Maggie Grace reads Sonnet 116, the Bard’s ode to true love | Shakespeare 400
Shakespeare wrote about just about every aspect of the human experience. But he may be most often quoted and best remembered for writing about love.
The Bard’s love poetry captured Maggie Grace’s attention immediately when she discovered it at age 12 or 13.
“I would memorize the sonnets,” the Lost alum told us. “My Bible teacher called some of the love poetry I had pasted in the front of my notebook ‘shameless erotica.’ Some of them are quite bawdy if you read into them a little.”
As a teen, Grace “couldn’t imagine saying [the sonnets] aloud to anyone.” Since then, she’s recited them at friends’ weddings, and she delivered a transfixing reading of Sonnet 116 for HitFix’s video series celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare. (April 23 marked 400 years since Shakespeare’s death in 1616.)
Those who watched Shakespeare in Love will remember the £50 wager between Will Shakespeare and Lord Wessex, to be judged by Judi Dench’s Queen Elizabeth: “Can a play show us the very truth and nature of love?”
The queen ultimately declares that Will’s new play, Romeo and Juliet, with the playwright and his beloved, Viola, in the lead roles, does show the very truth and nature of love.
As Grace points out in the flagship video for this Shakespeare series, it’s hard to believe there was true love between Romeo and Juliet in that four-day whirlwind romance. If you’ll bear with me philosophizing for a moment (scroll down to the reading video below if you want none of that!), I’ll observe that there are other plays and poems of Shakespeare’s that better show “the very truth and nature of love.” And when you look at all his works on love together, that paints a better picture of this favorite subject of poets, love, in all its beauty, fickleness, constancy, pain, joy, and blindness (it was Shakespeare who popularized the phrase “love is blind” with several of his plays).
Sonnet 116 is a favorite poem for weddings since it’s a beautiful ode to idealized, true, committed love. But Shakespeare also wrote rather cynically on love: In As You Like It, he has Rosalind saying, “Men are April when the woo, December when they wed. Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.” In Hamlet: “’Tis not strange that even our loves should with our fortunes change.” Sonnet 49, a stark contrast to the ode to constant love in 116, has the poet bracing himself for the day his lover rejects him. In Sonnet 130, he mocks the whole poetic practice of comparing a beloved’s features to the sun, roses, coral.
For this video series, though, you can enjoy Grace reading a more optimistic musing on love. Below, watch her reading of Sonnet 116, as she reads the poem directly into camera, and to you.
And below here, watch the flagship video in HitFix’s celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare. You can see Czerny tear up as he discusses Sonnet 116, plus more actors sharing how the Bard has impacted their lives and their careers.