Uncasing a Cunning Instrument – Shakespeare & English Come of Age

One of our teachers here at the Globe said, “If you can’t improve upon the silence, don’t speak; if you can’t improve upon the stillness, don’t move.” In a similar vein, if you can’t improve upon another’s blog post, just reblog it. This is from my peer, Line Marshall:

Learner Sojourner

image A composite image of what Shakespeare may have looked like at age 13.

The language I have learn’d these forty years,
My native English, now I must forego:
And now my tongue’s use is to me no more
Than an unstringed viol or a harp,
Or like a cunning instrument cased up,
Or, being open, put into his hand.
That knows no touch to tune the harmony:
Within my mouth you have engaol’d my tongue,
Doubly portcullis’d with my teeth and lips;
And dull unfeeling barren ignorance
Is made my gaoler to attend on me.
I am too old to fawn upon a nurse,
Too far in years to be a pupil now:
What is thy sentence then but speechless death,
Which robs my tongue from breathing native breath?

(Richard II, Act I, scene ii)

These are the words of Sir Thomas Mowbray to King Richard after he is sentenced…

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