Patrick Stewart Is Reading Every Shakespeare Sonnet on Instagram: One a Day “to Keep the Doctor Away”

He is a “geek cul­tur­al icon”: Cap­tain Picard and Pro­fes­sor X. We’ve heard him game­ly voice a ridicu­lous ani­mat­ed char­ac­ter in Amer­i­can Dad. We know him as an advo­cate for vic­tims of domes­tic vio­lence, a trag­ic real­i­ty he wit­nessed as a child. There are many sides to Patrick Stew­art, but at his core, Shake­speare nerds know, he’s a Shake­speare­an. Maybe you’ve seen him in 2010’s Ceaușes­cu-inspired Mac­beth or the 2012 BBC pro­duc­tion of Richard II, or as Claudius in 2009’s tele­vised Roy­al Shake­speare Com­pa­ny Ham­let, with David Ten­nant in the title role?

Only the most envi­able nerds, how­ev­er, have seen him live on stage with the RSC, in any num­ber of roles, minor and major, that he has played since join­ing the com­pa­ny in 1966. He’s as august a Shake­speare­an actor as Olivi­er or Giel­gud. So, imag­ine Olivi­er or Giel­gud read­ing a Shake­speare son­net to you every day, right in the com­fort of your own home. Maybe even bet­ter (some might say), we have the mel­liflu­ous Stew­art deliv­er­ing the goods, to soothe us in our days of iso­la­tion.

After receiv­ing a very enthu­si­as­tic response when he “ran­dom­ly and ele­gant­ly recit­ed Shakespeare’s Son­net 116 to his fans on social media,” writes Laugh­ing Squid, Stew­art “decid­ed to read one Shake­speare son­net aloud each day in hopes of ‘keep­ing the doc­tor away.’” Think of it as pre­ven­ta­tive med­i­cine for the itchy, cooped-up soul. On his Insta­gram, Sir Patrick shows up loung­ing com­fort­ably in casu­al clothes, fur­ther­ing the illu­sion that he’s joined us in our liv­ing rooms—or we’ve joined him in his.


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A post shared by Patrick Stew­art (@sirpatstew) on

Where the inti­ma­cy of celebri­ty social media can some­times feel cloy­ing and insin­cere, Stew­art seems to feel so gen­uine­ly at home with his set­ting and his text that we do too. The actor occa­sion­al­ly adds some brief com­men­tary. In his read­ing of Son­net 2, above, he says before begin­ning, “this is one of my favorites.”

When forty win­ters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trench­es in thy beau­ty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud liv­ery so gazed on now,
Will be a tot­ter’d weed of small worth held: 
Then being asked, where all thy beau­ty lies,
Where all the trea­sure of thy lusty days; 
To say, with­in thine own deep sunken eyes,
Were an all-eat­ing shame, and thrift­less praise.
How much more praise deserv’d thy beau­ty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,’
Prov­ing his beau­ty by suc­ces­sion thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

Maybe we all feel we’re grow­ing old in the bore­dom and anx­i­ety of our new siege-like con­di­tions. The poet urges us to make the most it. Sure, plen­ty of peo­ple are already engaged in mak­ing chil­dren, with­out any help from Shake­speare or Patrick Stew­art, but those who aren’t might decide to work on oth­er lega­cies that will out­live them.

Stew­art tells Vari­ety that his only regret dur­ing his time with the RSC is that he “might have per­haps been a rather bold­er, pushi­er and more extrav­a­gant actor.” But it’s his under­state­ment and sub­tle­ty that make him so com­pelling. He also says that his first year with the RSC was, “at that point, the hap­pi­est year of my work­ing life,” though he was only cast to play small roles until he was made an Asso­ciate Artist in 1967, just one year after join­ing.


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A post shared by Patrick Stew­art (@sirpatstew) on

He worked along­side a “new nucle­us of tal­ent” that includ­ed Helen Mir­ren and Ben Kings­ley and remained exclu­sive­ly with the com­pa­ny until 1982. (See a young Stew­art as Oberon in A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream pro­duc­tion from 1977.) Stew­art returned to the stage with the RSC often, and while his Insta­gram read­ings are hard­ly com­pa­ra­ble in scope and inten­si­ty to his Shake­speare­an work on stage and screen, they have proven a true balm for lovers of Shake­speare’s poet­ry, as read by Patrick Stew­art as a love­ably book­ish home­body, which turns out to be an unsur­pris­ing­ly large num­ber of peo­ple.

If you’re in dire need of such a thing—or just can’t miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to see one of the great­est liv­ing Shake­speare­an actors read all of the Son­nets in his sweats—check in with Stewart’s Insta­gram to get caught up and for the lat­est install­ment, and fol­low along with poems here. For even more Shake­speare­an Stew­art geek­ery, read his rec­ol­lec­tion of his 1965 Roy­al Shake­speare Com­pa­ny audi­tion—in which com­pa­ny co-founder John Bar­ton had him per­form Hen­ry V’s famous Agin­court speech four times in a row before invit­ing him to join.

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Inno­cent Christ­mas Typo Caus­es Sir Patrick Stew­art to Star as Satan In This Ani­mat­ed Hol­i­day Short

Patrick Stew­art Talks Can­did­ly About Domes­tic Vio­lence in a Poignant Q&A Ses­sion at Comic­palooza

Sir Patrick Stew­art & Sir Ian McK­ellen Play The New­ly­wed Game

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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