll take the cake anyway, though.

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  10. I wonder if this was something that was drawn on when playing John Proctor?

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  11. I have greatly appreciated all the comments here so very much. I did a pretty painful face-palm when I re-read the sonnet and scared the dog with the volume and duration of my groan. Rooney (the dog) is really grateful for the discussion and all of your comments 😉

    He’s a classically trained actor who worked with the RSC – does he know Billy Wagglestaff? Decent odds that he might. I’d wager he knows the similes and metaphors inside out. This sonnet could mean so much personally and/or professionally. I can’t begin to guess what he intended.

    He talked about using Billy for Thorin which, with my meagre Shakespeare studies of decades gone by, sort of makes me a bit weepy thinking of Thorin.

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    • I’m also sure he’s aware of the long-standing controversy over whether the addressee of the first group of sonnets (the Fair Youth) is a platonic or romantic object of the author’s desire as articulated in the poetry, as well as of the scholarly discussions about attributions of the author’s sexuality … I actually think innuendo is often a useful tool in the actor’s repertoire, because it keeps us thinking and importantly in his case, keeps us looking.

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      • That’s very interesting … and echoes something he said in the November 28th Sunday Times interview: “If they’re talking about that, at least they’re still interested in you.”

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        • YES. And I think he’s finally figured this out. I thought, when I saw that the first picture the WB photographer published from the Jackson / Star on Walk of Fame event was Armitage and Lee Pace, that they’ve just decided to play this for what it’s worth.

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      • 🙂 Yas!

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