Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Which Play Is The Most Romantic?

As I sit here going over edits for my Shakespeare wedding quotes book, I’m left curious which play provided the most romantic quotes.  That’s a fairly arbitrary measure, of course, but it’s an interesting question.
So, here it is : Which play, as Shakespeare wrote it, says the most romantic things?  So if you were about to jump to Romeo and Juliet and the whole killing yourself for love thing, stop and rethink for a moment. You may decide that all that “Did my heart love til now?” and “With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls…” stuff, Romeo and Juliet still wins.  Or maybe not.
From where I sit, As You Like It and Midsummer both have a great deal of stuff to say on the subject of love and romance.  But they’re both … light? About it.  Neither, in my book, expresses the sort of ups-and-downs that come with what love’s really all about.  Don’t get me wrong, Midsummer is damned near perfection from some angles, but half the time the lovers are in the grip of a magic potion and in love with the wrong person.  As You Like It I find just too corny.  Cute, but corny. Life’s not as easy as that one makes it out to be.
I think I’ll put my money on Twelfth Night. I loved the discussion we had on music being the food of love.  Orsino has got some amazing insight about what love’s really all about, and that place where it can actually cause you pain, and yet you still want more of it.


csg said...

Much Ado always gives me the squees. Talk about ups and downs, but also about some of the sweetest love-stuff in the book!

Andrew Huntley said...

I have to second Much Ado. It contains the most honest wooing that takes place, (Benedick's admission that "I was not born under a rhyming planet, nor can I woo in festival terms" is especially telling.)as opposed to the lofty language of Romeo and Juliet.Twelfth Night would be very nice for the "If music be the food of love, play on" except the following lines kind of sour it as a romantic sentiment.

Weez said...

I'm leaning towards Much Ado About Nothing too. Twelfth Night pays a lot of lip service to love, but it's in action that Viola proves her love for Orsino, which is probably the truest relationship in the play as long as you have a good Orsino. Much Ado About Nothing has the finest, most equal, most satisfactory romantic couple in the oeuvre, along with some cracking examples of how *not* to do it.

It's two different questions really; which is the most romantic play, and which play has the most romantic language? Twelfth Night has a lot of talking about love, whereas Much Ado About Nothing shows the love by what the characters do and are prepared to do.

Ellyn Schaffner said...

Love is a potion and Midsummer shows us this - I love its romance and As You like It but my absolute favourite romance is Much Ado About Nothing and my favourite time period that I saw it in was The '70's - so cool...Ellyn

Cass said...

Much Ado, hands-down. It's the most romantic because it's also the most real, I think -- it's a more adult romance than As You Like It or Twelfth Night. Benedick and Beatrice aren't fresh-faced teenagers, they aren't experiencing love for the first time -- they've hurt each other before, and they have to learn how to get over that. They also both have to learn what it means to commit to someone and put that person first -- and it's a lot on Benedick, really, who has to leave the boys behind and become a man worthy of Beatrice. The language in Much Ado may not be the most poetical -- not least because a lot of it's in prose ;) -- but I think it goes more to the heart of what love is than a lot of the other plays.

I think my favorite love-line in the play, though, is: "I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest".

Angela said...

Is it weird that my first thought was Cymbeline?

I think I'd have to vote Twelfth Night. Although I do love the crazy stories of infatuation in As You Like It.

Duane said...

Note, to answer Weez's question : I intended the latter. Which has the most romantic language? Regardless of who plays it.

peaseblossom said...

Antony and Cleopatra gets my vote for most romantic. It has both over-the-top sublime romantic apotheosis rhetoric (Enobarbus at the end of Act 2, Scene ii, for example, or Cleopatra's 'I dream'd there was an Emperor Antony:'), and the everyday romance of A&C walking through the market and going fishing together and gossiping.

Alexi said...

The most romantic-sounding love quote is "with thy lips keep in my soul awhile," from Henry VI part III. Of course, in context it's spoken by a soldier dying on the battlefield to his brother, so it isn't the mushy Valentine's day card it seems to be. ;)

But seriously, Much Ado has a lot to recommend it, as does the hitherto unmentioned Taming of the Shrew. The second one is controversial of course, but in my reading it is a love story about two well-marched, untamable people learning how to live as a couple and how to get the better of society around them. My vote for the most romantic play, however, goes to As You Like It, because you get a great variety of perspectives within the play to test and to strengthen the love story at it's core. You have Orlando's ebullient emotion and cliched love-poetry, matched against Jacques' affected cynicism and Touchstone's irreverent earthiness, and, of course, the playfulness, caprice, and wisdom of Rosalind herself. ("Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love," vs. "O coz, coz, my pretty little coz, if thou didst know how many fathoms deep I am in love.") Great stuff.

catkins said...

I second peaseblossom! Oh so regal is that love of Antony and Cleopatra!
Their first lines:

Cleo. If it be Love indeed, tell me how much.
Ant. There’s beggery in the love that can be reckon’d.
Cleo. Ile set a bourne how farre to be belov’d.
Ant. Then must thou needes finde out new Heaven, new Earth.


Teri said...

I love how Shakespeare usually shows us two different versions of love. In Much Ado, we see Claudio and Hero who fall in love quickly and Benedick and Beatrice who are wiser about such things. Yet despite their best efforts, they fall in love with each other.
We just discussed Twelfth Night in my Shakespeare class. One point that was discussed was how Orsino, though he claims to be madly in love with Olivia, he doesn't truly love her. He loves the idea of her. Until the end of the play, we never even see him interact with Olivia, (I know it says she refused to see him, but still.) I thought that was rather interesting considering the line about music and love. Thoughts?

Esther said...

I have only just read Much Ado About Nothing, and I loved loved loved it. I can't vote though, because so far it is the only one I have read 0_o haha. But I really did think it was very romantic, I loved the characters very much.