Play Sonnet 124

If my dear love were but the child of state,
It might for Fortune’s bastard be unfathered,
As subject to Time’s love or to Time’s hate,
Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gathered.
No, it was builded far from accident;
It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
Under the blow of thralled discontent,
Whereto th’ inviting time our fashion calls:
It fears not policy, that heretic,
Which works on leases of short-number’d hours,
But all alone stands hugely politic,
That it nor grows with heat, nor drowns with showers.
     To this I witness call the fools of time,
     Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime.



Sonnet 124 observes the poet’s personal transition on his interpretation of love.

If Will’s great love had simply been created by circumstances, it might be rejected as illegitimate because changing circumstances could destroy it. It would be subject to whatever’s in fashion at the moment, rejected with worthless things or plucked up with other fashionable flowers. But his love cannot be affected by the unpredictability of events. It cannot be affected by authority’s approval, or be crushed by its disapproval. It is unafraid of the political scheming that immoral folk engage in, which only has a short term effect. His love stands by itself, independent and wise, neither growing in times of pleasure nor dying in times of misfortune. Will calls as witnesses all fools who died repentant and seeking goodness after living lives dedicated to crime.


Will’s Wordplay

Shakespeare places Sonnet 124 towards the end of the Fair Youth section of sonnets which are addressed to or concern a young man. Over the course of this first section the speaker “tells a ‘high’ story of devotion, in the course of which the poet discovers that the reality of his love is the love itself rather than anything he receives from the beloved”. Shakespeare accomplishes this through a three cycled love phase witnessed within this “Fair Youth” section. The first cycle sees the poet being confident in “Youth’s” love, where the poet “feels that his genius as a poet is being released by [youth’s love]”. However, as this first cycle is completed and the second begins, youth has taken the poet’s mistress and has created a rival poet. This causes the poet to become focused on his own old age and his love’s winter. The final cycle witnesses the poet’s rebirth, where in Sonnet 97 “a great rush of coming-of-spring images” flood the poem. This final portion of the poet’s love cycle is where Sonnet 124 is positioned. Within this final section “[The poet] replaces reproach with self-reproach, or, more accurately, he replaces disillusionment with self-knowledge, and gradually finds the possession of what he has struggled for, not in the youth as a separate person, but in the love that unites him with the youth”.[1]



1. Hubler, Edward, Northrop Frye, Leslie A. Fielder, Stephen Spender, and R.P. Blackmur “The Riddle of Shakespeare’s Sonnets”. First Edition. New York: Basic Books Inc., 1962:


Ellis Island

Many families across the nation can trace their stories here. Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the United States as the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. The island was greatly expanded with land reclamation between 1892 and 1934. Before that, the much smaller original island was the site of Fort Gibson and later a naval magazine. The island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965, and has hosted a museum of immigration since 1990. The south side of the island, home to the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital, is closed to the general public and the object of restoration efforts spearheaded by Save Ellis Island.

In the 35 years before Ellis Island opened, more than eight million immigrants arriving in New York City had been processed by New York State officials at Castle Garden Immigration Depot in Lower Manhattan, just across the bay.[1] The federal government assumed control of immigration on April 18, 1890. While the building was under construction, the Barge Office nearby at the Battery was used for immigrant processing.

The first station was an enormous three-story-tall structure, containing all of the amenities that were thought to be necessary. It opened with celebration on January 1, 1892.[2] Three large ships landed on the first day and 700 immigrants passed over the docks. Almost 450,000 immigrants were processed at the station during its first year. On June 15, 1897, a fire of unknown origin, possibly caused by faulty wiring, turned the wooden structures on Ellis Island into ashes. No loss of life was reported, but most of the immigration records dating back to 1855 were destroyed. About 1.5 million immigrants had been processed at the first building during its five years of use. Plans were immediately made to build a new, fireproof immigration station on Ellis Island. During the construction period, passenger arrivals were again processed at the Barge Office.

The present main structure was designed in French Renaissance Revival style and built of red brick with limestone trim. After it opened on December 17, 1900, the facilities proved to be able to barely handle the flood of immigrants that arrived in the years before World War I. Writer Louis Adamic came to America from Slovenia in southeastern Europe in 1913 and described the night he and many other immigrants slept on bunk beds in a huge hall. Lacking a warm blanket, the young man “shivered, sleepless, all night, listening to snores” and dreams “in perhaps a dozen different languages”. The facility was so large that the dining room could seat 1,000 people.

By the time it closed on November 12, 1954, twelve million immigrants had been processed by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration. It is estimated that 10.5 million immigrants departed for points across the United States from the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal, located just across a narrow strait.[3]


Primary Inspection

Between 1905 and 1914, an average of one million immigrants per year arrived in the United States. Immigration officials reviewed about 5,000 immigrants per day during peak times at Ellis Island.[4] Two-thirds of those individuals emigrated from eastern, southern and central Europe.[5] The peak year for immigration at Ellis Island was 1907, with 1,004,756 immigrants processed. The all-time daily high occurred on April 17, 1907, when 11,747 immigrants arrived.[2] After the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed, which greatly restricted immigration and allowed processing at overseas embassies, the only immigrants to pass through the station were those who had problems with their immigration paperwork, displaced persons, and war refugees. Today, over 100 million Americans—about one-third of the population—can trace their ancestry to the immigrants who first arrived in America at Ellis Island before dispersing to points all over the country.

Generally, those immigrants who were approved spent from two to five hours at Ellis Island. Arrivals were asked 29 questions including name, occupation, and the amount of money carried. It was important to the American government that the new arrivals could support themselves and have money to get started. The average the government wanted the immigrants to have was between 18 and 25 dollars. Those with visible health problems or diseases were sent home or held in the island’s hospital facilities for long periods of time. More than three thousand would-be immigrants died on Ellis Island while being held in the hospital facilities. Some unskilled workers were rejected because they were considered “likely to become a public charge.” About 2 percent were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as having a chronic contagious disease, criminal background, or insanity.[6] Ellis Island was sometimes known as “The Island of Tears” or “Heartbreak Island” because of those 2% who were not admitted after the long transatlantic voyage. The Kissing Post is a wooden column outside the Registry Room, where new arrivals were greeted by their relatives and friends, typically with tears, hugs and kisses.


Medical inspections

To support the activities of the United States Bureau of Immigration, the United States Public Health Service operated an extensive medical service at the immigrant station, called U.S. Marine Hospital Number 43, more widely known as the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital. It was the largest marine hospital in the nation. The medical division, which was active in the hospital wards, the Barge Office at the Battery and the Main Building, was staffed by uniformed military surgeons. They are best known for the role they played during the line inspection, in which they employed unusual techniques such as the use of the buttonhook to examine immigrants for signs of eye diseases (particularly, trachoma) and the use of a chalk mark code. Symbols were chalked on the clothing of potentially sick immigrants following the six-second medical examination. The doctors would look at the immigrants as they climbed the stairs from the baggage area to the Great Hall. Immigrants’ behavior would be studied for difficulties in getting up the staircase. Some immigrants supposedly entered the country only by surreptitiously wiping the chalk marks off, or by turning their clothes inside out.[7]


Detention and Deportation Station

After 1924, Ellis Island became primarily a detention and deportation processing station.

During and immediately following World War II, Ellis Island was used to intern German merchant mariners and “enemy aliens”—Axis nationals detained for fear of spying, sabotage, and other fifth column activity. In December 1941, Ellis Island held 279 Japanese, 248 Germans, and 81 Italians removed from the East Coast. Unlike other wartime immigration detention stations, Ellis Island was designated as a permanent holding facility and was used to hold foreign nationals throughout the war. A total of 7,000 Germans, Italians and Japanese would be ultimately detained at Ellis Island. It was also a processing center for returning sick or wounded U.S. soldiers, and a Coast Guard training base. Ellis Island still managed to process tens of thousands of immigrants a year during this time, but many fewer than the hundreds of thousands a year who arrived before the war. After the war, immigration rapidly returned to earlier levels. Noted entertainers who performed for detained aliens and for U.S. and allied servicemen at the island included Rudy Vallee, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, and Lionel Hampton and his orchestra.

The Internal Security Act of 1950 barred members of communist or fascist organizations from immigrating to the United States. Ellis Island saw detention peak at 1,500, but by 1952, after changes to immigration law and policies, only 30 detainees remained.


Immigration museum

After the immigration station closed in November 1954, the buildings fell into disrepair and were abandoned. Attempts at redeveloping the site were unsuccessful until its landmark status was established. On October 15, 1965, Ellis Island was proclaimed a part of Statue of Liberty National Monument. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.



4. Harlan D. Unrau, Ellis Island Historic Resource Study (Denver: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, 1984).
5. Introduction to Immigration from 1905-1945: Immigration and Multiculturalism: Essential Primary Sources, 2006
7. Houghton, Gillian (2003). Ellis Island: A Primary Source History of an Immigrant’s Arrival in America. The Rosen Publishing Group, New York.


ACTOR – Mara Radulovic

Mara Radulovic is an actor and teacher living in Boston. She teaches On-Camera Acting at CP Casting and Acting at Boston Conservatory. She has recently relocated from Chicago where she taught Acting/Movement at the DePaul Theatre School and at Columbia College. Originally from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, she trained at the Belgrade Academy of Dramatic Arts, completing her advanced training in London at the Lee Strasberg Studio.  She received her MFA in Acting from Brandeis University and has trained in a wide variety of acting techniques including: Michael Chekhov Technique with MICHA Association in NYC, ongoing Roy Heart Voice Work with Phil Timberlake at the DePaul Theatre School, Viewpoints training with Jennifer Hubbard, and ongoing speech training with Gail Bell from the Tisch School of Arts in New York.

Mara has acted with some of  most prominent theater companies of Southeastern Europe, including the Yugoslav Drama Theatre. Her credits include performances in television and leading roles on stage. A co-founder of the Michael Chekhov Actors Studio in Boston, she spent four years teaching courses in the core acting and movement curriculum at Emerson College, where she was a recipient of a Part-Time Faculty Grant for further development. Mara has also worked with Urban Research Theatre (Lincoln Center, New York), with artist residences at La Mama, Cave Arts, and Movement Research and traveled to Japan last year with her “Super Space” Project to lead a workshop for actors. Most recently, Mara played Beatrice in Arthur Miller’s “View From The Bridge,” Alice in August Strindberg’s “Dance of Death,” Marija, lead in an award-winning independent movie entitled “Regret,” and a Chorus in Euripides’ “Trojan Women,” produced by the Whistler in the Dark Theater Company.

Certified in yoga, Mara is committed to daily yoga practice and incorporates yoga principles into her work. Recently, she completed Yoga Certification training with master teacher Barbara Benagh, in the Art of Teaching 500 Hours.

Mara lives in Boston with her husband and two children.


DIRECTOR – Gretchen Egolf

Gretchen Egolf is thrilled to be making another contribution to The Sonnet Project (see also #147), particularly during this 400th Shakespeare anniversary.

Gretchen is an immigrant to the UK. Until recent years, she was previously based in New York and sometimes Los Angeles, working as an actor in theater, film, and television. She has performed on Broadway and Off, in the West End, and in many regional theaters around the US. (See website for full credits.) Gretchen has been lucky to play many great roles, from Shakespeare (Rosalind, Beatrice, Tamora in NYSX’s TITUS ANDRONICUS) to Williams (Blanche Du Bois at the Guthrie) and in recent years is very happy to have begun teaching and directing as well. In the UK, she teaches acting at LAMDA, RADA, and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, among others. She has also been directing and devising pieces outside of London in Kent, where she lives with her husband and two stepsons.