Lecture Two

September 21st, 2008

Shakespeare's Sonnets

"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes"

by Stewart Morritt and Andrew Blackman

This delightful presentation helped to highlight the extraordinary artistry of The Bard.

Five simple techniques are used by actors as the keys to unlocking the treasures of Shakespeare. By concentrating initially on Sonnet 29, metre, rhyme, structure and sense were explained in an interactive workshop. This was then followed by a demonstration by professional performers interpreting a number of sonnets that mark significant developments of theme and content.

"The single poem which is Shakespeare's sonnets will never have the popularity of some of its parts, but, in its rapid shifts of mood, its intense exploration of the 'heaven' and 'hell' of being in love it is far greater than the sum of those parts." Stanley Wells

Bringing to life some of the greatest individual love poems ever written, this interactive presentation illustrated a number of techniques that actors use to access Shakespeare's language. Neither academic nor purely performance-based, the two highly experienced actor/presenters guided the audience through five easy steps to unlocking metre, caesura, structure, rhyme and meaning. By the end of the first half, audience members were able to read and understand any of the 154 sonnets with greater insight.

The second half discussed theme development with readings of selected sonnets that describe the poet's passionate friendship with a young man, his friend's seduction by the poet's own mistress, and, most famously, Shakespeare's intriguing infatuation with the Dark Lady.

Audience Feedback

"An interesting, engaging 'key' into Shakespeare. 5/5"
(Head of High School Literature department)

"Brilliant!! More of this kind of talk wanted."

"The content, presentation and clarity of the speakers was excellent."

"A great intro to the sonnets. I loved the enthusiasm of the presenters and the question and answer interaction with the audience."

"I enjoyed the rationale, purpose and goal and the relaxed presentation."

About the Presenters

Stewart Morritt trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art under Shakespeare guru Judith Gick. His love of The Bard has seen him work with the English Shakespeare Company, Australian Shakespeare Company and in the West End. An award-winning actor and director, he is Artistic Director of Petty Traffikers Theatre Company.

Andrew Blackman is a professional actor and Artistic Director of Complete Works Theatre Company, an award-winning company touring Shakespearean productions into schools.

In review

This second talk in the Lifestyle and Culture Lectures series was a great success. Some 120 people enjoyed Stewart and Andrew's illuminating talk, with lots of lively discussion and audience participation...

Andrew and Stewart at the podium

Andrew and Stewart pose for a photograph

Audience members during interval

A convivial atmosphere

Stewart Morritt

Stewart Morritt

Andrew Blackman

Andrew Blackman

Stewart explaining iambic pentameter

Andrew reciting the sonnets