Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Video: Young Ian McKellan Jamming Shakespeare with Fleshtones on Warhol’s TV show (1987)

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Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes which aired on MTV in the late 1980s was a multimedia circus featuring “The high and the low. The rich and the famous. The struggling artists and the rising stars,” as Warhol Museum curator Geralyn Huxley puts it. In this clip, Ian McKellen and the Fleshtones bring Shakespeare’s racy Sonnet 20 to a young hip audience. The poem’s  opening line, ‘A woman’s face, with Nature’s own hand painted’, immediately establishes the theme: Shakespeare is discussing the effeminate beauty of the Fair Youth, the male addressee of most of his sonnets.

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Sonnet 20 by William Shakespeare

A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
      But since she pricked thee out for women’s pleasure,
      Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.
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