Othello (1981), Jonathan Miller (director)

Daniel J. Rowe

It’s always sad when a bard legend leaves us. Unfortunately for us youngins’ we will simply have to suck it up and get used to it, as the legends who brought us great stage performances since the 60s are turning 70, 80 and 90.

So it goes, as another great writer once put it. So it goes.

Bob Hoskins has 114 acting credits to his name, and he played arguably the greatest villain in all of Shakespeare, Iago. It was in the BBC’s 1981 production of Othello. Wanna Watch? Full version below.

That was fun. You’re welcome.

First off, the makeup.

I’ll admit, it takes a second and a little swallowing of appropriateness when Anthony Hopkins (not Moorish) steps on camera as the Moor, Othello. Othello has been portrayed in a number of ways with some actors going full on blackface (always a ‘treat’), some producers amping up the orientalist look (still not completely appetizing), and some productions getting a black actor to play it. The last choice is the best to be sure, but some of the others are not all bad. Are Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier or Paul Scofield racist for wanting the best role or maybe just arrogant to think that they can pull it off?

Pick another part guys. Hey! Why not Iago?

That being said, Hopkins is very good in this Othello. He travels the gauntlet that is the role, and encapsulate the power of the tragedy. He works well alongside the other impressive talent in this play, and is great on-screen with Hoskins.

Speaking of which.

(Hey! Hopkins and Hoskins. That’s fun)

Iago is one of the most complicated and important roles in all of Shakespeare, and if you miscast the sadistic murdering villain, the production’s doomed. Just ask Kenneth Brannagh (Actually, don’t ask. he won’t admit he was the wrong choice. It’s best not to ask).

Hoskins is able to nail the key question about Iago: why does anyone like/believe him? The answer is in the performance. Hoskins is blunt, crude, and a little nasty, but not in the way any of those friends you know you have are. It’s that bluntness and hamminess that allows Iago to throw the other characters off his scent, so he can mess with them and litter the stage with bodies.

That, and the verbal missiles he fires through the fourth wall are great.

Take Act V, scene i, the scene where all of Iago is on display.

Hoskins will be missed as an actor for simply being able to pull of this scene. He, as Iago, first manipulates Roderigo into doing something he’s not entirely sure he wants to do, then laughs at his plan, then realizes he might get found out, decides to kill Cassio, actually kills Roderigo, tears his shirt in two to help mend Cassio (everyone totally buying the act), blames Bianco for being a strumpet and has her carted off, and then nails this killer line:

This is the night that either makes me, or foredoes me quite.

…And scene.

Man this play is great.

It’s worth the three hours to watch Hoskins in this scene. He uses his whole body, and can deliver so much expression with his face. It’s really quite a performance, and he hasn’t even killed his wife yet.

The rest of the cast is also very good.

Just before Act V,i, check out Penelope Wilton (yes Isobel Crawley to those Downton Abbey devotees (poor Matthew)) nail the heartbreaking IV,iii all while being stared at by a skull. Very good.

Sheesh this play is intense.

Oh, and then there’s the final scene. Not to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen the play or movie version, but let’s just say the final line is not, “all in all it was a really weird trip to Cyprus.”

Demand me nothing; what you know, you know:

From this time forth I will never speak word.

– Iago.

Rest In Peace Bob Hoskins (1942-2014).

You will be missed.

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

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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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!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

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.

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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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

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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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!

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

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Exit James Avery

Actor James Avery as Uncle Phil in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Actor James Avery as Uncle Phil in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

In honour of the late James Avery, who passed away this past Tuesday, we’re re-posting this episode of the Bard Brawl in which Mr. Nicholas MacMahon gives us his insight into The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Rest in peace, Uncle Phil!

_________

Welcome back to the Bard Brawl and act II of Timon of Athens.

Listen to or download the podcast.

What did you think of act I? Kind of makes you want to have a good look at your own friends, doesn’t it?

Nonsense! You are rich in your friends, aren’t you? 😉

While the party’s in full swing within, a Senator arrives at Timon’s gate at the start of act II, scene 1. He’s disgusted that Timon should spend so much money on parties with his friends while he has outstanding debts to this senator. The Senator commands his servant Caphis to take debt bonds to Timon and not return until Timon pays up. The senator suspects that, when the money runs out, so will Timon’s friendships.

Flavius is just complaining about Timon’s careless spending when Caphis walking in to scene 2, speaking with Varro and Isidore’s servants. These men are also looking to collect on some outstanding debts. They intercept Timon as he returns from hunting. Timon tried to talk his way out of it but Caphis reminds him that his money was due six weeks ago and won’t take no for an answer. Flavius promises to deal with it for them right after supper and ushers Timon away.

The servants hang back to be made fun of by the Fool and Apemantus who, as Daniel points out, seem to be competing for the job of “guy who gets to say whatever he wants to Timon’s ‘friends’.”

After hearing about the current state of his finances, Timon tries to blame Favius for not mentioning any of this sooner. Flavius of course tell him that he tried to but that Timon wouldn’t hear it before. And now, even if Timon were to sell everything he has, that would only be enough to pay back about half the debt. While Falvius freaks out Timon calms him down and reminds him that as he has so many friends in good financial situations surely a few of them will be willing to help bail him out of this. But, turns out that Flavius has already approached some of these friends who gave him a bunch of excuses as to why they couldn’t help Timon. No big deal though: Timon’s buddy Ventidius – who he bailed out of jail in act 1 – just struck a rich inheritance so he’s sure that he’ll be more than happy to help out Timon.

Here are some of the characters introduced in this act:

  • Senator: This senator has lent money to Timon who does not appear to be in any hurry to pay him back. He comes armed with his legal documents to collect his debt.
  • Caphis: A servant to the Senator who comes knocking at Timon’s door to get the money he is owned.
  • TBD: _description_

Excited for act III?

A special shout out to Emily Murphy who wrote this article for CBC’s Canada Writes site.

Different Timon.
Different Timon.

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BB: Timon of Athens, the Speeches

Artwork - Leigh MacRae
Artwork – Leigh MacRae

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

Welcome back Brawlers to Timon of AthensStephanie E.M. Coleman‘s favourite Shakespeare play.

What better way to wrap up the year than with a Timon of Athens speeches podcast? Just in time for your New Year’s Eve party. (You know, the one where you are serving rocks and warm water to your ungrateful entourage)

Listen to or download the podcast.

 

“Good morrow to thee, gentle Apemantus!” Act I, Scene 1
Speakers: Timon, Apemantus, Painter
Why is Apemantus even at Timon’s house if he’s just going to talk smack at him the entire time? And why does Timon put up with it? Our best guess is that Timon’s house is like the king’s court – anybody and everybody in society is invited and not showing up is like relegating yourself to civic obscurity. Here he is, calling our Timon’s guests for their brown-nosing… and calling out Timon for lapping it up.

“You make me marvel: wherefore ere this time” Act II, Scene 2
Speakers: Flavius, Timon
Timon’s creditors are at his door and he’s just learned the bad news: as a result of his lavish and generous lifestyle, he’s completely broke and can’t afford to pay his debts. He tries to blame his servant/bookkeeper Flavius for not telling him about this sooner but Flavius makes it clear that this is not the first time he’s tried to discuss finances with Timon. Even if Timon sold all of his lands, he would not have enough to pay back his creditors.

“Each man to his stool, with that spur as he would to” Act III, Scene 6
Speakers: Timon, various lords
The lords of Athens believe that Timon has miraculously managed to pay his debts. While they all refused to help him when he asked them for help, they’re all right back at his place for this special feast in their honour. Wouldn’t you be a little suspicious? Even after he’s spelled out why he did this, the lords still don’t quite get it and just think he’s gone crazy.

“How came the noble Timon to this change?” Act IV, Scene 3
Speakers: Alcibiades, Timon, Timandra
Alcibiades and Timon should technically be on the same side; they were both taken advantage of or treated poorly by Athens and are now living in the wilderness. Big difference between the two? Alcibiades is travelling with two prostitutes and it seems to have worked wonders on his mood. In this scene, Alcibiades is trying to understand what drove Timon nuts; Timon is trying to convince Alcibiades to kill everybody.

“By all description this should be the place.” and “‘Here lies a
wretched corse, of wretched soul bereft”
Act V, Scene 3 and Act V, Scene 4
Speakers: Solider, Alcibiades
We’ve actually spliced together two scenes. Act V, scene 3 is just a short scene of an illiterate soldier coming across Timon’s grave. As he can’t read the whole inscription on the gravestone, so he makes a copy of it and brings it to his general, Alcibiades. (My best guess as to how the gravestone gets set up? Flavius must have done it. Unless Timon buried alive by summoning the animals of the forest to do his bidding. Whichever one seems more plausible to you, I guess.) The rest of the ‘speech’ picks up at the end of the play where Alcibiades reads the rest of the inscription and decides that he won’t kill everybody – just the people who the senators of Athens will have decided are guilty of his exile.

That’s it for the Bard Brawl’s eighth play!

We want to thank everybody who helped spread the word and who donated to ‘Zounds!, our upcoming Bard brawl journal! Our campaign raised a total of $1020 thanks to your efforts!

Stay tuned for updates about ‘Zounds! in the coming days and weeks!

And Happy New Year Brawlers!

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

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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Or leave us a comment right here!

A conversation with the director, Pericles

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey closes its 51st season with a sparkling and wintery new production of Shakespeare’s Pericles.  Performances run through December 29th at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Ave. (at Lancaster Road) in Madison.  Individual tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or by visiting www.ShakespeareNJ.org.  Inspired by ancient Greek mythology, Pericles is Shakespeare’s grand “once upon a time” adventure tale with equal parts One Thousand and One Nights, Homer’s Odyssey, and the episodic romance of Shakespeare’s own The Tempest, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale. Pericles carries audiences on a voyage across the ancient Mediterranean, encountering everyone from kings, goddesses, pirates, pimps, and magicians along the way. Pictured:  Governor Cleon of Tarsus and his scheming wife Dionyza (left: Clark Scott Carmichael and Jacqueline Antaramian) deliver tragic news to Pericles (Jon Barker). Photo:  ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey closes its 51st season with a sparkling and wintery new production of Shakespeare’s Pericles. Performances run through December 29th at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Ave. (at Lancaster Road) in Madison. Inspired by ancient Greek mythology, Pericles is Shakespeare’s grand “once upon a time” adventure tale with equal parts One Thousand and One Nights, Homer’s Odyssey, and the episodic romance of Shakespeare’s own The Tempest, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale. Pericles carries audiences on a voyage across the ancient Mediterranean, encountering everyone from kings, goddesses, pirates, pimps, and magicians along the way. Pictured: Governor Cleon of Tarsus and his scheming wife Dionyza (left: Clark Scott Carmichael and Jacqueline Antaramian) deliver tragic news to Pericles (Jon Barker). Photo: ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

Daniel J. Rowe

Few theatre companies delve into the lesser-known Bard play Pericles, and what’s up with that? There are pirates! The Shakespeare Theatre Company of New Jersey, however, has done the right thing and dove right in. Director Brian B. Crowe spoke with the Bard Brawl about the company’s reasons for staging Pericles, and some of the ideas the production followed. The production runs until January 29, 2013.

Bard Brawl: Why did the theatre decide to do Pericles, such and obscure play?

Brian B. Crowe: We are first and foremost a theatre that is excited about classics of all ilks – specifically Shakespeare – but we will also try lesser known pieces as well, and there are some lesser known Shakespeares as well and that certainly falls into that category. 

This particular season we were looking for something for the holiday spot, and I had workshopped a production of Pericles with some of our students a few years ago, and didn’t know much about it prior to that, and kind of fell in love with the magic of it, and the intrigue and the great resolution at the end; this family reunited, good wins out, and there’s honour in it and the bad guys get what they deserve, which doesn’t always happen in real life so it’s nice to have it on stage once and a while.

B.B.: …and there are pirates!

Pictured: In the colorful kingdom of Pentapolis, Pericles (Jon Barker) battles a knight (Jordan Laroya) during Princess Thaisa’s birthday tournament. Photo:  ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
Pictured: In the colorful kingdom of Pentapolis, Pericles (Jon Barker) battles a knight (Jordan Laroya) during Princess Thaisa’s birthday tournament. Photo: ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

B.C.: …and there are pirates, and there’s incest and there’s a brothel, which is everything you need for the holidays.

B.B.: Was it a challenge to introduce the audience to the play? Did you get a lot of reaction right away? When you do Romeo and Juliet, you know it’s going to be packed. When you do Pericles, a lot of producers/directors might be a little nervous they won’t get the audience.

B.C.: We have a pretty exciting audience in the fact that they love to come to the smorgasbord of things that we’ll give them and they’ve got a well-refined palate, I guess you could say. They know that whatever piece we do we will find some form of elegance and artistry to bring to it. Obviously the play itself has it.

It’s mainly just really pushing the fact that we’ve all seen A Christmas Carol 9,000 times, we’ve all seen the Nutcracker. I can’t even tell you how many variations of A Christmas Carol I’ve seen; some of them are great, some of them are really not.

A lot of people want an alternative to it.

We had an audience member who said, ‘I had no idea what I was coming to.’ She said she had been to the theatre before and like the work that we did. Pericles could have been anything to her. She sat down in the theatre and she said, ‘let’s see what happens.’
She had a blast, and she said it was not a problem to follow. We actually changed up the Gower narrator to be a three-woman chorus that is present throughout the entire show as opposed to him just popping in throughout the show. They become extensions of the goddess Diana. She said for her particularly that was a great way to navigate the show and she had a blast.

B.B.: With Shakespeare you can always pull themes out of the play. You mentioned the Gower theme of honour and duplicity and how to conduct yourself as a ruler. How did you explore that issue as far as Pericles trying to understand how to react?

B.C.: One of the things that we talked about very early on in the rehearsal process was the journey of Pericles and how he starts off as this young ambitious sort of 20-something at the beginning of the play out to make his mark in the world: I’m going to win this evil king’s daughter because she’s beautiful and no one else can, and that’s going to become my claim to fame. That will be the legend people will tell about me.

Pictured: Heroic Pericles (Jon Barker) embarks on an adventure unlike any other, under the watchful eyes of the Chorus (left to right: Amaya Murphy, Corey Tazmania, Meg Kiley Smith). Photo:  ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
Pictured: Heroic Pericles (Jon Barker) embarks on an adventure unlike any other, under the watchful eyes of the Chorus (left to right: Amaya Murphy, Corey Tazmania, Meg Kiley Smith). Photo: ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

That kind of young, youthful approach to life. Literally just seeking adventure and honour for adventure and honour’s sake not for necessity.

It’s interesting for being a young king, he doesn’t do much ruling throughout the play. He’s off to get Hesperites and that doesn’t work out, he then has to run for his life so he’s not being the ruler again, then he helps out Tarsus which is great, so he does something and he’s actually honoured there. In this production, when we’re navigating it through, we kind of said, ‘well this is an honour that you’re looking for, this is something that you were looking for,’ and the approach was humbled and that’s not kind of legendary. That’s not what he was looking for, but he sees that he can actually do good in the world instead of just doing good for himself.

…and then he has another disaster, and then he falls in love and loses that love, and then he becomes a more mature and better king through the trials that he’s gone through…

By the end, when he thinks he’s lost his daughter as well, he has the ability to truly respect the relationships that he sort of went willy nilly for.

It’s like someone going on the bachelor and thinking they’re going to find marriage and true love because it’s a big show and this is what it is, Then, 30 or 40 years later actually finding it.

I think it’s (the play) very contemoparary and works for modern audience because it’s all about instant gratification, and that’s not what life is about. Life is about finding these moments – especially during the holidays where you can look back on your life, look back on your relationships – and this is a wonderful happy ending, but it takes 15 years to get there and realize what he has.

The honour and the legend that he hopes to be, that he starts the first scene with, he actually does win in the end.

BRIAN B. CROWE (Acting) is in his eighteenth season with The Shakespeare Theatre where he is currently the Director of Education. Mr. Crowe also directs in-school residencies, teaches in the Summer Professional Training Program, and works with the Junior and Senior Shakespeare Corps for the Theatre. The Star-Ledger called Mr. Crowe “one of the state’s most ingenious directors” for his work on Love’s Labour’s Lost and named him Best Director of a Drama (Julius Caesar and Wonderland) as well as one of three “theatre artists to look for in the new millennium.”Other directing credits includeRed Herring and A Perfect Ganesh at 12 MilesWest;  Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest (DayTony recipient), Noises Off, the Midwest regional premiere of The Beauty Queen of Leenane andPatient A with The Human Race Theatre Company,where he is currently a resident artist;Somewhere in Between and Children of a Lesser God at Dayton Playhouse. Mr. Crowe received BFA degrees indirecting and acting from Wright State University, and was a Fellow at the 2000International Salzburg Shakespeare Seminar.

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