Sir Patrick Stewart Reading Sonnets is a Soothing Balm in 2020’s Hellscape

Sir Patrick Stewart in 2017. He has spent much of 2020 on social media, reading Shakespeare to us from a variety of reassuringly comfortable chairs.  (Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for DIFF)

Sir Patrick Stewart has been calming me down for six months now. Throughout shelter in place, every time there’s a new piece of apocalyptic news; every time my chest starts feeling tight or my heart starts racing; every time I feel on the verge of a meltdown, the fix is the same. I scramble over to Sir Patrick’s Instagram page and listen to him reading the sonnets of Shakespeare.

He has been doing this every single day for six months now. And he knew from the get-go how people like me would be using them. As he said back in March, “A sonnet a day keeps the doctor away.”

I’m not going to lie—I don’t always understand the content of all of the sonnets. And sometimes I don’t even try to. It doesn’t really matter, truth be told. Because the sound of Sir Patrick’s calm, beautifully enunciated voice is always soothing. His relaxed demeanor and peaceful facial expressions are somehow infectious. And even when he misses a beat, his delivery is a delight.

Watching him has become a form of meditation. But this week, Sir Patrick upped the stakes and brought his foster dog into the mix. (I will be scrolling back to this one for weeks to come.)

And this morning when I woke up in San Francisco to a bleak, dark sky and red horizon, and immediately started to feel the walls closing in, I went straight to yesterday’s sonnet to calm down. (One made all the better by one commenter noting, “I don’t know what’s more rich and buttery, your voice or that leather chair.”)

It was impossible to foresee at the beginning of 2020 just how badly I would one day need Sir Patrick Stewart reading bite-sized Shakespeare on social media. But I do. And maybe you do too. It has proven to be one of the only consistently pleasant features in an otherwise anxiety-inducing year.