Skip to main content

Institutions of Love and Death: Shakespeare's Sonnets in Elderly Care Facilities

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Shakespeare’s Global Sonnets

Part of the book series: Global Shakespeares ((GSH))

  • 158 Accesses

Abstract

In 2006, the Finnish actor Jussi Lehtonen created Rakkaus ei ole ajan narri [Love's Not Time’s Fool], a monologue based on Shakespeare’s sonnets, which premiered at the Finnish National Theatre and then toured around various care institutions in Finland, e.g. assisted living centres for the elderly, dementia units, homeless shelters, drug rehabilitation facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and prisons, as well as theaters and schools. This chapter analyses the responses of elderly viewers to two broad themes raised in Shakespeare’s sonnets that have been seen as taboo subjects for the elderly: love, sexuality and loss, and ageing and death. In a third section, we take up issues connected to memory loss and cognitive decline, demonstrating that Shakespeare’s sonnets provided a point of contact even for patients with severe dementia. Shakespeare’s sonnets became a means of integrating Finnish institutions of theatre and care, while providing elderly viewers with what they seemed to regard as a meaningful artistic experience, allowing them to resist the stigmatization of ageing. The analysis sheds light on the complex and sometimes contradictory attitudes towards Shakespeare and his sonnets in elderly care institutions in Finland, and perhaps also offers a model for theatre practitioners interested in bringing Shakespeare to care institutions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 109.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 139.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 139.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Notes

  1. 1.

    In 2010, it was performed at the Duke Theatre in New York (Isherwood 2010) and in 2011 at the Rose Theatre in Kingston (Billington 2011), with Parry and Michael Pennington, but has not been extensively revived.

  2. 2.

    A total institution is an isolated unit where people in similar life situations live a longer period of time in a routine-like and hierarchical setting. Life in a total institution leads to institutionalization of an individual. In Goffman’s typology (1961, 4), total institutions are divided into 5 subgroups. Of these, “institutions established to care for people felt to be both harmless and incapable” include nursing homes.

  3. 3.

    Writing for the leading Helsinki newspaper, Tomi Kontio (2005) roundly criticized the decision not to follow the sonnet form. For a much more measured response, highlighting the translation’s strengths as well as weaknesses, see Salenius (2005).

  4. 4.

    The dramaturgies consisted of the choice and order of the sonnets that formed a dramatic plot. No other texts were used in the performance. There was an introduction where Lehtonen presented himself and the performance and invited people to discuss with him after the performance. In the longest version, the sonnets included were: 113, 74, 12, 104, 64, 3, 110, 57, 46, 58, 75, 129, 116, 73, 61, 12, 147, 97, 8.

  5. 5.

    This is an anti-coagulant medication.

  6. 6.

    The Touring Stage also develops socially oriented documentary theatre, where performances are made with differently marginalized communities in order to make their voices heard in society (Lehtonen 2021b, 45–46). https://kansallisteatteri.fi/kiertuenayttamo/.

References

  • Acting Company. 1998. Love’s Fire: Seven New Plays Inspired by Seven Shakespearean Sonnets. New York: HarperCollins.

    Google Scholar 

  • Billington, Michael. 2011. “Love Is My Sin—Review”. The Guardian, January 17.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fancourt, Daisy and Saoirse Finn. 2019. What Is the Evidence on the Role of the Arts in Improving Health and Well-Being? A Scoping Review. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe (Health Evidence Network (HEN) Synthesis Report 67).

    Google Scholar 

  • Gewirtz-Meydan, Ateret, Trish Hafford-Letchfield, Yael Benyamini, Amanda Phelan, Jeanne Jackson, and Liat Ayalon. 2018. ‘Ageism and Sexuality. Contemporary Perspectives on Ageism’. In International Perspectives on Aging 19, eds. Liat Ayalon and Clemens Tesch-Römer. Springer Open, 149–62. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-73820-8_10.

  • Goffman, Erving. 1961. Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. New York: Doubleday.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goffman, Erving. 1986 (1963). Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hallnäs, Lars. 2017. “Once Again... What Is Artistic Research? (Questions: The Situation of the Field and Concepts)”. In Futures of Artistic Research. At the Intersection of Utopia, Academia and Power, eds. Jan Kaila, Anita Seppä, and Henk Slager (Hrsg.). Helsinki: Academy of Fine Arts, Uniarts. https://helda.helsinki.fi/bitstream/handle/10138/246117/Futures_of_artistic_research_kirja.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y%20.

  • Hannula, Mika, Juha Suoranta, and Tero Vadén. 2014. “Artistic Research Methodology: Narrative, Power, and the Public”. Critical Qualitative Research 15. New York: Peter Lang.

    Google Scholar 

  • Isherwood, Charles. 1998. “Love’s Fire”. Variety, June 23.

    Google Scholar 

  • Isherwood, Christopher. 2010. “Shakespeare’s Sonnets Get a Turn on the Stage”. New York Times, April 2 [Rev. of Peter Brook’s Love Is My Sin].

    Google Scholar 

  • Isherwood, Christopher. 2014a. “His Majesty the Queen”. New York Times, October 1 [Preview of Berliner Ensemble’s Shakespeare’s Sonnets at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, music by Rufus Wainwright, dir. Richard Wilson].

    Google Scholar 

  • Isherwood, Christopher. 2014b. “Words Felt, If Not Quite Fathomed”. New York Times, October 8 [Review of Berliner Ensemble's ‘Shakespeare's Sonnets’].

    Google Scholar 

  • Kontio, Tomi. 2005. “Shakespearen ikuiset sonetit tulevat taas”. Helsingin Sanomat, April 9.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lehtonen, Jussi. 2010. Samassa valossa: näyttelijäntyö hoitolaitoskiertueella. Helsinki: Avain.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lehtonen, Jussi. 2015. Elämäntunto: näyttelijä kohtaa hoitolaitosyleisön. Acta Scenica 43. Helsinki: Taideyliopiston Teatterikorkeakoulu. https://helda.helsinki.fi/bitstream/handle/10138/156950/Acta_Acenica_42.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

  • Lehtonen, Jussi. 2021a. “Ilmaisuyhteisö Kansallisteatterissa: eettisiä haasteita yhteisöllisesti suuntautuneessa dokumenttiteatterissa”. In Yhteisötaiteen etiikka, eds. Lea Kantonen and Sari Karttunen. Helsinki: Taideyliopiston Teatterikorkeakoulu, 97–128.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lehtonen, Jussi. 2021b. “Touring Stage of The Finnish National Theatre”. In Love in a Cold Climate: Creative Ageing in Finland, eds. David Cutler, Raisa Karttunen, and Jenni Räsänen. London: The Baring Foundation, 45–46. https://cdn.baringfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/BF_Creative-ageing-Finland_WEB.pdf.

  • McElroy, Steven. 2013. “Taking Shakespeare’s Sonnets to the Streets of New York”. New York Times, April 3.

    Google Scholar 

  • McNiff, Jean. 2017. Action Research: All You Need to Know. Sage: London.

    Google Scholar 

  • New York Shakespeare Exchange. The Sonnet Project. https://nysx.org/programs-2/sonnet-project/. Accessed 10 September 2021.

  • Nussbaum, Martha C. and Saul Levmore. 2017. Aging Thoughtfully: Conversations About Retirement, Romance, Wrinkles, & Regret. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rayner, Francesca. 2017. “Dehierarchizing Space: Performer-Audience Collaborations in Two Portuguese Performances of Shakespeare”. Multicultural Shakespeare Vol 15 (30): 27–41. http://doi.org/10-1515/mstap-2017-0003.

    Google Scholar 

  • Salenius, Maria. 2005. “Kesäklassikko: Shakespearea nautinnollisesti”. Kiiltomato, August 10. https://kiiltomato.net/critic/william-shakespeare-nautintojen-ajan-aarre-william-shakespearen-sonetit/.

  • Toomer, Jeanette. 1998. “The Acting Company Fires Up Shakespeare’s Sonnets”. New York: Amsterdam News, July 2. https://search-ebscohost-com.libproxy.helsinki.fi/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=844503&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 10 September 2021.

  • Vendler, Helen. 1999. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgement

This work has been partly supported by the Academy of Finland research project ArtsEqual (grant number: 293199).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jussi Lehtonen .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Keinänen, N., Lehtonen, J. (2023). Institutions of Love and Death: Shakespeare's Sonnets in Elderly Care Facilities. In: Kingsley-Smith, J., Rampone Jr., W.R. (eds) Shakespeare’s Global Sonnets. Global Shakespeares. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-09472-9_14

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics