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.

Guest Post : Shakespeare’s Travels

Scotland – the famous setting for Macbeth

Should you ever decide to embark on a tour of the locations of Shakespeare’s plays you’d find yourself with a long itinerary. The bard’s quill pen roamed the world, from Egypt and Syria to Scotland – this blog has even provided a handy map. Some places, such as England and Italy, were, of course, frequently visited by his imagination. Others, such as Austria (Measure for Measure) and Cyprus (Othello) he only visited once.

Shakespeare shaped these foreign lands to suit his stories. Greece (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Timon of Athens, The Two Noble Kinsmen, etc.), Wales (Cymbeline, Richard II, Henry IV P1) and Turkey (The Comedy of Errors, Troilus & Cressida, etc.) were made the settings for comedy, tragedy, romance, and history. The world truly was his stage to dress – in fact, most of his plays are set abroad, the Globe Theatre, therefore, becoming an actual microcosm of our globe.

Some locations are famously linked with his plays. Who, after all, would not know that Hamlet is set in Denmark? Other links are, perhaps, a little more obscure. Lebanon featuring in Pericles, for example, or the former Yugoslavia (specifically, the area known as Illyria) in Twelfth Night.

Dubrovnik, once the centre of the Republic of Ragusa in the ancient region of Illyria

Are visitors to Spain’s Basque Country aware that they’re following in the footsteps of the characters in Love’s Labour’s Lost? The location of the French court in All’s Well That Ends Well is a little unclear, but it isn’t hard to imagine Helena and Bertram amidst the grand buildings of Carcassonne. I’m also a fan of the vague Mediterranean setting of The Tempest, which allows me to imagine Prospero roaming Malta, or Menorca, or perhaps Sardinia.

The Great Pyramid of Giza, famous even in Shakespeare’s day

How did Shakespeare know about these far-flung places? As the No Sweat Shakespeare blog once mentioned, even travel between Stratford-Upon-Avon and London was no mean feat. Shakespeare, therefore, didn’t have direct experience of these locations – it was 40 years after Shakespeare’s death when The Grand Tour made foreign travel popular amongst the English elite. Instead he took inspiration from historical texts and other stories (including Italian novellas) – Egypt, for example, has always been well-known to the western world and descriptions of its ancient sites would not have been hard to come by.

The world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open” – the world isn’t currently our oyster to open, but with Shakespeare’s stages on shores near and distant, perhaps we can, for now, take a little peek and plan for the day when we follow the footsteps of his far-flung characters.

Olly loves to travel and has visited over 80 countries and all 7 continents. He also likes to explore the world through the medium of literature and enjoys matching famous locations with the places he’s been to. Olly runs travel planning blog APlanToGo.com, on which you can download free, highly detailed itineraries for destinations across the globe.

NKOTBard?

How old am I? I saw New Kids On The Block in concert. Back in the 80s, when they (we!) were still kids. Not the modern nostalgia tour.

So it caught my eye when I saw that Joey McIntyre is playing Orsino in Twelfth Night in a New Jersey production over the next few weeks.

I wonder what kind of reaction he still gets? In a parallel universe those kids might have ended up bigger than Justin Timberlake.

Some actors have said that Shakespeare is the ultimate test of their talent. McIntyre says that he isn’t exactly sure about this theory.

And then

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

So, wait, he’s got an opinion on how it’s not “the ultimate test of talent” and yet this is the first time he’s done it? Great. No word on whether he sings.

Trivia!

I grew up in the same town that the Wahlberg family (though we know Mark now, Donnie was a New Kid) lived. The girl I was dating was good friends with some girls that lived on their same street, as a matter of fact. So we’d go over there to hang out on the off chance there’d be a celebrity sighting. Normally you couldn’t get within 100 yards of the place because if Donnie was in town, they’d block off traffic.

On one of those nights, there was quite a commotion. As it came to be told to us, the cops had come to arrest Mark, and Donnie had put up a fight. I remember talk of the cops walking Mark out to the car, then Donnie coming out of the house and jumping on them. I couldn’t possibly prove any of that, I didn’t see it with my own eyes, but I remember the story.

Mark, on the other hand. Nobody likes to talk about Mark’s younger years

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?

 

M Night Shakespeare

Yesterday I wrote about how it’s ok – nay, expected – that you know the ending of a Shakespeare play, but you still go see it again and again, because it’s about how they tell the story to get there.  The only caveat to this rule would be those movies where it’s all about “the twist” (an M Night Shyamalan production).  I noted that Shakespeare doesn’t really do twists.

But what if he did?  I started wondering, which plays could be presented such that you don’t see it coming until the big reveal at the end.

Twelfth Night is an obvious example. What if we leave out Viola at the beginning, and pick it up with Cesario?  Then you’ve got a classic romantic comedy where Cesario’s lusting after Orsino, Olivia is lusting after Cesario, Orsino’s lusting after Olivia but kind of really confused about his feelings for Cesario, and so on.  Enter this guy Sebastian, who mentions a shipwreck and searching for his lost “sibling” and we think, “Aha! Twins! This will be good!”  But then we get to the big finale where we find out Cesario is actually Viola.  Cue happy endings and wedding music.

But I think it’s cheating to just do the easy comedy. Could we do it with a tragedy?  I was wondering – if we took out all Iago’s soliloquies and behind the scenes machinations, could we make a twist out of it?  Basically tell the whole story from Othello’s perspective, rather than Iago’s.  He has to deal with his new father in law’s fury. He has to deal with his right-hand man Cassio getting into drunken bar fights. All the while he puts growing faith in loyal Iago, who hates to say this, but who thinks that maybe Cassio might be fooling around with Othello’s wife.

I think this one would be much harder to splice together, but imagine the payoff at the end?  Suddenly Emilia comes out of nowhere to unveil that it was her husband all along?  Then the husband f%^&*(ng STABS HER?! And then, when they catch him, he’s all, “Yup, not going to explain myself. At all. You get nothing.”  That would be legendary.

Now I’m sad that knowing the real ending, I could never get to see how that would actually pay off, even if they made a movie exactly like that tomorrow.

This has more potential than I thought. What other plays could we twist?  The only rule is that you can’t add more original content.  If Shakespeare didn’t answer the question, we can’t answer it.  We can’t, for instance, learn that it was actually Gertrude that killed her husband (or Ophelia).  You have to stay as close the original material as possible, just mess with how the audience gets to see it.