BB: Romeo and Juliet, Act V

Artwork - Leigh Macrae
Artwork – Leigh Macrae

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

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

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

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

And that’s it really. The end.

Oh, details?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and then Friar Lawrence arrives.

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

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

He’s kinda sorta dead.

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

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

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

No one cares what happens to Paris.

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

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

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

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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Romeo + Juliet (1996), Baz Luhrmann

Miki Laval When I was 15, I knew exactly what loved looked like. Love was a slim blond boy with lanky legs, and hair I wanted to sweep back from the sides of his pretty face. He walked quickly and sat quickly. He came and left rooms quickly, every muscle always ready to go. To me, his speed was beauty and grace. Yet love was also languid and brooding, a poet, of course, who scribbled in a notebook between long stretches of staring into space while smoking a cigarette. In other words, this:

Sigh… To a 15-year old girl, one still plastering her walls with rock star posters, love sure looks a lot like a young Leonardo DiCaprico. He’s my generation’s definition of a heartthrob, and so a delicious fit for the world’s most epic teenage love story. Yes, he’d already shown rare talent in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and The Basketball Diaries, yet he and co-star Claire Danes were essentially darlings from TV land back in 1996. Then Romeo + Juliet hit theatres, and both actors proved they had serious chops, capable of moving from puppy love to the grand passion all tragedy requires. So how did the duo handle the Elizabethan dialogue? Well, at the time, there was a lot of clamour from outraged purists, but I’ve re-watched the film twice in the past few days and the Bard’s iambic pentameter sounds pretty good to my ear. Or I’ll say this, though neither Danes or DiCaprio have perfect elocution, the words flow with an intensity and ardor you don’t learn in theatre school. Besides, the point of Romeo and Juliet (the play) is that the central characters are children, and what acting skills Leo and Claire bring to the film is all in their baby faces, their creamy skin, their youth, not in their tongues. Yes, they are that pretty. Just watch them steal looks at each other in the infamous fish tank scene.
Forget Leo as Romeo. Isn’t Danes as Juliet melting loveliness? She clearly lusts for Romeo, yet despite what’s coming – a head spinning series of kisses that will leave her in a state of prickly heat – she keeps her wits about her. Later, the two swirl around each other from ballroom, to elevator, to balcony, to swimming pool, all the while bandying words back and forth with passion and spirit. Danes and DiCaprio understand that language is foreplay and an artful, erotic pleasure. To the naysayers who claim the dialogue isn’t up to snuff, I say these two make Shakespeare sound sexy. As for the film itself? There are throbs of neon in the night. Gobs of neon. Blazing fireworks explode across the black skies. There is all the razzle-dazzle, costumery, bubbles, bells and whistles anyone could dream of. Director Baz Luhrmann opens his film like the bullet-spraying master Tarantino; he choreographs the fight scenes as beautifully as John Woo, meanwhile, the frenzy of jump cuts make MTV (you remember MTV) seem like a stumble on Quaaludes. All this whirlwind action serves to convert the play’s intense emotions and language to vision. This is a play you see more than hear. And, boy, in the switch from the ear to the eye, does Luhrmann go wild with the modern images. Instead of gold, wads of cash are flaunted. Instead of swords, flashy semi-automatic pistols are drawn. Horses are doffed for retro convertibles that burn up the urban streets. It’s a nice touch too, having the two gang families dress in opposing “colours,” the Montagues favouring Hawaiian shirts, while the Capulets mobster up in dude suits. The film also features a gifted gaggle of players, most notably Harold Perrineau as a black gender-bending Mercutio, Pete Postlewaith as the splendid, scene-stealing Father Lawrence, and a corpolent Paul Sorvino who plays Juliet’s daddy like a bizarro wiseguy from Goodfellas. “Paulie may have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn’t have to move for anybody,” Henry Hill. Throw in some castles, some choppers, some bulletproof vests, and boom, Luhrmann shakes up a 400-year-old play without bowdlerizing or breaking its central and touching innocent idea. Which is what exactly? Only that love, sweet love, still blooms despite the violent world that usually steamrolls over it. The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is nothing new, of course. Besides the innumerable theatrical productions, it’s been made over as a ballet, as well as a Broadway musical, and now there’s a new British film adaptation based on a Julien Fowles screenplay. To the latter, I say, Yea Gads! go rent Baz Lurhmannn’s rabidly flamboyant version instead. The fervour and grace of his Romeo and Juliet will have you free falling into the giddy, head-tripping, crush of epic love.

BB: Pericles, The Speeches

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

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

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

Listen to or download the podcast.

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

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

(We accept video submissions.)

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

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

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

It’s a strange play.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus sonnet 67 read by Niki Lambros.

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: Taming of the Shrew, Act I

In this podcast, the Brawlers take on the first act of the confusing and controversial Taming of the Shrew.

Listen to the podcast –here

Download the podcast.

The Brawlers clockwise: Shaun Malley, Daniel J. Rowe, Virginie Tremblay, David Wheaton, Eric Jean, Andre Simoneau, and Stephanie E.M. Coleman.

The Taming of the Shrew opens with a prologue which takes place in front of an alehouse. It seems the drunk Christopher Sly’s been kicked out of the bar by the hostess after refusing to pay for his tab. The hostess threatens to call the watch but instead of leaving Sly falls asleep in front of the tavern. Soon, an unnamed lord and his huntsmen show up and, for some reason, the nobleman decides it would be fun to take Sly back to his estate, clean the drunkard up and make him think he’s an amnesiac lord whose just awoken from a long illness. Just then an acting troupe shows up and the lord hires them to help him with his prank.

By the start of scene 2, Sly has just woken up and he calls out for some more booze. He’s expecting Pabst Blue Ribbon but greeted by servants who offer him wine and want to know which of his many outfits he plans to wear today. Sly argues with them but the servants and the lord manage to convince him at last that he’s a rich lord and that the cross-dressing page is his wife. Sly wants to sleep with his wife, but the page instead convinces him to watch a play first, in case having sex might bring about a new bout of madness. Doctor’s orders. So instead they decide to watch a play.

The actual play itself begins in act I, scene 1 with the young bachelor Lucentio’s arrival in Padua where he hopes to pursue his studies. He’s accompanied by his servant Tranio who reminds him that while he’s here he may as well have a good time. While they talk, Baptista, his daughters Katharina and Bianca, as well as Bianca’s suitors Gremio and Hortensio, walk by them. The suitors are trying to plead their case with Bianca’s daughter but Baptista won’t budge: neither of them can marry Bianca unless his eldest daughter Katharina (Kate) is married off first. The problem? Katharina’s a shrew which no man in Padua wishes to marry. As soon as they leave, Lucentio admits that’s he’s smitten by Bianca and he and Tranio devise a plan to allow Lucentio to woo her freely: Tranio will pretend to be Lucentio and take care of his master’s affairs in the city while Lucentio will pretend to a scholar which Gremio will offer to Baptista as a tutor for his daughters. This will give him access to Bianca. When Biondello, one of Lucentio’s father’s servants, arrives, Lucentio convinces him to go along with their plan.

The start of act I, scene 2 is similar to the previous scene: a young bachelor, called Petruchio, arrives in Padua with his servant Grumio (not to be confused with the suitor Gremio). There’s a short slapstick scene where Grumio gets slapped around by Petruchio just outside Hortensio’s house. The two friends talk for a few moments and Hortensio learns that Petruchio is in the market for a rich wife. Seeing an opportunity to open the way to Bianca, he tells Petruchio about Katharina. Petruchio decides that he’s the one to take on Kate and the two head off to Baptista’s house. When they get there, they see Gremio, Bianca’s older suitor, and with his is Lucentio disguised as a tutor who promises to woo Bianca on the old man’s behalf. Hortensio and Gremio exchange words until Tranio – disguised as Lucentio – shows up and tells them he also intends to woo Bianca. While they’re not happy to see him, they realise that neither of them can get Bianca unless they first marry off Kate. They agree to collaborate to help Petruchio win Katharina.

If you’re already confused about who’s who in the play, you’re not alone. Taming of the Shrew is a tough play to read because the characters are constantly disguising themselves. Some invent entirely new names while others (to make it even more confusing) pretend to be other characters in the play. With that in mind, here’s a short list of some of the characters and the roles they take on in the play:

Lucientio:

      A young bachelor and scholar. He pretends to be one of Katharina and Bianca’s tutors,

Cambio

      , so he can woo Bianca.

Tranio:

      Lucentio’s servant. He pretends to be Lucentio so his master can woo Bianca without arousing suspicion.

Biondello:

      A servant of Lucientio’s father.

Baptista Minola:

      The father of Katharina and Bianca.

Katharina (Kate):

      Baptista’s eldest daughter, a shrew which Petruchio will marry for money.

Bianca:

      Baptista’s youngest daughter, who has three suitors: Gremio, Hortensio and Lucentio.

Gremio:

      An old man and friend of Baptista’s who wants to marry Bianca. He hires the tutor Cambio (Lucentio in disguise) to woo Bianca on his behalf.

Hortensio:

      A younger suitor to Bianca and one of Petruchio’s friends. He disguises himself as a music teacher named

Licio

      .

 

      Petruchio: a young impoverished bachelor looking to marry into money. Katharina’s suitor.

Grumio:

      Petruchio’s servant. He often gets slapped around by his master.

Peddlar:

    Later on, this character will be recruited to play the part of Lucentio’s father.

I’d bookmark this page: I’m sure you’ll want to jump back here more than once over the next few weeks.

If you’ve ever seen this play staged, or watched an adaptation of it, you won’t remember the prologue. That’s because it’s almost always edited out. In fact, if anyone out there is aware of any production that does include the prologue, let us know.

Truth is, ignoring the prologue is the easy thing to do and removing it doesn’t affect the action of the play at all. So why is it there in the first place? This is a tough question to answer.

Let’s try to imagine how The Taming of the Shrew might have been stage back in 1592. For that, it might be helpful to know what the actual theatre might have looked like as well:

If we’re lucky, we can afford to by a spot in the covered balconies but most likely we’re just groundlings who paid a cheap rate to stand in the pit all around the stage.

Once the play starts, Sly, the hostess, the lord and his attendants come on stage. They play out the first scene of the prologue. Then, after they’ve dragged Sly off-stage, he reappears on the balcony at the back of the playhouse with the page disguised as Sly’s wife. There’s a good chance the lord and the household servants are up there as well. However, at the end of the scene, the players hired by the lord walk out onto the main stage and start performing a play. This is where act one of the actual play starts.

Sly has a few more lines after act I, scene 1 so we know he’s still around. And it’s likely that he’ll stay up on that balcony for the entire show. That means that we’re watching Sly and the page watch the Taming of the Shrew as we watch the Taming of the Shrew. It also means that the actors the lord has hired for his prank on Sly are the same ones acting out the Taming of the Shrew for us, the audience. Are we supposed to be the butt of a strange joke like Christopher Sly? I’m not sure. If so, I don’t really get it. What this weird half-frame does though is make us aware that we’re watching a play because it keeps the audience of the play – Sly – in view the whole time.

Shakespeare’s big on theatre metaphors in his plays. He’s constantly reminding us that we’re watching a play, and that everything else in our lives also involves a lot of acting and pretending too. However, Taming of the Shrew is an early play, one of Shakespeare’s first. Later in his career, Shakespeare will really become a master of using theatre to comment on theatre and life. He just hasn’t really figured it out yet and this experiment falls a little flat.

That about does it for this week. Be sure to read Jay Reid’s critique of Ralph Fiennes’ recent film adaptation of Coriolanus. If you don’t want to miss anything, subscribe to the blog as well as the podcast on iTunes.

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

Artwork - Leigh Macrae
Artwork – Leigh Macrae

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