The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, May 8th, 2017

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This week’s Shakespeare news review podcast  includes a rap Coriolanus, staged Canon readings, and a “sensitive” Richard III. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.

Continue reading The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, May 8th, 2017

Cymbeline: Act Two – a dufus, a creeper, and a dupe

previously…in Cymbeline:

Act One sets the scene: ancient Britain where king Cymbeline’s heir and daughter Imogen has enraged her father by marrying a “a poor but worthy gentleman” (I.i.7), Posthumus, who was raised in the castle; instead, he wanted her to marry the son of his new wife. The newly-wed couple is separated: by her in-castle imprisonment and his banishment. And the Queen’s son, Cloten, desires Imogen as well…so much so that he attempts to attack Posthumus on his way out of town. Meanwhile, we learn that Imogen was not Cymbeline’s only child. There were two older sons, both kidnapped as toddlers, some twenty years ago; no one knows where they are now. And if you don’t think that’s not going to come back later on, you obviously have heard of Chekhov’s gun. While the Queen promises that she will act as an “advocate” (I.i.76) for Imogen and Posthumus to the king, it turns out that she’s not the un-evil stepmother she claims to be, after all.

We’re taken to Rome, where Posthumus arrives, speaking lovingly of Imogen’s beauty and virtue. A local, Iachimo, says that Posthumus is unbelievable, and intimates that he can seduce Imogen. And a challenge is created: Iachimo will travel to Britain and will attempt to sleep with Imogen. If he succeeds, Posthumus will give up his ring (the one given to him by Imogen); if Iachimo fails, then he must pay Posthumus ten thousand ducats, plus agree to a duel that Posthumus demands.

Back in Britain, the Queen has had a doctor create a killing drug, a slow-moving “mover of a languishing death” (I.v.9). What she doesn’t know, however, is that the doctor has created not a poison, but a potion that “will stupefy and dull the sense awhile” (I.v.37), looking like death, but from which the taker will awake later. Add another gun to Chekhov’s arsenal. She attempts to hire Posthumus’ servant Pisanio, even giving him the potion, which she tells him is actually a cure, one that has “the king / Five times redeemed from death” (I.v.62-3). When she leaves, however, he reveals in aside that he doesn’t trust her, and will remain true to Posthumus.

In the final scene of Act One, Imogen bemoans her state when who should arrive but Iachimo. And we know what he’s there for. He intimates that Posthumus as been less than sad in Rome, where they’ve come to call him “the Briton Reveler” (I.vi.61). She questions Iachimo on his statement that Posthumus as talked about how a man could possibly be pent up with such desire. He tells Imogen that if she were his, he would never “break the oath of loyalty” (I.vi.102), intimating–but not stating–Posthumus’ fall. He says that not only has her husband forgot Britain but also himself; he didn’t want to tell her these things, but her “graces” (I.vi.113) moved him to speak. Iachimo suggests that she revenge herself on Posthumus, and when she asks how she should do this, Iachimo says she could use him, conveniently enough, as he is willing to “dedicate [him]self to [her] sweet pleasure” (I.vi.136).

She immediately calls Iachimo out on his deceit, saying that if he were honorable, he would have told her for virtue, not “for such an end [he] seek’st, as base as strange” (I.vi.144). Caught, he tells her that Posthumus is a lucky man, and that he had done this as a test of her loyalty…and she passed. He apologizes profusely, and she accepts him. As he is about to leave her, he stops, having “almost forgot” (I.vi.180) a request. He has brought a trunk that contains a gift for the Roman emperor, and he, concerned over its safety, is wondering if she wouldn’t mind storing it during his visit; she agrees, and since Posthumus helped purchase the gift, she will even keep it in her “bedchamber” (I.vi.196). He thanks her and says that he will have the trunk delivered to her; he also tells her that he is willing to take Posthumus her correspondence when he leaves for Rome the next day. And the first act of Cymbeline comes to a close.

Act Two of Cymbeline begins with another Cloten-and-the-two-Lords scene, in which Cloten complains over losing a bowling match, the first lord mollifies him, and the second lord cuts him down in asides for our amusement. Continue reading Cymbeline: Act Two – a dufus, a creeper, and a dupe

Cymbeline: Act One – a whole-lotta-plot goin’ on

Let’s kick off the plot synopsis of Act One of Cymbeline with a little scene-setting (you know: the setting). It’s ancient Britain. And the court of King Cymbeline. It is in this setting in which we get one those “quiet” beginnings, a dialog between characters bringing us up-to-speed (think Gloucester and Kent at the beginning of King Lear). Here, though, they are nameless (but numbered) characters…

Continue reading Cymbeline: Act One – a whole-lotta-plot goin’ on

The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, May 1st, 2017

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This week’s Shakespeare news review podcast  includes Shaq-daddy spoiling Shakespeare, political Tempests, a Shakespeare fraud, coin tosses, and a whole bunch of reviews. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.

Continue reading The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, May 1st, 2017

Podcast 152: Coriolanus — concept, cast, conclusion and wrap up

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This week’s podcast concludes our two-month journey with Coriolanus. We’re going to discuss a directorial concept, a cast, a conclusion and a wrap-up…oh, and two–count ‘em two–shameless bits of self-promotion.

Continue reading Podcast 152: Coriolanus — concept, cast, conclusion and wrap up

Coriolanus: the wrap-up

So. Coriolanus.

It’s a strange play. Intense. Political. Intensely political. It’s a tragedy, there’s no way around it. But is Martius a tragic hero?

Now, way back when…just after we started this project, we read Titus Andronicus, and we kind of asked this very question of that play, as well.

I called that one a play of revenge, a horror show.

That was Shakespeare’s first tragedy, and this–Coriolanus–is the last.

Tragedy.

Continue reading Coriolanus: the wrap-up

Coriolanus: the fly in the solo ointment

Remember how I’ve been going on and on about Martius’ one (ok, maybe technically two, really just one) soliloquy in Coriolanus? And remember how I said this says something about his anxiety when he’s around others and his calm alone? And remember how I’ve tied this to his homosociality with Aufidius?

Well, shoot. Damn, there’s another soliloquy.

Continue reading Coriolanus: the fly in the solo ointment

Coriolanus: a sword-pull at the point of no return

Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at Coriolanus.

There are 3323 lines in in the play, which means the midpoint is at line 1662, or at Act Three, Scene One, line 224. According to Dr. Rodes’ theory, you could find at this midpoint–or within twenty lines either way–a speech that perfectly sums up a major theme of the play (the 20-line leeway was to help remove the differences in prose line lengths between individual editions).

Continue reading Coriolanus: a sword-pull at the point of no return

The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, April 24th, 2017

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This week’s Shakespeare news review podcast  includes a passing of a directing great, a weird recruiting tool, the Bard’s greatest couple, and a call for plays. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.

Continue reading The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, April 24th, 2017

Bill Walthall (UCLA '85 English), a former high school English, Shakespeare, and Drama teacher, will read and blog about each of Shakespeare's plays, from The Comedy of Errors through The Tempest.

The Bill / Shakespeare Project