SIA Poll- Which Shakespeare character would you want to be your Valentine?

Shakespeare is known for creating some of the most famous (yet sometimes, tragic) lovers in literature. Would you want any of them to be your Valentine? Take the poll!

Give your real Valentine a unique gift this Valentine’s Day- Shakespeare Sonnets by Kids! They are selling fast, so be sure to get yours now!

SIA is also celebrating Valentine’s Day with our friends at DFilms with a Romeo and Juliet DVD and Blu-Ray Giveaway!


Wordy Wednesday – “O Wednesday, Wednesday, wherefore art thou Wednesday?”

Welcome wise web-user, welcome to Wordy Wednesday, which will whet your wits with wistful wordplay!

So, as March draws to a close and we prepare to welcome that “cruelest month” with open arms – we here at Shakespeare In Action bid a fond farewell to our memorable production of “The Diary Of Anne Frank” and turn our attentions to our upcoming “Double Tragedy” which once again features two excellent performances: Romeo and Juliet and….the Scottish play.

Which brings us around to today’s word – wherefore. No, Shakespeare did not invent this word: according to our friendly neighbourhood OED, it was first used  centuries before Shakespeare was writing. But Shakespeare is fond of this word and it appears quite often, most notably in Romeo and Juliet, while Juliet stands at her balcony and cries to the darkness:

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet. (II.ii)

How many times have I seen misinformed students, or unfortunate actresses, say these lines while frantically peering around seeking out her Romeo? “O Romeo, Romeo! Where are you Romeo?” Makes sense doesn’t it? Well, as long as you ignore the following lines or brush them off as a completely separate thought.

“O Romeo, I cannot find you in this darkness. If you would but cast off your name you would suddenly appear to me.” Not quite what Shakespeare is going for here.

Of course, for those in the know – wherefore does not mean where but why, or more accurately what for: “O Romeo, Romeo! What for art thou Romeo?” meaning “what is the reason for you being Romeo?”

So the “where” in wherefore means what which really translates to why. Is it any wonder that people have such a hard time with English?

“O wherefore, wherefore! Wherefore art thou wherefore?”

As popular a word as wherefore once was, it has not appeared in recorded text (according to the OED) since the early 20th century. Wherefore? We should bring it back!

Well, happy Wednesday to you all!


Wordy Wednesday – “Love Is Blind”

Sorry we have gotten off our blog schedule a bit. Here is a fun, nighttime Wordy Wednesday for you! Did you know that “love is blind?” Well, Shakespeare did.

According to my sources, this phrase was actually invented by the Bard. Instead of popularizing a phrase that was already in use, he coined one himself. As with many of Shakespeare’s greatest hits, it appears in several of his plays, notably in The Merchant of Venice:

I am glad ’tis night, you do not look on me,
For I am much ashamed of my exchange:
But love is blind and lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit;
For if they could, Cupid himself would blush
To see me thus transformed to a boy.

The character Jessica is speaking here. (Fun fact: Shakespeare also invented this name! Or at least his usage of it in this play is the first recorded usage in history. It’s most likely based on a Hebrew name, Yiskah or in its English spelling, Jeska.)

In this passage, Jessica expresses the still-commonly-held belief that love makes you blind – to your own actions, to your lover’s faults, or even to common sense. Think Romeo and Juliet would agree? Have you ever been in love, and if so, did you behave strangely?

Wordy Wednesday – “Parting is such sweet sorrow”

Okay, so we’re a bit belated, but let’s pretend it’s still Wednesday… and get wordy! In honour of our mainstage production of Romeo and Juliet, which is rolling along pretty smoothly so far (knock on wood), we present this week’s phrase:

Good night, good night! parting is such
sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

Have you ever had to leave behind someone you love?

Yes, this is still a popular phrase today. In fact, we’ve already used it twice on this blog! And though we are Shakespeare fans, I’m sure if you pay attention you will hear people all over using this phrase.

The phrase seems straightforward at first: it’s hard to part with someone you love. In the play, Juliet says this to Romeo after the infamous balcony scene where they first confess their love. But how can something that is a “sorrow” still be “sweet,” you ask?

There are a couple of things that make this phrase memorable. For one, the contrast between “sweet” and “sorrow” is arresting – it makes us sit up and take notice. It’s similar to a word like “bittersweet,” or a phrase like “jumbo shrimp.” These are known as oxymorons, which are words or phrases that contain two contradictory meanings.

When Juliet says, “parting is such sweet sorrow,” she reminds Romeo and herself all over again of her love for him. Parting from him wouldn’t be so sorrowful unless she truly loved him, so even in feeling the pain of separation, she remembers the “sweet” love that they share.

What do you think? Can you feel two such contradictory emotions at once?

Their parting is also more sweet than sorrowful because now they can look forward to seeing each other again. This phrase foreshadows important events in the rest of the play. Before long Romeo and Juliet will have to face a lot of real sorrow – Tybalt and Mercutio’s deaths, and Romeo’s banishment. And in the end they will refuse to be parted even in death.

Another way to think about this is from your own experience. Have you ever had to leave someone behind – friends, family – while jetting off to a new adventure? Here in the Shakespeare in Action office, many of us have come to Toronto from other areas of Canada (or even places like Australia and Asia). Your blogger is getting ready to move all the way to British Columbia in the fall. While leaving your home and family can be daunting, the knowledge that a new adventure awaits can make parting a “sweet sorrow” indeed.



By: Kathleen

Wordy Wednesday – “I will wear my heart upon my sleeve”

Hey everyone!

Today is the opening of Romeo and Juliet! Yay. Don’t forget to come see the play sometime between April 6 – 21. It’s a love story that really wears its heart on its sleeve, which leads us to the theme of this Wordy Wednesday!

The phrase “I will wear my heart upon my sleeve” was first used by Iago, the charming evil villain in Shakespeare’s Othello.  In this scene, he reveals that he is not loyal to Othello, although he pretends to be a devoted friend; he is really working towards his own “peculiar end.” According to Iago, honest men who share their feelings are easy prey for “daws to peck at.” It is safer to lie and hide your true intentions. Therefore, Iago says, “I am not what I am”. Rather than wear his heart openly, he is not what he appears.

It is as sure as you are Roderigo,
Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago.
In following him, I follow but myself;
Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end;
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In complement extern, ’tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.

Wordy Wednesday – “Fool’s paradise”

Our Wordy Wednesday this week is taken from Romeo and Juliet, which is also the next Shakespeare in Action production, running April 6th – 22nd!

“Fool’s paradise”

Meaning: A state of happiness based on false hope.

Shakespeare created many new words and phrases that have become part of our everyday language. This phrase was used by Juliet’s nurse in a conversation with Romeo in Act II, Scene 4. She wants to make sure that Romeo is honest and true in his intentions to marry Juliet, and will not “deal double” with the young girl. She does not want Juliet to suffer heartache by being led into a false state of love, a “fool’s paradise”. Romeo protests and begs the nurse to “commend me to thy lady and mistress.”

“Pray you, sir, a word:
and as I told you, my young lady bade me inquire you
out; what she bade me say, I will keep to myself:
but first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her into
a fool’s paradise, as they say, it were a very gross
kind of behavior, as they say: for the gentlewoman
is young; and, therefore, if you should deal double
with her, truly it were an ill thing to be offered
to any gentlewoman, and very weak dealing.”

Check out http://shakespeareinaction.org/romeo-and-juliet for performance dates and times!