Review: "Hear My Soul Speak: Wedding Quotations from Shakespeare"

Duane over at ShakespeareGeek has written a book, Hear My Soul Speak: Wedding Quotations from Shakespeare, and, as one of his fellow Shakespeare bloggers, I can heartily recommend it as an asset for brides, grooms, and their friends and family.

The idea of the book came from an over-inundation of the same sonnet (#116, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds”) at weddings. Tired of hearing the same material over and over again, Duane decided to compose a comprehensive guide to Shakespearean quotations about love, family, and knitting those eternal bonds. Rather than just presenting the quotes, Duane gives them context and explicates the language, helping the Shakespeare novice find the meaning in some less-obviously-romantic passages. Most helpfully, the quotes are divided up topically: there’s a section for proposals, one for exchanging vows, one for the father-of-the-bride, one for reception toasts, and so forth. My only wish, really, is that Duane had gone further with that theming. I would’ve loved a section for bridesmaids and maids of honor, since Shakespeare’s women have so many great things to say to each other about friendship and loyalty. All of the quotes he’s pulled are great, though, whether you’re looking for something to use during the ceremony, to say at the reception, or just to print on little cocktail napkins.

What’s really great about the book is its accessibility. It really is Shakespeare for anyone who wants to pick it up, but not, I think, at the cost of cheapening Shakespeare’s words. To the contrary, I think the book might make someone who picked it up just looking for wedding ideas actually want to read further and explore the plays. Duane’s explanations of the lines bring up some intriguing points, and they shine a light on some of Shakespeare’s best characters and most sparkling moments. I’m a fan of anything that can be a gateway to getting more people more interested in the plays, and I think this book could accomplish that goal.

Duane also helps conquer some ShakesFear by including a section of tips on how to deliver Shakespeare’s words. He covers, to my delight, scansion, with a non-intimidating rundown of iambic pentameter, and he even manages to slip in some rhetoric without using the Greek and Latin terms that could easily send a casual reader running for the hills. Then he goes on with a few general public-speaking tips which I think would be helpful to anyone who gets a bit nervous at the thought of it.

Hear My Soul Speak is available online, for eReaders or as a PDF download, at — and if you don’t already follow Duane’s blog, you should. The content is always thought-provoking and and thoroughly entertaining as well.

So now I’m wondering — is there a market for a whole line of books like this, Chicken-Soup-Style? Shakespeare for All Special Occasions? Certainly he has enough things to say about learning and scholarship to fill a book for graduations or for those heading off to college. You could easily use Shakespeare’s words to fill a book on bereavement or to provide a compendium of comfort for those nursing broken hearts. How far could it go? I’m not sure, but it might be worth exploring, if only to further the truth that, yes, Shakespeare has applications to the situations and emotions of modern life.

One thought on “Review: "Hear My Soul Speak: Wedding Quotations from Shakespeare"

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Cass! I know what you're saying about the organization, I went through a number of variations on how best to break it down. The problem is that the Shakespeareans will want to look up material based on character or play, while non fans would have no idea what to do with that information and instead are better served with a breakdown like "toasts" or "proposals". I didn't want to go crazy with that because so many quotes could fit many categories.Listing quotes multiple times, at least in this version, felt too much like I was cheating for the sake of page count :)The ultimate plan, if this little effort catches hold, is to expand into a much fuller "Ultimate Guide To Wedding Shakespeare" which would contain in depth discussion of character and plot, not to mention chapters on flowers, Elizabethan wedding traditions, dresses, cakes … you name it. Thanks again! I think we're very much of the same mind on this point – "I'm a fan of anything that can be a gateway to getting more people more interested in the plays". That, at the end of the day, is my ultimate goal.


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