Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Belated Epiphany

Less than two weeks ago while I was in London I saw what I'm considering to be the best play I've ever seen live and that is Much Ado About Nothing by of course William Shakespeare. Out of all the Shakespeare plays I had to read during high school this play was my favourite. I may be a bit biased to this one because the assignment that went along with the reading was to turn this play into a tragedy and make a movie, and I'm not going to pass up the opportunity to write a script and direct a movie. 


A few months ago I started listening to Mumford & Sons and basically just fell in love with their album. You know how there are certain artists where their lyrics just sort of jump out at you. It's more then just listening to enjoyable music you actual listen to what they are saying. I feel this way about Mumford & Sons.


To connect these two ideas, when I was in London I had Mumford & Son's album Sigh No More essentially on repeat, and when I was sitting in the theatre listening to David Tennant and Catherine Tate make the audience roar with laughter I started recognizing phrases. "Man is a giddy thing..." David Tennant asserted as Benedick. I thought, gee, that sounds familiar. 


And then I had a lovely little epiphany while watching the play and I realized that Sigh No More (the song) is chalk-full of references to Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing in particular.


Now I realize I'm not the first person to come to this conclusion. (Trust me I googled it when I got home and yeah, tons have people had already analyzed it to death.)


I could go all AP English Literature on this blog post right now and analyze the lyrics and Shakespeare's writing  but I'm not going to. However I do want to talk about the stanza from which Mumford & Sons got their album title. 


"Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,-
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go, 
And be you blithe and bonny, 
Converting all your sounds of woe 
Into Hey nonny, nonny. 
Sing no more ditties, sing no moe, 
Of dumps so dull and heavy; 
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leafy: 
Then sigh not so, But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey, nonny, nonny."

Balthasar, the bard, sings this in the presence of Don Pedro and Benedick. If you haven't read or seen the play Benedick is essentially a cynic who states that he will remain a bachelor for eternity and that bachelorhood is underrated, yada yada yada. This stanza is, as it often is in Shakespeare, ironic, because Benedick says shortly after that if it were a dog that howled those words it would be hanged. Benedick is just a cynic. He doesn't believe half the stuff he says by the end of the play because, well, he falls in love. So as much as he wants to disagree with the falseness of men's appearance or statements, he can't deny that he has done the same.  

When you listen to the lyrics of Mumford & Sons and their spin on that ballad the speaker is apologizing after the fact whereas Benedick comments on this idea before he falls in love. The lyrics to Sigh No More point out that though man may falter and sway that once he has been in love that will set him free. And that's just kind of lovely. Shakespeare wrote and Mumford & Sons restated that "Man is a giddy thing". The definition of giddy is Having a sensation of whirling and a tendency to fall or stagger; dizzy. Essentially man may stagger or fall but with love his is firm and free. How lovely is that


Sorry if this turned into less of a blog post and more of a English paper but I'm okay with that. What matters is the message that both Shakespeare and Mumford & Sons are trying to convey with their writing, or what I perceive it to be I suppose. 


*Also, Shakespeare created the model for all chick-flicks with this play. I admire him for that. Just another something to add to his checklist of things he started. 


Serve God love me and mend
This is not the end
Lived unbruised we are friends
And I'm sorry, I'm sorry

Sigh no more, no more
One foot in sea, one on shore
My heart was never pure
And you know me
And you know me

And man is a giddy thing
Oh man is a giddy thing
Oh man is a giddy thing
Oh man is a giddy thing

Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be.
There is a design,
An alignment to cry,
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be



-Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons