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April 03, 2008

Great Soliloquies in Film

A few weeks ago Grim had an interesting post about great speeches in Henry V. This has always been one of my favorite passages from that play:

Upon the king! let us our lives, our souls,
Our debts, our careful wives,
Our children and our sins lay on the king!
We must bear all.

O hard condition,
Twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath
Of every fool, whose sense no more can feel
But his own wringing!
What infinite heart's-ease
Must kings neglect, that private men enjoy!
And what have kings, that privates have not too,
Save ceremony, save general ceremony?

And what art thou, thou idle ceremony?
What kind of god art thou, that suffer'st more
Of mortal griefs than do thy worshippers?
What are thy rents? what are thy comings in?
O ceremony, show me but thy worth!
What is thy soul of adoration?
Art thou aught else but place, degree and form,
Creating awe and fear in other men?
Wherein thou art less happy being fear'd
Than they in fearing.
What drink'st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,
But poison'd flattery?

O, be sick, great greatness,
And bid thy ceremony give thee cure!
Think'st thou the fiery fever will go out
With titles blown from adulation?
Will it give place to flexure and low bending?
Canst thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee,
Command the health of it?

No, thou proud dream,
That play'st so subtly with a king's repose;
I am a king that find thee, and I know
'Tis not the balm, the sceptre and the ball,
The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,
The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,
The farced title running 'fore the king,
The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp
That beats upon the high shore of this world,
No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,
Not all these, laid in bed majestical,
Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave,
Who with a body fill'd and vacant mind
Gets him to rest, cramm'd with distressful bread;
Never sees horrid night, the child of hell,
But, like a lackey, from the rise to set
Sweats in the eye of Phoebus and all night
Sleeps in Elysium; next day after dawn,
Doth rise and help Hyperion to his horse,
And follows so the ever-running year,
With profitable labour, to his grave:

And, but for ceremony, such a wretch,
Winding up days with toil and nights with sleep,
Had the fore-hand and vantage of a king.
The slave, a member of the country's peace,
Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wots
What watch the king keeps to maintain the peace,
Whose hours the peasant best advantages.

One of the things I love most about watching favorite films over and over again is waiting for a favorite passage to come up. I've had the same experience with a truly great book: as I grow older, I discover new things in the same speech or bit of dialogue every time I read or watch it.

To me, that is what defines a great work. Like a great marriage, it never gets old, but seemingly grows along with you. Or is it that just that there's so much there that you can't possibly take it all in in one pass?

Or, possibly, there is some funky New Age archetypal universality thing going on that allows you to keep finding things in it (a mirror of Erised?) no matter where you are in life? Who knows?

Maybe half the fun lies in finding out.

Posted by Cassandra at April 3, 2008 08:10 AM

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a short bit from Bill on the subject of marriage

He is the half part of a blessed man,
Left to be finished by such as she;
And she a fair divided excellence,
Whose fulness of perfection lies in him.
(King John, 2.1.456-9)

Posted by: John Guilt at April 3, 2008 11:35 AM

Each, the other's better half? :p

Posted by: Cass at April 3, 2008 11:46 AM

Tennyson has much to say about the quality of a good marriage. Geraint and Enid is about a good marriage that nevertheless becomes tainted with fears of infidelity. In the end, Enid proves true. The final verses are as good an explanation as exists in literature of "what is best in life."

...and in their halls arose
The cry of children, Enids and Geraints
Of times to be; nor did he doubt her more,
But rested in her fealty, till he crowned
A happy life with a fair death, and fell
Against the heathen of the Northern Sea
In battle, fighting for the blameless King.
There is so much that is right and true: that death can never be forgotten, even in a happy ending; that we must therefore think how to die well as well as to live well (and therefore, view a good death as 'crowning' a happy life); that the joy of marriage is in trust and fealty; and the cries of children, who will be as you were when you are gone.

Posted by: Grim at April 3, 2008 12:27 PM

Each, the other's better half? :p
Posted by: Cass at April 3, 2008 11:46 AM

I think that must be the idea.

Posted by: John Gilt at April 3, 2008 05:39 PM

There is so much that is right and true: that death can never be forgotten, even in a happy ending; that we must therefore think how to die well as well as to live well (and therefore, view a good death as 'crowning' a happy life); that the joy of marriage is in trust and fealty; and the cries of children, who will be as you were when you are gone.

Have you read Off Armageddon Reef, Grim, by David Weber?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at April 3, 2008 06:27 PM

Great soliloquies: Pullest thou my finger, and an aromatic emanation shall be thy prize!

Posted by: a former european at April 3, 2008 06:45 PM

I have not read anything by David Weber. Is he a poet?

Posted by: Grim at April 3, 2008 08:22 PM

He's an author that writes fictional stories involving the military/navy. He has the same interests as CDR Salamander, for example. Lots of navy tradition, history, etc. Horatio Hornblower, for example, would sum up Weber's main series pretty well, except Weber writes about humanity's future, not past.

The notable section I quoted from you reminded me strongly of the book.

Much of the thematic traits share qualities with Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield and so do the values of honor, duty, courage, and what not.

For a quick description, you can read about the interview concerning the book at my blog.

In effect, much of the epics you mentioned before, Grim, can be seen in these modern works. I prefer the modern works, of course. The ironic thing is that the modern works are also about the ancients. Meaning, Off Armageddon Reef is mostly about Ancient Greek era naval fighting between trimeres (?), which are the same environment in which the Illiad and such were written near. The days of the "Mediterranean" style craft, before the Atlantic versions came about.

David Weber Interview

Posted by: Ymarsakar at April 4, 2008 12:27 AM

Armageddon Reef was a great book. The sequel is coming out soon as well.

I have been a David Weber fan for many years. My one knock on him, though, is that like many sci-fi writers he doesn't know how to end a series. For example, he has essentially abandoned the Honor Harrington series without writing any type of conclusory volume. I find that practice to be a terrific letdown of an otherwise fantastic series. I would much prefer a set trilogy form or something similar. Imagine if Tolkien had never provided a conclusion to the Lord of the Rings. I think it would be nowhere near as popular as it has become. Sadly, this now seems to be standard practice among sci-fi/fantasy authors.

Posted by: a former european at April 4, 2008 03:15 AM

a short bit from Bill on the subject of marriage

Sorry, John G., but I have no comment on the subject. I maintain some standards, even here. Not many, but *some*.

Oh. *That* Bill. Never mind...

Posted by: BillT at April 4, 2008 10:08 AM

*psssst* Ymar -- "triremes"...

Easiest way to remember it is to think of Jeanne d'Arc's reply to the Dauphin when he asked her thoughts on where his coronation should take place: "Triremes."

No, he didn't wear the fox hat...

Posted by: BillT at April 4, 2008 10:14 AM

Easiest way to remember it is to think of Jeanne d'Arc's reply to the Dauphin when he asked her thoughts on where his coronation should take place: "Triremes."

badumbump [vaudevillian drum roll]

I suspect y'all don't REALLY care how you pronounce the word "Reims".

And yes, it was THAT Bill (WS, not WC)

Posted by: John Guilt at April 4, 2008 01:31 PM

I find that practice to be a terrific letdown of an otherwise fantastic series.

Weber has created so many plots, both political, military, and personal, in the series that he can be forgiven for not ending the war after successfully completing every other story arc and loose plot ends out there.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at April 4, 2008 05:42 PM

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