Tag Archives: Act II

BB: King Richard II, Act II

24 Aug

Greetings Brawlers!

Those of you keeping up with our Twitter page will know that with summer (sadly) winding down (dang I still have to put up that birdhouse), 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.

Feel free to check out reviews of some of the Shakespeare Plays the brawlers have checked out over the summer.

Here’s act II again. If you haven’t already, go ahead and check out Act I.

Enjoy!


 

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

This week we have act II of Richard II where you might just see exactly how not to act if you’re an unpopular ruler in search of money.

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

With John of Gaunt (the Duke of Hereford) on his deathbed and his son Henry Bolingbroke banished, King Richard swoops down on Ely house in scene 1 to listen to the dying words of the most popular man in the kingdom.

(BTW, it’s pronounced ‘Eel-y’ House. So says Bard Brawler Niki Lambros whose expertise on the subject of places named after eels we are willing to stipulate to while admitting that zero effort has been made by myself to verify its authenticity. But sounds plausible.)

When the king does arrives, Gaunt has just finished telling the Duke of York that he’s got some harsh words for Richard. Gaunt thinks that the fact that he’s dying is going to make Richard pay attention but the Duke of York’s not so sure that Richard wants to hear about how he’s gone and ruined England.

Yup. Richard doesn’t really dig being called “landlord of England,” that his father would be ashamed of him, that… well, you should really just click on the video of Patrick Stewart here and have a look for yourselves.

After his speech, Gaunt’s carted off and pronounced dead. In the words of his most caring lord, King Richard II, “So much for that.”

Time to cash out!

Richard declares that he’s taking everything Gaunt owns to fund his wars. Problem is, Gaunt has a son, Henry Bolingbroke, and this stuff’s supposed to be his by law.

Now, I’m no expert but stealing someone’s inheritance might just get a few people thinking, “Well, what’s to stop him from taking my lands whenever he wants to.” York tries to talk some sense into Richard but I guess Richard figures he’s got 6 years to come up with a convenient excuse to fix this.

Except for the fact that the way news travels in some of these history plays, there’s a small chance that Bolingbroke will have heard of this even before Richard announced he was taking the money.

Why, who’s that disembarking with an army at Ravenspurgh?!

We’re not even done with the act when a few of the other lords at Ely House decide, “To hell with this chump!” and head off to Ravenspurgh to give their support to Henry Bolingbroke… with the sole intention of helping him reclaim the lands he hadn’t yet lost when he set sail. And in no way shape or form do any of them have any plans to back him should he decide to take the throne.

That ought to work out perfectly.

But what if Henry, supported by a cast of rebellious upstarts like the New York Rangers does in fact have his eye on the crown? Can this Henrik “The King” Lundqvist truly challenge what Mike Richards‘ so-called Kings have taken for granted is theirs? (Ed. So that joke seems a little less timely now… Dang that LA Kings team is good.)

Anyhow.

Change of scenery in scene 2. Richard’s yes-men Bushy and Bagot are trying to comfort the queen. Seems she’s got a bad feeling that things aren’t going to work out for King Dick II. Then Green arrives and informs everyone that Bolingbroke’s back and bleeding Richard’s support so things look damn shitty. And the Duke of York, who’s been left behind to keep the peace while the king is in Ireland, knows it. In fact, he’s torn up: on the one hand, he took and oath to the king. On the other hand, Richard’s an asshole and Bolingbroke is kind of awesome.

Still, he commits to fighting the rebels because that’s the kind of guy he is. The king’s cronies – Bushy, Bagot and Green – just bail of course and go into hiding hoping they’ll still have heads when this is finally done.

Meanwhile, in a forest somewhere in Gloucestershire, Henry Bolingbroke is leading a growing army towards Berkeley. (Here, not here.) He’s joined along the way by some of the other lords who think he’s been shafted by Richard. His main allies are Earl of Northumberland and his son, Henry Percy. It just so happens they hate Richard’s guts so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to stick it to him.

The Duke of York arrives and demands to know what he #$%@ is going on. Smooth-talking Bolingbroke tries to talk his way around the problem but York’s not having any of it: he accuses him of treason. Henry tells him that he’s come to take his lands by force only because the king can’t be reasoned with. And of course he pinky swears that he’s not at all interested in the crown “no sir, just my lands please and thank you.”

York’s not convinced but he knows that he can’t beat them so he just decides he’s going to stay out of it… but there’s no harm in inviting everyone in for tea and a sleep-over, right?

Finally, just when we thought it was looking bad enough for the king, we learn in scene 4 that some of the last of his supporters are sick and tired of waiting around for what is going to be a fight they’re bound to lose. The earl of Salisbury, one of the few nobles still loyal to Richard, calls the fight before the first round even starts: seeya later Dick.

Welcome back to the land of the brawlers Jack Konorska, who lends his musically blissful voice to sonnet 32.

So now what? I bet you’ll find out in the next episode of the Bard Brawl.

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

25 Jun

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

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl! This week we have act II of Richard II where you might just see exactly how not to act if you’re an unpopular ruler in search of money.

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

With John of Gaunt (the Duke of Hereford) on his deathbed and his son Henry Bolingbroke banished, King Richard swoops down on Ely house in scene 1 to listen to the dying words of the most popular man in the kingdom.

(BTW, it’s pronounced ‘Eel-y’ House. So says Bard Brawler Niki Lambros whose expertise on the subject of places named after eels we are willing to stipulate to while admitting that zero effort has been made by myself to verify its authenticity. But sounds plausible.)

When the king does arrives, Gaunt has just finished telling the Duke of York that he’s got some harsh words for Richard. Gaunt thinks that the fact that he’s dying is going to make Richard pay attention but the Duke of York’s not so sure that Richard wants to hear about how he’s gone and ruined England.

Yup. Richard doesn’t really dig being called “landlord of England,” that his father would be ashamed of him, that… well, you should really just click on the video of Patrick Stewart here and have a look for yourselves.

After his speech, Gaunt’s carted off and pronounced dead. In the words of his most caring lord, King Richard II, “So much for that.”

Time to cash out!

Richard declares that he’s taking everything Gaunt owns to fund his wars. Problem is, Gaunt has a son, Henry Bolingbroke, and this stuff’s supposed to be his by law.

Now, I’m no expert but stealing someone’s inheritance might just get a few people thinking, “Well, what’s to stop him from taking my lands whenever he wants to.” York tries to talk some sense into Richard but I guess Richard figures he’s got 6 years to come up with a convenient excuse to fix this.

Except for the fact that the way news travels in some of these history plays, there’s a small chance that Bolingbroke will have heard of this even before Richard announced he was taking the money.

Why, who’s that disembarking with an army at Ravenspurgh?!

We’re not even done with the act when a few of the other lords at Ely House decide, “To hell with this chump!” and head off to Ravenspurgh to give their support to Henry Bolingbroke… with the sole intention of helping him reclaim the lands he hadn’t yet lost when he set sail. And in no way shape or form do any of them have any plans to back him should he decide to take the throne.

That ought to work out perfectly.

But what if Henry, supported by a cast of rebellious upstarts like the New York Rangers does in fact have his eye on the crown? Can this Henrik “The King” Lundqvist truly challenge what Mike Richards‘ so-called Kings have taken for granted is theirs? (Ed. So that joke seems a little less timely now…)

Anyhow.

Change of scenery in scene 2. Richard’s yes-men Bushy and Bagot are trying to comfort the queen. Seems she’s got a bad feeling that things aren’t going to work out for King Dick II. Then Green arrives and informs everyone that Bolingbroke’s back and bleeding Richard’s support so things look damn shitty. And the Duke of York, who’s been left behind to keep the peace while the king is in Ireland, knows it. In fact, he’s torn up: on the one hand, he took and oath to the king. On the other hand, Richard’s an asshole and Bolingbroke is kind of awesome.

Still, he commits to fighting the rebels because that’s the kind of guy he is. The king’s cronies – Bushy, Bagot and Green – just bail of course and go into hiding hoping they’ll still have heads when this is finally done.

Meanwhile, in a forest somewhere in Gloucestershire, Henry Bolingbroke is leading a growing army towards Berkeley. (Here, not here.) He’s joined along the way by some of the other lords who think he’s been shafted by Richard. His main allies are Earl of Northumberland and his son, Henry Percy. It just so happens they hate Richard’s guts so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to stick it to him.

The Duke of York arrives and demands to know what he #$%@ is going on. Smooth-talking Bolingbroke tries to talk his way around the problem but York’s not having any of it: he accuses him of treason. Henry tells him that he’s come to take his lands by force only because the king can’t be reasoned with. And of course he pinky swears that he’s not at all interested in the crown “no sir, just my lands please and thank you.”

York’s not convinced but he knows that he can’t beat them so he just decides he’s going to stay out of it… but there’s no harm in inviting everyone in for tea and a sleep-over, right?

Finally, just when we thought it was looking bad enough for the king, we learn in scene 4 that some of the last of his supporters are sick and tired of waiting around for what is going to be a fight they’re bound to lose. The earl of Salisbury, one of the few nobles still loyal to Richard, calls the fight before the first round even starts: seeya later Dick.

Welcome back to the land of the brawlers Jack Konorska, who lends his musically blissful voice to sonnet 32.

So now what? I bet you’ll find out in the next episode of the Bard Brawl.

And hey! Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it. Volume II is due out soon. Stay tuned.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: Romeo and Juliet, Act II

16 Feb

(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.

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

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Exit James Avery

2 Jan
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.

Join us by contributing to the Bard Brawl journal volume I at our Indiegogo page.

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: Timon of Athens, Act 2

18 Nov
Act II, ii; Flavius

Act II, ii; Flavius

(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 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.

Join us by contributing to the Bard Brawl journal volume I at our Indiegogo page.

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 II

5 Aug

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

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

Listen to or download the podcast.

Let’s get to it then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some of the characters introduced in act II:

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

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

I’d bet on another shipwreck, too.

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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BB: Merchant of Venice, Act II

21 May

The Bard Brawlers go through Act II of the Merchant of Venice.

Listen to the podcast – here -. Download the podcast.

(and, yes, you do hear Daniel J. Rowe say “Bard Ball.” The play on words still works.)

A lot of scenes in this one, but most of them pretty short.

In scene one, the action returns to Belmont. While most of the suitors have left the estate, the Prince of Morocco has remained and intends to try his luck. The conditions of the game are made explicit for our (the audience’s) benefit: if he picks the box with her picture in it, he wins the girl, the estate and all of her father’s fortune. If he fails, he has to leave and can’t ever marry. This thread is continued in scene seven where he actually makes his choice.  It works out great for Portia, so poorly for him. In scene nine the second suitor, the Prince of Aragon, makes his choice and doesn’t fare any better. The way is now clear for Bassanio’s big move.

A common complaint about the Merchant of Venice concerns the contrived nature of the three casket test to win Portia. There’s a very simple reason for that. Shakespeare adapted that aspect of the story from a tale in a collection of medieval romances called the Gesta Romanorum. This was a long collection of stories originally compiled in Latin but eventually translated into most of the vernacular languages of Europe. These stories were supposed to serve (among other things) as exemplars of morality in Christian sermons. Therefore, they were not expected to be realistic. It is very likely that many people in Shakespeare’s audience would have understood the reference to the Tale of the Three Caskets as well.

In scene two, Lancelot – Shylock’s servant – debates to himself whether he should stay and serve a bad master, or break his promise to serve Shylock and flee to a new master. He plays a trick on his father and together they ask Bassanio to allow Lancelot to serve him. He embarks with Bassanio and Gratiano for Belmont on the evening tide. (I’m not sure what happens to Old Gobbo in the end. Hmm…)

Scene three is very short but introduces us to the character of Jessica for the first time as Lancelot says his goodbyes to her.

In scene four – one of the many ‘dude scenes’ – Lorenzo explains to his buddies how he intends to steal away with Jessica and enlists their help to sneak her away from her father and Venice.

Shylock takes his leave of Jessica in scene five when he leaves to meet Antonio and some of the others for a supper he has no desire to attend. Shylock instructs Jessica to lock the doors and windows and to ignore the masquers outside. He has no idea that she intends to run away.

In scene six Salerio, Solanio and Gratiano are waiting on Lorenzo who is late to meet them. When he finally arrives, they go together to steal Jessica away. She brings a bunch of Shylock’s money with her and they run off and eventually meet up with Bassanio and company at Belmont.

Scene eight has Solanio and Salerio discussing Shylock’s reaction to Jessica elopement with Lorenzo. They describe Shylock walking through the streets screaming and crying about his loss of his daughter and of his money. Antonio and his ships are mentioned, which recalls the bond he has agreed to for Bassanio’s sake.

Some characters appearing in this act for the first time:

  • Morocco and Aragon: Princes and suitors to Portia. (She’s not a big fan for either).
  • Lancelot Gobbo: He’s Shylock’s servant, though the nature of his duties is not entirely clear. He leaves Shylock’s service in order to serve Bassanio. The dramatis personae often describes him as a clown. I can’t imagine his name is an accident but I’m not sure what the connection might be.
  • Old Gobbo: This is Lancelot’s father. He’s mostly blind and deaf and he seems to be senile as well. I suppose we’re meant to laugh at him but I can’t help feeling sorry for him.
  • Jessica: Shylock’s daughter and Lorenzo’s wife to be. She converts to Christianity and abandons her father in order to follow Lorenzo.

We’ll talk about the relationship between Lorenzo and Jessica a little more as it develops in subsequent acts (particularly in acts 4 and 5). However, I would pay very close attention to the exchanges between Lorenzo and Jessica throughout the play. Even in the very first scene where we see them together, there are signs that their relationship is off to a potentially rocky start. What’s surprising about Jessica is not only does she give at least as good as she gets in these exchanges but she also seems to suspect Lorenzo’s motives and sincerity right from the get go. I think Shakespeare’s asking us to seriously consider the costs and risks of love and trust. After all, this relationship is an invention on Shakespeare’s part and he doesn’t tend to invent lightly. I think he intends us to compare Lorenzo and Jessica to Bassanio and Portia (and maybe Antonio and Bassanio as well). Think about what Jessica is risking in running off with Lorenzo: if he should leave her, she would be left with nothing. And notice how flippant Lorenzo seems to be about the whole thing (douche!). In this respect, Jessica’s plight (and Antonio’s too, for that matter) is similar to the test with the caskets: the inscription on the lead casket says: “‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.”

Bard on!

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