Judi Dench captivated The Graham Norton Show audience with a powerful reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29, showcasing her deep connection to the Bard and his work.
In a recent episode of The Graham Norton Show, legendary actress Judi Dench left the audience spellbound with her rendition of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29. Dench, who appeared on the show to discuss her new memoir about Shakespeare titled Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays The Rent, showcased her deep connection to the playwright’s work and her ability to bring his words to life.
During the interview, Dench explained that both she and her late husband, Michael Williams, were involved in Shakespeare plays when they first met, with the earnings from these performances literally paying their rent. When asked about how much Shakespeare is constantly in her head, Dench responded, “Well, as much as it is all of us, of course. We don’t realize, Graham. We quote Shakespeare all the time, perhaps without knowing it.”
This prompted host Graham Norton to challenge Dench to read a passage from Shakespeare. Dench, in her typical dramatic fashion, proceeded to recite Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 from memory. The audience was captivated as she delivered the powerful lines:
“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.”
Norton, clearly moved by Dench’s performance, described it as “spellbinding,” and the audience cheered enthusiastically. Dench’s ability to bring Shakespeare’s words to life is a testament to her talent and her deep understanding of the playwright’s work.
Throughout her career, Dench has appeared in numerous Shakespeare plays, taking on iconic roles such as Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. Her collaboration with fellow actor Brendon O’Hea on her new memoir sparked many memories and led to the creation of Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays The Rent.
Dench’s appearance on The Graham Norton Show not only showcased her love for Shakespeare but also reminded us of the enduring power and beauty of his words. As Dench herself stated, we quote Shakespeare all the time, often without even realizing it. His work continues to resonate with audiences, transcending time and connecting us to the universal themes of love, loss, and the human experience.
The Graham Norton Show airs on BBC One on Fridays at 10:35 pm, and Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays The Rent is now available.