Over the last week or so, I’ve been discussing some of the major speeches from Cymbeline. I started off with Act Two’s Iachimo-in-the-Box speech. Last weekend, I touched upon Posthumus’ full-scene, single-speech rant against women. Today, let’s move from the men to the main woman of the piece: Innogen.
A couple of days back, I broke down the Iachimo-in-the-Box speech from Act Two, Scene Two of Cymbeline. Today, let’s take a look at another speech, pretty much a direct result of that first speech: the Act Two, Scene Five’s single-scene soliloquizing rant by Posthumus.
Let’s check out some of the major speeches of Cymbeline and see if we can find any clues for the enterprising actor or director in the scansion and poetry. First up: Iachimo in the Box!
Way back when, two years ago, when we were discussing that melancholic Dane, I mentioned that our friend scansion had helped us figure out how we were supposed to pronounce Ophelia’s big bro’s name: not “LAYerTEES” (like I had alway thought), but “layAIRtees.” Go figure. Who knew we’d get that same kind of revelation this month with Cymbeline? But we do…
OK, last week, I looked at Martius’ big speech (and we’ve already taken a look at the homo-erotic response to it, the longest speech by Aufidius) from Coriolanus. Today, let’s take a look at the longest speech of the play, this one by dear ol’ mum, Volumnia. There’s some pretty interesting stuff going on in the scansion (as well as a stage direction or two).
It’s Act Five, Scene Three, in the Volscian camp on the outskirts of Rome, where Martius and Aufidius ready their armies for the attack. Martius has already turned away Menenius (who seemed like a father-figure to him), and Martius has admitted doing so “cracked” (V.iii.9) his heart.
So who should walk in at this moment?
If you’re looking for Martius’ most important speech in Coriolanus, it’s most likely the speech in which he reveals himself to his enemy Aufidius, and announces his intention to join forces with him. This speech, from Act Four, Scene Five, is certainly his longest.
So let’s take a look at it…
OK, when most people think of the most famous speeches in Shakespeare, they usually go to the soliloquies (Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” [and yes, I know it may not be a soliloquy], Richard III’s “Now is the winter of our discontent,” Lady M’s “Unsex me here,” and the like), so what about in Coriolanus?
Well, there we have a problem, Houston…there’s only one soliloquy in the play.
No, it’s not bowling for dollars. But looking at the scansion of some of the poetic lines in Pericles gives us a better idea of how to pronounce the unusual names found therein…
So. Pericles. Act One, Scene Two. Its weird construction has convinced bardolators–who feel ol’ Bill can’t write crap–that this is part of the play for which Wilkins must get the credit, or in this case blame.
And why, you ask. Well, let’s take a look at the scene…
As long-time readers of the blog can attest, I love to take a day toward the end of our time with a play to look at some interesting things in the scansion–places where an interruption or pause is called for, or maybe where the iambic pentameter goes so awry that the verse just screams to be looked at and reacted to. But to be perfectly honest, I think I’ve been getting into a bit of a rut. So we’re going to switch things up a little here with Timon of Athens.
I want to look at moments when the scansion disappears altogether, those moments when a speech moves from prose to verse and/or vice/versa. Note, I say speech and not scene. Those instances are common. Mid-speech changes are much fewer.
In Act Four, Scene Three, Timon has left Athens and is now in full Misantropos mode. And at the beginning of the scene, he has another long soliloquy; this one at 48 lines, is longer than his Act Four, Scene One, full-scene torrent.
Act Four, Scene One of Timon of Athens is one of those strange scenes, one where there is but one character on stage, delivering but a single speech.
Timon has just booted his guests from his home in Act Three, Scene Six, and then fled Athens himself. And just fourteen lines later, we find Timon now outside the walls of his city. And he releases a forty-one line torrent of rage, a prayer of misanthropy:
Over the course of the next few days, I want to take a closer look, a deeper dive, into a couple of related speeches in Timon of Athens.
Both are prayers of a sort.
Let us begin with our cynic, Apemantus…
OK, I’ve talked a little about the whole “second playwright” issue with Timon of Athens–i.e., Shakespeare did not act alone. From what I’ve read on the subject (and remember, this is pre-”New Oxford Shakespeare”/Word-Adjacency-Network revelations), Thomas Middleton’s fingerprints are all over Act One, Scene Two, all of Act Three, and the last 80 lines of Act Four, Scene Three, of this play.
And after my initial read, I wondered about my early feelings/hunches about the play:
- NOVEMBER 6, 2016
With every play, I like to take a look at some of the verse variations within a play to see what we can find in terms of characterization or performance. There are two scenes of note in Antony and Cleopatra, that give us an opportunity to compare and contrast.
So let’s dive in…