Like bust-your-gut, pop-a-button, get-dirty-looks-on-the-Metro-because-you’re-laughing-so-damn-hard funny. And, as my wife Rachelle “The Butcherette” can testify, that’s if you don’t understand a word of Shakespeare besides ‘Zounds!
See, here’s the deal with this summer’s edition of Shakespeare in the Park: Harry the King is actually a play adapted from Henry IV parts 1 and 2 and Henry V. Specifically, it grabs up a bunch of the bits involving prince Harry’s rise from being a good-for-nothing lay-about who spends all of his time in Eastcheap’s taverns drinking with his buddies to his ascension of the throne and eventual conquest of France.
At least that’s what it looks like at first but the whole thing never actually makes it out of the tavern.
The entire play takes place inside the tavern with Hal, Falstaff, Mistress Quickly, and company playing out all of the roles in Hal’s story. As such, you’ll see actors doubling up on roles in the same scene, frivolous funny voices and accents, whimsical posturing and funny walks, criticism and praise of the actors performances and of course off-the-cuff comments about what’s happening to the audience who is a stand-in for the other tavern patrons.
So really, the whole thing is like an epic and uproarious Bard Brawl on stage if the Bard Brawl had a budget, some sound and lighting equipment, a stage and a live audience!
If you’re a purist who likes their Shakespearean histories untouched, their iambic speechifying solemn and formal, and their Salic law needlessly obscured and overly complicated to all except for those 2 guys in the front row who have been involved in 15th century Renaissance re-enactment for 20 years, maybe this won’t be the production for you.
But if you’re a person with a pulse and at least a few friends, particularly if you are a person subscribed to the Bard Brawl, there’s a good chance you’ll be thinking to yourself as you fold up your lawn chair or picnic blanket: “Well that was well worth the price of admission.”
Shakespeare in the Park is free so that was a free joke. (You’re welcome.)
But don’t be like that guy who refuses to tip: Repercussion Theatre lives on donations so when the actor who just made you pee your pants at the end of the first half of the play comes by with a hat during the intermission, hide your shame and drop a few bucks in please. (Or you can click here and donate.)
Pack up your cooler with a few snacks and a couple of drinks, bring a blanket and go see Repercussion Theatre’s Harry the King in a park near you before it’s too late! I won’t come to your house and force you to go see this (because I don’t know where you live, mostly), but I’ll just leave this last remark here for you to do with as you please.
This is the one play that made my wife say, for the first time ever since I have known her: “I want to go back and see it again!”
It’s always sad when a bard legend leaves us. Unfortunately for us youngins’ we will simply have to suck it up and get used to it, as the legends who brought us great stage performances since the 60s are turning 70, 80 and 90.
I’ll admit, it takes a second and a little swallowing of appropriateness when Anthony Hopkins (not Moorish) steps on camera as the Moor, Othello. Othello has been portrayed in a number of ways with some actors going full on blackface (always a ‘treat’), some producers amping up the orientalist look (still not completely appetizing), and some productions getting a black actor to play it. The last choice is the best to be sure, but some of the others are not all bad. Are Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier or Paul Scofield racist for wanting the best role or maybe just arrogant to think that they can pull it off?
Pick another part guys. Hey! Why not Iago?
That being said, Hopkins is very good in this Othello. He travels the gauntlet that is the role, and encapsulate the power of the tragedy. He works well alongside the other impressive talent in this play, and is great on-screen with Hoskins.
Speaking of which.
(Hey! Hopkins and Hoskins. That’s fun)
Iago is one of the most complicated and important roles in all of Shakespeare, and if you miscast the sadistic murdering villain, the production’s doomed. Just ask Kenneth Brannagh (Actually, don’t ask. he won’t admit he was the wrong choice. It’s best not to ask).
Hoskins is able to nail the key question about Iago: why does anyone like/believe him? The answer is in the performance. Hoskins is blunt, crude, and a little nasty, but not in the way any of those friends you know you have are. It’s that bluntness and hamminess that allows Iago to throw the other characters off his scent, so he can mess with them and litter the stage with bodies.
That, and the verbal missiles he fires through the fourth wall are great.
Take Act V, scene i, the scene where all of Iago is on display.
Hoskins will be missed as an actor for simply being able to pull of this scene. He, as Iago, first manipulates Roderigo into doing something he’s not entirely sure he wants to do, then laughs at his plan, then realizes he might get found out, decides to kill Cassio, actually kills Roderigo, tears his shirt in two to help mend Cassio (everyone totally buying the act), blames Bianco for being a strumpet and has her carted off, and then nails this killer line:
This is the night that either makes me, or foredoes me quite.
Man this play is great.
It’s worth the three hours to watch Hoskins in this scene. He uses his whole body, and can deliver so much expression with his face. It’s really quite a performance, and he hasn’t even killed his wife yet.
The rest of the cast is also very good.
Just before Act V,i, check out Penelope Wilton (yes Isobel Crawley to those Downton Abbey devotees (poor Matthew)) nail the heartbreaking IV,iii all while being stared at by a skull. Very good.
Sheesh this play is intense.
Oh, and then there’s the final scene. Not to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen the play or movie version, but let’s just say the final line is not, “all in all it was a really weird trip to Cyprus.”
(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.
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.
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.
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.
Well, despite the fact that we’ve already established that postponing the wedding of Juliet and Paris from Wednesday to Thursday was totally reasonable, by the start of act IV, Friar Lawrence just isn’t on board with that. Could he be right? Is that really too soon? Obviously, Friar Lawrence is really only worried about his hide: he can’t marry one girl to two guys. Well, not in this church at least.
On the other hand, maybe Paris is right: Tybalt was just a cousin. Pretty sure Emily Post’s wedding etiquette doesn’t even have an entry for the appropriate wait time in the event of a violent and non-accidental death of a (sort of) loved one. Just stick the mourning Juliet in a social event and we’ll peer pressure those tears right out of her.
Once Paris is shooed away, Juliet pulls a Romeo and breaks down but Friar Lawrence tell her that there’s still a slim chance for her and Romeo to be together forever. Small catch: she’ll have to kill herself.
Say what? That doesn’t seem very Christian!
Actually, she’ll have to take drink one of Friar Lawrence’s roofies sleeping potions which will make her seem dead for 48 hours. That will make her family bury her in the family crypt. Romeo will then swoop in, rescue her before she suffocates, and steal her away to Mantua while Juliet faking her death and Romeo killing Tybalt blows over. Shouldn’t take more than 2-3 weeks tops, right?
Looks like everything is good to go. Friar Lawrence just needs to let Romeo know about that plan and everything will turn out perfectly.
In scene 2, Lord Capulet is busy planning the wedding when Juliet walks in and seems suddenly and mysteriously zen about the whole marrying Paris thing. She just wants to make daddy happy. Nothing suspicious about any of this at all.
Juliet retires and asks the nurse to help her pick out a suitable wedding outfit. Once she’s picked out her outfit, she dismisses her nurse and lies down on the bed with Friar Lawrence’s elixir. Can she really trust that this potion will work properly? Will she ever wake up? Is this really going to work? Only one way to find out: down the hatch!
The following afternoon, preparations for the wedding are in full swing, and Paris is just about to show up for his big day! Time for Juliet to wake up!
Except she doesn’t.
The Nurse finds her lying dead in her bed in scene 5. Everybody files into the room: mom, dad, Paris and of course Friar Lawrence. The friar tries to calm everyone down. Creepy Paris still thinks this is about him somehow and asks to lie down next to her. Lord Capulet orders the food to be served as a funeral feast, the musicians are asked to play some sad music. They agree once they’re sure they’ll still get paid, and be allowed to stick around for the buffet.
I wonder if Friar Lawrence has any idea whether his potion worked or not. I also wonder how his archbishop would feel about all of this. And where the hell is Romeo and what has he been doing in the past few days? He wasn’t in this act at all!
Guess you’ll have to wait for act 5 to see if he got our text message /email/ Facebook invite / carrier pigeon / monk-o-gram.
Please Welcome our newest sonneteer to the brawl, the legendary lord of St. Leonard, Mark Della Posta reading sonnet 39.
Mark should not be confused, however, with the other legendary lord of St-Leonard, Roberto “The Manimal” Luongo.
And hey! Buy ‘Zounds!You’ll never regret or forget it.
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, yethe 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.
Welcome back to the Bard Brawl! With the madness of the ‘Zounds! launch party behind us, we were finally able to get the crew together to record act III of Romeo and Juliet where no doubt nothing but steamy love-making scenes and happily-ever-afters await us!
Lots of action in this act and it starts right away with a confrontation between Mercutio and Tybalt in scene 1. Benvolio and Mercutio are hanging out in the sun when Benvolio suggests they should probably head inside to avoid the roving bands of wild Capulets which are wandering the streets. Before they can leave though, Tybalt shows up with ‘others’ and Tybalt tries to start some shit. Mercutio seems eager to go at it too but Benvolio tries to get them to either calm down or get out of the street so they don’t get caught fighting.
Eventually Romeo shows up and tries to break things up but Mercutio just thinks he’s being a pussy and ignores him. He draws his sword; Tybalt draws his. As they fight, Romeo steps in but Tybalt uses him as a screen, skewers Mercutio and splits. Mercutio tries to crack a few jokes about being stabbed and killed in a gang war, blames Romeo for getting in his way and says “a plague on both your houses” a few times before biting the bullet. Tybalt comes back (for some strange reason) and then Romeo kills him.
Taking Benvolio’s advice, Romeo runs the hell away. Of course, as soon as he’s gone, Benvolio snitches to the Capulets, Montagues and the Prince. The prince is fed up and banishes Romeo. I would have just killed him and been done with it. I’m sure Juliet would have learned to love Paris, right?
Anyhow. Scene 2. Juliet’s waiting at home for her nurse to come back with the rest of the plan and a rope ladder for her to sneak off to marry Romeo. Eventually the nurse does come back with a ladder and some bad news. Something about Tybalt being dead. Also something important about Romeo… something about Tybalt… Romeo… Tybalt…
This goes on for a while until eventually she gets it out: Romeo killed Tybalt and has been banished. Juliet is worried she’ll die a virgin so she sends the nurse back out to fetch Romeo so he can collect his… goodbye kiss.
Since running away from the scene of the crime, Romeo’s been hiding out at Friar Laurence’s. He’s bitching and moaning about how banishment is worse than death, he’s dead without Juliet, how he wishes the prince had just killed him, yadda yadda angsty teenager stuff. Friar Lawrence talks some sense into him: ‘Hey pathetic excuse for a man (almost)! We’ll just come up with a plan to sneak her out of the city and you can still be together in Mantua until all of this blows over!” Yay!
So what’s this genius and totally fool-proof plan? Friar Lawrence says he’ll sort it out but, in the meantime, Romeo’s got some marital business to attend to in Juliet’s bed.
Even in the crazy world of R&J, death in the family means that weddings needs to be postponed. The wedding between Juliet and Paris which Lord Capulet and Paris are already planning out, and which was scheduled for the way-too-soon date of ‘this Wednesday,’ has been pushed back all the way to the much more socially respectable ‘this Thursday.’ It just seemed like the right thing to do. (It’s currently Monday morning.)
Seems like Shakespeare decided to cut out the explicit portion of this act (bummer) because when scene 5 opens, Romeo and Juliet have already consummated their marriage and are lying in bed doing what all young couples do after their first time: discussing ornithology. They’d love to lay there and talk about nightingales and larks all day (are these even indigenous to Italy?) but Lady Capulet comes knocking. Romeo sneaks out the window, educating young boys the world over in the proper behaviour after such a nocturnal encounter: “I’ll call you.”
Juliet isn’t convinced this is all going to work out.
Once the coast is clear, she lets her mother in. Lady Capulet first promises her that as soon as they find Romeo, they’ll kill him for Tybalt’s death which she is sure will make Juliet very happy. But not quite as happy as this next bit of news: Juliet’s going to get married to the amazingly wonderful and bland Paris who her parents totally approve of!
No way, mom and dad: I’m into bad boys!
Dad’s not too happy and basically tells her that she has two alluring options: either she can shut up and show up to marry Paris on Thursday or she can choose to be disowned by her father who would cast her out to starve in the streets.
What can she possibly do now? Run over to Friar Lawrence who’s probably had enough time to think of something by now.
While things are looking pretty grim right now, in an alternate universe where it’s always 1988, Romeo and Juliet had a daughter and this lovechild of a torrid night of passion produced this:
Here’s hoping you aren’t crying yourself to sleep each night to this song while thinking about the Romeo and Juliet who could have been but whose love was ruined by people with no appreciation for fedoras, round shades, trench coats, big hair and sand.
Just wanted to take a minute to remind you that tomorrow night, February 20th, 8pm at Brutopia’s, is the launch party for the Bard Brawl’s first issue of our Shakespeare-inspired ‘Zounds! journal!
There will be door prizes, Bard Brawl shirts and copies of ‘Zounds for sale, and plenty of food and beer!
Feel free to drop by our Facebook event and let us know you’ll be there!
If you’ve been listening along to the show lately, and have been having a hard time getting into the play or wrapping your head around what the hell is actually going on inRomeo and Juliet, then Sparky Sweets, PhD‘s got your back!
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.
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.
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.
You think you know this play because you read it in Mrs. MacDonald’s grade nine English class and had to write a 500 word essay on ‘why do we have to read Shakespeare.’ You wrote something like:
“We have to read Romeo and Juliet because it’s the greatest love story every written. […] It shows us how my parents are ruining my life with TJ/Cindi because they hate my boyfriend/girlfriend. They should just accept that we are in love and will spend the rest of our lives together living in their basement.”
After a week and a half of torturing (and being tortured by) the Shakespearean language about ‘Prince of Cats,’ ‘Queen Mab,’ ‘plagues on households’ and ‘purple fountains,” Mrs. MacDonald – because she just wants her suffering to end – gave you your ‘A’ and you moved on to Catcher in the Rye.
But admit it. Deep down, you feel ridiculous for writing those words. I mean, you were 14 or 15 years old. Of course you were naive and stupid. Just like a certain Juliet (almost 14 years old) or a certain Romeo (15 years old) everybody thinks they know. The only decision I could be trusted to make when I was that age was which Nintendo game to rent with my allowance money.
Try this synopsis instead, Mrs. MacDonald: two teenagers with more sexuality than sense are married in secret (and sacrificed on the altar) in order to try to put a stop to the constant feuds and vendettas of the Montagues and Capulets which have been tearing Verona apart for who knows how long. They die, feud ends, mission accomplished.
Don’t believe it? Too cynical? Well, let’s have a look.
Romeo and Juliet opens with a Prologue which tells us that isn’t going to end well. Two kids born from feuding families are going to need to die on order to put the feud to rest. Additional information provided: this play will last approximately 2 hours.
In scene one, Sampson and Gregory, two Capulets, are wandering the streets looking to pick a fight. They spot Abraham and Balthazar, two Montagues, and decide to start swapping insults. Eventually they draw swords but Benvolio (a Montague and Romeo’s friend) shows up and tells them to sheath their sword. Moments later, Tybalt (a Capulet and Juliet’s cousin) arrives. Benvolio asks him to help break up the fight but Tybalt attacks Benvolio and they fight. Soon Lord Capulet and Lord Montague show up and all hell breaks loose until the Prince shows up threatens to kill anybody who doesn’t immediately stop fighting. He asks for the Capulets to follow him and asks the Montagues to come see him later about this brawl. (ding!)
Benvolio fills the lord in on what’s going on and then Lady Montague asks about Romeo. Seems he’s been locking himself up in his room and crying a whole bunch, which we all know never happens with teenagers so something must be up. Eventually Romeo comes on stage. Seems he’s in love with a girl who doesn’t love him back, whatever that feels like. Benvolio, like a good friend, tell him that what he needs to do is to forget about Rosaline. (That’s the name of his one true love, the type of love that there’s no way he will ever have for anyone else, ever, in his lifetime!)
How to forget about Rosaline? Easy. Chase after other girls to sleep with love.
After his meeting with the Prince, Lord Capulet meets up with Paris in scene 2, a young man who’s really interested in marrying Juliet. Dad thinks she’s a little too young and that marrying to early is not a good thing. But, he’s willing to give his blessing is Paris can win her over. Lord Capulet is throwing a big party tonight and he thinks that would be a good opportunity for Juliet and Paris to meet. He gives a list of guests to his illiterate servant and asks him to go invite his other guests.
Coincidentally, Romeo and Benvolio are walking by and the servant asks them to help him read the letter. After the servant leaves, Benvolio gets a great idea: why not crash the party at the house of their mortal enemy?
We finally get to see Juliet in scene 3. She’s with her nurse who is still responsible for helping her get dressed and otherwise taking care of her while mom and dad get plastered with their friends. Lady Capulet comes and asks her daughter about Paris. She seems to like him so she hopes that Juliet will too. Juliet doesn’t seem very interested in the prospect of getting married but mom insists that it’s happening sooner or later so she better get used to the idea.
Benvolio and Romeo have met up with their buddy Mercutio and are headed to the Capulet party in scene 4. Benvolio and Mercutio alternate making fun of their love-sick and depressed friend. Romeo then tells them of a dream he’s had which he thinks is prophetic. Of course, Mercutio mocks him to no end. Romeo insists that he’s got a bad feeling about tonight but on they go to the party.
The final scene of the act takes place in the Capulet mansion. Lord Capulet walks in a makes a bunch of bad jokes about ladies’ corns and dancing – which I am sure they are thought was totally hilarious and tasteful. Of course, Romeo’s here and this is where he first spots Juliet, without realising that she’s a Capulet. He babbles on about beauty and Tybalt over hears him and realises that he’s a Montague. He’s a bout to storm off after him but Lord Capulet stops him: “he’s not a bad kid and he’s not causing any trouble. I don’t want you starting a fight with him in my house.”
Romeo, who doesn’t seem to care one little bit that he came here to see Rosaline (Rosaline who?), starts sweet-talking Juliet and manages to score a couple of kisses from her before she is called away by her mother. Romeo then learns that Juliet is the daughter of Lord Capulet. Time for the Montagues to leave.
As soon as they disappear, Juliet is asking the nurse about Romeo and learns the bad news: he’s a Montague.
I’ll say this for R&J: that’s a hell of an opening act!
While I suspect that many of you Brawlers know this play already, here are some of the key characters who show up in this act:
Benvolio: He’s one of Romeo’s buddies and, at least at first, is trying to keep the peace between the Capulets and Montagues.
Tybalt: One of Juliet’s cousins, he’s only too happy to look for reasons to fight Montagues.
Romeo Montague: Lovesick Romeo starts the play madly ‘in love’ with Rosaline and then, after spotting Juliet once, swears that he’s never loved anyone before. I’m sure he’ll make a great husband.
Juliet Capulet: She seems like a level-headed young girl at first but that goes out the window when she meets Romeo. She just can’t get married quickly enough.
Lord and Lady Capulet: The rulers of the Capulet family and Juliet’s parents.
Lord and Lady Montague: The rulers of the Montague family and Romeo’s parents.
Paris: A young, eligible bachelor looking to marry into the Capulet family. The parents like him but he didn’t stand a chance with Juliet.
Mercutio: A friend of Romeo’s who has no patience for Romeo’s melancholic self-pity and who sees what Romeo calls love as lust.
Next week: more bad, life-altering decisions made by horny teenagers.
Oh, and happy valentine’s day.
Also, get ready for a big upcoming announcement about ‘Zounds!
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.