Tag Archives: Act I

BB, The Comedy of Errors, Act I

23 Apr
The feature logo for The Comedy of Errors is brought to you by Mezari designer Stephanie E.M. Coleman. We think it’s pretty rad.

Stephanie E.M. Coleman, The Bard Brawl

Welcome to Act I of  The Comedy of Errors brought to you by the Bard Brawl. And happy birthday, Will!

We think it’s your birthday, anyway. Although Google may disagree or else feels that you’re not important enough for a doodle this year. I mean, you were baptised on the 26th of April so April 23rd seems like good enough of a guess, right? It also happens to be the day you died on. Weird.

Well, we promised it, and at last we’ve delivered.

Nope, once again it’s not act V of Titus Andronicus, even though you promised you wouldn’t bring it up again.

It’s a brand new play with a brand new Bard Brawl format. Instead of reading out each act of the play in its entirety, we’ve picked out some of our favourite bits. Kind of like a sports highlight reel but unlike this shameful display, or this one, there are no losers and the commentators don’t speak in those awful sports jock radio voices.

In between these speeches, which will be read by a revolving cast of Brawlers, our Bardic talking heads will try to point out what we think is interesting, noteworthy or just plan awesome about each act.

So grab a listen, subscribe and tell us what you think as we go pound for pound with the birthday boy!

Download or listen to the podcast here or subscribe on iTunes.

 

Welcome reader Gage K. Diabo for the Comedy of Errors.


 Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

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BB: Titus Andronicus, Act II

15 Mar

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

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl’s eleventh and bloodiest play, Titus Andronicus.

Listen to or download the podcast.

 

He makes fun, but we all know Eric will be the next great mustachioed brawler.

 


There are already a couple of people dead after act I but that’s nothing compared to what happens to Lavinia in act II.

If you’re trying to impress a girl by taking her out to some Shakespeare to show her your cultured and refined sensibilities, you may want to pass on Titus Andronicus. Not my recommendation as a first date play.

She may get the wrong idea is all I’m saying. (I’m also saying that this play is fucked up.)

In scene 1 we meet “Empress” Tamora’s boy toy, Aaron the Moor. He’s pretty excited that Tamora’s slept her way to the top and he imagines that this means his mistress has just graduated to sugar mommy. He’s pretty pumped about that but when Tamora’s sons Chiron and Demetrius start fighting about a girl, he gets worried that they’re about the mess it up for everyone.

Aaron breaks up their fight but when he finds out that the girl they’re both fighting over is Titus’ daughter Lavinia, he sees a way to strike at Titus. So he suggests that instead of fighting over her, they should team up and just rape her in the woods.

As this seems like such a well-reasoned and logical solutions, they sheath their weapons and head off. Mommy will be so proud. (No, really. She will.)

Anyhow.

Everyone is gathered in the forest about to go hunting in scene 2 but Lavinia decides she’ll stay behind and chill. Coincidentally, so do Demetrius and Chiron, probably the most despicable characters in Shakespeare.

While her new husband is off with Titus hunting, Tamora finds a little alone time with Aaron. But he’s not really interested because he’s too preoccupied with his plans for vengeance! (Wait. What did anyone actually do to Aaron? Did I miss something?) He hears Bassianus and Lavinia approach so he tells Tamora to pick a fight while he gets her sons to back her up.

The Empress accuses Bassianus of following her, Lavinia calls her a slut, and Bassianus says he’ll rat her out. Enter Demetrius and Chiron who stab and kill Bassianus.

This makes mom very happy, but not as happy as the idea of her sons raping Lavinia.

Lavinia tries to appeal to Tamora to make them stop but she just tells her sons to make sure that once they’re done, they make sure “this prostitute” can’t tell anyone about what they did to her. Demetius and Chiron throw Bassianus’s body into a pit and drag Lavinia off.

What the hell, Shakespeare?

Just then, Aaron leads Titus’ sons Martius and Quintus to the open pit, where one of them falls in, completely by accident (really?), and identifies the body in the pit as Bassianus. Vertigo, or idiocy, must run in the family as the other brother falls in while trying to help the first one out. By the time Aaron returns with the hunting party, they’re both stuck down there with the body, probably covered in Bassianus’ blood, and not worried in the least.

Of course, Saturninus sentences them both to death for killing his brother, but Titus begs him to spare his sons until they can be proven guilty. Too bad Tamora brings out a fake letter implicating Quintus and Martius in the killing of Bassianus.

But no worries. Tamora tell Titus that she’s got his back and she’ll think of something to help him. And off goes Titus with his only remaining son, Lucius. [Cue evil laugh.]

While that has been going on, Demetrius and Chiron have been busy. Once they finish raping Lavinia, they decide that they won’t kill her. Instead, they cut out her tongue so she couldn’t tell anyone about what happened. And just to be sure, they cut off her hands too, to make sure she can’t write about it either… nor get a rope to hang herself.

So yeah. That happened.

Finally, Lavinia is found by her uncle Marcus who can’t believe that someone did this crazy, fucked up shit to her.

Call it a hunch, but my guess is there’s some bad shit around the corner waiting for Tamora, Demetrius and Chiron. And as yesterday was pi day, probably some pie.

You won’t want to miss any of it.

Kayla Cross returns to the brawl and reads sonnet 54 with all pomp and dignity.


 

'Zounds!, Act I, ii

‘Zounds!, Act I, ii

 

 

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

Buy Volume II NOW.

 

 


 Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

BB: Titus Andronicus, Act I

8 Feb
Yum! Pie!

Yum! Pie!

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

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl! I promised you blood so here it is: the Bard Brawl’s eleventh play is Titus Andronicus. Heads will roll, blood will flow and folks will be baked into a pie.

It’s going to be an awesome, late Roman bloodbath.

Listen to or download the podcast.


This play is an early one, probably the first tragedy which Shakespeare wrote, and in some ways it’s kind of a hot mess (pun intended) with the story serving only as an excuse for violence, sex and gore. Think Evil Dead II but with Romans. Or, you know, HBO’s Rome.

Even though it’s the earliest of Shakespeare’s Roman plays, it actually is the one which takes places the latest in Rome’s history. It’s set late in Rome’s history, about a century before the fall of Rome.

Only one scene in act I but it’s a little tough to follow because so much stuff happens that you don’t have time to understand what the hell is going on or why the heck we should care. (My money is that if Shakespeare had a do-over, this would be broken up into several scenes over 2 acts or so so we’d really get the full effect. Or he might mash it up with other historical periods like Julie Taymor did in her cleverly titled film, Titus. Whatever.)

In any event, here goes.

The Emperor just croaked so naturally his two sons Saturnius and Bassianus are trying to get the support of the masses to take over the job. Things look lie they’re about to get ugly but Titus Andronicus shows with his war prisoners in tow. Titus Andronicus is a badass general whose just finished kicking the crap out of the Goths with his sons but unfortunately he lost one of his sons during the campaign. They’ve brought his body home to be buried in the family’s ancestral crypt.

To fend off any angry ghosts which they might awaken by opening up the crypt (as anyone knows), they’ll need to sacrifice the most important prisoner they’ve captured which in this case happens to be Alarbus, the Queen of the Goths’ eldest son. Tamora (that’s the queen) asks Titus to spare her son but he tosses him over to his sons Lucius, Quintus, Martius and Mutius who drag him off-stage to chop him up and throw him on the sacrificial pyre

Titus is about to lower the coffin down when Lavinia, the tribunes, Saturnius and Bassianus show up. Marcus Andronicus (a tribune who happens to be Titus’ brother) suggests that instead of either Bassianus or Saturnius getting the crown, Titus should get it.

Shit’s about to go down again between Bassianus and Saturninus’s supporters but Titus refuses the crown and, seeing as he’s the most popular guy in Rome right now, he names Saturninus Emperor with the support of pretty much everyone.

First order of business for a new Emperor of course is to pick out a wife so he picks out Lavinia. Titus’ daughter. And as soon as that’s agreed, Saturninus turns around and puts the moves on Tamora. But no one really notices what’s going on apparently because Bassianus is busy telling Titus that ‘he loves her more’ and the Emperor should’t have her.

Titus’ sons back Bassianus and while trying to stop them from running off with Lavinia, Titus stabs and kills his son Mutius. And instead of backing Titus, Saturninus turns on him, insults his family and accuses them of having publicly insulted him because they wouldn’t make Lavinia stick around and marry him. (Nevermind the fact that he’s probably got a hand up Tamora’s shirt the whole time.)

But hey, since he’s been dissed, he figures he may as well hook up with Tamora on the up-and-up.

So everyone leaves for a bit and Titus is standing there with another dead son at his feet but he’s so pissed at this one that he refuses to bury him in the family plot. His sons and brother plead with him and he eventually agrees to let them bury him.

Oh, but the scene isn’t finished yet! Nope.

At this point, everyone comes back on-stage: Saturninus, Bassianus, Lavinia, Tamora and her sons Demetrius and Chiron, some Moorish guy named Aaron who hasn’t said a word and ‘others.’ Seems that Bassianus will get his Lavinia in the end but Saturninus isn’t too happy about it, and neither is Titus. Tamora finally speaks up and backs Titus, though she whispers to Saturninus that’s she’s just being politically savvy. Titus is still too popular with the people to mess with and he’s been Emperor for about 5 minutes so he should probably take it easy.

So Tamora convinces everyone to kiss and make up and Saturninus invites Bassianus and Lavinia to get married on the same day they do. (Must be so they can save money on catering.)

In case you need a little help with the characters, here are the most important ones:

  • Titus Andronicus: A general who kill his son in a fight over who his daughter Lavinia will marry.
  • Lucius, Quintus, Martius: Titus’ sons (the ones who aren’t dead by the end of act 1 anyhow)
  • Livinia: Titus’ daughter. She must be the only good-looking woman in Rome because just about evety guy in the play want to get with her. She wants to marry Bassianus.
  • Saturninus: The emperor who was rejected by Lavinia. Hates Titus and his sons for helping her get out of marrying him..
  • Tamora: Was the Queen of the Goths, now she’s Saturninus’ wife. Good for her.
  • Demetrius and Chiron: Tamora’s sons. Yup, they have it bad for Lavinia too.
  • Bassianus: Saturninus’ brother who wants to marry Lavinia.
  • Aaron: Tamora’s “friend with benefits.” He’s not too happy about the new arrangement. You’ll see.

So the next scene will be a happy wedding scene, right? With meat pies for all, I hope so.

This week, the lord of St. Leonard Mark Della Posta returns with acclaim to read sonnet 41.


 

'Zounds!, Act I, ii

‘Zounds!, Act I, ii

 

 

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

Buy Volume II NOW.

 

 


 Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

BB Rerun: King Richard II, Act I

17 Aug

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

Greetings Brawlers!

Those of you keeping up with our Twitter page will know that with summer (sadly) winding down, we’ve finally been able to gather the crew and record the next act of Richard II. However, the next episode isn’t going to be ready for a few days so in the mean time, we thought you might like a little refresher on what’s gone down for the first two acts of the play.

Here’s act I again, and we’ll repost act II in a few days so.

Enjoy!

Welcome Brawlers to the Bard Brawl’s tenth play! To celebrate our historic achievement, we bring you Shakespeare history play The Life and Death of Richard the Second. It’s also called Richard II.

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

We haven’t even started yet and you’re already confused, aren’t you? You’ve listened to our Henry VI part I podcasts and thought “I like that all these heads are rolling but I just wish I knew who they belonged to!”

I hear that.

Lucky for us, Shakespeare learned quite a bit about writing history plays between writing his first tetralogy (Henry VI parts I, II and III, and Richard III) and the second tetralogy (Richard II, Henry IV part 1 and II, and Henry V)

If you need a reminder about the chronology of the plays, check out the first part of introduction to Shakespeare’s history plays about the War of the Roses.

Here the short version though: first tetralogy was written first but describes events which happen at the end of the War of the Roses (ie: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings). The second tetralogy was written later but the events take place at the start of the War of the Roses (The Hobbit).

Boom. Now you know everything.

Turns out that fewer characters, clear motivations for characters and a stronger plot arch combine to make a much better play. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of death and betrayal.

The play starts at King Richard’s court. Henry Bolingbroke (the Duke of Hereford) is accusing Thomas Mowbray (the Duke of Norfolk) of treason. Specifically, Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of the murder of the Duke of Gloucester as well as stealing royal funds. The two men want to be allowed to settle the matter with a duel. They play a little ‘he said, she said’ and the king asks his uncle John of Gaunt (who is also Henry Bolingbroke’s father) to help calm everything down. When that fails, the King sets a date for a trial by combat, the only civilized way of putting an end to the finger-pointing and the name calling.

The Duchess of York is pleading with John of Gaunt to take a direct hand in avenging the death of Gloucester in scene 2. She’d like nothing more than for Gaunt to grab a buddy like Carl Weathers or Bryan Genesse and go Street Justice on Mowbray.

He tells the Duchess to forget the uncouth vigilante curb stomp. They’ll just have hope that Bolingbroke kills Mowbray for them.

So scene 3. We’re at the Coventry grounds which is the jousting a duelling field where the big trial by compact is about to take place. Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray are all armoured up, on horseback, lances levelled at the opponent’s chest, ready to charge. The herald-ringside announcers introduce them, the intro music plays and the trumpet sounds the charge, this is it!

And then the king stops the fight and orders the fighters back to their corners.

Instead of a nice clear fight where this would be settled once and for all, one way or another, the king decides he’s just going to banish both of them. Seeing that he’s such a fair guy though and doesn’t want to play favourites (we know he’s fair because King Richard tells us, right?) he decides that he will banish Mowbray for life and Bolingbroke for 10 years. Of wait! Is that John of Gaunt I hear crying? No worries, let’s make it six years for Bolingbroke.

I’m sure everyone will agree that this is totally and completely fair and that no bad feelings whatsoever will ever come out of this.

As soon as Henry Bolingbroke leaves in scene 4, Richard starts thinking about how popular Henry is with the common people of England. He starts wondering if this is going to be a problem when Henry comes back in 6 years. (It will be.)

What do the King’s right hand men do?

Change the subject.

“Hey, remember all this fighting we need to do in Ireland? We might want to get started on that.” The king agrees with him but, seeing as he’s short on cash from throwing too many parties, he sets up an aggressive taxation scheme which I am sure will not at all make him more unpopular with the people of England.

Before they leave, however, Sir John Bushy arrives with an announcement that John of Gaunt is on his deathbed. Did someone say free money? Seeing as John of Gaunt is one of the richest men in England, King Richard “The Vulture” flies to Ely house, ready to scoop up his lands when he dies.

If you’re still having a hard time following along, here’s a list of the major characters which appear in this act:

  • King Richard II: The king of England and a cousin of Henry Bolingbroke. He’s got a reputation of spending money irresponsibly and trying to recoup the loses in taxes. Not a very popular guy with the people
  • John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster: One of the most popular nobles in England, he’s also stinking rich. He’s Henry Bolingbroke’s father and Richard II’s uncle.
  • Henry Bolingbroke (sometimes spelled Bullingbrook): He’s the son of John of Gaunt. He gets banished from England but when the King snatches his lands away from him, he comes back to England to take back what’s his. He will become Henry IV by the end of the play.
  • Thomas Mowbray: The Duke of Norfolk. He’s accused of treason by Bolingbroke and banished from England for life.

I wonder how Henry Bolingbroke will feel about the king taking his inheritance away from him like that?

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! It’s the Bard Brawl’s first ever journal. You’ll never regret or forget it.brassknucklestshirt1.png

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

BB: King Richard II, Act I

1 Jun

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

Welcome Brawlers to the Bard Brawl’s tenth play! To celebrate our historic achievement, we bring you Shakespeare history play The Life and Death of Richard the Second. It’s also called Richard II.

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

We haven’t even started yet and you’re already confused, aren’t you? You’ve listened to our Henry VI part I podcasts and thought “I like that all these heads are rolling but I just wish I knew who they belonged to!”

I hear that.

Lucky for us, Shakespeare learned quite a bit about writing history plays between writing his first tetralogy (Henry VI parts I, II and III, and Richard III) and the second tetralogy (Richard II, Henry IV part 1 and II, and Henry V)

If you need a reminder about the chronology of the plays, check out the first part of introduction to Shakespeare’s history plays about the War of the Roses.

Here the short version though: first tetralogy was written first but describes events which happen at the end of the War of the Roses (ie: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings). The second tetralogy was written later but the events take place at the start of the War of the Roses (The Hobbit).

Boom. Now you know everything.

Turns out that fewer characters, clear motivations for characters and a stronger plot arch combine to make a much better play. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of death and betrayal.

The play starts at King Richard’s court. Henry Bolingbroke (the Duke of Hereford) is accusing Thomas Mowbray (the Duke of Norfolk) of treason. Specifically, Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of the murder of the Duke of Gloucester as well as stealing royal funds. The two men want to be allowed to settle the matter with a duel. They play a little ‘he said, she said’ and the king asks his uncle John of Gaunt (who is also Henry Bolingbroke’s father) to help calm everything down. When that fails, the King sets a date for a trial by combat, the only civilized way of putting an end to the finger-pointing and the name calling.

The Duchess of York is pleading with John of Gaunt to take a direct hand in avenging the death of Gloucester in scene 2. She’d like nothing more than for Gaunt to grab a buddy like Carl Weathers or Bryan Genesse and go Street Justice on Mowbray.

He tells the Duchess to forget the uncouth vigilante curb stomp. They’ll just have hope that Bolingbroke kills Mowbray for them.

So scene 3. We’re at the Coventry grounds which is the jousting a duelling field where the big trial by compact is about to take place. Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray are all armoured up, on horseback, lances levelled at the opponent’s chest, ready to charge. The herald-ringside announcers introduce them, the intro music plays and the trumpet sounds the charge, this is it!

And then the king stops the fight and orders the fighters back to their corners.

Instead of a nice clear fight where this would be settled once and for all, one way or another, the king decides he’s just going to banish both of them. Seeing that he’s such a fair guy though and doesn’t want to play favourites (we know he’s fair because King Richard tells us, right?) he decides that he will banish Mowbray for life and Bolingbroke for 10 years. Of wait! Is that John of Gaunt I hear crying? No worries, let’s make it six years for Bolingbroke.

I’m sure everyone will agree that this is totally and completely fair and that no bad feelings whatsoever will ever come out of this.

As soon as Henry Bolingbroke leaves in scene 4, Richard starts thinking about how popular Henry is with the common people of England. He starts wondering if this is going to be a problem when Henry comes back in 6 years. (It will be.)

What do the King’s right hand men do?

Change the subject.

“Hey, remember all this fighting we need to do in Ireland? We might want to get started on that.” The king agrees with him but, seeing as he’s short on cash from throwing too many parties, he sets up an aggressive taxation scheme which I am sure will not at all make him more unpopular with the people of England.

Before they leave, however, Sir John Bushy arrives with an announcement that John of Gaunt is on his deathbed. Did someone say free money? Seeing as John of Gaunt is one of the richest men in England, King Richard “The Vulture” flies to Ely house, ready to scoop up his lands when he dies.

If you’re still having a hard time following along, here’s a list of the major characters which appear in this act:

  • King Richard II: The king of England and a cousin of Henry Bolingbroke. He’s got a reputation of spending money irresponsibly and trying to recoup the loses in taxes. Not a very popular guy with the people
  • John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster: One of the most popular nobles in England, he’s also stinking rich. He’s Henry Bolingbroke’s father and Richard II’s uncle.
  • Henry Bolingbroke (sometimes spelled Bullingbrook): He’s the son of John of Gaunt. He gets banished from England but when the King snatches his lands away from him, he comes back to England to take back what’s his. He will become Henry IV by the end of the play.
  • Thomas Mowbray: The Duke of Norfolk. He’s accused of treason by Bolingbroke and banished from England for life.

I wonder how Henry Bolingbroke will feel about the king taking his inheritance away from him like that?

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! It’s the Bard Brawl’s first ever journal. You’ll never regret or forget it.brassknucklestshirt1.png

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

BB: Pericles, Act I

26 Jul
Artwork - Daniel J. Rowe

Artwork – Daniel J. Rowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s where it stands after one.

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

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

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

Listen to or download the podcast.

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

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Or leave us a comment right here!

BB: Coriolanus, Act I

20 Jul

(Podcast recorded and edited by Daniel J. Rowe, Show notes by Eric Jean)

For our second play we dive into the Tragedy of Coriolanus.

Listen to the podcast here.

Bard Brawlers: Andre Simoneau, David Wheaton, Stephanie E.M. Coleman, Eric Jean and Daniel J. Rowe

The first act of Coriolanus is a whirlwind of action and conflict. Scene 1 opens on a mob of hungry Roman citizens who have decided to take by force the food which has been denied them by the patricians. Menenius arrives on the scene and manages to talk them down but soon after Caius Martius (Coriolanus) shows up and he and the citizens exchange insults. (A Brawler favourite, from the mouth of Coriolanus: “What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues, / That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion, /Make yourselves scabs?”) We learn that a neighbouring city has plans to attack Rome. Martius invites the mob to join the army and earn their corn through service to the state. We also learn that another mob, elsewhere in the city, laid down their arms in exchange for the right to elect five representatives of the common people to government, the tribunes, a concession which Martius finds deplorable. The scene closes with the tribunes Sicinius and Brutus talking about Coriolanus’ prideful nature.

Scene 2 quickly jumps to the Volscian camp. Aufidius hears about the impending Roman counter-attack and vows to fight Martius in single combat until one of them kills the other.

Scene 3 is a domestic scene in which we find Volumnia and Virgilia sewing in Martius’ home. Volumnis extols the virtues of her son. She mocks her daughter-in-law for not taking enough pride in her husband’s military service to Rome and for being overly concerned for his safety. Virgilia’s friend Valeria shows up and tells them that Martius and the others are off to war against Aufidius and the Volscians. Volumnia is happy about the news, Virgilia is not.

Scenes 4 through 10 describe the action-packed battle for the city of Corioli. (Some editions write Corioles.)  By the end of scene 4, Martius is cut off from the rest of the army and locked inside the city with Titus lartius and his men. With the help Martius’ individual efforts, the Romans take the city and Martius leaves Lartius behind (in scene 5 and scene 7) to occupy the town while he rushes to Cominius’ aid. A message reaches Cominius in scene 6 which claims that Martius has been killed but Martius then appears on stage covered in blood (most of it’s Volscian blood of course because Martius is such a badass) and he joins Cominius’ forces. In scene 8 Martius and Aufidius finally square off but they are interrupted by Aufidius’ men who interfere in their duel. Scene 9 opens with the retreat of the Volscian forces. For his role in the fighting, Cominius rewards Caius Martius with an extra share of the spoils and with the surname ‘Coriolanus.’ Coriolanus accepts the title but turns down the loot. Finally, Aufidius vows to kill Coriolanus by any means necessary in scene 10.

As Daniel mentioned on the air, part of the challenge of understanding the relationships and the political stakes within the play comes from our lack of familiarity with Roman titles and customs. (This is in addition to Shakespeare’s own occasional misunderstandings.) To help you map out who’s who in Coriolanus, here’s a short list of some of the titles referred to in the play:

  • Consul: This is a rather complicated title, but in the play it stands for the highest political appointment in Rome. Consulships were granted by election of the people of Rome – patricians and citizens had to give their assent.
  • Patrician: The patricians are the nobility and leaders of Rome, thought to be the descendants of the Roman Republic, foudned following the exile of the Tarquin kings who used to occupy Rome.
  • Citizen or plebeians: These, for the purposes of this play anyhow, are the common, free people of Rome.
  • Tribune: An official elected by the plebeians. It is illegal to threaten them with harm and they have the right to pass judgement on individuals on behalf of the common people of Rome.
  • Aediles: They traditionally guarded and maintained public buildings. In Coriolanus they serve primarily as the plebeians’ police force (They  show up later in the play)

This episode from Roman history occurs at the very dawn of the Republic, less than a generation after the last king gets booted out of Rome (We’re told that Coriolanus fought in that war, in fact, as a teenager). This is important because it helps to explain both Coriolanus’ sometimes unsympathetic disregard for the common people but also the people’s fear of Coriolanus’ authority. Also good to keep in mind: at this point in history, Rome has not yet embarked on its conquest of Italy and the city’s fate is still very much uncertain.

To wrap up, here’s a short list of some of the characters appearing in this (wild!) first act of Coriolanus:

  • Menenius Agrippa: An old patrician and friend of Coriolanus who tries to keep the peace and curb the excesses of Coriolanus’ character.
  • Caius MartiusCoriolanus:” A skilled Roman war hero who makes a better soldier than a politician. He dislikes the common people for their inconstancy.
  • Volumnia: Coriolanus’ mother who pushes her son towards fame and political power.
  • Virgilia: Coriolanus’ young wife.
  • Valeria: one of Virgilia’s friends.
  • Cominius and Titus Lartius: Roman generals under whom Coriolanus serves during the attack on Corioli.
  • Junius Brutus and Sicinius Velutus: These are the newly elected tribunes of the people. They have made it their task to oppose Coriolanus’ rise to power which they see as dangerous for the common people of Rome.
  • Tullus Aufidius: The general of the Volscian army and Coriolanus’ chief military rival.

If you’re looking for a good movie adaption of Coriolanus, check out Ralph Fiennes’s recent adaptation. (While Fiennes does a really good Coriolanus, prepare to get blown away by Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia. Outstanding.)

Anyhow, hope you enjoy listening to Coriolanus as much as we do!

BB: Merchant of Venice, Act I

8 May

Welcome to the Bard Brawl!

This week: our reading of the first act of Shakespeare’s ‘comedy,’ The Merchant of Venice.

Listen to or Download the podcast.

In this act, Shakespeare introduces us to the main characters and sets up the plot elements which will be central to the action of the play.

In the first scene, a young impoverished nobleman name Bassanio asks his melancholic merchant friend Antonio for a loan in order to pursue his courtship of Portia, the lady of Belmont. Antonio explains that his assets are invested in his ‘argosies’ (that is, his commercial shipping) but agrees to taking on a loan with interest on his friend’s behalf.

In the second scene, we learn that Portia has been forbidden by her late father to choose her husband. Instead, he has devised a sort of test in which potential suitors must choose from among three boxes the one containing her picture. The man who does so will win Portia’s hand in marriage. (More on that anon.) Portia and her lady-in-waiting Nerissa discuss the merits of the current batch of suitors and find them both lacking and unwilling to submit to the test.

In the third scene, Bassanio and Antonio meet with Shylock, a jewish moneylender, who agrees to lend out the 3000 ducats required. Instead of taking his usual fee in interest, Shylock proposes a different bargain: if the money is not repaid in full in three months’ time, he will cut off a pound of Antonio’s flesh. As Antonio is confident that at least some of his ships will make it to port before that time, he agrees to the exchange. This is the origin of the expression ‘a pound of flesh.’

Other characters appearing in this act:

  • Salerio (or sometimes Salarino) and Solanio are gentlemen of Venice who are friends of Antonio and Bassanio.
  • Gratiano is Bassanio’s right hand man and friend. He will accompany him to Belmont.
  • Lorenzo is a young nobleman acquaintance of the group who seeks to marry Shylock’s daughter Jessica.

Enjoy!