Good evening! Happy Valentine’s Day!
“If music be the food of love, play on.” – Twelfth Night (A2: S1)
The obvious theme of love will be brought to you in the form of Shakespeare, famous love letters and of course, music tracks!
The theme of love and romance is explored throughout most of Shakespeare’s plays. Perhaps the most famous and frequently performed play is the tragic romance of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. A lovesick Romeo falls instantly in love with Juliet, who is due to marry a handsome and wealthy suitor, her father’s choice, the Count Paris. Romeo is banished in an attempt to stop a street fight involving Juliet’s cousin. In a desperate attempt to be reunited with Romeo, she follows a plot to fake her death. Believing Juliet to be dead, Romeo takes his own life and when Juliet discovers his death, she kills herself. The untimely death of two ‘star-crossed’ lovers ends the feud of the grieving families. Juliet says of Romeo – “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; The more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite.” (A2:S2)
In contrast, in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, Shakespeare mocks the blindness of love and turns a love scene into a comedy. Oberon, King of the Fairies is estranged from Titania, the Queen. He instructs Puck, a “shrewd and knavish sprite” to help him concoct a magical potion, which when applied to the eyelids of Titania, she, upon waking, is fated to idolise the first creature she sees. Comically, having received the love potion, Titania is awakened by the musical sounds of Bottom the Ass and she immediately falls in love with him.
It may not surprise you to know that there have been numerous songs, which have been inspired by the story of Romeo and Juliet; to include Dire Straits (1998) with a cover version from The Killers (2007), of the same title name; Thin Lizzy’s 1976 track ‘Romeo and the Lonely Girl’ and the 1993 song ‘They Don’t Know’ by Kirsty MacColl.
You, (Juliet) I love you like the stars above, I’ll love you ‘till I die.” – Dire Straits, Romeo and Juliet.
There is even a musical drama film based on the adaptation of the classic romantic tragedy, ‘West Side Story’ (1961), which sees the two main characters, Maria and Tony, who fall in love, entangled in a bitter battle between their rival gangster families and ends, like Romeo and Juliet, with disastrous consequences.
Before modern technology brought us emails, text messages and Instagram, communication between loving couples existed in the form of handwritten notes and letters. The oldest Valentine note is held at the British Library containing a poem written in French in 1415 by Charles Duke of Orleans to his wife, which he sent whilst he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. It emerged in the news yesterday, that the oldest Valentine’s Day card is from the Georgian era dating from 1797 (below). The 224-year old printed card was written by Catherine Mossday where she repeatedly requests for a gentleman, namely a Mr Brown, to see her. She berates her lover for ‘ghosting’ her and writes: “As I have repeatedly requested you to come, I think you must have some reason for not complying with my requests but as I have something particular to say to you, I could wish you make it all agreeable to come on Sunday next without fall and in doing you will oblige your well wisher.”
Writing love letters now seems like a prehistoric practice. History is full of passionate and intimate love letters which have continued to fascinate historians throughout time. They are revealing in every way; in private thoughts and passionate intimacy. I’ve chosen three romantic letters and you would have to agree, reading them is like taking a master class in affectionate and romantic prose.
John Keats to Fanny Brawne – Keats met Fanny Brawne in 1818 when he moved next door to her family. Despite his love for her, they never married. His friends didn’t approve of her and according to accounts, he never had enough money to sustain a marriage. He continued to write passionate love letters for the next three years until his death in 1821. “My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you – I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again – my life seems to stop there – I see no further. You have absorb’d me … I could be martyr’d for my Religion – Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you. My Creed is my love and you are its only tenet – …”
Zelda Fitzgerald to F Scott Fitzgerald – Zelda suffered from mental illness whilst Fitzgerald struggled with alcoholism. Throughout their time together, they would hurt each other by having extra marital affairs, but despite their tumultuous relationship, their devotion and passion for each other remained strong. “Darling – I love these velvet nights. I’ve never been able to decide whether the night was a bitter enemie or a “grand patron” – or whether I love you most in the eternal classic half-lights where it blends with day or in the full religious fan-fare of midnight or perhaps in the lux of noon. Anyway, I love you most and you ‘phoned me just because you phoned me tonight – I walked on those telephone wires for two hours after holding your love like a parasol to balance me.”
Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas – Douglas, commonly known as, Bosie, was 21 years old when he met Wilde. He became Wilde’s muse and his lover. They remained together for several years. “My own boy, your Sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red-rose leaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly was you in Greek days.”
I will leave you now with some romantic tracks and as you can imagine, I was inundated with decades of well-known love songs. Many musical artists present their songs as lyrical poetry and I’m not going to argue with that! Music is poetry!
So, for your romantic earworm, I’ve chosen one song from each decade –
Enjoy! Until next time! Eliza x
“I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words how wonderful life is while you’re in the world.” – Elton John, Your Song (1970).
Frank Sinatra – My Funny Valentine (written 1937)
The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)
Roberta Flack – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (1969)
The Cure – Just Like Heaven (1987)
Savage Garden – Truly Madly Deeply (1997)
Adele – Make You Feel My Love (2008)
John Legend – All of Me (2013)
Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You (2020)