San Diego Raises the Bard for Shakespeare’s Sonnets | By Richard Lederer

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William Shakespeare is alive and well and living robustly in America’s finest city. The San Diego Shakespeare Society, on whose board I sit, will soon be presenting its 16th annual evening of Celebrity Sonnets. On Monday, October 9, starting at 7:30 pm, local celebrities and performers will dramatize the sonnets to a vast audience through a montage of imaginative interpretations.

Onstage I’ll be joined by the likes of legendary actor Jonathan McMurtry, Kathi Diamant and Byron Ladue, 10-year-old starlet Catalina Zelles, mellifluous singers and three unique dance performances. KUSI’s Dave Scott will emcee. The venue is the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage at the Old Globe Theatre, our city’s most venerable cultural institution. For details, click www.sandiegoshakespearesociety.org.

Shakespeare wrote about the immortality that literature confers upon people born at the tip of a pen. His Sonnet 18 opens with a question to the speaker’s beloved and then an answer:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
The poet goes on to show that while all things living are subject to the mutability of nature and ravages of time, thy eternal summer shall not fade. The adored will slip the surly bonds of mortality:

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.
Here the “lines” refer to the sonnet itself, in which the darling can live forever in the hearts of generations of readers.

All Shakespearean sonnets close with a couplet, in this brief compass 20 monosyllables in succession:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
“This” refers to the sonnet itself, which, through its enduring luminescence, confers an eternal summer on its subject.