Mary J. Blige | Shakespeare

From Mary J. Blige's 2002 album "No More Drama," Track 16 features the spoken poem "Forever No More".  You can listen to a clip of it from Amazon.
No more invisible, speechless, deaf and blind child
If neglected pleasures being addicted to denial
Floating through time, gravitating towards a warm arm
With an appetite for the emptiness that promises, no harm

No more uncontrollable eruptions of emotional depression
A primal SOS from the barren prison of selfless expression
That only the guilty with innocent souls know
Buried in the social scar tissue of a defective ego

No more relentless sifting through bodies seeking self
Settling through competitive combat for what's left on the shelf
A mad melee of supply and demand driven by a gullible pride
That leads to sedating the you that suffocates inside

No more, forever no more, because I've unshut my eyes
And the difference between God's word and man's will was realized
Seeing opposed and parallel lives, some liquid and others frozen
Led me to never seek from man what God has chosen
Tracy Wagner who taught high school students in the States used these lyrics to teach sonnets from Romeo and Juliet.  She has clear instructions about group work and questions on tone, rhyme scheme, couplet, quatrain, word choice, and theme (Research #13, Slide 22-27).

She doesn't lay out interpretations of the lyrics in the slides, so I had to do some analysis myself.  Students would have their own of course.  I think the first stanza talks about lust and failed relationships.  When I read the fourth stanza, I am reminded of the religious metaphors and foreshadowing in the shared sonnet between the doomed lovers challenging fate near the end of Act One Scene 5.

If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray — grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take (lines 93-106).
Wagner asks more open-ended questions, letting students explore the words and meaning without specific guided questions.  She does a thorough job of looking at rhyme scheme and tone though.  But I have some key questions in mind for those having trouble with theme:
  • From the song, who is the "invisible, speechless, deaf and blind child" (line 1) in the first half of the poem?
  • What do you think the speaker means by the image of "gravitating towards a warm arm" (line 2)?
  • Explore the phrase "an appetite for the emptiness that promises no harm" (line 4)?
  • Compare Mary J. Blige's lyrics to the friar's warning in Act 2 Scene 6:
These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite.
Therefore love moderately; long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow (lines 9-15). 


    Anonymous said...

    The youth nowadays always has a hard time understanding Shakespeare! This is awesome.

    Amira said...

    I know I had trouble making sense of the plays in high school, and even in undergrad!

    I'm glad to see songwriters embrace poetry writing and include readings in their CD. You should check out the Billie Holiday song here! I'm still working on that post though.

    Jaymie said...

    I love that R+J movie! It's so rauncy. :P

    I want to see Gnomeo and Juliet :D