BB: Twelfth Night, Act I, REDUX

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)

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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Bard on the Beach tackles Cymbeline; directed by Anita Rochon

Daniel J. Rowe

It’s romantic, it’s tragic, it’s funny, it’s violent and it’s intriguing and gripping from cover to cover.

Gerry Mackay's Cymbeline is stoic and angry, Shawn Macdonald's Queen duplicitous at Bard on the Beach. photo credit - David Blue
Gerry Mackay’s Cymbeline is stoic and angry, Shawn Macdonald’s Queen duplicitous at Bard on the Beach.
photo credit – David Blue

Vancouver, BC’s Bard on the Beach picked Cymbeline in 2014 as one of its four productions, and  this humble brawler let out a booyeah to be sure. It is one of Shakespeare’s most underrated, exciting and shocking plays.

It was the play I was most excited to check out this year, and the first one I took in.

Anita Rochon directs this late Jacobin-era Shakespearean play (fifth from last) set in the young Roman province of Britain during the imperial reign of Caesar Augustus at the Shakespeare festival this year.

Rochon pulls back with her choice of sets, costumes, and colours, and keeps things simple, while she pushes the energy and rhythm of the performance. She guides the ensemble cast like a team that fences its way through banishment, international struggle and redemption.

…and, you know, what happens to Cloten.

Dang this play is fun.

The six male actors swap roles and circle the female lead Imogen (Rachel Cairns), the daughter of king Cymbeline (Gerry Mackay), who tries along with his queen to force Imogen to marry her stepbrother Cloten and abandon her true love Posthumus that she’s already chosen. You know, standard boy meets girl then girl’s dad gets involved with new wife kind of stuff. Cairns is a standout in the production balancing the swirl of male actors that make up the rest of the ensemble with a steady and powerful presence on stage.

Anton Lipovetsky plays Posthumus, Cloten and Arviragus. Yep. All three. For those that haven’t read or seen the play, Lipovetsky is the romantic lead, the villain and the prodigal son in the same play. Yikes. Someone’s high school drama teacher is proud.

The audience’s laughs at the scheming queen (Shawn Macdonald) and bumbling Cloten soon dry up when the play takes a dramatic dark turn in the second half. I didn’t know what to make of the comedic tone when I first saw it. Cloten and his mother are Cymbeline’s answer to Joffrey Baratheon and Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones; deceitful, despicable characters, and need a touch more evil running through their lines than Macdonald and Lipovetsky gave them I thought originally.

After thinking about it for a while, however, and speaking with the director, I kind of liked the chaos the contrast created. Rochon compared the play to Breaking Bad; sometimes funny, and sometimes so horribly tragic you want to close your eyes for the next week. I like the comparison.

The audience, at points, were laughing at lines and scenes that had no comedy at all. Now who’s going crazy?

Cymbeline/ jailor Mackay got a few of these, which kind of made me laugh. I’ve seen Mackay play Cassius, Alcibiades, Leontes and Achilles in various productions in past years, and was excited that he would be the king this year. He’s always an intense presence on stage.

Take those that were smiling and chuckling as Cloten delivered this monologue:

Posthumus, thy head, which now is growing upon thy shoulders, shall within this hour be off; thy mistress enforced; thy garments cut to pieces before thy face: and all this done, spurn her home to her father; who may haply be a little angry for my so rough usage; but my mother, having power of his testiness, shall turn all into my commendations. My horse is tied up safe: out, sword, and to a sore purpose! Fortune, put them into my hand! – Act IV, i

If you’re laughing at that, you may have already broken bad.

Shakespeare broke bad half a millenia before Vince Gilligan did in Cymbeline. photo credit -
Shakespeare broke bad half a millenia before Vince Gilligan did in Cymbeline.
photo credit – David Blue

Cymbeline is a crazy mosaic of plot points, locale switches, emotional shifts and reveals that come together so nicely in Rochon’s production I like it more and more as I think of it.

If you like to brawl with the bard (BING), you’ll like this play.

The crowds will always flock to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet, and one of the joys of Bard on the Beach is that the troupe always balances the seat fillers with lesser known selections from the Bard’s cannon.

I sometimes wonder why great plays like Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida and Cymbeline aren’t more popular, but, in the end, that probably has something to do with why I like them so much.

Indie cred; always important in the oh-so-hip Shakespearean appreciation societies.

Those in Vancouver would do well to catch this production before the summer sun has left and the rain set in on the west coast.   Bard Logo triangle

BB: Pericles, The Speeches

Artwork - Daniel J. Rowe.
Artwork – Daniel J. Rowe.

Welcome Brawlers to our speeches podcast for Pericles, Prince of Tyre!

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

Listen to or download the podcast.

Not one of Shakespeare blockbusters, this play will keep you guessing with its string of improbable twists and turns. The verdict? More people should read it.

You can help popularize Pericles by dropping some of this bardic wisdom (which you’ll have fully memorized by then) the next time you’re at a party. Bonus points for you if you can flash mob one of these.

(We accept video submissions.)

“Of all say’d yet, mayst thou prove prosperous!” Act I, scene 1
Speakers: Antiochus’ daughter, Pericles, Antiochus
So. Pericles gets on a boat and travels to Antioch to try to score this world-renowned princess to be his wife. He’s already managed to impress the girl who is won over by his big bucks and his sexy looks. Like all good potential father-in-laws, Antioch decides he better test this guy to make sure he’s the real deal… by asking him to decipher a riddle.

Okay, no problem. Pericles is up for it. And then he discovers that this pervert is advertising his incestuous relationship with his daughter. Thing is, Antiochus is so used to being surrounded by ‘yes men’ that he’s not prepared for the fact that Pericles is ready to call him out on how disgusting this is. As for the girl? Looks can be deceiving.

“By Juno, that is queen of marriage” Act II, scene 3
Speakers: Thaisa, Simonides, Pericles
Freshly fished out of the sea with his rusted armour, Pericles is hard at work out-jousting the competition at Simonides’ “Marry my Daughter” Royal Rumble when he catches Thaisa’s eye. While she is busy imagining herself getting with that dreamy Pericles, he’s more interested in Thaisa’s dad. “Wow, that guy would totally be an awesome replacement for my dead dad.”

It’s a strange play.

“Thou god of this great vast, rebuke these surges” Act III, scene 1
Speakers: Pericles, Lychorida
Pericles is on his way home to Tyre with his wife when Thaisa goes into labour. Unfortunately, as she’s trying to give birth, a huge storm is raging around them. He is asking the gods to call off the storm. And when the midwife and nurse Lychorida arrives, he hopes that she can help speed things up. Instead, she hands him his daughter, Marina, introduced to her father for the first time as a piece of his dead wife.

“I hold it ever” Act III, scene 2
Speakers: Cerimon, Second Gentleman
Our play’s miracle worker affords himself a moment of moralistic speechifying before going to work bringing Thaisa back from the edge of death. Virtue and cunning > nobles and riches. What type of ‘virtue and cunning’? Alchemy. So you can learn the power over life and death, and use it only for good, right? Well, yes. That’s exactly what Cerimon does. He even takes Thaisa’ crown jewels… for safe keeping, of course.

“My commission” Act IV, scene 1
Speakers: Leonine, Marina
So pirates. Maybe we were a little excited about reading a Shakespearean play with pirates in it so we inflated their importance in our recollection of play. Still, the pirates here actually end up saving Marina’s life, in a very twisted sex-trade driven way. Dionyza ordered Leonine to kill her Marina and he decides that after they have scooped her up and ran off with her to their ship, he should follow along to make sure that they kill her after they have raped her. (I thought my job sucked.) Except, they didn’t rape her. They ‘only’ sold her into slavery where she transformed the lustful governor of Mytilene into a noble, Pericles-approved husband.

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman. Inspired by the three Pirates of Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman.

“Of Antiochus and his daughter you have heard”, Epilogue (Act V, scene 3)
Speaker: Gower
Are you ready for the moral of the story? I mentioned in the show that I couldn’t think of too many of Shakespeare’s plays which ended with epilogues. Actually, that’s not really accurate. I can name several which do end with some form of epilogue: As You Like It, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

However, Shakespeare’s not generally so heavy-handed. In case we missed it (because being struck down by lightning or burned alive in your palace by a mob are very subtle forms of divine retribution), ‘Gower’ spells out who the heroes and villains are. Pericles, Helicanus and Cerimon: good; Antiochus, Cleon and Dionyza: bad.

Don’t sleep with your daughter and don’t kill your neighbour’s kid.

Geez, good thing you spelled it out for us, Shakey!

Bonus sonnet 67 read by Niki Lambros.

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BB: Pericles, Act V

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

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

Welcome back to the Bard Brawl! As promised, we’re happy to bring you our final brawl of Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

Listen to or download the podcast.

Like the acts which came before, act V begins with Gower’s prologue (starts with “Marina thus the brothel ‘scapes, and chances”). Gower narrates that Boult, who hasn’t been able to convince Marina to give up the goods, agrees to help find her a respectable household to welcomed into. While we don’t know yet which household, it seems that things are working out for her just fine. As for Pericles? Well, wouldn’t you know that his ship just happens to be sitting at anchor in Mytilene at this very moment!

Seeing such an important ship anchored off his coast, the governor of Mytilene – Lysimachus – takes a small vessel to greet the Tyrian ship and find out why it’s here and what it wants. He and Helicanus exchange a few words at the start of act V, scene 1. Lysimachus asks to meet Pericles, which Helicanus arranges but Perciles is a miserable mess. Helicanus is about to recount the events which have led to Pericles’ current condition but is interrupted when Marina arrives.

Seems that Lysimachus went all Pretty Woman on Marina and ended up marrying her. (Well, he wasn’t getting anywhere with her the other way…) They ask Marina to try to snap Pericles out of it. Marina is about to give up but feels compelled to keep at it until she’s broken Pericles out of his torpor. She decides to tell him her story and when she reveals her name and what happened to her, father and daughter are reunited. But, Pericles is overcome and lulled to sleep my some celestial music.

Then, an apparition of the goddess Diana arrives and tell him to go to her temple and relate the story of how he lost his wife. Yes, Shakespeare wraps things up by having a goddess show up on stage and point our hero to the place where his wife has been living as a nun all this time.

Act V, scene 2 is a short passage narrated by Gower again, as he stands before Diana’s temple. (Starts with: “Now our sands are almost run.”) Pericles agrees to let Lysimachus marry Marina but only after he has made his sacrifice to Diana.

Off to the temple they go for scene 3. Cerimon is there presiding as husband, wife and daughter are reunited at last. It occurs to Pericles that they should let Thaisa’s father know that she’s alive but turns out he’s been dead for a while now. Which of course means that Pericles gets to move to Pentapolis as the new king, and Lysimachus and Marina get to take over the throne of Tyre.

Gower gets the final word of the play where he gets to moralize about the people in the play: Helicanus is the model of loyalty, Cerimon is a model of charity; Antiochus, Cleon and Dionyza are evil sinners who have been justly punished by Heaven for their heinous crimes.

And that’s the end of the Bard Brawl’s seventh play!

Love it or hate it, it seems that this play leaves no one indifferent.

What did you think of Pericles,?

Wako, Bard Brawling cat
Wako, Bard Brawling cat

Sonnet 44 read by lord Jay Reid of Ethickshire.

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BB: Pericles, Act IV

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

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

Did you miss us? I bet you did!

The Bard Brawl is back and ready to come out swinging with this week’s recording of act IV of Pericles, Prince of Tyre!

Listen to or download the podcast. (And hey, it’s been a while so why no go back and read up on acts I, II and III?)

Once again, Gower’s prologue (starts with “Imagine Pericles arrived at Tyre”) open’s up the act. Pericles is back in Tyre. He thinks his wife is dead but she’s alive and living as a nun in Ephesus. Their daughter, Marina, is living in Tarsus with Cleon and Dionyza. There’s a but of a problem, though: Dionyza is jealous that Marina is better/more beautiful than her own daughter so she decides she’s going to have her killed.

That’s the scene which is presented to us in act IV, scene 1. Dionyza has hired Leonine to kill Marina. Dionyza tells maria to go take a walk with the man she has never met. Seems they head for the docks, based on what happens next. (So he can dump the body into the ocean maybe?) Anyhow, when Leonine grabs marina to kill her, a bunch of pirates (yay!) show and scare him off. Then, as pirates are wont to do, they claim her as booty and run off to their ship. Leonine figures he’s seen probably seen the last of her but decides that he’d best follow along. You know, to make sure that they kill her once they rape her.

As it happens, the pirates don’t rape her (if we believe Marina as well as the aptly named First Pirate). Instead we learn at the start of scene 2 that she has been sold to a brothel in Mytilene. The prostitute population of Mytilene is not what it used to be so Pandar, Bawd and Boult buy her figuring they can make a bunch of money by selling her virginity to some pervert. Of course, Marina isn’t planning to comply with this but they spread the word about town anyhow in search of a buyer.

Back to Tarsus where Dionyza breaks the news of Marina’s death to Cleon. He whines about what they’ll tell Pericles when he comes looking for his daughter but Dionyza basically says: tell him she dies. The end. While he seems about to argue with her, Dionyza seems pretty confident that the weak-willed Cleon will just do whatever she says. Yup.

Gower makes a surprise appearance in scene 4 (starts with “Thus time we waste, and longest leagues make short”) to narrate what happens next (see it only as a dumb show): Pericles goes to Tarsus where he learns his daughter is dead. He puts on some rags, vows never shave again, and heads out to sea once more. Gower closes with Marina’s epitaph – what was written by that harpy, Dionyza.

Scene 5 is a short exchange between two men, just outside the brothel in Mytilene. Apparently, someone in the brothel is showing sinners the errors of their ways. Huh. Now that is strange.

Of course, we find out in scene 6 that Marina is behind all of this, much to Pandar, Boult and Bawd’s chagrin. Seems she’s been converting the patrons to virtue. These pimps did manage to find a buyer for Marian: Lysimachus, the governor of Mytilene is very interested in Marina. They all try to convince Marina to give up the goods, but she resists. During her conversation with Lysimachus, he realises that she is noble-born and that she is the one pure thing in the city. Boult devices he’ll rape her so she’ll get over the whole virginity thing but he reminds him that Pandar and Bawd would kick his ass so he holds off for now.

Next week (no, really, we promise!) we’ll be back with the final act of this crazy rape-y, incest-filled play.

If you want to follow along the acts in a version of the play which is not so messed up, this is the app most of the brawlers use when we record. As a bonus, each play comes with a breakdown of scenes and characters. You should check it out.

Also, it’s always nice to have some Shakespeare with you at all times, in case you need an emergency soliloquy.

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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BB: Pericles, Act III

Artwork - Daniel J. Rowe
Artwork – Daniel J. Rowe

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

Welcome back to the Bard Brawl! I know you’ve missed us over the past few weeks but here at last – and just in time for the new school year – is act III of Pericles, Prince of Tyre!

Listen to or download the podcast.

At the end of act 2, we learn that Pericles is finally getting married and the lucky winner is Thaisa, the daughter of Simonides. Once they get hitched, it’s off to Tyre! Gower, as usual, brings us up to speed in his prologue.

(FYI, the Shakespeare edition which we use for the show is a little messed up for Pericles. In this case, the prologue for act III is about halfway down the page. It starts with: “Now sleep y-slaked hath the rout”. Act III, scene 1 then start right afterwards, on the same page.)

Of course, what happens on the return trip in act III, scene 1? Yup. Another storm at sea. To make matter worse, Thaisa goes into labour while the storm rages around the ship. The child, Marina is born but Thaisa is pronounced dead and is given a hasty burial at sea. Pericles orders the mariners to set sail for the nearby coast which – as it happens – is the coast of Tarsus.

In scene 2 the action shifts to the home of a Ephesian physician, Cerimon (Not to be confused with this guy). A few men have come to him after they found a sealed casket washed ashore. When they open it, they discover Thaisa and Cerimon realises that she’s not dead. With the help of some cutting edge medical procedures he revives her. It seems strange to me that given the opportunity to really set up a surprise later on, Shakespeare doesn’t even wait a few scenes before revealing to us that Thaisa is still alive. Not to mention that Gower is constantly telling us what’s about to happen in the next scene…

Anyhow.

Pericles has made it to Tarsus and after a brief stop to refit the ship, is ready to embark on the final leg of the journey which will take him home to Tyre. For some reason that’s not really clear to me, Pericles leaves his daughter Marina in the care of Clear and Dioniza who accept to raise her as their own until she is old enough to be married. It’s your standard kind of exchange: Pericles has provided Cleon with corn to feed his people, so the only fair thing is for Pericles to ask him to care for his daughter for 15 years.

We return to Thaisa and Cerimon in the last scene of the act. Cerimon has brought her up to speed on where she is. She seems to think that there is no way she will ever be reunited with Pericles so she decides that she going to do the only sensible thing she can and become a nun at Diana’s temple.

Here are some of the characters introduced in act III:

  • Cerimon: He’s a physician in Ephesus. He revives Thaisa. He’s kind of like Miracle Max in The Princess Bride. (I guess she was only mostly dead…)

Stay tuned for pirates in the next episode!

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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BB: Pericles, Act II

Artwork - Stephanie E.M. Coleman
Artwork – Stephanie E.M. Coleman

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

Welcome back, Brawlers. Ready for act II of Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre?

Listen to or download the podcast.

Let’s get to it then.

Like the previous act, act II begins with a Prologue spoken by the Middle-English poet, John Gower. Gower first recaps the events of the previous act: Pericles has fled from Tyre in order to escape the wrath of Antiochus… who will all remember was a disgusting incestuous scum bag. He then makes it to Tarsus but it seems that city isn’t safe for him either and he is forced to take to sea. Gower seems to approve of Helicane’s interim rule of Tyre and his service to Pericles to whom he sends regular messengers advising him of the status of things back home. Like the fact that Thaliard wants to kill him.

As Gower tells us, Pericles’ ship gets destroyed and we find him washed ashore on act II, scene 1. A few fishermen have found him. He learns from them that he’s washed up in Pentapolis, and that Simonides – the king of this place – is an alight guy and a popular ruler. Not only that, be he’s got a hot daughter and he’s throwing a jousting tournament to decide which guy gets to marry her. If only Pericles hadn’t lost his knightly accoutrements in the shipwreck… What’s this? By an unbelievable coincidence, the fishermen catch Pericles’ ancestral armour in their fishing nets! Wow, imagine that! Looks a little rustier than before but he throws it on and heads for Simonides’ court.

The scene shifts to the tournament fields in scene 2. Simonides is with this daughter Thaisa and he has asked her to list off and describe the participants in the upcoming jousts. She lists out the first five entries and then ends with a description of Pericles in his rusty armour. One of Simonides’ lords makes a joke about Pericles`appearance but Simonides basically calls him out for being an idiot and judging by appearance rather than merit. Huh. Seems like a pretty smart thing to say.

So, guess who wins the tournament? Surprise, Pericles is the winner! In scene 3 Thaisa pretends not to care about Pericles (but she has already fallen for him, of course). Simonides asks her to find out who he is and Pericles tells them that’s he’s just a guy looking for adventure. There’s some dancing, then everyone turns in for the night.

In the next scene, back in Tyre, we learn from Helicane that Antiochus won’t be chasing after Pericles any more: he and his daughter were struck down by a lightning bolts from the gods. Yup, that right Escanes: “‘Twas very strange.” A few nobles come in and it seems that they’re not happy about their ruler being lost. They figure, he’s been gone long enough that Helicane should step in and take the throne. Helicane tells them that he will take up the mantle or rulership if Pericles can’t be found. They agree to search for him during that time.

Finally, back to Simonides’ court in scene 5. Simonides tells the gathered knights that his daughter has decided not to marry for the next 12 months and they leave. Seem that Simonides likes talking to himself and we ‘overhear’ how his daughter has chosen to marry Pericles. Simonides makes a show of accusing Pericles of having bewitched Thaisa. Of course, Pericles denies this and threatens to kill any man – except for the king, of course – who would dare accuse him of such an act. Pericles asks the king’s daughter to back his story but she basically says that she wants to be bewitched by Pericles. Her father pretends to be pissed but in the end arranges for them to be married as soon as possible.

Here are some of the characters introduced in act II:

  • Simonidies, King of Pentapolis: He’s the king of Pentapolis and is basically the opposite of Antiochus. He’s pretty much an all around nice guy even though he’s got a strange sense of humour.
  • Thaisa: She’s Simonides’ daughter and is determined to marry Pericles even against what she thinks is her father’s wishes.

What is going to happen next? Things are going to get a little weird.

I’d bet on another shipwreck, too.

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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BB: Pericles, Act I

Artwork - Daniel J. Rowe
Artwork – Daniel J. Rowe

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

Welcome Brawlers to our seventh play: Pericles, Prince of Tyre!

This one’s got everything you could hope for in a romance (and several things you didn’t ask for) all rolled into one messy mash-up.

Rather atypically for Shakespeare, this play open with a prologue. The spirit of John Gower comes before the audience and sets up the first act: we are in Antioch where Pericles is trying to win the hand of the princess of Antioch. To do so, he needs to answer a riddle. No big deal… except that if he gets the answer wrong he dies. Just how beautiful is this nameless wonder woman? (Heads up: in some editions, the prologue appears at the end of the previous act.)

To Pericles, in act I, scene 1, she seems to be just as attractive as advertised. That is, until Antiochus drops his riddle. Turns out the answer is “Antiochus is a sick bastard who has been screwing his daughter for years.” And it seems the daughter, who hasn’t said anything except for “I hope you’re the one to take me away from here forever,” was into it as well.

Now, I have no idea why Antiochus would want to advertise his disgusting acts in riddle form but he’s not too happy that Pericles has figured out what has been going on here. Rather than kill Pericles on the spot, Antiochus decides to play nice while he asks Thaliard to kill Pericles for him. I’m not sure how Pericles is justified in thinking that this is somehow the daughter’s fault but either way, he’s not interested in sticking around to collect his prize.

In act I, Scene 2, Pericles has returned home but is now concerned that Antiochus will not only seek to kill Pericles but may also take out his anger on the citizens of Tyre. He confides in his lords but they are chastised by Helicanus, Pericles’ closet advisor, for feeding him only the BS which they think he wants to hear. Helicanus, however, advises his lord to leave the city and travel, in the hopes that Antiochus’ anger may diminish in time. Or that the sick old man will die. Pericles leaves Helicanus in charge of the city then leaves for tarsus.

Act I, scene 3 is a short act in which Thaliard arrives in Tyre only to find out that Pericles has already left. He’s content to take his leave but Helicanus invites him to stick around and feast. is this a shred move to keep Thaliard under his watchful eye? No idea.

The final scene of the act opens on Cleon and Dionyza, the rulers of tarsus, not long before Pericles shows up. Seems Tarsus is going through a rough patch and the whole country is poor to the point of starvation. So Cleon bitches to Dionyza about how miserable he is until a messenger arrives informing them that Pericles’ ships have arrived. Cleon assumes that he’s here to beat up on his weakened nation but agrees to meet with Pericles. Pericles tells him he’s here on peaceful terms and Cleon invites him to stay as long as he wishes.

And that’s where it stands after one.

To help you follow along, here is a short list of some of the major characters appearing in this act (more or less in order of appearance). We’ll get to the other characters as they show up in the play:

  • Gower: This character takes no part in the action of the play but instead delivers the prologue which introduces each act. John Gower was an English write and contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer. His main work is called the Confessio Amantis and, in particular, it talks to rulers about the dangers of flattery.
  • Antiochus, Ruler or Antioch: This sicko is advertising to the world in code that he’s having an incestuous relationship with his daughter. He’s not too happy when the ‘secret’ gets discovered.
  • Pericles, Prince of Tyre: The Prince of Tyre is interested in finding a wife. He gets carried away on the sea and stuff happens to him. It starts with mostly random good stuff. Then some bad stuff. Then some surprising good stuff out of the bad stuff. The play spans about 20 years of his life.
  • Thaliard: One of Antiochus’ lords or knights who has been sent to kill Pericles. He’s pretty sure that Pericles will die at sea.
  • Helicanus: A lord of Tyre and Pericles’ most trusted advisor probably because he doesn’t spend his time blowing smoke up his ass. He is left in charge as regent of Tyre in Pericles’ absence.
  • Cleon: The ruler of Tarsus. Things are not going too well for him and he constantly assumes the worse of everyone and everyting. He’s also kind of a jerk.
  • Dionyza: Cleon’s wife, Dionyza, doesn;t say much. But based on what she does say, she must also be really hungry.

Now that you think you know what to expect from this play, get ready for act II where there is clearly no chance that some totally implausible, and slightly crazy, plot turns waiting for us.

Listen to or download the podcast.

An extra special sonnet 30 read by a mystery sonneteer who took time away from his studies in the caverns of Worcestershire where he spent his time pouring over ancient critiques of the poetry of Gower.

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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BB: Twelfth Night, The Speeches

artwork - Leigh MacRae
artwork – Leigh MacRae

Welcome Brawlers to the speeches (and scenes) podcast of Twelfth Night!

Listen to or download the podcast.

As usual, we’ve picked out a few memorable or interesting moments from our recording of Twelfth Night. It was a blast to read and record.

No nobles were maimed in the recording of this podcast.

“O that I served that lady…” Act 1, Scene 2, lns 42-60
Speakers: Captain, Viola
In this scene, Viola washes up on shore and realises the following two things:

  1. “I am a young, unmarried woman with no chaperone. I have no father or brother around to guard me from any potential suitors. This is a dangerous situation. I could be raped or claimed as booty at any time!
  2. “I am a young, unmarried woman with no chaperone. I have no father or brother around to guard me from any potential suitors. This is an awesome situation. If I play my cards right, I will actually get the choose my own husband!

So what is her proposed solution? Dress up in her twin brother’s clothes and hide out as an eunuch. By the way, eunuch here doesn’t necessarily mean a castrated man but rather a chamberlain, someone who takes care of someone’s bedchamber. It’s a pretty good description of what Viola is supposed to be doing: finding a way to get Olivia into Orsino’s bedchamber. Instead she manages to put exactly who she wants in that bedchamber – herself. Clever girl.

Daniel thought it was pretty interesting to consider that in a play where the main character spends over 95% of the length of the play in disguise, she should be so quick to judge the captain’s trustworthiness based on his looks. I agree.

“Come, sir, you peevishly threw it to her; and her…” Act 2, Scene 2, lns 13-41
Speakers: Malvolio, Viola
We were pretty sure that Malvolio and Viola didn’t really interact in the play but this scene proves us wrong. It’s especially shameful on our part given that this is one of the most well-known speeches in Twelfth Night.

Olivia, who is trying to nail Cesario, send him a ring via Malvolio. It’s as soon as he leaves Viola with this ring that she realises what’s going on here: Viola loves Orsino but can’t have him without exposing her identity; Orsino is expecting Viola to win Olivia for him which means that Viola won’t be able to get him. To make matters worse, Olivia seems to be in love with Cesario… but has no clue that Cesario is actually a woman.

Does Viola freak out? Nope. She just assumes that this will all work itself out in the end somehow in time.

Huh. I guess she must have read this play already.

By the way, what will we ever do without Zoey nearby?

“What a caterwauling do you keep here! If my lady…” Act 2, Scene 3, lns 68-112
Speakers: Maria, Sir Toby Belch, Feste the Clown, Sir Andrew Aguecheek
When it comes to Sir Toby, Aguecheek and company, there are so many entertaining moments that it’s hard to choose. Honestly, we picked this scene (and let it play for a while) because we love Jay Reid’s drunken singing so much.

Can you hear us all laughing our asses off in the background? Yeah, that’s the idea. Lest anybody get confused: we’re not interested in scholarship and research, deep insights and exploring the meaning of it all. We like reading Shakespeare because we find it fun to do, to mess around with and to mess up. Often.

There are enough people who take their Shakespeare like cod liver oil: good for you but tastes awful. I say you should let the kids have a damned hot-dog from time to time. They don’t need to know it’s a nitrate-free, 100% certified organic grass-fed beef super hot-dog that costs about $40 for a package of 12.

Pass the relish!

“M, O, A, I; this simulation is not as the former: and…” Act 2, Scene 5, lns 131-150
Speakers: Malvolio
This scene of Malvolio reading a letter aloud may contain one of the most often misquoted speeches in Shakespeare. It’s not that people get the words wrong, it’s that they use the quote completely out of context.

How many of you have heard some or all of this before?

be not afraid of greatness: some
are born great, some achieve greatness, and some
have greatness thrust upon ’em

Fellow trekkies may remember a certain episode of DS9 where Worf recalls a very similar speech which was allegedly spoken by Kahless to convince general Martok to claim the mantle of leadership of the Klingon high council.

Do you find these words encouraging? Do they make you want to risk everything on the chance of success? Do they inspire your to seek out your destiny?

On their own, they might. But this ‘speech’ is in a letter, written by Maria, which has only one purpose: to goad Malvolio into making a pass at his boss so Maria, Sir Toby and the other can make fun of him when he gets shot down.

I always thought that Worf liked you Martok but I seems he’s just an ass looking for a good laugh at your expense.

“This is the air; that is the glorious sun…” Act 4, scene 3, lns 1-21
Speakers: Sebastian
This is one another one of the commonly quoted speeches in this play. It’s Sebastian’s ‘pinch me now, I must be dreaming’ moment.

And why shouldn’t he think this? Antonio gave him a pouch of money to keep and hasn’t asked for it back and Olivia, a beautiful and wealthy widow, married him within moments of meeting him.

Easiest booty call ever.

What surprises me about this speech is that Sebastian is looking for Antonio so he can get an explanation for what is going. Why not ask Olivia: “Hi. Thank you for your interest in me. I am flattered and looking forward to our nuptial hour. However, could you please explain to me who you think I am so I can do my best to meet your expectations? Thank you.”

I guess he figures that if it is a dream, he’s not about to ruin it by risking an argument with his sugar mommy wife.

In the next two weeks the Bard Brawl is about to start its seventh play. How awesome is that?

Even more awesome: I promise you pirates! (Your experience may vary. Results not typical.)

But first, stay tuned for our next sonnets podcast which will be up shortly.

Sonnet 34 read by first time sonneteer Jay Reid.

Stay in touch, Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

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