Sunday, April 1, 2018

April 2018



Even Shakespeare addicts like me are susceptible to computer problems and this past week has been frustrating to say this least. This is being written on an old computer and posted with the help of Hal’s internet.  Fortune shines on me!

As always, I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

FINALLY easily available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se


Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the Swedish dystopia Enda vägen (The only way) by Anna Jakobsson Lund, the setting is vaguely England in a future after the wars. A meeting is set up between two rebels in a round white building from which the stucco is falling and in which, one of them informs the other, the greatest plays of the kingdom were performed eight hundred years ago.
  • In the film St Trinian 2 the headmistress says, approximately, ‘Some women are born great – Cleopatra, the queen, me – some become great – Mother Theresa, Lady Gaga – others have greatness thrust upon them, like Monica Lewinsky…’ Then: ‘We few, we happy few, we happy band of sisters’…the whole St Trinian, oops Crispin speech has girls in tears and cheers. And then the treasure is in the Globe where the film ends…
  • In another dystopia, Wool, by Hugh Howey, the survivors live in underground silos. The main character Juliette is named after a character in an ancient play that her parents loved. A manual for running the place is written on the back of the manuscript to the play.
  • Keith Thomas, in his fascinating Religion and the Decline of Magic, has mentioned Shakespeare several times in the first half:
    • Pondering upon the backwardness of Tudor and Stuart England he writes: ‘Not every under-developed society has had its Shakespeare [and] Milton…’
    • Many students took magic seriously and studied it. Thomas writes: ‘Small wonder that for the populace learning still meant magic: “Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio”.’
    • In explaining dreams and divination Thomas points out that we believe the ones we want to believe in: ‘The utterances of the three weird sisters were treated with suspicion by Banquo.  But they struck an answering chord in the heart of Macbeth.’

Further since last time:
  • Read aloud with Hal, EG and EG in preparation for seeing the performance at the Globe in July: Hamlet.
  • Read: Nutshell by Ian McEwan. Now that is Hamlet with a twist!
  • The insult for today, 2 April  2018, in our calendar of Shakespeare insults, a gift from JS, is ‘Were’t not for laughing, I should pity him.’ Henry IV, Part 1. Rather mild for being a Shakespeare insult.

 Posted this month
  • ‘Rebel girl in Romeo and Juliet’ 
  • This report


  
Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

More Shakespeare on this link:

Rebel Girl in Romeo and Juliet

Rebel Girl
in
Romeo and Juliet

      She’s thirteen years old with hypocritical, manipulative parents, a nurse who dotes but also has a mean streak, and a society that cheerfully imprisons girls her age in marriage.
      Juliet has everything against her. But is she a pushover? Indeed she is not.
      Almost the first thing we hear her say is in answer in Act 1.3 to her mother’s question – though the answer is supposed to be given – ‘How stands your disposition to be married?’ Juliet says: ‘It is an honour I dream not of.’ Not terribly radical, you might say. No, not at all. But not the enthusiasm her mother no doubt expected and when she asks Julia if she can ‘like of Paris’ love?’ Juliet gives such a garbled answer that one could interpret it as, ‘Not really.’ And this before she has met Romeo and knows what love feels like.
       She then has no hesitation in falling for Romeo but even then in the first throes of romance she protests its suddenness and Romeo’s passion, as well as her own. In Act 2.1 she rejects his vow – ‘O, swear not by the moon’ -  and has

...no joy of this contract tonight:
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden,
Too like the lightning...

       As they are about to part Romeo, wanting more, demands, ‘O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?’
       Juliet retorts, ‘What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?’
       Still, she is quick enough to demand marriage and while waiting impatiently in Act 2.4 for the nurse to return from meeting with Romeo she is far from docile. She complains about how slow the nurse is:

...old folks, many feign as they were dead,
Unwieldy, slow, heavy and pale as lead.

       When the nurse finally comes and demands patience because she is out of breath, Juliet says tartly and logically,

How art thou out of breath, when thou hast breath
To say to me that thou art out of breath?

       Well, the marriage happens and in that Juliet is as rebellious as she could probably imagine. How they were planning on dealing with breaking that news to the feuding parents we will never know. Double manslaughter and banishment get in the way.
       Fast forward to the scene where she is informed that she is to marry Paris on Thursday. Juliet rebels:

‘He shall not make me there a joyful bride.
...I will not marry yet, and, when I do, I swear
It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate,
Rather than Paris (Act 3.5).

       Clever, devious girl!
       When the nurse tells her it’s just as well she marries Paris after all for all kinds of reasons, Juliet’s rebellion is upped a notch. Her beloved nurse has betrayed her:

Ancient damnation! O most wicked fiend!
Is it more sin to wish me thus forsworn,
Or to dispraise my lord with that same tongue
Which she hath praised him with above compare
So many thousand times? Go, counsellor,
Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain.
I’ll to the friar, to know his remedy;
If all else fail, myself have power to die (Act 4.1)


       Juliet sees through the betrayal and hypocrisy and cuts right to the core of the matter.
       Her skilful wordplay as she spars with Paris about the supposed coming marriage shows that she’s still in control but later, alone with the friar’s remedy, panic sets in. Her monologue in Act 4.3 before taking the potion is the strongest of the play and sadly it is cut from many productions, even the best.
       She is afraid: ‘I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins...’
       She is alone: ‘My dismal scene I needs must act alone.
       She is doubtful: ‘What if this mixture do not work at all? / Shall I be married then tomorrow morning?’
       She is suspicious: ‘What if it be a poison, which the friar / Subtly hath ministered to have me dead / Lest in this marriage he should be dishonoured?
       She is terrified of waking too early in the tomb, a vault filled with death and horror, stifled, foul, many hundred years of bones, blood, Tybalt festering, loathsome smells, shrieks:

O, if I wake, shall I not be distraught,
Environèd with all these hideous fears?
And madly play with my forefather’s joints?
And pluck the mangled Tybalt from his shroud?
And in this rage, with some great kinsman’s bone,
As with a club, dash out my desp’rate brain?

       Oh, poor, poor Juliet! Poor terrified abandoned girl! She could so easily have given in to her parents’ demands, to Paris’ wooing, and escaped these dreadful horrors!
       But not Juliet, brave rebellious Juliet.
       She swallows the potion.
       The more I see and read this play the more I admire it. The more I admire Juliet. This thirteen-year-old girl, sheltered and pampered and imprisoned, defies everything her oppressive society throws at her.
       She dies, yes, but she goes out in rebellious glory, even defying the church’s condemnation of suicide, and thereby changes the course of Verona’s fictional history.
       And, if we would but see it, lives on in our hearts and minds, as a Rebel Girl. 

Films seen this time: 





Sunday, March 4, 2018

March 2018


A busy month with Shakespeare, of course, but also with Merlin and Shakespeare. Please do visit my alter ego’s new web page, especially the Shakespeare bits! https://themerlinchronicles.wordpress.com/ One of history’s greatest secrets is revealed – Merlin and Shakespeare were good friends!
Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet have all figured in this month’s Shakespearising. And there have been a lot of sighting. So, let’s get to it.

As always, I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

FINALLY easily available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se


Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel The Purchase by Linda Spalding the girl Mary writes in the year 1799 to her friend from Virginia and wonders if her old school was performing Shakespeare while she had only one student, a slave boy, to teach in the wilderness.
  • There are so many references to Shakespeare in Philip Roth’s incoherent, almost unreadable but somehow fascinating novel I Married a Communist that the page notations almost filled the inside back cover. Here just a few of them:
    • It starts out with 90-year-old Murray enrolling in a course ‘Shakespeare at the Millennium’. He had taught Shakespeare throughout his teaching career and refers to him often throughout his narration to Nathan
    • As Ira is betrayed, Murray (his brother) mentions the betrayal in Othello, Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth.
    • Just a few minutes after writing in An Isle Full of Noises – the Merlin Chronicles Volume 3 about Merlin’s reaction to seeing the ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy at the Globe, I read in this novel: ‘the three-hundred-word assignment – discuss, from the perspective of a lifetime, any one line in Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy…’
  • Christopher Hill also refers often to Shakespeare in his The World Turned Upside Down – radical ideas during the English Revolution. Here are the best:
    • ‘The Forest of Arden gave shelter to a shifting population of blacksmiths and nailers as well as to Shakespeare’s artless countrymen.’
    • ‘…both Spenser and Shakespeare had clearly heard communist propaganda.’
    • ‘In the freer circumstances of the 1640s and 50s most “madmen” appeared to be political radicals…One wonders how conscious Shakespeare was of what he was doing when he put significant social criticism into the mouths of fools and those, like Lear, under extreme mental stress.’
  • The film The Holiday starts with the quote ‘Journeys end in lovers meeting’ and one of the characters telling us that she now knows that ‘love is blind’ is true.
  • In Prunella Scales and Timothy West’s delightful program about canals they make the journey to Stratford by boat. The whole program is filled with quotes and recitations by these two brilliant Shakespearean actors, though perhaps we remember Scales best as Sybil in Fawlty Towers.
  • Dagens Nyheter had an article about the book published in 1970 by Maja Ekelöf, Report from a Cleaning Bucket, about supporting five children on the salary of a cleaner while studying at university. The article ended with a list of books about scrubbing and included Macbeth with the comment that Lady Macbeth had history’s worst cleaning problem, going mad because the spots of blood would not wash out.
  • In the YA fantasy Linger by Maggie Stiefvater, bad girl Isabel opened the Shakespeare she was supposed to be reading. 

Further since last time:

Posted this month

  
Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and


A horribly funny play is Twelfth Night


How can a play in which there is a shipwreck which surely kills many people, a male romantic lead who is murderous misogynist (and almost a stalker), a pathetic vain old man who is shut up in the dark and told he is mad, two sisters grieving over the deaths of their beloved brothers, a loyal friend who is betrayed then abandoned, and two old men who live as parasitic, drunken sots – how can a play with all this be so funny?

      Well, to start with there are some great one-liners.
      Sir Toby: ‘He…speaks three or four languages word for word without book’ (Act 1.3).
      Sir Andrew: ‘I am a great eater of beef and I believe that does harm to my wit’ (Act 1.3). Hmmm, maybe not so funny after all! But clever.
      Orsino: ‘I myself am best when least in company’ (Act 1.4). Again, not so funny but in Orsino’s case (and often mine!) so true.
      Maria: ‘Go shake your ears!’ (Act 2.3). Must remember that one and use it sometime.
      Sebastian: ‘ …let me be boiled to death with melancholy’ (Act 2.5). Not funny at all but such an unexpected turn of a phrase that I laughed out loud.
      Sir Toby: ‘For Andrew, if he were opened and you find so much blood in his liver as will clog the foot of a flea, I’ll eat the rest of th’ anatomy’ (Act 3.2). What an image!
      And then there are those silly, fast-paced scenes.  Feste showing Olivia why she’s the fool, not he. Viola in her first meeting with Olivia and trying to give her prepared speech: ‘Alas, I took great pains to study it, and ‘tis poetical’ (Act 1.5). Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Feste, Maria and Malvolio upon partying late into the night: Sir Toby, ‘To be up after midnight and to go to bed then is early’ (Act 2.3). The duel between Sir Andrew and Cesario, from planning, to challenging, to evading and finally to almost fighting – classic slapstick!
      And, of course, poor Malvolio’s entire yellow-stockings-crossed-garters-and-smiles episode. Poor ridiculed humiliated Malvolio. We cringe, we pity him, and we laugh. It can’t be helped. Malvolio making a fool of himself is simply hilarious.
      One final little detail that endears this play to me. Sir Andrew’s name. Aguecheek. It sums him up perfectly. Pale, insipid, bloodless, pathetic aristocrat. It’s even better in Swedish. Blek af nosen.  Pale of snout. What a perfect name.
      What a perfect comedy, steeped as Shakespeare so well understood – in tragedy and human foibles. If we didn’t laugh we’d never survive.


Films seen this time:        

  • BBC, 1979. Director: John Gorrie. Cast: Orsino – Clive Arrendell; Viola – Felicity Kendal; Olivia – Sinead Cusack: Feste – Trevor Peacock; Malvolio – Alec McCowen; Sir Toby Belch – Robert Hardy; Maria – Annette Crosbie; Sir Andrew Aguecheek – Ronnie Stevens; Sebastian – Michael Thomas; Antonio – Maurice Roeves; Fabian – Robert Lindsay. 
    • A well done enjoyable production.  The cast is very competent but sadly Felicity Kendal is just too sweet and girly to make a convincing Cesario. I have a hard time seeing Trevor Peacock as anybody but Talbot but he’s OK as Feste.  Best is Robert Lindsay (Benedick in BBC’s Much Ado about Nothing and Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)  He might have been better as Feste here.
  • 1988. Director: Kenneth Branagh. Cast: Orsino – Christopher Ravenscroft; Viola – Frances Barber; Olivia – Caroline Langrishe: Feste – Anton Lesser; Malvolio – Richard Briers; Sir Toby Belch – James Saxon; Maria – Abigail McKern; Sir Andrew Aguecheek – James Simmons; Sebastian – Christopher Hollis; Antonio – Tim Barker; Fabian – Shaun Prendergast.
    • One of Branagh’s earliest film efforts, it already shows the greatness that he soon became known for.  Anton Lesser is the perfect clown, rough, subtle, sad and very funny, not to mention very good-looking in his rags and dreads.  James Simmons is the perfect Aguecheek – dumb, sad and funny.  Christopher Ravenscroft makes a great Orsino although he’s a bit too dignified.  Wonderful music by Patrick Doyle.  My only complaints – I don’t like Frances Barber as Viola - too teary and weepy and uncharismatic.  Best laugh: Aguecheek entering on snowshoes.
  • The Globe production, 2012. Director: Tim Carroll Cast: Orsino – Liam Brennan; Viola – Johnny Flynn; Olivia – Mark Rylance; Feste – Peter Hamilton Dyer; Malvolio – Stephen Fry; Sir Toby Belch – Colin Hurley; Maria – Paul Chahidi; Sir Andrew Aguecheek – Roger Lloyd Pack
    • A very successful all-male cast. Stephen Fry is always a sweetie and Mark Rylance has the perfect balance of comedy and sorrow. 


Monday, February 5, 2018

February 2018


The shortest month starts with what might prove to be the year’s longest monthly report. A lot has been happening with Shakespeare in our lives. The most exciting is of course that we have booked our tickets at the Globe for Hamlet together with our oldest Shakespeare friends, EG and EG. We’re so happy that we will be able to spend time together with them in London. And how incredibly lucky we are that Hamlet is playing at the Globe!

As always, I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

FINALLY easily available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara there is only one mention of Shakespeare in all the 800+ pages: someone sketched designs for a production of The Tempest. Fewer pages and more Shakespeare might have made this somewhat good novel the great novel some already think it is.
  • In the witches-coming-of-age YA novel Half Bad by Sally Green the author starts with one of my favourite quotes: ‘There is neither good or bad, but thinking makes it so’ from Hamlet. In her acknowledgements the author admits that she hasn’t read a lot of Shakespeare, but this quote was pivotal in her writing of this novel.
  • The title of Anita Shreve’s The Stars Are Fire is a quote from Hamlet which she includes before the novel starts but no mention is thereafter made of Shakespeare.
  • In The Night Is for Hunting, by John Marsden, Ellie compares herself to ‘that guy in Shakespeare who’s turned into an ass’ because she was listening so hard that she felt her ears were growing.
  • In Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale the book lover narrator, when presented with the theoretical question of whether to save her beloved books or a human life concludes, ‘Of course all of Shakespeare was worth more than a human life.’ Oh dear! I hope we are never faced with that choice!
  • On the first page of Moi qui n’ai pas connue les hommes by Jacqueline Harpman (in English I Who Have Never Known Men, read in the Swedish Hon som aldrig kände männen) the narrator writes that she has started reading the introductions of books where, for example, it might be explained why a new translation of Shakespeare is needed. Further on in the novel
    • she considers that her story is as important as Hamlet’s or King Lear’s ‘as that Shakespeare has taken the bother to relate in detail’ (translated from the Swedish)
    • near the end of the book she wonders if she has understood Shakespeare
    • and as she lays dying, in pain, at the end, she asks, ‘How can prince Hamlet’s father appear and talk to him if he’s dead?’
  • Yuval Noah Harari mentions Shakespeare three times in his Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind
    • ‘…even if a Neanderthal Romeo and a Sapiens Juliet fell in love, they could not produce fertile children, because the genetic gulf separating the two populations was already unbridgeable.’ Well, that, and being they were Romeo and Juliet they would die before they got that far….
    • ‘Attending gruesome executions was a favourite pastime for Londoners and Parisians in the era of Shakespeare and Molière.’
    • ‘Producing a film about the life of some super-cyborg is akin to producing Hamlet for an audience of Neanderthals.’
  • In Solaris, the sci fi classic by Stanislaw Lem, Snow, one of the astronauts/researchers on the space station studying the mystical planet Solaris, says to the narrator Kelvin, about fetishes, ‘the feeling he has for it is perhaps as overwhelming as Romeo’s feelings for Juliet.’
  • Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed has now been translated into Swedish. The review of it in Dagens Nyheter calls it a dark comedy and delightful interpretation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece (The Tempest). I couldn’t agree more.
  • In an interview with Carole Ann Ford, who played Susan, the first Doctor Who’s granddaughter, she said that though she has taught Shakespeare, she has never played Shakespeare but would love to.
  • In an interview with another Doctor Who actor, William Russell, he mentions that he played Lancelot in a school production of The Merchant of Venice and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet at Oxford.
  • In describing two of the main characters in Erin Kelly’s The Poison Tree a minor character compares the brother and sister as lookalikes in a bizarre Shakespearean comedy. Later, the narrator comments that her friend, the actor Bibi, would have said that the run-down theatre in which she was performing would not matter because the language of Shakespeare or Ibsen is so powerful that the venue is unimportant.
  • In the film Their Finest the minister of war, Jeremy Irons, recites the ‘We few we happy few’ monolog to pep his staff.
  • In the novel Dust by Elizabeth Bear the author uses Shakespeare quotes to head some of her chapters. Sadly, it didn’t help. I gave up after about 50 pages. Just didn’t grab my attention.
  • In the TV series with Robert Carlyle Hamish Macbeth (bought both for the title and for Robert Carlyle), some smirks and giggles have met him when he introduces himself, but it is not until season three episode three that a clear reference is made. Says the villain: ‘Macbeth, eh?  To be or not to be, that is the question.’ Replies Hamish: ‘That’s Constable Hamlet. He’s up in the next village.’ 

Further since last time:
  • Read aloud with Hal: Twelfth Night.
  • Started writing: a text on Twelfth Night
  • Watched: the BBC and Branagh versions of same.
  • Played again with friends EG + EG: ‘Shakespeare – the Bard Game.’
  • Booked tickets for Hamlet at the Globe in July! Oh yes!
  • The insult for today, 5 February 2018, in our calendar of Shakespeare insults, a gift from JS, is ‘What a pied ninny’s this! Thou scurvy patch! From The Tempest. But who speaking to whom? Caliban? To Caliban? I’ll google it. Right, Caliban to Stephano and Trinculo. 
Posted this month
  • This report








Monday, January 1, 2018

January 2018

January 2018
Happy New Year! It has been a turbulent year, this 2017, but here we are, entering 2018 with perhaps more optimism than I would have thought possible. What fools these mortals be but also how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable.

As always, I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

FINALLY easily available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

Shakespeare sightings:
  • ·       In the novel Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh the title character is a misfit, ‘like Joan of Arc, or Hamlet, but born into the wrong life – the life of a nobody, a waif, invisible.’ Later she had to leave school to take care of her mother and was secretly relieved but blamed her parents for her unhappiness and wished she was ‘in school again learning…the history of art, Latin, Shakespeare, whatever nonsense lay in store.’
  • ·       The Swedish YA fantasy novel Norra Latin by Sara Bergmark Elfgren is about the historical upper level school Norra Latin (which in reality is now a conference centre). In the novel it is still a school with a theatre program. It also has magic and ghosts but so much Shakespeare that the author was interviewed in the latest number of the journal of the Swedish Shakespeare Association.
  • ·       A literature critic compared the current turbulence in the Swedish Academy (brought about by the #metoo campaign) to a Shakespeare drama.
  • ·       In the rather sweet YA novel about werewolves, one of the two main characters, Sam, who is sometimes a wolf but often human, says to the other main character Grace’s mother, who claims not to be disappointed in her daughter’s practical nature: ‘Methinks the mom doth protest too much.’ Whether or not he knows he’s quoting Shakespeare is not mentioned.


Further since last time:
  • ·       Finished reading aloud with Hal: The Two Noble Kinsmen. Some by Shakespeare, more by Fletcher. Quite a strange play but not without interest.
  • ·       Wrote and posted: ‘Reflections’ on The Two Noble Kinsman
  • ·       Scheduled with friends E, E, A & L but not yet played: ‘Shakespeare – the Bard Game.’
  • ·       Had a book signing event, Saturday 9 December, with my alter ego Rhuddem Gwelin at the local bookshop Klackenbergs in Sundbyberg, Sweden. We mostly sold and signed the Merlin books but Shakespeare Calling – the book received not a little attention as well
  • ·       Received from friend JS – a calendar of Shakespeare insults. The insult for today, 1 January 2018, is ‘That quaffing and drinking will undo you’ (Twelfth Night). Very mild as Shakespeare insults go!
  • ·       Discovered that the public library in Östersund (northern Sweden) has Shakespeare calling – the book as an e-book.


Posted this month
  • ·       ‘Reflections’ on The Two Noble Kinsmen https://rubyjandshakespearecalling.blogspot.se/2018/01/the-two-noble-kinsmen-reflections.html 
  • ·       This report









The Two Noble Kinsmen - Reflections

Reflections
on
The Two Noble Kinsmen

     It’s worth reading. It has many themes one recognises from earlier Shakespeare – male friendship, female friendship, strong women, rivalry in romance, but all with a feeling of… more.
     The story: On the day of the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, three widows appeal to Theseus to go to war against Thebes because their husbands have not been given a proper burial. The two noble kinsmen, Palamon and Arcite, fight to defend their city but are captured. They both see Hippolyta’s sister Emilia from their prison window and though they have just declared eternal love and friendship for each other they both fall in love with Emilia and become rivals. Plot twists get them both out of prison. The jail keeper’s daughter goes mad with love for Palamon. Theseus demands that Emilia choose one of the two. She can’t so they must duel to the death for her hand. Arcite wins. Palamon is to hang. Arcita falls off his horse and dies. Palamon and Emilia are wed.
     It’s funny to the point of parody and then suddenly it’s not. All this we recognise in Shakespeare. Fletcher was a good student.
     I’m not going to do a great deep analysis, but I would like to mention a few points of interest.

  • ·       Hippolyta is a strong character, though she has but few lines. The three queens at the beginning appeal not only to Theseus but to Hippolyta as well:


Honoured Hippolyta,
Most dreaded Amazonian, that hast slain
The scythe-tusked boar… (Act 1.1).

When the soldiers then head off to war Hippolyta says

We have been soldiers and we cannot weep
When our friends don their helms… (Act1.3).

     Oh, that Shakespeare never wrote a whole play about Hippolyta! What a character he would have made her. Much more interesting than Cleopatra!

  • ·       The two noble kinsmen’s love for one another is so passionate that I’m surprised this play hasn’t become a flagship for the Pride movement.


Arcite:
We are one another’s wife, ever begetting
New births of love: we are father, friends, acquaintance.
We are, in one another, families:
I am your heir and you are mine…
Palamon:
Is there record of any two that loved
Better than we do, Arcite? (Act 2.2, Fletcher)

     I suppose the fact that two minutes later they’re both madly in love with Emilia and deadly rivals brings their sincerity somewhat into question but still, I find the quotes a bit sweet.

  • ·       The jailer’s daughter is very much an Ophelia character in her passion and madness. She shows, however, more insight and initiative. She has fallen in love with Palamon though she knows it is pointless:


Why should I love this gentleman?
‘Tis odds
He never will affect me: I am base,
My father the mean keeper of his prison,
And he a prince. To marry him is hopeless,
To be his whore is witless. Out upon’t!
What pushes are we wenches driven to
When fifteen once has found us! (Act 2.4, Fletcher)

            Fifteen she may be, but she is also feisty:

Let all the dukes and all the devils roar,
He is at liberty: I have ventured for him
And out I have brought him, to a little wood
A mile hence I have sent him…
…there he shall keep close
Till I provide him file and food, for yet
His iron bracelets are not off (Act 2.6, Fletcher).

            I could go on. As I write I discover that there is quite a lot of interest in this play. I wish Shakespeare had written it when he was in his most prolific and brilliant period – not to put down Fletcher, his writing isn’t bad either. I wish we had some filmed versions.
            In any case, if you haven’t read it, do. It’s worth it.


PS The RSC has done a production in 2016. Perhaps a DVD is on its way?