Months ago I was lamenting the quality of my daughter’s Shakespeare education as she pored over the Queen Mab speech of Romeo and Juliet, panicked that she had not memorized minuscule details like what kind of nut she made her chariot out of.
Last week this conversation took place during a random drive.
Me: <something something about a person named Gregory.>
Middle geeklet: “Like the opening of Romeo and Juliet!”
Me: “…um, oh, well, yes. That’s a random pull. Nice.”
Middle geeklet: “And Sampson! And Abraham!”
Me: “Wow. Do you remember the last one? Two from each side? This one’s tricky, he doesn’t even get any lines. But he’s the only one that shows up again in the play.”
Middle geeklet: “…Balthasar?”
Me: “Amazing. Do you remember what else he does in the play?”
Middle geeklet: “… … … oh! Oh! He tells Romeo that Juliet is dead!”
Me: “Correct! If you think about it, the whole thing is really his fault. Because if he didn’t say anything to Romeo, then eventually Romeo gets Friar Laurence’s note, and there’s no misunderstanding. I blame Balthasar.”
Not bad for a middle of summer pop quiz!
(I think it’s also only fair to point out that her older sister, who was busy being the rockstar of her own Shakespeare class, was in the car during this exchange and did not immediately recall those answers.)
Don’t forget, Shakespeare didn’t invent the story. In fact, “Newly Found Story of Two Noble Lovers”) by Luigi Da Porto is likely one of the original sources. And, according to academics, Juliet’s birthday is actually Saint Euphemia’s Day, which is in September. Who knew?
I don’t know how I missed this back in May, but Keanu Reeves – Man of the Internet Hour – John Wick, “Neo”, “Ted Theodore Logan”, player with puppies, rider of subways, anonymous donator to children’s hospitals – is an admitted Oxfordian.
The man played Mercutio at 15, Don John at 29 and Hamlet at 31. My Own Private Idaho is an acknowledged retelling of Henry IV. But in his own words, he’s “always been an Edward de Vere” guy:
I always wanted to know — ever since I was growing up — who really wrote the plays of Shakespeare. So I wanna be there at that moment with “Shakespeare” — cause I don’t really think it was “Shakespeare.” I’m an Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford [guy]. So I’d like to be there in the 1600s “Shakespeare” writing Hamlet.
I guess he’s staying away from Macbeth, The Tempest and other later plays lest someone ask him how Oxford wrote those when he was dead.
Now I’m sad. Just goes to show that you can be a great guy – successful, even – and still not have any common sense. As far as I’m concerned he’s flat Earth and anti-vaxx, too. What a shame.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I like it when I learn new things about Shakespeare. Sometimes that’s the best part. But when it’s basic knowledge that I had *wrong*, well, then I feel stupid and I don’t like it.
Such as this week, when my daughter was going over the answers on her Romeo and Juliet final, and she said something about, “That’s the Prince reading Romeo’s suicide note.”
“Romeo didn’t leave a suicide note!” I replied.
“Yes…he did?” she responded, confused.
“Show me,” I told her.
Well would you look at that:
Give me that mattock and the wrenching iron.
Hold, take this letter; early in the morning
See thou deliver it to my lord and father.
I brought my master news of Juliet’s death;
And then in post he came from Mantua
To this same place, to this same monument.
This letter he early bid me give his father,
And threatened me with death, going in the vault,
I departed not and left him there.
Give me the letter; I will look on it.
I don’t know why my brain has left that part out. Do movies tend to snip that part? In all the times I’ve described the ending of this play I’ve said that Friar Laurence is left to tell the story. Which is true. But leaves out the actual documentation from one of the title characters! That’s like looking for the wedding scene because you saw it in the Baz Luhrman version.
I have to go hang my head in shame, I have lost geek cred today.
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.”