The Things we do for Love

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Hello everyone my name is Dr Elizabeth Woledge, but please do call me Liz, no one stands on ceremony in the virtual world. I work here as part of the education team at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. This week I am putting together a series of evening classes which I will teach in the autumn. The classes will revolve around two of my favourite plays Antony and Cleopatra and Othello. Both these plays address the boundary between love and obsession and make the reader ask how much love is too much?

In our modern culture we tend to think of love as a powerful and positive force. Popular songs tell is that it romantic to lie, cry and even die for the one you love. Thinking of (Everything I Do) I Do It For You by Bryan Adams .

This sonq was number 1 in the charts for so many weeks that it has become part of my cultural landscape and must be so for many other young(ish) men and women. No one seems to question whether the singer’s offer to sacrifice his life for his beloved is just a little over the top or not.

Ok, to be fair this song was inspired by the film of Robin Hood and Robin Hood is hardly your average man. But the point is that his actions are considered the height of romance rather than the height of stupidity!

Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and Othello both question how far one should go for love. Antony, a strong and charismatic leader is undone by his addictive love for Cleopatra. Yes, some of the things he says to Cleopatra are very romantic. In the Robin Hood vein he claims that he would let his responsibilities in Rome ‘melt’ because his world is in Egypt with Cleopatra. As he tells her, “Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch / Of the ranged empire fall. Here is my space.” (Find this quotation in context on http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/antony/section1.html)

Antony is very romantic, or very foolish, depending on how you look at it. Antony certainly ticks all the boxes, he cries, lies and yes, in the end dies, for Cleopatra. Othello is a slightly different case, although he too dies for love. He also kills his beloved wife Desdemona because he loves her so obsessively that he is unable to deal with the threat of her being unfaithful. Very few people would today condone his actions or even consider them romantic, but it is interesting that Othello himself offers in his defense that he loved “not wisely but too well”.

So next time you see a romantic or heroic film, hear a romantic song or read or see a play by Shakespeare ask yourself how much love is too much?

If this kind of question in literature interests you, and you live near Stratford Upon Avon you might be interested in joining my evening class in the Autumn of this year. For more information please contact Katie  Ledwidge T. 01798 201805 E-mail. education1@shakespeare.org.uk

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Author:Liz Dollimore

Someone who loves listening to people talk about Shakespeare Liz tweets at @shakespeareBT
  • Dino

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  • Liz Woledge

    Interestingly, I think that in our modern world we tend to think of love as a positive force so we are troubled when it drives us to do negative things. However when Shakespeare was writing people were less sure that love was such a positive force. In Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream Theseus says that “The lunatic, the lover and the poet / Are of imagination all compact” So for Shakespeare the idea that love could drive us to do crazy even heinous things was perhaps less of a paradox than it is for us today.

  • Elizabeth

    Interestingly, I think that in our modern world we tend to think of love as a positive force so we are troubled when it drives us to do negative things. However when Shakespeare was writing people were less sure that love was such a positive force. In Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream Theseus says that “The lunatic, the lover and the poet / Are of imagination all compact” So for Shakespeare the idea that love could drive us to do crazy even heinous things was perhaps less of a paradox than it is for us today.

  • This saying “The things we do for Love” certainly tells infinite actions we do for someone we love. It really is interesting thinking that even such an action that Othello did for Desdemona is romantic. In the modern world, it can be perceived as a heinous way of saying that you killed someone you love because you really love them.

    In this case, It is seen as another thing that people can do because of love, but then how far can the things we do for love go until you can say that it's not anymore love? 🙂

  • This saying “The things we do for Love” certainly tells infinite actions we do for someone we love. It really is interesting thinking that even such an action that Othello did for Desdemona is romantic. In the modern world, it can be perceived as a heinous way of saying that you killed someone you love because you really love them.

    In this case, It is seen as another thing that people can do because of love, but then how far can the things we do for love go until you can say that it's not anymore love? 🙂

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