Which Play Next? A Geeklet Story

My son is the last of my three still in middle school. As both of his sisters passed through his current grade they both read Romeo and Juliet, to mixed experience. I’ve been waiting to see if he’ll get to read it at all.

Son: “So I guess we’re not doing Romeo and Juliet this year.”

Me: “What? They decided for sure? How come?”

Son: “Nothing romantic anymore.”

Me: “Huh?”

Son: “I guess we’re not reading or studying any stories this year that have romance in them.”

I am assuming that he’s mostly misinterpreting some sort of ban on PG-13 material, perhaps.

Me: “Well that’s fine it doesn’t have to be Romeo and Juliet. That’s basically why schools do Julius Caesar in the first place, no romance. I can write to your teacher and suggest Julius Caesar, or maybe even Macbeth…”

Son: “I think we should do King Lear.”

Me: (impressed) “Bold move. You really think that in middle school kids will be able to understand King…”

Son: “I know thee not, old man.”

Me: …(not so impressed anymore)…”Oh, dude…”

Son: “No, I know that’s not from King Lear. That’s from Falstaff. I was just saying I want to see that play.”

Me: “Oh, ok, phew. For a minute there I was going to say you just made the blog, but you know what, you just made the blog anyway!”

Still have to write to his teacher and see if I can keep Shakespeare in the curriculum!

Not Cool, Gloucester

Gloucester and Lear
Gloucester and King Lear. Image courtesy Alexander Barnett

We don’t often pay attention to the very opening of King Lear. The “good stuff” starts with Lear dividing up his kingdom between his daughters, and that hasn’t happened yet.  All we really get is Gloucester introducing Edmund to Kent.

But I was in that part of the text again today and man, Gloucester, not really cool!

KENT
Is not this your son, my lord?

GLOUCESTER
His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I have
so often blushed to acknowledge him, that now I am
brazed to it.

So right off the bat, “I’m embarrassed to admit this is my son.”  Lovely.  It gets worse.

KENT
I cannot conceive you.

GLOUCESTER
Sir, this young fellow’s mother could: whereupon
she grew round-wombed, and had, indeed, sir, a son
for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed.
Do you smell a fault?

“Son, just sit there quietly while I explain to the nice man that your mother was a whore.”

KENT
I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it
being so proper.

Kent, for his part, is trying to make the best of the awkward situation. “Regardless of how he came into the world, that’s a fine looking boy you’ve got there!”

GLOUCESTER
But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year
elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account:
though this knave came something saucily into the
world before he was sent for, yet was his mother
fair; there was good sport at his making, and the
whoreson must be acknowledged. Do you know this
noble gentleman, Edmund?

Emphasis mine of course, but what son doesn’t love to hear “Well, at least his mom was hot, and great in bed.”  Sure Edmund’s the villain of this story but you pay close attention to a scene like this and think, can you blame him?

I never really noticed the line above about how he holds his other, lawful son (Edgar) “no dearer in my account”.  Does Gloucester have a problem with Edgar right from the start, that is then what Edmund feeds on to set his plan in motion?  Man, Shakespeare thought of everything!

 

Could A Slings & Arrows Prequel Be Coming?

I noticed some stories lately talking about Slings & Arrows, the undisputed “greatest show about Shakespeare” ever.  But this was the first one to drop the word “prequel” and now you have my attention.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2019-11-05/slings-arrows-acorn-tv-shakespeare-prequel?fbclid=IwAR1eSIG54i2GZ3CjXNzmNMrc2BfifdxPpkgpJ7UlXSznzaG309tqDfES8Ic

I’d do some “If you’ve never seen Slings & Arrows” banter here, but seriously, if you’ve never seen Slings & Arrows, stop reading and go watch it. It’s just that good. To recap, each of the three seasons maps to one of Shakespeare’s plays – Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear (with some side plots thrown in, too). We’re introduced to the series via Geoffrey, our director, who once had a nervous breakdown after he played Hamlet (and yes, now he’s directing it). He’s haunted by the ghost of his own former director.  Meanwhile we get to see what makes a Shakespeare festival work, from how they rehearse to how they make money.

And now they’re pitching a prequel about the origins of the festival itself, back in post war America in the 1950s?  I’m not sure what play that’s going to map to, or how much of the original cast would still be relevant, but the original just has so much credibility that I’d get in line to see what the creators come up with next.  I hope somebody picks it up.

 

 

That’s Just, Like, Your Point of View, Man

Here’s a simple game. Pick a play.  Now pretend you’re doing a production where the gimmick is that it’s told from a different character’s point of view than normal. Which play do you pick, which character and how does the play change?

In most cases, this is going to create a much shorter play, because the character you pick will often have less stage time than the stars.

Maybe we do The Tempest told from the perspective of King Alonso?  Coming home from a wedding he’s caught in a storm, shipwrecked on an island, his son drowned. Suddenly he’s standing face to face with Prospero, who he’s thought dead for the past fifteen years.

Or how about King Lear from Fool’s point of view? That could be interesting.  Lot of different ways to interpret just how much Fool knows.

Twelfth Night from Malvolio’s POV?

Romeo and Juliet as seen by Lord Capulet? That could be interesting. There’s an almost fight scene, there’s him getting fined by the Prince, there’s a wedding to plan, a big dance party, an argument with his daughter, the death of Tybalt, the death of Juliet…

Winter’s Tale from Hermione’s point of view would make a funny comic short. Gets accused of adultery by her husband, goes to live with her friend who promises to fix everything. Cut to twelve years later when she says, “ok, he’s coming. Pretend you’re a statue.”

Who else?

 

Shakespeare Hated Women Because They Gave Him Syphilis

Or so Sir Anthony Sher and Professor Sir Jonathan Bate would suggest, according to this article.

The logic seems to go like this:

There’s a really nasty anti-female diatribe in King Lear.

Perhaps it’s autobiographical? Perhaps Shakespeare had something against women?

Hey you know, in the sonnets he mentions mercury baths, and that’s where people went when you had syphilis.

Yeah, yeah!  And another thing, he wasn’t seen around the king very much, and there was a law that if you had syphilis you couldn’t be anywhere near the king!

They then play connect the dots and suggest that if he had syphilis, he got it from a woman, and therefore had some degree of resentment there.

I think my favorite part of the article (and please take that with a heavy, sarcastic eye roll) is where they mention “Oh yeah, and then there’s that thing where Shakespeare might be gay. Which doesn’t mean that he was anti-women, but, you know, I’m just sayin’.”

So confused.  If you give any credit to the theory that he was gay, then doesn’t that completely destroy everything else you’ve said in the article?  “Shakespeare said misogynistic stuff so maybe he hated women because a woman gave him a venereal disease. Or maybe he was gay, which wouldn’t have anything to do with why he hated women.”  THEN IF YOU THINK HE’S GAY WHY DID HE HATE WOMEN? AND IF YOU DON’T THINK HE’S GAY WHY DID YOU BRING IT UP?

Anybody else pulling their hair out on this one?  Careful though, they say that losing your hair was also a sign of syphilis.