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: Romeo and Juliet, the Speeches

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 Brawlers! Now that we all know how Romeo and Juliet ends, let’s wrap it up with out Speeches podcast!

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

For this podcast, we figured that all of you in Bard Brawl nation were already familiar with many of the famous speeches from R&J so we’ve steered conspicuously clear of “Queen Mab”‘s and “yonder window”‘s to give you a selection entirely chosen to prove our theories right.

Enjoy!

“Bid a sick man in sadness make his will” Act I, scene 1
Speakers: Romeo, Benvolio
Here’s Romeo, pouring his heart out to his buddy Benvolio about the love of his life, Rosaline. Romeo loves a woman. Fact. Rosaline told Romeo that she has sworn to live chaste rather than give in to his advances. Fact. Benvolio thinks Romeo is totally overreacting about this whole Rosaline business. Fact. Rosaline is just feeding Romeo that line to get rid of him? Probably.

“Be plain, good son, and homely in thy drift” Act II, scene 3
Speakers: Friar Lawrence, Romeo
After pouring his heart out to Benvolio about how he’ll never get over Rosaline, here’s Romeo in his fits of passion for Juliet. Sounds like Friar Lawrence heard all of Romeo’s lines before because he calls Romeo on it. The friar agrees to help him out but doesn’t think Romeo will make much of a husband. It’s a good thing Shakespeare never wrote in a third teenage girl into the play…

“Jesu, what haste? can you not stay awhile?” Act II, scene 5
Speakers: Juliet, Nurse
After seeing how Romeo handles his bouts of love, here’s Juliet who’s been waiting impatiently for her nurse to arrive with a status update about Romeo. The nurse is trying to catch her breath. Juliet is grilling her to get all of the details of the plan to run off and get married with her Romeo. God these two deserve one another.

“Come, come, thou art as hot a Jack in thy mood as” Act III, scene 1
Speakers: Mercutio, Benvolio
Benvolio, who likes to think he’s a level-headed peacemaker, and Mercutio, who knows very we that he isn’t, are arguing about which one of them has the shortest temper. Where are they? Standing in the middle of the street, in the hot sun, moments before Tybalt some Capulets come around the corner. Sounds like some peace is about to be made!

“Holy Franciscan friar! brother, ho!” Act V, scene 2
Speakers: Friar Lawrence, Friar John
You’d think that if I agreed to deliver a letter for someone, I wouldn’t pay any house calls to plague victims. Well, I guess Friar John didn’t see an issue with it until he was quarantined. So much for delivering that super important letter to Romeo which, if he had received, would have totally fixed absolutely everything according to Friar Lawrence’s absolutely ludicrous plan.

Coming up soon? A new play which has yet to be announced. So get your votes in now! Leave us a comment, send us an email or hit us up on our Facebook page and tell us what play you’d like to hear us Brawl!

2014 comeback sonneteer of the year Kayla “no internet presence” Cross returns to the brawl with an in character rendition of sonnet 54.

If you’re in the area, check out the Manhattan Shakespeare Project‘s all female rendition of Romeo and Juliet running from the end of May to the beginning of July.

Don’t forget to submit to the next issue of ‘Zounds!

 

artwork - Leigh Macrae
artwork – Leigh Macrae

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it.brassknucklestshirt1.png

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BB: Romeo and Juliet, Act V

Artwork - Leigh Macrae
Artwork – Leigh Macrae

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)
Welcome Brawlers! I know Bard Brawl nation’s been waiting impatiently for this one and here it is, the dramatic conclusion to Romeo and Juliet.

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

I know you’ve all been dying to find out how this play ends so here it is: they die! Yup. Juliet, dead. Romeo, dead.

“For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

And that’s it really. The end.

Oh, details?

Well, I don’t see the point in digging up the morbid details of a teenage double suicide but here goes, I guess.

Romeo’s buddy Balthazar shows up (booted!) in Mantua in act V, scene 1. Romeo is hoping for some good news but instead he learns that Juliet died and has been entombed in the Capulet crypts.

But it’s all good though because Romeo must have received the Friar’s message that this is just en elaborate and really dangerous ruse to sneak Juliet out of Verona and get her out of having to marry Paris.

Except he hasn’t received anything so he totally believes that Juliet’s gone. What’s a lovesick fool to do? Seek out a poor apothecary who’s willing to sell you some illegal poison. Then take that vial of poison, sneak into Juliet’ tomb and drink it down so you can be united in death.

(Maybe this is a good time to say it: don’t try this at home folks.)

At the start of scene 2, Friar John drops in on Friar Lawrence. Did John get the letter to Romeo? No. Why? Friar John was helping a friend care for the sick. And then he was quarantined and forbidden to leave the city or hand off the letter to someone else who could bring it for him.

Crap.

But Father Lawrence, never being one for giving up, calls for his crowbar and suits up: he’ll rescue Juliet himself and hide her at his place until he can contact Romeo again.

(Maybe they should have gone with this version of the plan in the first place?)

Act V, scene 3. Enter Paris. Yes, him again. What is he doing in the cemetery with a bunch of flowers in his hand? Why, he’s planing to cover Juliet’s bier with flowers and lie down next to her. Tonight and every night.

Paris’ page is standing looking out he whistles when Romeo shows up with Balthazar with a shovel and a crowbar (who’s making all of these crowbars?). Romeo tells his friend that he’s just going in there to get some ring back that he needs and that he should scram and ignore anything that goes on in there.

Balthazar must be as creeped out about this as I am because he instead decides that he’ll hide out and spy on Romeo for a while.

Romeo cracks open the tomb and is about to enter when he is accosted by Paris. They fight. Romeo kills Paris. With his dying breath, Paris asks to laid out next to Juliet. Yeah, sure.

Hey Paris! Get a clue. Romeo and Juliet, not Paris and Juliet. (And definitely not Paris, Romeo and Juliet.)

Romeo enters the tomb and find Juliet lying there, lifeless. So he makes this massive death-bed speech and downs the super fast-acting poison.

…and then Friar Lawrence arrives.

Balthazar tells him Romeo’s been in there doing God knows what for about half an hour. Friar Lawrence notices the bloody swords and then Paris’ body.

…and then Juliet wakes up: “Hey, where’s Romeo?”

He’s kinda sorta dead.

Juliet’s not too excited at the prospect of living the rest of her life as a nun I guess so she grabs Romeo’s dagger, stabs herself and dies.

The watch finally arrives and takes everyone into custody while they wait for the prince to show up. When he does, Friar Lawrence spills the beans on the whole crazy plan.

Finally, the prince blames the Montague’s and Capulet’s feud for causing their children’s death. Overcome with grief, the Montagues and Capulets finally reconcile.

No one cares what happens to Paris.

We’re not quite done with Romeo and Juliet yet, though. We still have a speeches podcast coming up. If you have suggestions for which speeches you would like us to talk about, let us know in the comments below!

This week, another first-time sonneteer swings by as Kathleen “Momar” Rowe delivers Sonnet 55 with “Epic Diva” effect.

And hey. Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it.

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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BB: Romeo and Juliet, Act IV

Artwork - Leigh Macrae
Artwork – Leigh Macrae

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

Welcome back Brawlers to Romeo and Juliet. This week, we take on act IV of R&J.

Listen to or download the podcast.

Well, despite the fact that we’ve already established that postponing the wedding of Juliet and Paris from Wednesday to Thursday was totally reasonable, by the start of act IV, Friar Lawrence just isn’t on board with that. Could he be right? Is that really too soon? Obviously, Friar Lawrence is really only worried about his hide: he can’t marry one girl to two guys. Well, not in this church at least.

On the other hand, maybe Paris is right: Tybalt was just a cousin. Pretty sure Emily Post’s wedding etiquette doesn’t even have an entry for the appropriate wait time in the event of a violent and non-accidental death of a (sort of) loved one. Just stick the mourning Juliet in a social event and we’ll peer pressure those tears right out of her.

Once Paris is shooed away, Juliet pulls a Romeo and breaks down but Friar Lawrence tell her that there’s still a slim chance for her and Romeo to be together forever. Small catch: she’ll have to kill herself.

Say what? That doesn’t seem very Christian!

Actually, she’ll have to take drink one of Friar Lawrence’s roofies sleeping potions which will make her seem dead for 48 hours. That will make her family bury her in the family crypt. Romeo will then swoop in, rescue her before she suffocates, and steal her away to Mantua while Juliet faking her death and Romeo killing Tybalt blows over. Shouldn’t take more than 2-3 weeks tops, right?

Looks like everything is good to go. Friar Lawrence just needs to let Romeo know about that plan and everything will turn out perfectly.

In scene 2, Lord Capulet is busy planning the wedding when Juliet walks in and seems suddenly and mysteriously zen about the whole marrying Paris thing. She just wants to make daddy happy. Nothing suspicious about any of this at all.

Juliet retires and asks the nurse to help her pick out a suitable wedding outfit. Once she’s picked out her outfit, she dismisses her nurse and lies down on the bed with Friar Lawrence’s elixir. Can she really trust that this potion will work properly? Will she ever wake up? Is this really going to work? Only one way to find out: down the hatch!

The following afternoon, preparations for the wedding are in full swing, and Paris is just about to show up for his big day! Time for Juliet to wake up!

Except she doesn’t.

The Nurse finds her lying dead in her bed in scene 5. Everybody files into the room: mom, dad, Paris and of course Friar Lawrence. The friar tries to calm everyone down. Creepy Paris still thinks this is about him somehow and asks to lie down next to her. Lord Capulet orders the food to be served as a funeral feast, the musicians are asked to play some sad music. They agree once they’re sure they’ll still get paid, and be allowed to stick around for the buffet.

I wonder if Friar Lawrence has any idea whether his potion worked or not. I also wonder how his archbishop would feel about all of this. And where the hell is Romeo and what has he been doing in the past few days? He wasn’t in this act at all!

Guess you’ll have to wait for act 5 to see if he got our text message /email/ Facebook invite / carrier pigeon / monk-o-gram.

Please Welcome our newest sonneteer to the brawl, the legendary lord of St. Leonard, Mark Della Posta reading sonnet 39.

Mark should not be confused, however, with the other legendary lord of St-Leonard, Roberto “The Manimal” Luongo.

The Manimal
The Manimal

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it.

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Romeo and Juliet, Act III

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 to the Bard Brawl! With the madness of the ‘Zounds! launch party behind us, we were finally able to get the crew together to record act III of Romeo and Juliet where no doubt nothing but steamy love-making scenes and happily-ever-afters await us!

Listen to or download the podcast or why not subscribe on iTunes.

Lots of action in this act and it starts right away with a confrontation between Mercutio and Tybalt in scene 1. Benvolio and Mercutio are hanging out in the sun when Benvolio suggests they should probably head inside to avoid the roving bands of wild Capulets which are wandering the streets. Before they can leave though, Tybalt shows up with ‘others’ and Tybalt tries to start some shit. Mercutio seems eager to go at it too but Benvolio tries to get them to either calm down or get out of the street so they don’t get caught fighting.

Eventually Romeo shows up and tries to break things up but Mercutio just thinks he’s being a pussy and ignores him. He draws his sword; Tybalt draws his. As they fight, Romeo steps in but Tybalt uses him as a screen, skewers Mercutio and splits. Mercutio tries to crack a few jokes about being stabbed and killed in a gang war, blames Romeo for getting in his way and says “a plague on both your houses” a few times before biting the bullet. Tybalt comes back (for some strange reason) and then Romeo kills him.

Oops.

Taking Benvolio’s advice, Romeo runs the hell away. Of course, as soon as he’s gone, Benvolio snitches to the Capulets, Montagues and the Prince. The prince is fed up and banishes Romeo. I would have just killed him and been done with it. I’m sure Juliet would have learned to love Paris, right?

Anyhow. Scene 2. Juliet’s waiting at home for her nurse to come back with the rest of the plan and a rope ladder for her to sneak off to marry Romeo. Eventually the nurse does come back with a ladder and some bad news. Something about Tybalt being dead. Also something important about Romeo… something about Tybalt… Romeo… Tybalt…

This goes on for a while until eventually she gets it out: Romeo killed Tybalt and has been banished. Juliet is worried she’ll die a virgin so she sends the nurse back out to fetch Romeo so he can collect his… goodbye kiss.

Since running away from the scene of the crime, Romeo’s been hiding out at Friar Laurence’s. He’s bitching and moaning about how banishment is worse than death, he’s dead without Juliet, how he wishes the prince had just killed him, yadda yadda angsty teenager stuff. Friar Lawrence talks some sense into him: ‘Hey pathetic excuse for a man (almost)! We’ll just come up with a plan to sneak her out of the city and you can still be together in Mantua until all of this blows over!” Yay!

So what’s this genius and totally fool-proof plan? Friar Lawrence says he’ll sort it out but, in the meantime, Romeo’s got some marital business to attend to in Juliet’s bed.

Even in the crazy world of R&J, death in the family means that weddings needs to be postponed. The wedding between Juliet and Paris which Lord Capulet and Paris are already planning out, and which was scheduled for the way-too-soon date of ‘this Wednesday,’ has been pushed back all the way to the much more socially respectable ‘this Thursday.’ It just seemed like the right thing to do. (It’s currently Monday morning.)

Seems like Shakespeare decided to cut out the explicit portion of this act (bummer) because when scene 5 opens, Romeo and Juliet have already consummated their marriage and are lying in bed doing what all young couples do after their first time: discussing ornithology. They’d love to lay there and talk about nightingales and larks all day (are these even indigenous to Italy?) but Lady Capulet comes knocking. Romeo sneaks out the window, educating young boys the world over in the proper behaviour after such a nocturnal encounter: “I’ll call you.”

Juliet isn’t convinced this is all going to work out.

Once the coast is clear, she lets her mother in. Lady Capulet first promises her that as soon as they find Romeo, they’ll kill him for Tybalt’s death which she is sure will make Juliet very happy. But not quite as happy as this next bit of news: Juliet’s going to get married to the amazingly wonderful and bland Paris who her parents totally approve of!

No way, mom and dad: I’m into bad boys!

Dad’s not too happy and basically tells her that she has two alluring options: either she can shut up and show up to marry Paris on Thursday or she can choose to be disowned by her father who would cast her out to starve in the streets.

What can she possibly do now? Run over to Friar Lawrence who’s probably had enough time to think of something by now.

While things are looking pretty grim right now, in an alternate universe where it’s always 1988, Romeo and Juliet had a daughter and this lovechild of a torrid night of passion produced this:

Here’s hoping you aren’t crying yourself to sleep each night to this song while thinking about the Romeo and Juliet who could have been but whose love was ruined by people with no appreciation for fedoras, round shades, trench coats, big hair and sand.

Next week: act IV!

And hey. Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it.

Stay in Touch Brawlers (and Wolfies, too)!

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BB: Romeo and Juliet, 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 to the Bard Brawl and act II of Romeo and Juliet. I hope your Valentine’s Day story worked out a little better than theirs. Although, really, I guess they did have a pretty bangin’ first date.

Listen to or download the podcast.

Like the first act, act II opens up with a Prologue. Don’t remember this prologue? That’s probably because no one stages it. And why would you? You just finished this blockbuster first act of death threats and teenage lovemaking and Shakespeare wants you to stop to listen to someone tell you about how they need to figure out a way to meet in secret.

Yeah, we figured that since their two families are at war, they might not be so keen to announce they started dating. Thankfully, Shakespeare seems to figure this out because that’s the last of the prologues for this play.

Mercutio and Benvolio spot Romeo sneaking out of Juliet’s house in scene 1 but they must not have realised who’s bedroom he’s sneaking off to because Mercutio tries to get his attention by invoking his ‘love,’ Rosaline. You’d almost get the impression this wasn’t the first time they spotted him sneaking into some girl’s bedroom in the middle of the night. Romeo clearly doesn’t want to be found out and they would much rather make fun of him behind his back so after doing that for a minute or two, they head home to bed.

So here’s the set-up for act II, scene 2, one of the most famous (and totally made up) love scenes in the world:

Having sneaked into the Capulet orchard by jumping the fence, Romeo makes his way to Juliet’s window, which is a little unsettling because he seems to know exactly where that is despite the fact that she lives in a huge estate. While he’s hiding in the bushes (trying to catch a glimpse of her undressing) Juliet walks out onto the balcony. Romeo goes on and on like he’s a hockey announcer providing some sort of play by play for some imagined audience.

Juliet, like Romeo, seems to have a habit of speaking her thoughts aloud which, in this case, happens to work in her favour because Romeo hears her and announces his presence. She’s a little creeped out that he’s here at first but after some blah blah back and forth they agree that the best course of action – and the thing they most want in the world – is to get married.

Tomorrow.

No problem. Romeo tells her to get in touch by 9am and he’ll have worked out a plan.

At the start of scene 3, Friar Laurence is quietly pruning his plants when Romeo barges in, out of breath and babbling on about how he’s in love and that he needs the Friar’s help. The friar’s a little surprised that Romeo so quickly forgot Rosaline, his one true love, and now wants to marry Juliet. He doesn’t seem to have much faith in Romeo’s constancy but he agrees to marry them only because he thinks that this might put an end to the Montague and Capulet feud.

Wait, what? Does he even realize what he’s saying? When has two people marrying ever made warring in-laws kiss and make up? Maybe it will work out this one and only time though.

Romeo’s friends Mercutio and Benvolio as hanging out in the street making fun of Romeo (again) and Tybalt when Romeo runs into them in scene 4. They mock him for ditching them last night and make a bunch of jokes involving penises such as: “then is my pump well flowered.” Juliet’s nurse arrives to meet with Romeo where they discuss the plan to sneak Juliet out of her house: she just needs to tell her folks that she’s stepping out for a quick confession at father Laurence’s. The Elizabethan equivalent of “I’m going to the library to study.” No mother or father would ever doubt that excuse. Brilliant!

Meanwhile, Juliet’s been waiting impatiently for her nurse (who is starting to come off as more of a pimp, really) to come back with news from Romeo. Back and forth between the two of them which seems designed to torture poor Juliet but eventually the nurse spills the beans: head to Friar Laurence’s place where he’ll marry you and you’ll finally get to have sex! And then you’ll get pregnant which is exactly what every 13-year-old wants, right?

In the final scene, Romeo is waiting for Juliet to show up. Friar Laurence tries to get him to chill out a bit, to slow this love train down a little, but when he sees Juliet, he seems ready to get on it himself. (He also wins the creepiest line of the play award for this gem: “Romeo shall thank thee, daughter, for us both.”)

Off they go to get married in secret, like two totally responsible adults who have carefully weighed the pros and cons of their decision and are in no way whatsoever rushing into the mistake of a lifetime.

Can we expect a honeymoon scene in act 3? I sure hope so!

And hey. Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it.

Enjoy sonnet 43 by the legend, David Kandestin.

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

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BB: Romeo and Juliet, Act I

You'll have to wait for Bar Scrawler art - they're busy with 'Zounds! right now.
You’ll have to wait for Bar Scrawler art – they’re busy with ‘Zounds! right now.

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

This is one of the big ones, Brawlers: Romeo and Juliet.

Listen to or download the podcast.

Ah, good ol’ “R&J.”

You think you know this play because you read it in Mrs. MacDonald’s grade nine English class and had to write a 500 word essay on ‘why do we have to read Shakespeare.’ You wrote something like:

“We have to read Romeo and Juliet because it’s the greatest love story every written. […] It shows us how my parents are ruining my life with TJ/Cindi because they hate my boyfriend/girlfriend. They should just accept that we are in love and will spend the rest of our lives together living in their basement.”

The end.

After a week and a half of torturing (and being tortured by) the Shakespearean language about ‘Prince of Cats,’ ‘Queen Mab,’ ‘plagues on households’ and ‘purple fountains,” Mrs. MacDonald – because she just wants her suffering to end – gave you your ‘A’ and you moved on to Catcher in the Rye.

But admit it. Deep down, you feel ridiculous for writing those words. I mean, you were 14 or 15 years old. Of course you were naive and stupid. Just like a certain Juliet (almost 14 years old) or a certain Romeo (15 years old) everybody thinks they know. The only decision I could be trusted to make when I was that age was which Nintendo game to rent with my allowance money.

Try this synopsis instead, Mrs. MacDonald: two teenagers with more sexuality than sense are married in secret (and sacrificed on the altar) in order to try to put a stop to the constant feuds and vendettas of the Montagues and Capulets which have been tearing Verona apart for who knows how long. They die, feud ends, mission accomplished.

Don’t believe it? Too cynical? Well, let’s have a look.

Romeo and Juliet opens with a Prologue which tells us that isn’t going to end well. Two kids born from feuding families are going to need to die on order to put the feud to rest. Additional information provided: this play will last approximately 2 hours.

In scene one, Sampson and Gregory, two Capulets, are wandering the streets looking to pick a fight. They spot Abraham and Balthazar, two Montagues, and decide to start swapping insults. Eventually they draw swords but Benvolio (a Montague and Romeo’s friend) shows up and tells them to sheath their sword. Moments later, Tybalt (a Capulet and Juliet’s cousin) arrives. Benvolio asks him to help break up the fight but Tybalt attacks Benvolio and they fight. Soon Lord Capulet and Lord Montague show up and all hell breaks loose until the Prince shows up threatens to kill anybody who doesn’t immediately stop fighting. He asks for the Capulets to follow him and asks the Montagues to come see him later about this brawl. (ding!)

Benvolio fills the lord in on what’s going on and then Lady Montague asks about Romeo. Seems he’s been locking himself up in his room and crying a whole bunch, which we all know never happens with teenagers so something must be up. Eventually Romeo comes on stage. Seems he’s in love with a girl who doesn’t love him back, whatever that feels like. Benvolio, like a good friend, tell him that what he needs to do is to forget about Rosaline. (That’s the name of his one true love, the type of love that there’s no way he will ever have for anyone else, ever, in his lifetime!)

How to forget about Rosaline? Easy. Chase after other girls to sleep with love.

After his meeting with the Prince, Lord Capulet meets up with Paris in scene 2, a young man who’s really interested in marrying Juliet. Dad thinks she’s a little too young and that marrying to early is not a good thing. But, he’s willing to give his blessing is Paris can win her over. Lord Capulet is throwing a big party tonight and he thinks that would be a good opportunity for Juliet and Paris to meet. He gives a list of guests to his illiterate servant and asks him to go invite his other guests.

Coincidentally, Romeo and Benvolio are walking by and the servant asks them to help him read the letter. After the servant leaves, Benvolio gets a great idea: why not crash the party at the house of their mortal enemy?

We finally get to see Juliet in scene 3. She’s with her nurse who is still responsible for helping her get dressed and otherwise taking care of her while mom and dad get plastered with their friends. Lady Capulet comes and asks her daughter about Paris. She seems to like him so she hopes that Juliet will too. Juliet doesn’t seem very interested in the prospect of getting married but mom insists that it’s happening sooner or later so she better get used to the idea.

Benvolio and Romeo have met up with their buddy Mercutio and are headed to the Capulet party in scene 4. Benvolio and Mercutio alternate making fun of their love-sick and depressed friend. Romeo then tells them of a dream he’s had which he thinks is prophetic. Of course, Mercutio mocks him to no end. Romeo insists that he’s got a bad feeling about tonight but on they go to the party.

The final scene of the act takes place in the Capulet mansion. Lord Capulet walks in a makes a bunch of bad jokes about ladies’ corns and dancing – which I am sure they are thought was totally hilarious and tasteful. Of course, Romeo’s here and this is where he first spots Juliet, without realising that she’s a Capulet. He babbles on about beauty and Tybalt over hears him and realises that he’s a Montague. He’s a bout to storm off after him but Lord Capulet stops him: “he’s not a bad kid and he’s not causing any trouble. I don’t want you starting a fight with him in my house.”

Romeo, who doesn’t seem to care one little bit that he came here to see Rosaline (Rosaline who?), starts sweet-talking Juliet and manages to score a couple of kisses from her before she is called away by her mother. Romeo then learns that Juliet is the daughter of Lord Capulet. Time for the Montagues to leave.

As soon as they disappear, Juliet is asking the nurse about Romeo and learns the bad news: he’s a Montague.

I’ll say this for R&J: that’s a hell of an opening act!

While I suspect that many of you Brawlers know this play already, here are some of the key characters who show up in this act:

  • Benvolio: He’s one of Romeo’s buddies and, at least at first, is trying to keep the peace between the Capulets and Montagues.
  • Tybalt: One of Juliet’s cousins, he’s only too happy to look for reasons to fight Montagues.
  • Romeo Montague: Lovesick Romeo starts the play madly ‘in love’ with Rosaline and then, after spotting Juliet once, swears that he’s never loved anyone before. I’m sure he’ll make a great husband.
  • Juliet Capulet: She seems like a level-headed young girl at first but that goes out the window when she meets Romeo. She just can’t get married quickly enough.
  • Lord and Lady Capulet: The rulers of the Capulet family and Juliet’s parents.
  • Lord and Lady Montague: The rulers of the Montague family and Romeo’s parents.
  • Paris: A young, eligible bachelor looking to marry into the Capulet family. The parents like him but he didn’t stand a chance with Juliet.
  • Mercutio: A friend of Romeo’s who has no patience for Romeo’s melancholic self-pity and who sees what Romeo calls love as lust.

Next week: more bad, life-altering decisions made by horny teenagers.

Oh, and happy valentine’s day.

Also, get ready for a big upcoming announcement about ‘Zounds!

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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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