On Sleep – A monologue from Henry IV by William Shakespeare

King Henry IV on Sleep in the 3rd Act

In this quite lenghty monologue from Shakespeare’s Henry IV and the third act of the play; we encounter some thoughts on human sleep. This is portrayed through the voice and charachter of The king himself. This isn’t the only expressed thoughts on sleep that we encounter from the pen of Shakespeare. Sleep is a very human and common activity, but compared to Shakespeare’s own time and place – how often does modern plays and movies linger on this important theme today? Some questions we need to ask this monologue are:

  • What are the circumstances for this monologue? What has happened in the play?
  • Why is king Henry offering his thoughts on Sleep and how can we trace them?
  • Can we sense Henry’s own moods here? Is he happy, sad; or just being thoughtful about himself or any situation in particular?

Answering some of the questions above we see while reading that theking is very worried. Pay attention to the final line: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Just as in many other plays by Shakespeare, sleep is also associated with death. Compare the section with some of the lines from the play, The Tempest: “We are such stuff As dreams are made on; and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.” (IV Act, Scene 1) The play Henry IV is not about the king himself, but about his son, prince Hal who is the main protagonist. It’s one of Shakespeare’s historical plays and was finished before 1597.

Text

 

How many thousands of my poorest subjects
Are at this hour asleep! O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frightened thee,
That thou no more will weigh my eyelids down,
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,
And hush’d with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in the perfum’d chambers of the great,
Under the canopies of costly state,
And lull’d with sound of sweetest melody?
O thou dull god, why liest thou with the vile
In loathsome beds, and leav’st the kingly couch
A watch-case or a common ‘larum-bell?
Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast
Seal up the ship-boy’s eyes, and rock his brains
In cradle of the rude imperious surge,
And in the visitation of the winds,
Who take the ruffian billows by the top,
Curling their monstrous heads, and hanging them
With deafing clamour in the slippery clouds,
That with the hurly death itself awakes?
Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude;
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then, happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Sources

Open Source Shakespeare.org >> Shakespeare’s Pathos by J. F. Pyre. In Shakespeare Studies. Madison: University of Wisconsin.

 

Henry IV, first Folio 1623.

Moonlight (2016) – The proustian moment

THIS week I went to see Moonlight directed by Barry Jenkins at the cinema; so I’m going to write about the movie here and therefore my post will contain spoilers. If you haven’t seen this movie yet which is based on a play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, written by McCraney; you can stop reading now. Moonlight received critical acclaim upon its release and was regarded as one of the best films of 2016. At the 74th Golden Globe Awards it won Best Motion Picture – Drama and was nominated in five other categories. The film received eight Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Ali, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Jenkins and McCraney.

Moonlight (2016)

The movie depicts the chronicle of the childhood, adolescence and burgeoning adulthood of a young black man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami. He’s known as Chiron and we watch his struggles since early schoolboy days growing up with a crack-addicted mother and being bullied at school. He’s quiet and has a hard time in his efforts to try communicating.  Words seems to fail him and adults complain he doesn’t speak much. He’s also a big time trying to escape his bullies and after being chased down the local drug dealer Juan finds him in his hiding place. He takes Chiron home and a lifetime friendship develop between them and Juan’s girlfriend Theresa. Although Juan sells drugs to Chiron’s mother Paula the friendship goes on through the years until Juan’s death. Chiron continues to be friend with Theresa. At High School young Chiron is bullied for being gay and doesn’t have any strength or potential friends to protect himself.

The Proustian moment in Moonlight

It was interesting to watch Moonlight because it does contain what is called a proustian moment.1 It’s communicated to us through Chiron’s High School friend Kevin who finally decides he will call Chiron and invite him to dinner where he works. At school they had an one-time sexual encounter at the beach and things could have gone well between them after that, but Kevin is talked into by Chiron’s bullies to hit him. They two men meet at the restaurant and it’s a bit of an awkward moment since they haven’t seen each other since high School. Kevin prepares a “chef’s special,” but Chiron is reluctant to speak or drink with his old friend who once knocked him out at school. Kevin seems taken a back that Chiron once silent and shy is a drug dealer making business in Atlanta. When he enters the restaurant tall and well build Kevin doesn’t recognize him. Chiron finally asks why he’s been summoned and Kevin reveals he thought of him after a customer who resembled Chiron entered the restaurant. He also remembered Chiron at that moment through a song. When he first called Chiron on the phone he promised to play that special song. The way this is communicated to the audience reveals Kevin’s proustian moment. Kevin tells Chiron that, although his life may not have turned out the way he hoped, he is still happy. He has a child and likes to work as a cook. The major similarity is that both men has done time. Chiron admits he has never been intimate with another person since their encounter on the beach. As Kevin comforts him, Chiron thinks back to his time as a child on the beach.

Sources

wikipedia.org

imdb.com

 

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  1. The term is also known as Proustian memory; or involuntary memory. Proust viewed involuntary memory as containing the “essence of the past”, claiming that it was lacking from voluntary memory. In his novel, he describes an incident where he was eating tea soaked cake, and a childhood memory of eating tea soaked cake with his aunt was “revealed” to him.