Masters Of Their Wealth

So I proposed a question on Twitter the other day:

Which Shakespearean character is most associated with tremendous wealth? Nothing symbolic or metaphorical, I’m talking about good old-fashioned net worth. Shylock’s not really what I’m looking for.

https://twitter.com/ShakespeareGeek

I don’t particularly think of Shylock as wealthy, but I do think of him as being “all about the ducats.” In theory, somebody who’s very … careful? … with their money is a potential candidate for someone who is very wealthy. But I wasn’t looking for technicalities, I was looking for a character that just screamed, “Look how rich I am.”

The responses on Twitter were intriguing, and much more varied than I would have expected! There was one in particular I assumed would win (do you have the same one in mind?) so I was pleasantly surprised to see the other contenders…

Each Receiving One Vote

Orsino and Olivia from Twelfth Night each got a vote (in two separate responses from two separate people).

Lord Capulet from Romeo and Juliet and Baptista from Taming of the Shrew each got a vote, because if you’re going to woo a young Shakespearean lady, make sure she’s got a rich dad.

Speaking of Shylock, Antonio from Merchant of Venice got a vote, with the caveat that he basically lost it all.

Julius Caesar was emperor of Rome, and you have to figure that’s a pretty wealthy position to be in, even if it’s not explicitly discussed in the play.

Tamora (Titus Andronicus) made the list as well, though I don’t know enough about the play to speak to why.

How about Falstaff (Henry IV)? Anybody ever think of him as wealthy? He got a vote.

Receiving Two Votes

Portia, from Merchant of Venice, gets more votes than Antonio for being in the “super-rich tier” where suitors are bankrupting themselves wooing her.

“Any of the English kings” was mentioned, though Richard II specifically was called out twice.

Three Votes

Speaking of kings, King Lear got three votes. At the beginning, maybe, sure.

The Runner Up with Five Votes

Guesses? Anybody? Cleopatra (Antony and Cleopatra) garnered much praise, what with her “poop of beaten gold” and everything.

And the Winner is …

With a whopping ELEVEN votes, more than double any other contender, our winner for “Shakespearean character most associated with tremendous wealth” is …

Timon of Athens! Exactly who we thought it would be when we asked the question :). “Easy,” said one response. “Definitely the most obvious,” said another.

But there was a reason why I asked in the first place, too. People also commented “at least on paper” and “maybe in principle”, too. “At least in the beginning,” several responses noted. I was curious whether he’s generally regarded as wealthy, or as someone who lost it all. Now I guess we know the answer!

You’d think he can afford nicer clothes.

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?