BB: Sonnets 30-35

26 Jan Artwork - Leigh MacRae
Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Welcome Brawlers (finally!) to another episode of the Bard Brawl!

So every so often, do you get that experience where you keep looking at a word which is spelt correctly but you’re just convinced that some letters are missing?

Yeah, that word today is sonnet. No idea what letters might be missing but it still seems… off.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that all of these sonnets have been recorded by male sonnetteers so maybe that’s what’s throwing me off this episode. However, I promise that you won’t be disappointed by our readers.

Enjoy the latest sonnets podcast, au masculin!


Listen to or download the podcast.


Sonnet 30 (Episode: Pericles, Act I; Read by: Eric Fortin)

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.

Argument: So, when I’m thinking about all the things I used to have but have any more, I feel about as crappy as I did when I first lost them. That makes me cry my eyes out about my dead friends and my worse breakups while I go through all of the worst moments of my life all over again. But if I think about you, then all that goes away and I feel awesome.

 

Sonnet 31 (Episode: King Lear, Speeches; Read by: Jack Konorska)

Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,
Which I by lacking have supposed dead;
And there reigns Love, and all Love’s loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried.
How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye,
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things removed that hidden in thee lie!
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to thee did give,
That due of many now is thine alone:
Their images I loved, I view in thee,
And thou (all they) hast all the all of me.

Argument: Check this out. All those people who I thought were gone forever, well it turns out that I can kind of see them all when I look at you. Cool, right? Like, I totally thought I would never see any of them again but when I look at you it’s like – Bam! – they’re right there! So no more visiting each grave one at a time because you’re like a whole cemetery.

 

Sonnet 32 (Episode: Richard II, Act II; Read by: Jack Konorska)

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bett’ring of the time,
And though they be outstripped by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love’.

Argument: If I die before you, and you just happen to come across my poems – entirely by accident, of course – can you please hold on to them and not recycle them. I know that these poems kinda suck so don’t keep them around because you like them but because you loved me. Oh, and can you please go around telling everyone: “Yeah, modern poetry is better but, you know, he wrote these for me so that’s pretty awesome.” (And maybe a little creepy.)

 

Sonnet 33 (Episode: Timon of Athens, Act IV; Read by: David Kandestin)

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out, alack, he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.

Argument: Man, I’ve seen the sunrise make the world look and feel golden so many times only to let itself get covered up by rude-ass clouds. You did that to me once, when you looked at me. It felt pretty amazing to know you were looking at me. But yeah, that didn’t last too long though. I’m not mad though, bro. If the sun can paint the sky red, why should I be mad that you sort of stab my heart like that?

 

Sonnet 34 (Episode: Twelfth Night, Speeches; Read by: “First” Jay Reid)

Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?
‘Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break,
To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
For no man well of such a salve can speak,
That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace:
Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief;
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss:
The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence’s cross.
Ah! but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds,
And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.

Argument: Why the hell did you tell me to leave my jacket at home when you knew it was going to rain? And then you rub it in my face by posting my picture on Facebook, too? You might have apologized but I’m still soaked. WTF? Oh… no. Stop. Please don’t cry. I didn’t mean… just… (sigh) It’s fine. Just forget I said anything. Don’t worry about it.

 

Sonnet 35 (Episode: Pericles, Act IV; Read by: Andre Simoneau)

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud:
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are;
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense,
Thy adverse party is thy advocate,
And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence:
Such civil war is in my love and hate,
That I an accessary needs must be,
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

Argument: Seriously,.don’t worry about it. You made a mistake, you’re only human. I guess. I mean, I just can’t stay mad at you, no matter how hard I try. Even when you mess up big. It’s messed up but I guess it’s just my lot in life to stick up for you, even if it means that I take your side over mine in every argument.

What’s coming up next on the Bard Brawl? Blood, and lots of it. Stay tuned!

If you like sonnets, or the Bard, or the Bard Brawlers, or cats, or Batman, or hockey, or poems, or artwork, or Game of Thrones, or Star Wars, or anything else you can think of, why not pick up a copy of the first edition of ‘Zounds!, a Bard Brawl Journal.

'Zounds!, Act I,i

‘Zounds!, Act I,i

Winter, 2014: ‘Zounds! Act I,scene i - One to Seventeen -

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BB: Twelfth Night, Act V; REDUX

5 Jan artwork - Leigh MacRae

 

artwork - Leigh MacRae

artwork – Leigh MacRae

“… let no quarrel nor no brawl to come taint the condition of this present hour,” Fabian

Welcome back to the Bard Brawl and to the final act of our Twelfth Night redux!

The gauntlet of relatives, three heaping platefuls of cipâtes, your second copy of Moneyball in as many days (*pokes Niki Lambros), that the guy you made out with at the New Year’s Eve party who you later discovered was your second cousin (Dramatization, may not have happened.), you survived it all.

You made it! Pat yourself on the back, enjoy what’s left of the bubbly (we sure did) and have a listen as we wrap up Twelfth Night in true Bard Brawl style with a little NKOTB.

Side note: Enjoy the “crusher” guitar intro. We sure did.


Listen to or download the podcast.


Only one scene in this act but it’s a pretty wild one.

Orsino, that lazy, pathetic ass, has finally decided that if he wants Olivia he should probably make some sort of effort himself to win her over. He runs into Feste and Fabian outside of Olivia’s house. Insert a couple of jokes about friends and asses before Orsino sends Feste to fetch Olivia. While he waits, Viola (yup, still disguised as Cesario) notices Antonio being lead before the Duke by an officer. Orsino immediately recognises him as a pirate, but Viola tries to plead for mercy as Antonio defended her from Sir Toby and Andrew Aguecheek’s attacks.

Antonio attempts to defend his presence in Illyria by explaining that he was bewitched by Sebastian’s good looks and obvious character into making stupid decisions like exposing himself to the death penalty by being caught wandering the streets of Illyria. To make matters worse, he accuses Viola (thinking it’s Sebastian) of having refused to give back the money he had given him in trust. Of course, everybody thinks he’s a little nuts because Viola honestly has no clue what the hell he’s talking about. Both Orsino and Antonio claim to have been with “Viola” for the last 3 months.

Olivia arrives and once again refuses Orsino’s advances. To make matters worse, she hits on ‘Cesario’ who she thinks she just married an act ago. When Viola says she plans on following the person she loves, Orsino, Olivia accuses her ‘husband’ of being unfaithful. Viola denies it, of course, but just then – by total coincidence – the priest comes in and backs Olivia.

Moments later, Aguecheek comes in asking for a doctor for Sir Toby who was just injured by ‘Cesario.’ More confusion as Aguecheek blames Viola for Sebastian’s actions. As Belch and his buddies are lead out, Sebastian walks on stage. Finally we have both siblings on-stage at once! Olivia seems particularly happy at the prospect of two Cesario’s: “Most wonderful!” I’ll let you finish the porn joke in whatever way seems best to you.

Sebastian and Viola tease out the moment where they finally admit that they’re brother and sister and that, strangely, all of this is totally okay in the end. Olivia is just as happy with Sebastian, Sebastian is all too happy with Olivia’s money; Viola finally gets to have Orsino, who now seems perfectly happy to give up his hot widow for woman he has spent the entire play confusing for a boy. This will make for some interesting swinger parties.

There are a few other loose ends to warp up. They read Malvolio’s letter and realise that maybe he’s not nuts so they may as well let him out of the asylum. Malvolio accuses Olivia of having toyed with him but Olivia denies that she had anything to do with it. Malvolio swears vengeance. I imagine everybody just laughs.

We also learn that Sir Toby and Maria are getting married but I’m sure they won’t be invited to the swinger party.

And then there’s a little N.K.O.T.B.

The inspiration for Act V.

The inspiration for Act V.

 

If you have any suggestions for which speeches you would like us to revisit, now’s the time as next week is the Twelfth Night speeches podcast!

Sonnet 27 read by sonneteer Hannah Dorozio.


 

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BB: Twelfth Night, Act IV; REDUX

4 Jan Artwork - Leigh MacRae

“This is the air, that is the glorious sun, this pearl she gave me, I do feel’t and see’t…” IV,iii Sebastian.

Welcome Brawlers to act IV of Twelfth Night.

New Year’s Eve has passed but there are still a couple of days before Twelfth Night which means a few more days of eating, drinking and pranks. Hope you kept some space for cakes and ale!

And don’t mind the funny-looking raisins.

On a Two Gentlemen of Verona note, there’s a new production coming out soon. “2GoV” (that’s how the cool kids send text messages or Tweets about it) is not done often, which is odd seeing as another one of those “I will love you forever but then get distracted by the first beautiful girl I see” romances is done, like, all the time.

Go check out the trailer. Looks like a lot of fun!


Listen to or download the podcast.


Before everything untangles itself, Shakespeare’s going to up the ante and string us along for another act of mistaken identities and practical jokes.

Cesario (Viola in what has to be one hell of a disguise), is mistaken for Sebastian (Viola’s mystically identical twin brother) by Antonio at the end of act III. In act IV, scene 1, it’s Sebastian’s turn to be confused for Cesario. Feste mistakes him for Sebastian and only leaves after Sebastian gives him some cash. Then, Sir Toby, Fabian and Andrew Aguecheek come on stage, planning to attack the defenseless Cesario but they are beaten by Sebastian who, unlike Viola, is an able swordsman. Olivia shows up, breaks up the fight and invites Sebastian in thinking that she has finally managed to win over Cesario.

Confused yet? You shouldn’t be – I’m sure you’ve had all the practice tracking disguises when you listened to our The Taming of the Shrew Brawl.

Sebastian has never seen Olivia in his life but figures, what the hell? How often does a beautiful, rich widow throw herself at you and offer to give you everything she has? Seems like the natural thing to do. (I’m told it happens to Daniel all the time.)

If it helps, this is a composite image of the Olivia Shakespeare probably had in mind:

Olivia Wilde

While Sebastian follows Olivia Wilde out of her garden and into her sex den house, Maria, Sir Toby and Feste decide that they’re going to spend scene 2 messing with Malvolio. They dress Feste up as a priest who is visiting ‘Malvolio the Lunatic’ to exorcise his demons. They taunt him and toy with him until Sir Toby calls off the prank. He’s afraid that his niece Olivia will get mad at him if he pushes the joke too far. At the end of the act, Malvolio calls for some pen and paper – he means to write a letter proving that he’s not crazy.

The third scene is very short. It’s the marriage of Sebastian and Olivia. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. Olivia thinks she’s marrying Cesario, Sebastian has no clue who he’s marrying but she’s clearly hot and has a lot of money. (See picture of Shakespeare’s inspiration above if you don’t believe me.) They don’t even have each other’s identities sorted out.

Unless they learn to communicate, I can’t see how this is going to work for either of them.

Join us next week for the final act!


 

Though you’re far away, you’re near in our hearts Zoey Baldwin here reading sonnet 29.


 

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The Meggings Make the Man

3 Jan Yellow Stockings, Cross-Gartered

The third instalment of ‘Zounds! is coming. The Mad King is destined to be amazing with some great submissions already in. If you would like to be a part of the epic journey along with the Bard Brawlers, click here and check out the submission guidelines. Better yet, buy a previous edition and get the idea of what ‘Zounds! is all about.

Here is an entry from ‘Zounds! Act I, scene ii: T by fashion writer, designer and artist Stephanie E.M. Coleman. Enjoy.

Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Let’s admit we all follow trends.

Hypercolour t-shirts? Yeah man. My armpits were blue and the rest of my shirt was pink, but it was cool. Lipstick pink Juicy Couture velour tracksuits? Hot, in a Paris Hilton kind of way (glittery trucker hat mandatory, of course). Rave pants and soother necklaces? Sweet dude, just don’t forget your angel wings.

These are all lovely memories and everything, but we all hope they remain the stuff of ironic Halloween costumes and nothing more.

Perhaps you shuddered a little like I did when leggings came back in style, around 2005. Gazing at the racks of flimsy legwear at the retail store where I was working at the time, all these memories of lace trimmed white leggings I wore in grade 2 came flooding back to me.

And I was expected to build a wall display with these things?

I mean right in front of me I had evidence that the trends I wore as a kid had now cycled back into the forefront of designers’ minds, which would mean that they were vintage. That was a blow my 23 year old mind had a hard time absorbing, though I’ve since gotten used to the phenomena. (Hedi Slimane’s 2013 ‘grunge’ collection for St. Laurent was the real kicker.) I’m now sort of numbed to any further appropriations.

Anyway.

Fashion trauma aside, it would seem that leggings are here to stay, clinging to the flesh and gripping onto every contour and sinew in all their spandex glory. Printed with skulls or crosses à la Alexander McQueen, classic black, or granny style floral, tights are the ubiquitous fashion non-statement that just won’t quit. Stubbornly resistant to the ebb and flow of fashion, we see them turn up time and again under skirts, shorts and tunics.

Black Milk Clothing leggings (see right) are a favourite of the Bard Brawl and may just appear in the third instalment of ‘Zounds! Yep. That’s the first act of Hamlet on her legs.

Model: Saphia; Photo Credit: Jacques Carrière; Leggings: Black Milk Clothing

Model: Saphia; Photo Credit: Jacques Carrière; Leggings: Black Milk Clothing

Even for men.

Yes, in case you hadn’t heard, ‘meggings’ first appeared on Givenchy’s runway in 2013 with black tights worn under shorts. The look has since become a streetwear trend in Europe and New York, with designers like Rick Owens following suit, er…Spandex. They are even somewhat acceptable worn as ‘pants’ for gals, despite the fact we can see right through them to the polka dots on the wearer’s underpants.

Whatever.

Though I understand the popularity of such a comfortable no brainer garment, I can’t say I agree with such practices – especially the above mentioned “pants impostor” faux pas that assaults the eyes far too often.

Hmmmm…I actually do think meggings are pretty cool though.

Google it.

Before we gasp at the daring of Givenchy’s meggings, we should really take a minute to remember that there is nothing new under the sun. Indeed, a few centuries ago was penned a play featuring a hilarious quandary about a certain pair of yellow tights, cross gartered.

When I first read Act II of Twelfth Night, where Maria writes to Malvolio in the guise of Olivia, urging him to don his ‘yellow stockings, cross-gartered’ and woo her, I couldn’t quite picture the look. It sounded delightful, though. A little research at bardbrawl.com, and I quickly discovered that cross gartered yellow tights were de rigeur in court at the time Twelfth Night was written. Yellow was the ‘It’ colour of the season, and the decorative cross garters were an innovation to hold up the stockings before the advent of our dear friends, Lycra and Spandex. Who knew?

Check it out.

Yellow Stockings, Cross-Gartered

Poor Malvolio. It’s kind of tragic.

He was so excited! I mean, he was taking a real fashion risk and expressing himself and then it blows up in his face. I can just imagine him strutting his stuff, thinking this outfit was really gonna seal the deal with Olivia, while she looks at him like he’s gone mental and all the while Maria and co. are snickering at him from behind the bushes.

You know, I really think Malvolio was hanging out with the wrong crowd. They just weren’t ready for his avant-garde fashion sense. Too insecure.

Hello! I thought this play was supposed to be set in Italy. How far is Illyria from Milan, anyway? I guess it’s a little too far from the fashion capital for anything to trickle down. Like showing up at the Calgary Stampede in meggings, it’s just not going to be well received with this crew.

The truth is we just don’t know how to handle stockinged men. There was a whole Mel Brooks movie mocking it – remember Robin Hood Men in Tights? I do. I may or may not be able to quote the whole thing, which is something I probably shouldn’t admit to. “We’re men, we’re men in tights, we roam around the woods looking for fights….”

Okay enough!!

I do think there is a greater lesson to be learned from Malvolio’s mishap. When you step out and make a bold fashion statement, you become an easy target. Crowds are uncomfortable with the audacious confidence required to try out, say, peplums. So should Malvolio be ashamed, hang his head and exit the stage to Charlie Brown music like that Arrested Development episode? Maybe not. I say wear what you love, what makes your imagination run wild, what inspires you, what tells a story. Hold your head high, and remember you have Bill Cunningham on your side!

In the end, I think Malvolio had the last laugh. What started as sabotage turned into a sartorial mainstay.

For real, let me know when everyone has stopped wearing leggings for good. I doubt that day will come anytime soon.


 

'Zounds!, Act I, ii

‘Zounds!, Act I, ii

 

 

Check out the rest of the amazing writers and artists in ‘Zounds! 

Buy Volume II NOW.

 

 

 


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BB: Twelfth Night, Act III – (Re)Redux

2 Jan Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Artwork - Leigh MacRae

Artwork – Leigh MacRae

“… he is a devil in private brawl,” – Sir Toby Belch, III, iv.

Welcome back Brawlers and Happy New Year!

Let’s keep the party jumping with act III of Twelfth Night!

What’s in store for this act? Probably a lot of things that we would call bullying today. Although if we were to bully anyone, we could do worse than to pick on Malvolio. Seems to me like someone’s a little light on Elizabethan holiday spirit. What better way to send a message than through public humiliation? I can’t think of any.

Turns out we’ve already reprised this podcast back when we were working on our first issue of ‘Zounds! (Which remains me that you can get your copy of issues 1 and 2 here, and that you can send submission for the upcoming Mad King issue here.)

But I’m sure you’ll forgive us as not only is this a particularly rockin’ and raucous episode but it was also our farewell brawl for Brawlers-for-life power couple  “Second” Jay Ovenden and Zoey Baldwin.

So here’s to all the Brawlers out there, near and far.

And to those who cannot be with us, I’ll shotgun an extra bear just for you.


 

Listen to or download the podcast.


Viola (still in disguise as Cesario, of course) is waiting outside of Olivia’s house at the start of act III. She is waiting to be admitted with yet another suit from Orsino and is engaged in a witty exchange by Feste, the clown. The two exchange a bunch of jokes about husbands being fools, words being whored out through misuse and overuse, with some punning about the young Cesario ‘wanting’ a beard thrown in for good measure: The beard she ‘wants’ is attached to Orsino’s face, get it?

While she waits, Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby arrive and invite Viola in. Before they can enter, however, Olivia meets with them and is left alone with ‘Cesario.’ Olivia is enraptured by ‘Cesario’ and tries to get him to drop his suit on behalf of wooing for himself. She confesses to the ploy with the ring intended to get Cesario back here but Viola doesn’t bite. Viola says ‘Cesario’ won’t return given that it will be impossible to convince Olivia to love Orsino but Olivia ask that Cesario return anyhow, ‘just in case’ he might be able to convince her somehow…

It seems the Aguecheek saw the whole exchange between Cesario and Olivia in the garden and has decided, at the start of scene 2, that he has no chance with Olivia and should probably just leave. Fabian and Sir Toby convince him that what he needs to do is demonstrate his valour by challenging Cesario to a duel. Sir Toby asks him to write a challenge letter which he will deliver to Cesario. Seems like this is another prank and Sir Aguecheek just another fool. Maria arrives and informs that Malvolio’s all dressed up and ready to make a fool of himself.

Antonio catches up to Sebastian on his way to Illyria in scene 3. Despite the danger to himself, Antonio is moved to help Sebastian. We find out that the reason Antonio is a wanted man is because he stole from Orsino and was recognised in fleeing. He hands Sebastian some money and agrees to meet him at an inn called ‘The Elephant.’

Scene 4 is a monster of a scene, with a lot going on.

As the scene starts, Olivia is waiting impatiently for Malvolio. He arrives dressed as the letter suggested, with his bright yellow stocking, cross-gartered. Olivia immediately assumes he’s lost his mind and ask him to go to bed… which of course he takes as an invitation. He starts quoting bits of the letter as he kisses Olivia’s hand. She, of course, has no idea what the hell he’s talking about.

When Cesario is announced, Olivia asks Maria and Sir Toby to take care of the maddened Malvolio. Malvolio, though, assumes that this is just a test and that he’s supposed to exercise his ‘new authority’ over Sir Toby. They toy with him a bit and when Malvolio walks off, they decide to ties him up and put him in a dark room. Sir Andrew then arrives with his challenge letter. As it is a letter which would betray that Aguecheek is a moron, Sir Toby decides to deliver the challenge to Cesario himself, in his own words.

Olivia and Cesario are in the garden replaying the same scene: Olivia trying to convince Cesario to love her, Cesario trying to convince Olivia to love Orsino. When they take their leave, Sir Toby approaches Cesario and issues Aguecheek’s challenge. Of course, Viola is ignorant of any offense she might have given Aguecheek so she asks Sir Toby to find out what exactly Aguecheek is accusing her of. She asks Fabian about Aguecheek cheek and he describes him as a dangerous and skillful warrior. Sir Toby gives basically the same description of Cesario. While both of the combatants hope the combat will be avoided, Sir Toby manipulates them into it and they are interrupted by Antonio as they draw their swords. He has clearly confused Viola for Sebastian. (The impossible identical twins, remember?)

Moments later, some officers arrive and arrest Antonio. Thinking that he’s speaking with Sebastian, Antonio asks for his money back to bail him out of this mess. Viola denies having the money but offers half of what she has to help him. Antonio is incensed that ‘Sebastian’ has denied him but he is taken away by the guards. Viola slips away with Andrew Aguecheek and the others giving chase.

Cue Benny Hill theme song.

Who will be Zoey and Jay’s successors? You’ll have to listen to act IV to find out.

Sonnet 42 read by Jack Konorska.

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BB: Twelfth Night, Act II – Redux

1 Jan Artwork - Leigh MacRae
Artwork - Leigh MacRae

Artwork – Leigh MacRae

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl!

Hope you’re nice and buzzed because today we continue with our special Twelfth Night redux of Twelfth Night with act II.

Finally got those yellow stockings you were pining for this Christmas? Tonight’s the night to bust a New Year’s Eve fashion move and rock those cross-gartered wonders in all their glory!

(Send pictures)

If you didn’t get your yellow stockings – like that Nintendo you kept asking for and not getting because you were told that there just wasn’t room in Santa’s sleigh – you can use the line that was used on me as a kid: Ah! There’s always next year!

Listen to or download the podcast.

In the first act of the play, Viola disguises herself as Cesario, the young eunuch page in service to Orsino. Olivia has continued to refuse his advances but though better of his envoy, Cesario. A bit of a problem for everyone involved in that scenario…

Oh, but what do we have here at the start of act II? Why, a young man, washed up on the shore, who bears a striking resemblance to Viola in her Cesario disguise? Hmm… wonder where Shakespeare’s going with that. Anyhow, this is Viola’s brother Sebastian who she thinks is dead but who is – as we can see – very much alive. He was found washed ashore by this Antonio fellow. Sebastian decides that he’ll seek out Orsino (presumably to figure out a way home) and, despite having enemies in Orsino’s court, Antonio is moved by his love for the young man and decides to follow him anyway.

Malvolio, whom Olivia had sent after Cesario, catches up her in scene 2 and gives her a ring. When Viola tries to turn down the ring because it is not hers, Malvolio insists that not only is it her ring but that she threw at Olivia. Malvolio drops the thing on the ground and leaves. This is where Viola realises that maybe her disguise was a little too good. Ooops.

We return to Olivia’s house for scene 3 where Toby Belch, Sir Andrew and Feste the clown are singing, drinking and generally making a racket. Maria comes to tell them to quiet down nut the noise brings Malvolio. He immediately tells Sir Toby that he is only welcome here if he can check his excesses at the door. Sir Toby’s response? Something along the lines of “who the @$&# do you think you are?” He reminds Malvolio that his self-righteous behaviour might make him feel important but he’s still just a twerp. Like my 11 year old niece, Malvolio stomps off to go tell Olivia. They decide that they’ll play a (kind of mean) prank on him to take him down a peg: Maria will forge a fake letter to make Malvolio think that Olivia is in love with him. This is basically going to lead him to make a fool of himself.

This next scene is a little complicated to explain but actually quite simple. Orsino is listening to music when Viola arrives. He notices that ‘Cesario’ seems to be showing the signs that he’s fallen in love. Orsino. Seeing as he can’t feed is own appetite for love, he figures he can at least get some enjoyment
from hearing about ‘Cesario’s’ love interest. Of course, seeing as he is the object of Viola’s love, a lot of his questions are answered with: “she’s kind of a lot like you are. Like exactly.” Orsino says some stuff about how much better men are at love than women but Viola then tells him a story about her ‘sister” unrequited love to show that women love deeper than men. Orsino sends her back to Olivia’s house for more wooing!

The last scene of act II takes place in Olivia’s garden. Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria have brought a friend, Fabian, along to watch Malvolio make a fool of himself. They all hide in the bushes. Malvolio walks on the stage talking to himself about how great it would be to be a count. He starts thinking of precedents to ladies marrying underlings. He imagines kicking Sir Toby out, having the run of the house. Eventually, he finds the letter written by Maria. Of course, he decides to read it aloud and describe his thoughts about the cryptic love letter. He ‘brilliantly’ deduces that the letter is written by Olivia and was left there on purpose for him to find it. Emboldened by this letter, he determines to follow its instructions and confess his love to Olivia. Of course, the gawkers chase after him so they won’t miss seeing him be shot down by Olivia.

The letter Malvolio finds mentions that its mysterious author wants to see Malvolio in yellow stocking, “cross-gartered.”

Before the advent of elasticized socks, men wore their socks up to their knees held up by straps or garters. It seems that there were several ways of gartering your socks. The “regular” way would have had the garters running down the side of the leg, parallel to the leg. Cross-gartering instead runs the straps or bands in a criss-cross pattern up the calf and to the knee.

Here’s how that might have looked:

Yellow Stockings, Cross-Gartered

I have no idea just how bad of a fashion faux-pas this would have been in Shakespeare’s day but I’ll take a guess. If we translate that into contemporary terms, the letter might as well have said: “I would really love for you to wear these skin-tight black and fluorescent green bicycle shorts when we go out for brunch with my mother this weekend.”

While I mentioned that Feste is the clown in the play, the real clown – in many ways – is Malvolio. He’s the one everybody’s laughing at. And I’m guessing that Malvolio would have looked just as ridiculous to Shakespeare’s audience as he does to us wearing those bright yellow sock, cross-gartered.

If, like me, you like taking pleasure at the misfortunes of others, you won’t want to miss the next act!

Sonnet 50 read by  sonneteer Erin Marie Byrnes.

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BB: Twelfth Night, Act I, REDUX

30 Dec
Artwork - Leigh MacRae

Artwork – Leigh MacRae

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl! And I’m sorry.

It’s my fault (that’s me as in Master of the English Renaissance, Eric Jean) that you’ve been waiting so patiently for the Bard brawl podcast to return. There was this little thing I’ve been calling The %$#!ing Thesis™ which was gobbling up most of my days but now that’s I’m done writing about King Lear and Kurosawa’s Ran, it’s time to rock some Shakespeare!

You know, just for fun and stuff.

With holiday schedules being what they are, we weren’t able to round up a posse to press-gang a new play into service for the Brawl. We’ll get on that in the new year. Instead, we decided that we’d revisit a play in the spirit of Shakespeare’s Christmas holidays, Twelfth Night!

See, while we’ve got Christmas presents and New year’s eve merrymaking, Shakespeare’s Christmas was a twelve day, no holds barred bash where servants were free to poke fun at their masters, where people drank and ate to excess and everyone could just let loose for a few days before getting back to the business of day-to-day living. Think of it like two weeks at an all-inclusive where nothing has any real consequences and where the best state of being is festive drunkenness.

But before that, just a tiny bit of business.

The third edition of ‘Zounds! which was scheduled for late 2014 will instead come out in early 2015. While we had intended to do three a year, we’ve realised that putting together a magazine takes a bit of work and costs a chunk of change. Surprise. So instead we’ll go with two a year for now and see about getting some funding to ramp up production.

That’s good news for you though because it means that we’re still accepting submissions for the next issue which we’re calling Mad King! It also gives you time to go back and get the first two issues if you haven’t yet. Which you should totally do here.

If you’ve got an article or art submission you’ve been sitting on don’t bogart it, spread it around! Check out our submission guidelines here.

So as I said the first time around… waddaya say to a little bit of cross-dressing, mistaken identity and drunken merriment where no one dies and which doesn’t end with the kingdom falling into chaos? I thought so.

Take Sir Toby’s advice. This play is best enjoyed with a drink in hand. (Might I suggest an eggnog, a nice bourbon or some bubbly?)

Listen to or download the podcast.

Act 1, scene 1 starts with the Duke Orsino sitting around with his musicians, pathetically pining after Olivia. His servant Curio asks him if he will go hunting ‘the hart’ and Orsino tells him that he is already hunting the finest ‘heart’ that beats, Olivia’s. Punderful. (Harts, for reasons that should be obvious, came up pretty often in love poetry in the Renaissance. Here’s a pretty popular example from Sir Thomas Wyatt, a man who had the misfortune of loving the same woman as Henry VIII.) Orsino’s messenger, Valentine (really Shakespeare?), arrives and informs Orsino that Olivia would not see him but sends the message that she has refused to take on suitors as she wishes to concentrate on mourning her lost brother. Morbid? Not if you;re Orsino, apparently.

The next scene, scene 2, takes place on the coast of Illyria. (Here’s a link.) There has been a shipwreck and Viola is one of the survivors. With her, the only other known survivor, the captain of the ship. The captain tells her they are in Illyria, in the lands governed by Duke Orsino. As a single woman with no resources and allies, Viola realised that she is vulnerable so she decides the enlist the captain’s help to disguise herself as a boy-eunuch and offer her services to the duke until she can figure out more about her situation.

Sir Toby belch stumbles onto the stage at the start of scene 3. He seems to think that she’s spent way too much time and energy mourning her dead brother and that she should lighten up and start worrying about the living. Specifically, it seems that Sir Toby is trying to fix his niece Olivia up with a certain Andrew Aguecheek whose chief quality is that he has money, although it seems that he’s not very good at holding on to it. In fact, he’s a total witless and clueless loser without a thought of his own. He makes a complete mess of his meeting with Maria, confusing terms of address with her name. In fact, he gets totally pwned by Maria. More drinking ensues.

The next scene is a short exchange between Duke Orsino and ‘Cesario’ (Viola in diguise). Not sure what the hiring process was like but Orsino seems to believe that ‘Cesario’ will be able to gain access to Olivia because he’s got gorgeous boyish features… As a final aside before the scene ends, Viola confesses that while she needs to woo Olivia on Orsino’s behalf, she herself has fallen for him.

In this final scene of act I we return to Olivia’s house. It seem her clown Feste has returned from some trip. She’s in no mood to laugh, though she bears Feste’s barbs lightly. Malvolio seems annoyed by Feste but Olivia calls him out for taking himself too seriously. ‘Cesario’ (Viola) is announced at the door but is initially refused entrance. However, it seems that like Orsino, Olivia cannot resist young boyish pages ans she allows Viola to enter. Viola starts with her rehearsed speech from Orsino but the two women quickly get into a war of wits which seems, in the end, only to inflame Olivia’s desire for the messenger, not the message. She tells Viola that she refuses Orsino’s advances but that she would willingly love to have a Cesario of her own… Viola leaves but Olivia, in order to make sure that ‘Cesario’ comes back, sends him a ring which she claims he left behind.

As you usual, we’ll end this week’s post with a list presenting the major characters in Twelfth Night. Hope it helps though this play is nowhere near as confusing as Henry VI part 1 or Taming of the Shrew:

  • Duke Orsino: The duke’s a love-obsessed fool who start of the play madly in love with Olivia. Honestly, he doesn’t really do much besides pine and complain. By the end of the play, he’ll hook up with Viola instead.
  • Viola: The main heroine of the play, Viola washes ashore in Illyria and disguises herself as a boy – Cesario – who is a page to Duke Orsino. Of course, she falls in love with him but all he wants her to do is woo Olivia on his behalf. She has a twin brother who looks exactly like her. Like, exactly. Somehow.
  • Sir Toby Belch: Olivia’s rowdy, drunk uncle. He seems to be the ringleader of a small group of drunken merry-makers. He takes a special pleasure in mocking the uptight Malvolio.
  • Maria: Lady Olivia’s servant. She takes the initiative in mocking Malvolio, who she feels is too uptight and serious. She’s eventually shack up with Belch.
  • Sir Andrew Aguecheek: One of Toby Belch’s friends and a suitor to Olivia. He’s basically a spineless, blubbering moron who Toby keeps around to fund his drinking and make fun of.
  • Feste, the Clown: This is lady Olivia’s clown or jester though, really, everyone spends most of their time laughing at Malvolio. He’s often considered one of Shakespeare’s best clown characters.
  • Olivia: A widow in mourning… although she’s not really mourning her husband, but her brother. Anyhow, she doesn’t want anything to do with Orsino. However, he does find his servant ‘Cesario’ to be to her liking. If only there was some way that could work out…
  • Malvolio: Olivia’s chamberlain, his job is to care for Olivia’s house. So, that makes him a middle-management administrator. Of course, Malvolio sees himself as upwardly mobile and dreams of marrying Olivia… which leaves him wide-open to Maria’s pranks. Think of him as the ugly ancestor of the strong protestant work ethic.
  • Sebastian: Viola’s twin brother. To be honest, he doesn’t have much of a personality though Viola tells us that her Cesario is copy of Sebastien in manner and dress. So, basically, Sebastian is a poor (wo)man’s Viola.
  • Antonio: An older gentleman who cares for Sebastian when he washes ashore in Illyria.

So get ready for act II, where Jay Reid… er, Sir Toby has a few more drinks and this party really gets going!

Sonnet 48 read by first time sonneteer Eric Fortin.

(Also, how awesome is Leigh’s artwork for Twelfth Night?)

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She’s the Man (2006), Andy Fickman (director)

29 Dec

Twelfth Night is fast approaching, so now’s the time to approach Twelfth Night. (See what we did there? Of course you did!)

In order to celebrate along with Shakespeare – and buy us some time while we get our act together for 2105 –  we’ll be reposting our Twelfth Night podcasts starting tomorrow.

Want to get back into the swing of things before our sweet voices hit your ears again?

We got you covered.

Check out Zoey Baldwin’s review of the film She’s The Man (an adaptation of Twelfth Night). And once you’re read that, watch the full film which we have so helpfully linked at the bottom of the page!

Enjoy and see you next time!

Zoey Baldwin

High school soccer movie She’s the Man’s hardly a match for Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night, or What You Will—Shakespeare’s hilarious tale of mistaken identity and unrequited love—begins with a shipwreck on the shores of Illyria.

Or, in the case of the 2006 film She’s the Man, on the soccer pitch at Illyria boarding school. No one is presumed dead in this case; Sebastian Hastings (James Kirk (not the captain of NCC-1701-A)) has gone to London to play with his band without his parents’ knowledge.

After the girls soccer team at her school gets cut, his twin sister, Viola (Amanda Bynes), takes this as an opportunity to play soccer on her level—with the boys. And a wig. And a rather unconvincing voice timbre.

Viola hatches the switcharoo idea after her mother, who is dying for a debutante daughter, says, “Sometimes I think you might as well be your brother.” And one gratuitous salon montage underscored with an uppity chick rock cover of “You’re Gonna Make it After All” and complete with stick-on Yosemite Sam moustaches later, Viola sets her plan in action.

She tells each of her conveniently divorced parents she’s at the other’s house, and sets off for Sebastian’s new school. (Of course, this only works because no one at Illyria has met Sebastian yet.)

When Viola starts posing as Sebastian, she suddenly dons an awkward, half-southern accent and saying things like “Word, g-money.” Problems arise when her dreamy roommate, Duke Orsino (Channing Tatum) spots her tampons. To get out of the awkward situation, Viola sticks a tampon up her nose, claiming she uses them for nosebleeds.

Much like the play, Viola and Duke work out an arrangement. Viola will help Duke woo the gorgeous blonde Olivia (Laura Ramsay), and Duke helps Viola improve her soccer skills so she can make first string and kick her ex-boyfriend’s butt in the season opener. Too bad Viola is falling for Duke the whole time, and he thinks she’s her brother. Ruh-roh! Drama, drama, drama, happy ending ensues. I won’t spoil it for you.

There are a number of components in the film that could leave you scratching your head. Tatum’s Duke never seems suspicious that he’s living with a co-ed. I’m willing to suspend disbelief a little bit, but she’s not remotely convincing. The wig isn’t bad, sure, but how do the heart-to-hearts and awkward moments in the locker room not tip Duke off? And how does Olivia not realize she’s flirting with a girl?

As is the case with the original play, there’s no use trying to make sense of how a set of fraternal twins (of opposite genders) would be confused for one another. Or how when Sebastian suddenly returns from London/his watery grave, Olivia has no idea she wasn’t crushing on him all along. And so on.

This is all well and good. The play is not meant to be deep. But though the Bard’s original version is a light romp, it is filled with genuine laughs, pranks and chaos. She’s the Man, on the other hand, relies on kissing booths, debutante balls and chemistry lab partner dynamics. (Yes, Olivia falls for Viola/Sebastian in chemistry. What are the odds of that?!)

 

In addition to a fair dose of cheesiness:

a number of my favorite characters aren’t done their full justice—namely the staff in Olivia’s court like Feste, Maria, and the perpetually drunk Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. True, in She’s the Man Duke has two teammates named Toby and Andrew, but they are in high school and, sadly, never drunk. (Just kidding! Stay in school, kids.)

We do get a solid dose of Malvolio in Olivia’s obsessive sidekick Malcolm Festes, but we never get to see him in yellow, cross-gartered stockings, which is disappointing. He even has a pet tarantula named Malvolio, which he pretends to lose in an attempt to prevent Viola/Sebastian from hooking up with Olivia.

 

The most famous verses work their way into the film, as expected, but it’s actually the only one that does. “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” is used as a cliché line from Duke after Viola’s true identity is revealed in the middle of their season opening soccer game. A bit out of context, if you ask me, considering that we see that line in Malvolio’s big speech when he reads the letter Maria writes to fool him into thinking Olivia holds a torch for him.

You might be asking yourself, why should I support a celebrity who’s spinning off the rails? But people, this is Amanda Bynes pre-bizarre Twitter habits. Whatever she claims has not snapped inside her head definitely hadn’t snapped yet, so this movie’s pretty easy watching.

She was cute once! I promise. Any All That fans out there?

If Bynes’ presence puts you off, perhaps your attention might be redeemed by Channing Tatum’s irresistible charm. Besides Tatum, the only other beacon in the movie is David Cross (Oops. I mean David Cross) as Illyria’s overly friendly headmaster, Horatio Gold. But even an Arrested Development alum can’t fully rescue this awkward, unconvincing adaptation.

Plus, let’s face it, no high school Shakespeare film will ever touch what 10 Things I Hate About You did for The Taming of the Shrew. (Heath Ledger’s adorable serenade of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” is forever burned on my brain.)

She’s the Man is pretty bland. I’d recommend it for sick days, if it comes on TBS or Bravo or something. Don’t go out of your way.

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Two wives, two religions, one bombastic king in New Jersey

18 Nov Illustration by Scott McKowen.

Daniel J. Rowe

The winds of fall were starting to cool, the leaves were in their final stages of clinging to the branches in Madison, New Jersey, and at long last, after years apart, the souls of Bard Brawl and Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey met. Finally.

After a failed attempt to catch Pericles, Prince of Tyre last season thanks to a “snow storm” (come on New Jersey) we traveled to the quaint town of Madison and took in Henry VIII.

King Henry (David Foubert) greets his faithful wife, Queen Katherine (Jessica Wortham). Photo: © Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare

King Henry (David Foubert) greets his faithful
wife, Queen Katherine (Jessica Wortham). Photo: © Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare

Let’s first give a big fits pump and major props to @ShakespeareNJ for putting on a play so rarely produced. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Henry VIII on a playbill anywhere.

Alas, for those of you who didn’t catch it, we are sorry that you are too late. It was worth the fare.

As discussed often at the Bard Brawl (both podcast and blog), the play suffers from two facts that keep theatre companies from putting histories like Henry VIII on. (1) History plays are very complicated to those who aren’t familiar with the epoch and (2) the late plays where authorship may be questioned are sometimes avoided. It is what it is.

Fortunately for me, I went through a bit of a Henry VIII kick a while ago and have seen A Man For All Seasons, the incredibly addicting Tudors series, the unwatchable Other Boleyn Girl and David Starkey‘s two documentary series on the subject. I get obsessed sometimes.

To say familiarity with the characters helped in engaging Paul Mullins‘ production of Henry VIII would be an understatement, but that’s not a criticism of the play. Mullins’ direction is tight and on point and the story is followable if confusing. The confusion has nothing to do with the production. Shakespeare’s audience would have known the story well and would not have needed explanation on who was who and why that lord was important or not.

A friend that went with me admitted that she (a) understood nothing of what anyone was saying, but (b) really enjoyed the performance.

How did the paradox come to pass?

The characters’ words are hard to filter through at times and there is a lot of dialogue. The actors, however, emote and bounce off each other well and the audience can follow who is aligned with who, who is jealous, who is torn, who is tragic and so on.

Cardinal Wolsey (Philip Goodwin), and the Duke of Buckingham (Thomas Michael Hammond) stand out in their respective roles, and leave memorable imprints. Both have great arcs that go from powerful and pompous to tragic and torn.

Two roles that really need to be amped up with intensity in the production were Anne Bullen (Katie Wieland) and Henry himself (David Foubert). Both actors are very good, but sometimes are overshadowed by those they share the stage with. The story and importance of these two requires that they be comets among asteroids. Something about Bullen (sometimes Boleyn) makes the king change everything. This is a big ask, but one that needs to be answered.

Queen Katherine (Jessica Wortham) is another that chews up the stage even if something in me wishes she played the part more Spanish. (Katherine is of Aragon after all).

At this point I’m nitpicking. The criticisms do not in any way take away from the joy in watching the performances.

Mullins is apt and on point with bringing characters in and out of the story, filling the stage with tension and drama and leaving theatregoers satisfied in the end. Particular points gained for keeping the set simple, costumes on point and not adding too much that shifts attention from the characters.

Having only caught the show in its last week, I feel it my duty to put a huge plug in for the upcoming Much Ado About Nothing that hits the stage December 3. Let’s just hope there are no “snow storms.”

King Henry (right, David Foubert) consults with his trusted advisor, Cardinal Wolsey (Philip Goodwin). Photo: © Jerry Dalia,  The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

King Henry (right, David Foubert) consults
with his trusted advisor, Cardinal Wolsey (Philip Goodwin). Photo: © Jerry Dalia,
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

BB: Richard II, the Speeches

26 Oct
Artwork - Andre Simoneau

Artwork – Andre Simoneau

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome back Brawlers to the speeches podcast of our tenth play, Richard II.

Listen to or download the podcast, or better yet subscribe on iTunes.

We also discuss the merits of bottled beer, stubbed-nosed or otherwise, versus tall cans.  Special treat: there may also be a nod to the brilliance of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (aka Patrick Stewart) in Star Trek: First Contact.

Enjoy!

“Should dying men flatter with those that live?” Act II, scene 1
Speakers: Richard II, John of Gaunt
John of Gaunt’s loaded and near-death. King Richard pays him a visit to his dying uncle in the hopes that the old man will die soon so he can gobble up his lands and cash. However, as his death-bed speech Gaunt tells Richard that he’s the one who in danger of dying because he’s killed his own uncle Gloucester and now surrounds himself with flatterers who are likely to run to henry as soon as he gets back to England.

“Where is the duke my father with his power?” Act III, scene 2
Speakers: Duke of Aumerle, Richard II
Things are looking pretty grim for Richard. None of his so-called friends have shown up to fight on his side. He’s screwed and he knows it. And he wants everybody else around to know that he’s royally screwed and to finally stop feeding him bullshit and telling him what he wants to hear. He knows now that kings rarely make it to retirement and that for all of his kingly privilege, he’s just like everybody else, a nobody.

“Ascend his throne, descending now from him…” Act IV, scene 1
Speakers: Duke of York, Henry Bolingbroke, Bishop of Carlisle
Surrounded by his buddies, Henry Bolingrbroke agrees to take the throne and reign as Henry IV! Except the Bishop of Carlisle have a few issues with that. See, as kings are anointed by God people can’t just decide to replace the king with someone lese. Even if they take his power, Richard II is still the rightful king. Carlisle warns that they’ll be hell to pay if they go through with this.

Henry IV’s not too happy to hear this so he just has him arrested. Problem solved.

“Great king, within this coffin I present” Act 5 V, scene 6
Speakers: Exton, Henry Bolingbroke
It only makes sense that so long as Richard II is still around, there will be a bunch of people who refuse to accept that Henry IV is the new king. Life of course would be so much simpler if Richard would just meet with an unfortunate accident and disappear from The Tower. Seems like henry might have let that slip so Exton took his cue and did the dirty work. He then comes back to court to claim his reward except that henry doesn’t want this shit to reflect poorly on him.

So can you spell scapegoat? Yup, that’s right: E-X-T-O-N.

That’s it for play number ten Brawlers! Stay tuned for our next play in the next week or two and for announcements about the upcoming 3rd volume of ‘Zounds!

Zoey Baldwin returns to the brawl and brings us a lovely reading of Sonnet 56.

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it. Volume II is OUT NOW.

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