Play Sonnet 69

Those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view
Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend;
All tongues, the voice of souls, give thee that due,
Uttering bare truth, even so as foes commend.
Thy outward thus with outward praise is crown’d;
But those same tongues, that give thee so thine own,
In other accents do this praise confound
By seeing farther than the eye hath shown.
They look into the beauty of thy mind,
And that in guess they measure by thy deeds;
Then, churls, their thoughts, although their eyes were kind,
To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds:
     But why thy odour matcheth not thy show,
     The soil is this, that thou dost common grow.



Sonnet 69 expresses extremes of feelings about the beloved subject, who is presented as at once superlative in every way and treacherous or disloyal.

Will admits that what the world can see of the youth is perfect. Everyone knows it. But the same people who praise his beauty reverse that praise when they examine you in other ways. These people, judging his mind and character by your actions, decide that he is as much foul as beautiful. The reason nobody can “smell” the internal foulness is that the young man surrounds himself with people who are even fouler by comparison.

Will’s Wordplay

A churl was a boorish peasant. By attributing the churlish thoughts of the youth’s moral perfection to churlish men, Will neatly avoids casting the first stone. Nice save!

The “odour” mentioned may be figurative, a reference to social reputation.


Hell Gate, Astoria, Queens

Dare you cross? Hell Gate is a narrow tidal strait in the East River in New York City in the United States. It separates Astoria, Queens from Randall’s and Wards Islands (formerly two separate islands, now joined by landfill).

The name “Hell Gate” is a corruption of the Dutch phrase Hellegat, which could mean either “hell’s hole” or “bright gate/passage”, which was originally applied to the entirety of the East River. The strait was described in the journals of Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, who is the first European known to have navigated the strait, during his 1614 voyage aboard the Onrust. Hellegat is a fairly common toponym for waterways in the Low Countries, with at least 20 separate examples.[1] Because explorers found navigation hazardous in this New World place of rocks and converging tide-driven currents (from the Long Island Sound, Harlem River strait, Upper Bay of New York Harbor and lesser channels, some of which have been filled), the Anglicization stuck.

In 1851 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to clear obstacles from the strait with explosives; the process would last seventy years.[2] On September 24, 1876, the Corps used 50,000 pounds of explosives to blast the dangerous rocks, which was followed by further blasting work.[3] On October 10, 1885, the Corps carried out the largest explosion in this process, annihilating Flood Rock with 300,000 pounds of explosives. The explosion sent a geyser of water 250 feet in the air; the blast was felt as far away as Princeton, New Jersey. The explosion has been described as “the largest planned explosion before testing began for the atomic bomb”,[4] although the detonation at the Battle of Messines was larger. Rubble from the detonation was used in 1890 to fill the gap between Great Mill Rock and Little Mill Rock, merging the two islands into a single island, Mill Rock.

By the late 19th century, hundreds of ships including HMS Hussar had sunk in the strait. It was spanned in 1917 by the New York Connecting Railroad Bridge (now called the Hell Gate Bridge), which connects Wards Island and Queens. The bridge provides a direct rail link between New England and New York City. In 1936 it was spanned by the Triborough Bridge, allowing vehicular traffic to pass between Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens.


The Bridge

The Hell Gate Bridge (originally the New York Connecting Railroad Bridge or The East River Arch Bridge) is a 1,017-foot steel through arch railroad bridge in New York City. The bridge crosses the Hell Gate, a strait of the East River, between Astoria, Queens and Wards Island in Manhattan.

The bridge is the largest of three bridges that form the Hell Gate complex. An inverted bowstring truss bridge with four 300-foot spans crosses the Little Hell Gate (now filled in); and a 350-foot fixed truss bridge crosses the Bronx Kill (now narrowed by fill). Together with approaches, the bridges are more than 17,000 feet (3.2 mi) long.

This bridge was the inspiration for the design of Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, which is about 60 percent bigger. It was conceived in the early 1900s to link New York and the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) with New England and the New Haven Railroad (NH).

Construction was overseen by Gustav Lindenthal, whose original design left a gap of 15 feet between the steel arch and the masonry towers. Fearing that the public assumed that the towers were structurally integral to the bridge, Lindenthal added aesthetic girders between the upper chord of the arch and the towers to make the structure appear more robust. The original plans for the piers on the long approach ramps called for a steel lattice structure. The design was changed to smooth concrete to soothe concerns that asylum inmates on Wards and Randall’s islands would climb the piers to escape.

The engineering was so precise that when the last section of the main span was lifted into place, the final adjustment needed to join everything together was just 1⁄2 inch! Construction of the Hell Gate Bridge began on March 1, 1912 and ended on September 30, 1916. It was the world’s longest steel arch bridge until the Bayonne Bridge opened in 1931, and was surpassed again by the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.

In 1996, the bridge received a facelift, including its first comprehensive paint job in 80 years. It was painted “Hell Gate Red”, a dark, natural red. The bridge would be the last New York City bridge to collapse if humans disappeared, taking at least a millennium to do so, according to the February 2005 issue of Discover magazine. Most other bridges would fall in about 300 years.



1. Van Dyck, Vic. “Hellegat en Hellegat” (in Dutch).
2. “NOAA 200th Collections: Hell Gate and Its Approaches nautical chart from 1851”. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
3. “Rendering Hell-Gate Rocks; The Submarine Mine Exploded”. The New York Times. September 25, 1876. p. 1. Retrieved 2011-11-19
4. Whitt, Toni (June 2, 2006). “The East River is Cleaner Now. The Water Birds Say So.”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-12.


ACTOR – Vince Gatton

Vince Gatton received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Play in David Johnston’s Candy and Dorothy, which he also performed at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors’ Theater in Cape Cod. He is a founding board member of the New York Shakespeare Exchange, and has appeared as an actor in NYSX’s The Life and Death of King John, Mucedorus, The Comedy of Errors, and ShakesBEER: The Original Shakespearian Pub Crawl. He was also the guy in the original pilot film for The Sonnet Project, which was widely seen via the project’s Kickstarter campaign and was featured on NPR’s Monkey See blog. Other notables: I Am My Own Wife and Fully Committed at Barrington Stage Company in the Berkshires (Metroland’s Critic’s Pick as Best Actor of 2008); Cock at the Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca; The Temperamentals at New World Stages, standing by for Michael Urie; The Turn of the Screw at the Merchant’s House in NYC and the Hennegar Center in Melbourne, Florida; Henry 4 parts 1 & 2, Henry 6 parts 1 & 2, and Love’s Labor’s Lost with Judith Shakespeare Company; Perspective Coward for The Fugitive Kind; To Fool the Eye and Taylor Mac’s The Hot Month with Boomerang Theater Company; and The Americans and Johnston’s Busted Jesus Comix with Blue Coyote Theater Group. He has worked with Tectonic Theater Project on the development of various projects, including Moisés Kaufman’s 33 Variations and Leigh Fondakowski’s Casa Cushman and SPILL. Vince is a native of Louisville, Kentucky and got his BFA in Acting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2012 he lived the trivia nerd’s dream by competing on Jeopardy. He didn’t win.


DIRECTOR – Emily Lyon

Emily Lyon is a NYC stage and film director. Her love of witty, thought-provoking, accessible stories has lead her to: become Literary Manager at Bedlam (; direct Hamlet, Measure for Measure, and Harold Pinter’s The Hothouse; coach students in Detroit to present their own poetry; participate in a Royal Shakespeare Company residency; assist a series of readings for Julie Taymor at Theatre for a New Audience. With a thorough background in Shakespeare, she’s studied at Shakespeare’s Globe, Folger Shakespeare Library, and University of Michigan (BFA: Directing). She also co-founded an award-winning film production company, known for creative pieces for community impact. Her upcoming shows will be announced on her website (

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