Having never seen or read Othello, and only using Iago as a crossword answer for ‘villain’ I was intrigued to find out just what this Shakespeare play, written when he was at the top of his form, was all about.
The Bard on the Beach production of Othello is set in 1864, towards the end of the American Civil War and it fits perfectly with the underlying theme of racism which is evident throughout the play.
Even though Othello has been promoted to Union Army General, he is treated with suspicion and has to wed Desdemona secretly has her father, Brabantio would not approve.
“Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
Is tupping your white ewe,”
In the 1600s people with dark non-white skin were put in cages an displayed in the town square as curiosities. Even though the Union Army were fighting for emancipation in the Civil War there was still an acceptance of slavery and racism throughout the north and south.
Kayvon Kelly as Iago, in his fourth season of Bard, was very compelling, and a strong presence on stage. Indeed the play lagged a little when he wasn’t on stage. You could always feel his loathing for Othello.
Othello was an imposing character but easily duped by the cruel Iago.
Why does he “Hate Othello?” It was stated with great vehemence more than once. Iago’s racism is at times very overt and other times subtle and poisonous.
Was it because Othello is black, or is he truly jealous?
It’s part of what makes the play so fascinating, Iago so delightfully evil, and Othello so utterly tragic.
Iago was both jealous and racist and felt passed over as Othello had chosen Cassio as his lieutenant
Even the handkerchief that Iago uses to spur jealousy in Othello was said to have special powers instilled from Othello, as if there was ‘black magic’ involved.
The death scene was a little weak and some members of the audience were even laughing although I could not see the humour in it. It kind of showed that Othello’s character, played by Luc Roderique, was not as strong as Iago although his physical presence on stage was imposing (tall and dark).
Director Bob Frazer says “by setting Othello during the American Civil War, we are shining a light on what many suspect to be the beginning of the new, deep-seated and subtle racism in North America.”
Frazer has been at Bard on the Beach since playing Hamlet in 2005. Since graduating from Studio 58 he has amassed almost 100 theatrical credits both as a director and actor.
He feels Shakespeare’s Othello is a “timeless story that moves audiences on a personal level, all while creating some of the most memorable characters in his canon.”
The folk and instrumental music used throughout the play captured the patriotic fervor of the Civil War and the mournful ballads brought the themes of slavery, loyalty and love to life. Costumes were authentic to the period as well.
A well done and timely Shakespeare experience!
As always, we have to ask ourselves: would the bard approve of this production?
When sitting down to watch any of Kenneth Branagh‘s adaptations of the bard, you cannot avoid the first question: do I like this guy?
It’s like with Woody Allen. It’s very hard to separate the person from the film, and, even if objectively it’s a good movie, you have to come to terms with the creator.
Branagh’s done a half-dozen adaptations thus far with Love’s Labour’s Lostbeing the last of them in 2000. Then he kind of stopped doing them. Don’t know why. Don’t think he needed to stop, as he has a passion for the bard, but he stopped nonetheless.
Let’s look at that last film version, and see what we think of one of the Bard Brawl’s least favourite plays. The brawlers read through this one, and I think it’s fair to say no one really liked it. Reading and watching, however, are two different things, and there are many instances where one is superior to the other.
This LLL (that’s what we’re calling it because it looks cool and is 50-50-50 if we’re doing Roman numerals) is a musical and Technicolor style of the 50s or 60s complete with dancing set against the backdrop of the early days of the Second World War. If you don’t like musicals, you will not like this version. If you don’t like musicals, you may be missing something in life by the way. Just saying. Sing people! Sing on.
Here’s a taste.
Who would’ve thought the bard could be so sexy? (The answer to that, by the way, is: the brawlers did. We get it.)
The play involves three men who have cast off all worldly pursuits to lock themselves in a library for a year or something and dedicate it to learning. Girls show up, and dang if their sexiness doesn’t throw them all off their game.
Spoiler alert: you already guessed the ending.
Branagh’s version actually works pretty well. It shows how a play can come off as very boring an uninteresting when read, but then comes to life when seen on stage or screen. It was clever of Branagh to go the route he did and in so doing, he introduced the play to a new audience. I think. I can’t remember anyone seeing it when it came out.
Branagh’s immediate predecessor to LLL was Hamlet that he left untouched and filmed every single line. He got a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination that year, which is weird. LLL, however, he ripped up and put back together, and it works well. If I were teaching this play to torture my students or something, I’d show the film to reward the students for ploughing through the five acts.
Another fun thing about the movie is how much it proves stardom’s fleeting nature.
The film stars a whose who of who used to be hot headlined by none other than Alicia Silverstone. She’s a vegan now aparently. Oh, crushes of the mid-90s. Sigh. “As if” indeed.
Yesterday, (er, April 23rd) apparently was both the day William Shakespeare – the bard, the most famous playwright of all time, the English major’s hero or devil, the inspirer of great films, theatre productions and books, and agent zero for a few awful ones – was born and died.
Happy 400th deathaversary and birthday.
Funny how the world works.
With that in mind, we co-captains of the Bard Brawl thought to take you through a journey that began in a living room over a few beers with a couple of dudes, and grew to become a living room over a few beers with a couple of more beers. Steve Jobs would be proud.
…so without further ado, “from Montreal, Quebec, this is the
The Bard Brawl, a history
The Bard Brawl is one of the (most important?) legacies of the man born in Stratford upon Avon in 1564, and began in 2009. The co-creators (as well as the long lost Dan Pinese. What happened to that guy? Oh yeah. Toronto happened) decided to meet up and read one act per week. Eric came up with the name, Daniel picked the first play (Coriolanus), and off we went. Stephanie E.M. Coleman soon joined to round out the foursome that became the triumvirate, and the rest is history.
Not sure who is Caesar, who is Pompey and who grabbed the short straw and had to be Marcus Crassus, but there you have it.
As of Thursday night, we finished the second act of Two Noble Kinsman, and will have two plays to go for the folio to be complete. We three, along with a collection of fine brawlers, will have read 36 plays, one act at a time, pound-for-pound like a lion and a tiger in a pit with a bunch of drunk peasants betting their paycheques from above. That is if the lion and tiger intersperse their fight with talk of hockey, batman, beer, PEI and whatever weird topic Mr. Nick is on about.
By the way MIT Shakespeare, could you please put Two Noble Kinsman online? It’s really annoying to try to search for it on our phones. Thanks.
Reading the plays one act at a time, every whatever day of the week, was just the beginning.
Podcasts ensued, as did book, movie and theatre reviews that are all on this site.
Click around. You’ll have fun.
We also produced three volumes of ‘Zounds! A Bard Brawl Journal that you can still buy if you like. There’s tons of clever stuff.
One time we shot a video of a speech from Pericles, but Jay Reid said it wasn’t done right, and then we left it there even though this guy named Jason, who posts a lot on the Facebook page, but rarely comes out to the brawl, keeps telling us we need more video. By the way, Jason and Jay met once and I’m pretty sure Dream Weaver started playing, and a true and noble bromance began.
People often ask about Shakespeare, so we pre-empted those questions and interviewed ourselves. Clever no?
Why the bleeping heck do we spend so much time on Shakespeare?
Short answer: because we want to, and leave me alone jock. I can do whatever I want.
Longer answer: because he’s really fun to read, the stories are interesting and entertaining, and it’s all so dang universal in the end.
Sidebar: No, we will not be branching off and doing Marlowe or Arthur Miller plays next.
Keep it simple. Kick no one out. Don’t discourage those who don’t know the language. Allow mistakes. Drink beer or wine regularly, and always talk about it. Allow all questions, and make sure some jerk has bought the pro version of the playShakespeare app on his or her iPhone, so they can bring it up every single week.
Some have left, some have come, some have stuck around. It really doesn’t matter. Let it go if someone gets all worked up and think they are too good to brawl. Be humble and have fun.
A smattering of some of the funnest lines to read for your pleasure.
“Reason not the need!”
“Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them. Good signior, you shall more command with years. Than with your weapons.”
“You common cry of curs whose breath I hate as reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize as the dead carcasses of unburried men that do corrupt my air, I banish you! And here remain with your uncertainty!”
Sheesh guys. Tell us what you really think.
Eric here. Daniel did such a great job with this post that I don’t have a lot to add.
But I’m happy to try and upstage anyone, anywhere, any time so here goes.
Why do we brawl? Because it’s damn fun.
Yes, I hear you saying politely, “Oh, that sounds nice.” But then you scrunch up your face like you’re picking up your Great Dane’s business in a flimsy Dollarama bag at the park near my house, the one that says “No Dogs Allowed” and is supposed to be for children under 5 years old. How could you?
We invite you, you decline.
And you really have no idea what you’re missing out on.
I get it. You read Twelfth Night or Romeo and Juliet in Mr./Mrs. Lameville’s class in grade 9 because they made you do it. You brought it home. You read it quietly to yourself. It made no sense. You wrote a paper filled with quotes you thought sounded important but which you didn’t understand and handed the thing in.
You collected your ‘B’ and vowed you would never read another word because who the hell cares about all of this serious, stuffy, old-timey stuff anyhow? You’re going to be a social media icon one day! You’ll have a beard and an ironic moustache!
You have no time for this!
Be honest. You hate this stuff because it scares the crap out of you.
You’ve had a lifetime of knowing that Shakespeare is serious business, that it’s meant to be revered, unquestioned, and that only special people with years of training can ever hope to understand even a small part of it.
Honestly, though. Shakespeare’s plays weren’t meant for academics and undergrads trying to sound smart.
Sure, there’s a lot of meaning jammed in there, the language sounds foreign, the characters have funny names and the places described as ‘Athens’ or ‘Bohemia’ seem populated with people who dress and act like Shakespeare’s English contemporaries.
That’s just because it’s gathered a little dust through the centuries. Or tannins. Or oak flakes. Or whatever weird magic makes old booze taste better than new booze.
The murders, betrayals, adulteries and sex jokes are still there. (In fact, a good rule when reading: if it sounds dirty, it probably is.)
So maybe you need to try to live with the fact that it’s old. It’s been around for a while, much longer than anything you write will likely be (unless you’re Daniel, whose honeyed words are clearly immortal). It just needs a little help getting out of bed or crossing the street. It’s wiser and stuff.
But it was never meant to be hard. It’s wicked smart, sure, but also damned entertaining.
Shakespeare’s plays are a lot less like a first-year film student’s art film and a lot more like blockbuster movies.
Poor-ass peasants would scrounge up whatever cash they could just to have a chance to go to one of these things. Nobles went, too. Maybe they got different jokes but there was something in there for everyone.
That’s what’s fun about the Bard Brawl.
Everyone’s different – different backgrounds, educations, states of intoxication – and the best part about it for me is seeing what different people take away, what clicks and what flops. That, and just spending time with people who like to relax and not take themselves (and Shakespeare) too seriously.
I’m always surprised by how incredibly insightful everyone can be about this stuff. Even (especially) those people who insist that they don’t understand.
Yeah, you do understand. It’s cool to admit it. We are all Shakespeare scholars and lovers. We all know more than we think. Yo
And yes, there’s still plenty that we don’t get, or that’s bad or makes no sense. But that’s part of the fun. We make mistakes. We all laugh about them. We make ’em again. We laugh some more.
Kind of sort of like this:
Trust us. Or better yet, call our bluff and come join us.
Here’s to you Bill, and to Bard Brawlers everywhere!
Thanks for an excellent adventure!
Still interested, check out this Studio 360 podcast. It’s very good. Take a listen.
Did she even know it was a Christmas play? Yeah, I’m sure she knows. She seems like a smart woman and she didn’t edit out Sir Toby Belch’s song in II.3. which starts, “[Sings] ‘O, the twelfth day of December.” She knows what she’s doing, and I think she’s pretty clever, too.
So how the hell does a Christmas play work for Midsummer weather?
Well, Twelfth Night is actually the name of a Christian holiday which corresponds to the 12 days following Christmas, ending on January 6th with the Feast of the Epiphany. And how do you celebrate Twelfth Night? You drink and eat a lot, make fun of your betters, and generally the social order gets turned upside down while everybody cuts loose. Like many Christian traditions that the Church would like to claim were wholly original, this one’s actually Roman.
Yep. The Romans had this thing called Saturnalia, which took place over several days in – you guessed it! – December! They even elected this King of the Saturnalia who could order people to make out with their boss, or to pirouette in Buckingham palace, or whatever.
It’s a good gig if you can get it.
(Little sidebar: Sir Toby’s song makes sense. Seems that there was a time when Twelfth Night started 13 days before Christmas and then ended on Christmas. Trust me.)
See how it makes sense now? It’s entirely in keeping with the spirit of misrule in Twelfth Night to turn Twelfth Night from a Christmas play into a Midsummer play.
And in that same spirit, we decided to stash our monogrammed copies of the Complete Works into our bags and just watch the show.
Now that this bit of business is done, what did I actually think of the play?
In contrast to last summer’s wild, over-the-top, gut-splitting history play mash-up Harry the King, Kelloc’s Twelfth Night is a much more traditional staging of Twelfth Night.
The whole play takes place on the same simple set representing Olivia’s garden where Sir Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek and Maria spy on Malvolio as he reads the letter he thinks is from Olivia and which will lead him to prance around on-stage wearing ridiculous cross-gartered yellow stockings.
And thank God. I’ve seen to many plays with spinning box sets that seems less about the drama and more like a platform for some set designer to show off just how many locations they can cram into a two hour play. Especially given the outdoor venue, I really appreciated that the set itself depicted an outdoor locale
The only set alteration – which not only makes a lot of sense but also recalls the trap door ‘pit’ built into Elizabethan playhouses – is a kind of barred dungeon window behind which Malvolio stands while everyone thinks he’s gone nuts.
A nice touch.
Performances were generally good, though those of the miscreant Belch and company by far eclipsed those of the play’s courtly characters like Orsino and Viola. In defence of Orsino and co., however, Shakespeare didn’t always give them a whole lot to work with in Twelfth Night.
Kabwe’s physicality and boundless energy really brought the character of Twelfth Night’s de facto Lord of Misrule to life. (Almost as good as our own Jay Reid, but I digress.)
The synergy between Belch and Aguecheek (Adam Capriolo) was excellent, as was the decision to represent Andrew Aguecheek as a kind of effeminate hipster poseur. Letitia Brooke‘s initially reluctant Maria fit right in with the two other pranksters.
Rainville’s Malvolio was equally memorable for his stern, quasi-Puritanical high-mindedness as well as his cocksure yellow-stocking prancing. As much as you wanted to hate Malvolio for being a killjoy, you really felt bad for him by the end of the play.
Viola (Emelia Hellman) as well was well-acted and well cast, though I felt that she did not stand out as much as Malvolio and Belch.
The character of Feste (Gitanjali Jain)was portrayed as a jack-of-all-trades entertainer: singer, musician, and acrobat. Jain accompanied herself on the guitar as she sang Feste’s many songs. While she sang and played well, and the live, acoustic musical performance lent an air of spontaneity to Feste’s fooling, I felt at times that the songs were just a little too long. Rather than feed the ribald energy of the scene, they sometimes took away from it.
To me, Olivia (Rachel Mutombo) seemed the weakest of the cast members. Olivia is a melancholy character, still in mourning over the death of her brother. However, none of this melancholy came through in her performance which was rather one-note.
On the whole, Repercussion’s 2015 edition of Shakespeare in the Park is an enjoyable if relatively conservative staging of Twelfth Night. While not without its flaws, it nevertheless makes for an entertaining evening in the park. I recommend grabbing a blanket, a few drinks, and catching Twelfth Night while you have the chance.
Two dudes self-fund a documentary to discover one thing:
Why are people scared of Shakespeare?
“Because it’s hard to read,” says one girl in that sing songy teenage voice we all love so much. Yes. Shakespeare’s hard.
Muse of Fire stars actors Dan Poole and Giles Terera, who really, really want you to know that they’re a) actors and b) like Shakespeare. I think. At least they’re interested in Shakespeare.
The two grew up in the 80s “watching Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Batman and Robin.” Wait a second. Batman and Robin? The only Batman I can think of from the 80s was Michael Keaton’s in 1989, and there was sure as shit no Robin in that one. Oh well. I get what they’re saying.
Muse of Fire is pretty good. Kind of like a poor man’s Looking for Richard. It’s funny and explores why Shakespeare is so unapproachable and taught so horribly so often. It also gives a nice glimpse of why the bard is so great. I.E. when Gandalf reads Romeo and Juliet. Now that’s a pleasure to any of the senses.
It’s a perfect for secondary school students. Find a copy, show it and sit back and enjoy teachers of English. The show will do your work for you.
*If you click this link, you can watch the full interviews with those found in the film.
The two actors start with “the good, the bard and the ugly,” and trot around asking actors of varying levels of prestige why the language is so difficult. Almost all of them from Ewan McGregor to the guy who plays Gareth in the Office to Gandalf, errr, I mean Magneto, sorry, I mean Sir Ian McKellan say that Shakespearean language is hard, but you just have to do it; more or less.
Almost all the interviewees recall horror stories of being taught Shakespeare in school and hating it, but, later in life when they’re all grown up, can appreciate it. I think most people can appreciate that sentiment.
Then there are these kids at Shakespeare camp (where the Hamlet was Shakespeare camp when I was a kid?!) who are acting it out, and seem to be having real fun. See. Even kids like it.
The best part of Muse of Fire are the interviewees and there are a lot of them. Dame Judi Dench is a particularly incredible interview, as are the ones mentioned above.
The two dudes then set off for Denmark to catch Jude Law in Hamlet.
Hamlet, in Denmark with Jude Law?! Very jealous.
Law’s interview is predictably great, and he says one line that touched this brawler’s heart very fondly.
“In the end, you just have to say it,” says Law.
Yes you do. Welcome to the Bard Brawl Mr. Law. We’ll see you next week.
“It’s so rich. You have no chance to think that you can get everything every night in the language, but what you can get is a sense of journey emotionally through that scale of writing,” he goes on.
Law talks about Hamlet shifting depending on the actor, time, audience and any other number of variables. Amazing. This is why those, ‘this is how Shakespeare wanted it’ types are a tad bothersome and always produce the show in “period” English. Oh, and those types are always a treat to have in class with you.
“Your responsibility is to that audience and to that production, not 400 years of incredible actors who have played him before,” Law says.
Much like Pacino’s documentary, the filmmakers take a jaunt into the wonderful world of the iambic pentameter that, if you didn’t know what it was already, probably skipped a few classes in high school or were at the back of the class working on your fantasy football team. It’s just one of those things you should all know.
Oh, and just like in Pacino’s film, they put a team of actors together to go through some of the language.
And, just like Pacino, the people on the film give the Duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum explanation of the term.
Hmmm, seems like they might want to have mentioned the Pacino film maybe once. I’ll help you out boys: Looking for Richard.
Throughout the documentary, the two actors love shooting themselves doing their “everyday things,” which is less interesting that the subject at hand.
No one cares how struggling actors spend their days boys. Move it along.
Then there’s the Wizard of Baz part…
Now, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet is a lot of fun, and a great gateway production to get kids into the bard, but the weird scene of Poole and Terara fawning over the DVD copy in the bookstore is kind of odd. They interview Luhrmann which is fine, but we already saw interviews with Gandalf, Jude Law, Judi Dench, Obi-Wan Kenobi and a bunch of other amazing people, so the director of Strictly Ballroom is less than it could be. Does he really have more to add than Alan Cumming (an interview the filmmakers barely used by the way)?
I shouldn’t be harsh though. Muse of Fire is fun, and nice at moments, and, like stated, is perfect for a classroom.
It’s always fun to see the greats talk about what the bard means to them, and even better when they read the words.
That, and the Bard Brawl would gladly welcome the budding actors into our ranks should they choose to join and give their thoughts.
Welcome Brawlers (finally!) to another episode of the Bard Brawl!
So every so often, do you get that experience where you keep looking at a word which is spelt correctly but you’re just convinced that some letters are missing?
Yeah, that word today is sonnet. No idea what letters might be missing but it still seems… off.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that all of these sonnets have been recorded by male sonnetteers so maybe that’s what’s throwing me off this episode. However, I promise that you won’t be disappointed by our readers.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past, I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste: Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow, For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night, And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe, And moan the expense of many a vanished sight: Then can I grieve at grievances foregone, And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan, Which I new pay as if not paid before. But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.
Argument: So, when I’m thinking about all the things I used to have but have any more, I feel about as crappy as I did when I first lost them. That makes me cry my eyes out about my dead friends and my worse breakups while I go through all of the worst moments of my life all over again. But if I think about you, then all that goes away and I feel awesome.
Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts, Which I by lacking have supposed dead; And there reigns Love, and all Love’s loving parts, And all those friends which I thought buried. How many a holy and obsequious tear Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye, As interest of the dead, which now appear But things removed that hidden in thee lie! Thou art the grave where buried love doth live, Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone, Who all their parts of me to thee did give, That due of many now is thine alone: Their images I loved, I view in thee, And thou (all they) hast all the all of me.
Argument: Check this out. All those people who I thought were gone forever, well it turns out that I can kind of see them all when I look at you. Cool, right? Like, I totally thought I would never see any of them again but when I look at you it’s like – Bam! – they’re right there! So no more visiting each grave one at a time because you’re like a whole cemetery.
If thou survive my well-contented day, When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover And shalt by fortune once more re-survey These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover, Compare them with the bett’ring of the time, And though they be outstripped by every pen, Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme, Exceeded by the height of happier men. O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought: ‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age, A dearer birth than this his love had brought, To march in ranks of better equipage: But since he died and poets better prove, Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love’.
Argument: If I die before you, and you just happen to come across my poems – entirely by accident, of course – can you please hold on to them and not recycle them. I know that these poems kinda suck so don’t keep them around because you like them but because you loved me. Oh, and can you please go around telling everyone: “Yeah, modern poetry is better but, you know, he wrote these for me so that’s pretty awesome.” (And maybe a little creepy.)
Full many a glorious morning have I seen Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye, Kissing with golden face the meadows green, Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy; Anon permit the basest clouds to ride With ugly rack on his celestial face, And from the forlorn world his visage hide, Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace: Even so my sun one early morn did shine, With all triumphant splendour on my brow; But out, alack, he was but one hour mine, The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now. Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth; Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.
Argument: Man, I’ve seen the sunrise make the world look and feel golden so many times only to let itself get covered up by rude-ass clouds. You did that to me once, when you looked at me. It felt pretty amazing to know you were looking at me. But yeah, that didn’t last too long though. I’m not mad though, bro. If the sun can paint the sky red, why should I be mad that you sort of stab my heart like that?
Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day, And make me travel forth without my cloak, To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way, Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke? ‘Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break, To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face, For no man well of such a salve can speak, That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace: Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief; Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss: The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief To him that bears the strong offence’s cross. Ah! but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds, And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.
Argument: Why the hell did you tell me to leave my jacket at home when you knew it was going to rain? And then you rub it in my face by posting my picture on Facebook, too? You might have apologized but I’m still soaked. WTF? Oh… no. Stop. Please don’t cry. I didn’t mean… just… (sigh) It’s fine. Just forget I said anything. Don’t worry about it.
No more be grieved at that which thou hast done: Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud: Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun, And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud. All men make faults, and even I in this, Authorizing thy trespass with compare, Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss, Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are; For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense, Thy adverse party is thy advocate, And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence: Such civil war is in my love and hate, That I an accessary needs must be, To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.
Argument: Seriously,.don’t worry about it. You made a mistake, you’re only human. I guess. I mean, I just can’t stay mad at you, no matter how hard I try. Even when you mess up big. It’s messed up but I guess it’s just my lot in life to stick up for you, even if it means that I take your side over mine in every argument.
What’s coming up next on the Bard Brawl? Blood, and lots of it. Stay tuned!
If you like sonnets, or the Bard, or the Bard Brawlers, or cats, or Batman, or hockey, or poems, or artwork, or Game of Thrones, or Star Wars, or anything else you can think of, why not pick up a copy of the first edition of ‘Zounds!, a Bard Brawl Journal.
Winter, 2014: ‘Zounds! Act I,scene i – One to Seventeen –
“… let no quarrel nor no brawl to come taint the condition of this present hour,” Fabian
Welcome back to the Bard Brawl and to the final act of our Twelfth Nightredux!
The gauntlet of relatives, three heaping platefuls of cipâtes, your second copy of Moneyball in as many days (*pokes Niki Lambros), that the guy you made out with at the New Year’s Eve party who you later discovered was your second cousin (Dramatization, may not have happened.), you survived it all.
You made it! Pat yourself on the back, enjoy what’s left of the bubbly (we sure did) and have a listen as we wrap up Twelfth Night in true Bard Brawl style with a little NKOTB.
Side note: Enjoy the “crusher” guitar intro. We sure did.
Only one scene in this act but it’s a pretty wild one.
Orsino, that lazy, pathetic ass, has finally decided that if he wants Olivia he should probably make some sort of effort himself to win her over. He runs into Feste and Fabian outside of Olivia’s house. Insert a couple of jokes about friends and asses before Orsino sends Feste to fetch Olivia. While he waits, Viola (yup, still disguised as Cesario) notices Antonio being lead before the Duke by an officer. Orsino immediately recognises him as a pirate, but Viola tries to plead for mercy as Antonio defended her from Sir Toby and Andrew Aguecheek’s attacks.
Antonio attempts to defend his presence in Illyria by explaining that he was bewitched by Sebastian’s good looks and obvious character into making stupid decisions like exposing himself to the death penalty by being caught wandering the streets of Illyria. To make matters worse, he accuses Viola (thinking it’s Sebastian) of having refused to give back the money he had given him in trust. Of course, everybody thinks he’s a little nuts because Viola honestly has no clue what the hell he’s talking about. Both Orsino and Antonio claim to have been with “Viola” for the last 3 months.
Olivia arrives and once again refuses Orsino’s advances. To make matters worse, she hits on ‘Cesario’ who she thinks she just married an act ago. When Viola says she plans on following the person she loves, Orsino, Olivia accuses her ‘husband’ of being unfaithful. Viola denies it, of course, but just then – by total coincidence – the priest comes in and backs Olivia.
Moments later, Aguecheek comes in asking for a doctor for Sir Toby who was just injured by ‘Cesario.’ More confusion as Aguecheek blames Viola for Sebastian’s actions. As Belch and his buddies are lead out, Sebastian walks on stage. Finally we have both siblings on-stage at once! Olivia seems particularly happy at the prospect of two Cesario’s: “Most wonderful!” I’ll let you finish the porn joke in whatever way seems best to you.
Sebastian and Viola tease out the moment where they finally admit that they’re brother and sister and that, strangely, all of this is totally okay in the end. Olivia is just as happy with Sebastian, Sebastian is all too happy with Olivia’s money; Viola finally gets to have Orsino, who now seems perfectly happy to give up his hot widow for woman he has spent the entire play confusing for a boy. This will make for some interesting swinger parties.
There are a few other loose ends to warp up. They read Malvolio’s letter and realise that maybe he’s not nuts so they may as well let him out of the asylum. Malvolio accuses Olivia of having toyed with him but Olivia denies that she had anything to do with it. Malvolio swears vengeance. I imagine everybody just laughs.
We also learn that Sir Toby and Maria are getting married but I’m sure they won’t be invited to the swinger party.
New Year’s Eve has passed but there are still a couple of days before Twelfth Night which means a few more days of eating, drinking and pranks. Hope you kept some space for cakes and ale!
And don’t mind the funny-looking raisins.
On a Two Gentlemen of Verona note, there’s a new production coming out soon. “2GoV” (that’s how the cool kids send text messages or Tweets about it) is not done often, which is odd seeing as another one of those “I will love you forever but then get distracted by the first beautiful girl I see” romances is done, like, all the time.
Before everything untangles itself, Shakespeare’s going to up the ante and string us along for another act of mistaken identities and practical jokes.
Cesario (Viola in what has to be one hell of a disguise), is mistaken for Sebastian (Viola’s mystically identical twin brother) by Antonio at the end of act III. In act IV, scene 1, it’s Sebastian’s turn to be confused for Cesario. Feste mistakes him for Sebastian and only leaves after Sebastian gives him some cash. Then, Sir Toby, Fabian and Andrew Aguecheek come on stage, planning to attack the defenseless Cesario but they are beaten by Sebastian who, unlike Viola, is an able swordsman. Olivia shows up, breaks up the fight and invites Sebastian in thinking that she has finally managed to win over Cesario.
Confused yet? You shouldn’t be – I’m sure you’ve had all the practice tracking disguises when you listened to our The Taming of the Shrew Brawl.
Sebastian has never seen Olivia in his life but figures, what the hell? How often does a beautiful, rich widow throw herself at you and offer to give you everything she has? Seems like the natural thing to do. (I’m told it happens to Daniel all the time.)
If it helps, this is a composite image of the Olivia Shakespeare probably had in mind:
While Sebastian follows Olivia Wilde out of her garden and into her sex den house, Maria, Sir Toby and Feste decide that they’re going to spend scene 2messing with Malvolio. They dress Feste up as a priest who is visiting ‘Malvolio the Lunatic’ to exorcise his demons. They taunt him and toy with him until Sir Toby calls off the prank. He’s afraid that his niece Olivia will get mad at him if he pushes the joke too far. At the end of the act, Malvolio calls for some pen and paper – he means to write a letter proving that he’s not crazy.
The third scene is very short. It’s the marriage of Sebastian and Olivia. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. Olivia thinks she’s marrying Cesario, Sebastian has no clue who he’s marrying but she’s clearly hot and has a lot of money. (See picture of Shakespeare’s inspiration above if you don’t believe me.) They don’t even have each other’s identities sorted out.
Unless they learn to communicate, I can’t see how this is going to work for either of them.
Join us next week for the final act!
Though you’re far away, you’re near in our hearts Zoey Baldwin here reading sonnet 29.
What’s in store for this act? Probably a lot of things that we would call bullying today. Although if we were to bully anyone, we could do worse than to pick on Malvolio. Seems to me like someone’s a little light on Elizabethan holiday spirit. What better way to send a message than through public humiliation? I can’t think of any.
Turns out we’ve already reprised this podcast back when we were working on our first issue of ‘Zounds! (Which remains me that you can get your copy of issues 1 and 2 here, and that you can send submission for the upcoming Mad King issue here.)
But I’m sure you’ll forgive us as not only is this a particularly rockin’ and raucous episode but it was also our farewell brawl for Brawlers-for-life power couple “Second” Jay Ovenden and Zoey Baldwin.
So here’s to all the Brawlers out there, near and far.
And to those who cannot be with us, I’ll shotgun an extra bear just for you.
Viola (still in disguise as Cesario, of course) is waiting outside of Olivia’s house at the start of act III. She is waiting to be admitted with yet another suit from Orsino and is engaged in a witty exchange by Feste, the clown. The two exchange a bunch of jokes about husbands being fools, words being whored out through misuse and overuse, with some punning about the young Cesario ‘wanting’ a beard thrown in for good measure: The beard she ‘wants’ is attached to Orsino’s face, get it?
While she waits, Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby arrive and invite Viola in. Before they can enter, however, Olivia meets with them and is left alone with ‘Cesario.’ Olivia is enraptured by ‘Cesario’ and tries to get him to drop his suit on behalf of wooing for himself. She confesses to the ploy with the ring intended to get Cesario back here but Viola doesn’t bite. Viola says ‘Cesario’ won’t return given that it will be impossible to convince Olivia to love Orsino but Olivia ask that Cesario return anyhow, ‘just in case’ he might be able to convince her somehow…
It seems the Aguecheek saw the whole exchange between Cesario and Olivia in the garden and has decided, at the start of scene 2, that he has no chance with Olivia and should probably just leave. Fabian and Sir Toby convince him that what he needs to do is demonstrate his valour by challenging Cesario to a duel. Sir Toby asks him to write a challenge letter which he will deliver to Cesario. Seems like this is another prank and Sir Aguecheek just another fool. Maria arrives and informs that Malvolio’s all dressed up and ready to make a fool of himself.
Antonio catches up to Sebastian on his way to Illyria in scene 3. Despite the danger to himself, Antonio is moved to help Sebastian. We find out that the reason Antonio is a wanted man is because he stole from Orsino and was recognised in fleeing. He hands Sebastian some money and agrees to meet him at an inn called ‘The Elephant.’
Scene 4 is a monster of a scene, with a lot going on.
As the scene starts, Olivia is waiting impatiently for Malvolio. He arrives dressed as the letter suggested, with his bright yellow stocking, cross-gartered. Olivia immediately assumes he’s lost his mind and ask him to go to bed… which of course he takes as an invitation. He starts quoting bits of the letter as he kisses Olivia’s hand. She, of course, has no idea what the hell he’s talking about.
When Cesario is announced, Olivia asks Maria and Sir Toby to take care of the maddened Malvolio. Malvolio, though, assumes that this is just a test and that he’s supposed to exercise his ‘new authority’ over Sir Toby. They toy with him a bit and when Malvolio walks off, they decide to ties him up and put him in a dark room. Sir Andrew then arrives with his challenge letter. As it is a letter which would betray that Aguecheek is a moron, Sir Toby decides to deliver the challenge to Cesario himself, in his own words.
Olivia and Cesario are in the garden replaying the same scene: Olivia trying to convince Cesario to love her, Cesario trying to convince Olivia to love Orsino. When they take their leave, Sir Toby approaches Cesario and issues Aguecheek’s challenge. Of course, Viola is ignorant of any offense she might have given Aguecheek so she asks Sir Toby to find out what exactly Aguecheek is accusing her of. She asks Fabian about Aguecheek cheek and he describes him as a dangerous and skillful warrior. Sir Toby gives basically the same description of Cesario. While both of the combatants hope the combat will be avoided, Sir Toby manipulates them into it and they are interrupted by Antonio as they draw their swords. He has clearly confused Viola for Sebastian. (The impossible identical twins, remember?)
Moments later, some officers arrive and arrest Antonio. Thinking that he’s speaking with Sebastian, Antonio asks for his money back to bail him out of this mess. Viola denies having the money but offers half of what she has to help him. Antonio is incensed that ‘Sebastian’ has denied him but he is taken away by the guards. Viola slips away with Andrew Aguecheek and the others giving chase.
Hope you’re nice and buzzed because today we continue with our special Twelfth Night redux of Twelfth Nightwith act II.
Finally got those yellow stockings you were pining for this Christmas? Tonight’s the night to bust a New Year’s Eve fashion move and rock those cross-gartered wonders in all their glory!
If you didn’t get your yellow stockings – like that Nintendo you kept asking for and not getting because you were told that there just wasn’t room in Santa’s sleigh – you can use the line that was used on me as a kid: Ah! There’s always next year!
In the first act of the play, Viola disguises herself as Cesario, the young eunuch page in service to Orsino. Olivia has continued to refuse his advances but though better of his envoy, Cesario. A bit of a problem for everyone involved in that scenario…
Oh, but what do we have here at the start of act II? Why, a young man, washed up on the shore, who bears a striking resemblance to Viola in her Cesario disguise? Hmm… wonder where Shakespeare’s going with that. Anyhow, this is Viola’s brother Sebastian who she thinks is dead but who is – as we can see – very much alive. He was found washed ashore by this Antonio fellow. Sebastian decides that he’ll seek out Orsino (presumably to figure out a way home) and, despite having enemies in Orsino’s court, Antonio is moved by his love for the young man and decides to follow him anyway.
Malvolio, whom Olivia had sent after Cesario, catches up her in scene 2 and gives her a ring. When Viola tries to turn down the ring because it is not hers, Malvolio insists that not only is it her ring but that she threw at Olivia. Malvolio drops the thing on the ground and leaves. This is where Viola realises that maybe her disguise was a little too good. Ooops.
We return to Olivia’s house for scene 3 where Toby Belch, Sir Andrew and Feste the clown are singing, drinking and generally making a racket. Maria comes to tell them to quiet down nut the noise brings Malvolio. He immediately tells Sir Toby that he is only welcome here if he can check his excesses at the door. Sir Toby’s response? Something along the lines of “who the @$&# do you think you are?” He reminds Malvolio that his self-righteous behaviour might make him feel important but he’s still just a twerp. Like my 11 year old niece, Malvolio stomps off to go tell Olivia. They decide that they’ll play a (kind of mean) prank on him to take him down a peg: Maria will forge a fake letter to make Malvolio think that Olivia is in love with him. This is basically going to lead him to make a fool of himself.
This next scene is a little complicated to explain but actually quite simple. Orsino is listening to music when Viola arrives. He notices that ‘Cesario’ seems to be showing the signs that he’s fallen in love. Orsino. Seeing as he can’t feed is own appetite for love, he figures he can at least get some enjoyment
from hearing about ‘Cesario’s’ love interest. Of course, seeing as he is the object of Viola’s love, a lot of his questions are answered with: “she’s kind of a lot like you are. Like exactly.” Orsino says some stuff about how much better men are at love than women but Viola then tells him a story about her ‘sister” unrequited love to show that women love deeper than men. Orsino sends her back to Olivia’s house for more wooing!
The last scene of act II takes place in Olivia’s garden. Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria have brought a friend, Fabian, along to watch Malvolio make a fool of himself. They all hide in the bushes. Malvolio walks on the stage talking to himself about how great it would be to be a count. He starts thinking of precedents to ladies marrying underlings. He imagines kicking Sir Toby out, having the run of the house. Eventually, he finds the letter written by Maria. Of course, he decides to read it aloud and describe his thoughts about the cryptic love letter. He ‘brilliantly’ deduces that the letter is written by Olivia and was left there on purpose for him to find it. Emboldened by this letter, he determines to follow its instructions and confess his love to Olivia. Of course, the gawkers chase after him so they won’t miss seeing him be shot down by Olivia.
The letter Malvolio finds mentions that its mysterious author wants to see Malvolio in yellow stocking, “cross-gartered.”
Before the advent of elasticized socks, men wore their socks up to their knees held up by straps or garters. It seems that there were several ways of gartering your socks. The “regular” way would have had the garters running down the side of the leg, parallel to the leg. Cross-gartering instead runs the straps or bands in a criss-cross pattern up the calf and to the knee.
Here’s how that might have looked:
I have no idea just how bad of a fashion faux-pas this would have been in Shakespeare’s day but I’ll take a guess. If we translate that into contemporary terms, the letter might as well have said: “I would really love for you to wear these skin-tight black and fluorescent green bicycle shorts when we go out for brunch with my mother this weekend.”
While I mentioned that Feste is the clown in the play, the real clown – in many ways – is Malvolio. He’s the one everybody’s laughing at. And I’m guessing that Malvolio would have looked just as ridiculous to Shakespeare’s audience as he does to us wearing those bright yellow sock, cross-gartered.
If, like me, you like taking pleasure at the misfortunes of others, you won’t want to miss the next act!