Zusetsu's Favourite Shakespeare Plays

As you know, we're an English company passionate about introducing beautiful gifts from the elegant city of Kyoto in Japan. We're based in the beautiful Cotswolds, near to the magical city of Oxford, and the lovely small town of Stratford-upon-Avon.


Of course, Stratford-upon-Avon brings one name very much to a lot of people's minds. Our national poet, William Shakespeare, was born here, and the town celebrates his life and incredible contribution to world literature every year on the Saturday nearest to April 23rd (which just happens to also be our national saint's day - St George's day)!


Here at Zusetsu, we have a strong connection to the boys' grammar school where it is thought Shakespeare learned rhetoric, and Latin, and read Ovid, Seneca and Virgil, all of whom influence his writing.


We are fortunate to be able to watch the fantastic Shakespeare productions at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. We love The Globe in London, and the beautiful candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Theatre too!


So here, without further ado (!), are our Top 6 moments from Shakespeare plays! (This was so difficult to decide!)


1. Hamlet - Act 1: Scene 2 -

RSC, 2008. Photo: BBC

O that this too too solid flesh would melt,

Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!


I had to include this, because when I saw the play at the RSC, I was fairly stunned to watch David Tennant drop to the floor as he said these lines. I held my breath and gaped!


2. Henry IV Part I: Act 1: Scene 2 -

But I also want to choose this, because I just love this speech! The future king Henry V enjoys the company of the ruffians and soldiers down in East Cheap:


I know you all, and will awhile uphold The unyoked humour of your idleness: Yet herein will I imitate the sun, Who doth permit the base contagious clouds To smother up his beauty from the world, That, when he please again to be himself, Being wanted, he may be more wonder'd at, By breaking through the foul and ugly mists Of vapours that did seem to strangle him. If all the year were playing holidays, To sport would be as tedious as to work; But when they seldom come, they wish'd for come, And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents. So, when this loose behavior I throw off And pay the debt I never promised, By how much better than my word I am, By so much shall I falsify men's hopes; And like bright metal on a sullen ground, My reformation, glittering o'er my fault, Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes Than that which hath no foil to set it off. I'll so offend, to make offence a skill; Redeeming time when men think least I will.



3. The Tempest - Act 5: Scene 1 -

RSC, 2017. Photo: Topher McGrillis/RSC

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:

In a cowslip's bell I lie:

There I couch when owls do cry.

On the bat's back I do fly

After summer merrily.

Merrily, merrily, shall I live now

Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

(Ariel)


Near to the end of the play, Prospero's servant, the spirit Ariel, is nearing his freedom, and he sings this song envisaging his happy life to come! (If you can see the brilliant RSC production starring Simon Russell-Beale as Prospero, you're in for a treat, and you'll know that I'm thinking of Ariel in this production singing this verse! Check out marquee.TV to watch it online, or click here to watch the trailer!)


4. Romeo and Juliet: Act 3: Scene 2 -

Come, night; come, Romeo; come, thou day in night;

For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night

Whiter than new snow on a raven's back.

Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow'd night,

Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,

Take him and cut him out in little stars,

And he will make the face of heaven so fine

That all the world will be in love with night

And pay no worship to the garish sun.

(Juliet, waiting for her Romeo)

5. The Winter's Tale, Act 5: Scene 3 -

The Globe, 2018. Photo: Marc Brenner


Who can fail to love the reveal at the end of The Winter's Tale, when betrayed Hermione is reunited with her daughter? Can we forgive Leontes for his terrible treatment of her, and wish them well? I love this magical scene for its pure theatricality, and for its wonderful associations with Ovid's 'Pygmalion', from his Metamorphoses!


Paulina: Music, awake her; strike! 'Tis time; descend; be stone no more; approach; Strike all that look upon with marvel.


6. Richard II, Act 4: Scene 1 -

The deposition scene is incredibly dramatic, and swirls with Richard's flowery rhetoric! It always makes me gasp to see divinely ordained King Richard II 'un-king' himself! (Do watch it played by Ben Whishaw and Rory McKinnear in the BBC's Hollow Crown series - it's breathtaking!!)


Bolingbroke:

Are you contented to resign the crown?


King Richard II:

Ay, no; no, ay; for I must nothing be; Therefore no no, for I resign to thee. Now mark me, how I will undo myself; I give this heavy weight from off my head And this unwieldy sceptre from my hand, The pride of kingly sway from out my heart; With mine own tears I wash away my balm, With mine own hands I give away my crown, With mine own tongue deny my sacred state, With mine own breath release all duty's rites: All pomp and majesty I do forswear; My manors, rents, revenues I forego; My acts, decrees, and statutes I deny: God pardon all oaths that are broke to me! God keep all vows unbroke that swear to thee! Make me, that nothing have, with nothing grieved, And thou with all pleased, that hast all achieved! Long mayst thou live in Richard's seat to sit, And soon lie Richard in an earthly pit! God save King Harry, unking'd Richard says, And send him many years of sunshine days!


What are your favourite moments in Shakespeare's plays? We'd love to hear from you!

Did you know that other than furoshiki, we also stock these beautiful wallets from Kyoto? They are in the traditional style of Nishijin-ori, a textile produced in the Nishijin district of Kyoto, Japan. They are the perfect size to fit my RSC tickets, and a great way to present ticket gifts to someone special on a special occasion :) You can check our wallet collection from here!

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Zusetsu - An English company passionate about contemporary textiles originating from the traditional, creative heritage of Kyoto.

Registered office address: Zusetsu Ltd., Castle Nurseries, Chipping Campden, Glos., GL55 6JT United Kingdom

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