Dedicated to Aural Pleasure: Matthew Macfadyen

Matthew Macfadyen memorably played Mr. Darcy in the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice film. In reading ad copy and several poems, he is full of delicious commands and excuses. Like many a period drama gentleman, he is easy on the eyes and ears.

For this advertisement, Macfadyen uses the imperative to share the ingredients for a sexy night in (“First. Soak in hot water. . .” ). Love the delicate sound of “soft,” the command of “remove” followed by a pause. Love the way he varies the pace and slows it down to taste certain words: “fresh—white—linen” and “enriched.” The way he whispers at the end: “. . .and bring—slowly—to the boil.”

When You Are Old

by William Butler Yeats

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.

This one is my favorite, for the startling turn of Macfadyen’s voice from deep to tender, “and dream of the soft look your eyes had once.” I heard it first as an audio file, and after seeing the video, I think the change is because that part is from a different take—they cut away from his face for that part. The poem is devastating; the speaker tells his beloved that when she is old (and with hard eyes), she will know how he alone, among her many suitors, loved her for her soul and not for her beauty and grace, and she will regret how she ran from that love and became afraid and alone.

This Is Just To Say

by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

A quick note of a poem that lingers in the mind. The cuts of the line ring in memory. So sweet. So cold. And they are gone! But how can one not forgive someone who speaks with such sincerity and loveliness?

A lighter playful tone for Macfadyen, eyebrow raising, flirtatious smiling, and a swoony slow last stanza. Also: nice handwriting.

Macfadyen reading Shakespeare.


When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

A man is unseen, unheard, alone in his despair. He feels estranged from others and it is as if the world is against him. He envies the confidence, company, beauty, talent, and success of other men, almost to the point of self-loathing. But then he remembers a beloved and his inner and outer world transforms—from night to day, from hell to heaven, from poverty to riches—and he is defiant against changing his existence and will not acquiesce to a higher authority.

He starts off with a miserable mumbling of the lines as if he were ill, spitting out the end words (“my outcast state,” “that man’s scope”). He shifts to the soft, slow reading with “haply I think on thee,” the increasing tone, clearer pitch, and steadiness of his voice beautifully express the revealed radiance of the poem’s turn.


One thought on “Dedicated to Aural Pleasure: Matthew Macfadyen

  1. I’m not a big fan of MM (his speech patterns are too repetitive for my taste — I too often hear what I expect to hear or am not surprised), BUT I love the close analysis here. Bravo!

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