Hard to believe this is the first thread for one of the Bard's works, but I am sure it won't be the last.
The first play of my Shakey course this year and a nice way to start. The fairyland intrudes on the human world after the humans intrude in the fairyland.
There are many strands to this play but a quick synopsis of the plot goes like this. Theseus intends to marry Hippolyta. Egueus approaches Theseus for help with his wilful daughter Hermia, who refuses to marry Demetrius as she loves Lysander. Egeus wishes to exercise Athenian law which allows him to kill his daughter should she not marry Demetrius. And this is a comedy?! Helena loves Demetrius but he doesn't love her. Lost in the forest the four young lovers are met with mischief at the hand of Robin Goodfellow whom acting upon the wishes of Fairy King Oberon, drugs the wrong man and the ridiculousness and flippancy of young love is presented at its most comical.
Meanwhile, Oberon drugs his wife, the Fairy Queen, Titania, to fall in love with the first beast she spies on waking up, who happens to be an artisan called Bottom wearing as ass's head (see michevious Robin Goodfellow).
Now it's quite difficult to discuss or review a complex play such as the ones Shakey was wont to create, in isolation, so I do hope that fellowe Shakey fans in the BGO membership join in and an interesting discussion ensues.
I will say that, while I enjoyed the play very much, and love the malevolence in Fairyland, I wasn't immediately sold on Act 5 - the artisans' playlet Pyramus and Thisbe - it just seemed a little unnecessary and detracted form the main thrust of the play. Of course my study books quickly put me right, but study never entirely changes your opinion. My particular highlight was the details of Robin's error - it was deliciously mischevious.
I wasn't much looking forward to this play - Roman and Egyptian history doesn't interest me too much, and well, it just didn't feel like my kind of play. Not nearly enough blood and drama. And to be honest, after reading it, and now having listened to an audio performance of it, I wasn't much wrong.
Antony, is married to Fluvia but having an affair with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Fluvia dies and Cleo expects to step into her shoes, however her plans go awry when to make peace with Caesar, Antony marries Caesar's sister Octavia. In her fury Cleo switches allegiance to and fro, as does Antony's right hand man Enobarbus, and war is raged between Antony and Caesar.
The prose in this play is extremely varied and convoluted and just doesn't flow as well as other works. Plus it is pretty low on any good, solid, meaty drama. Cleo is a vain minx, and extremely hard to like. There is absolutely no empathy with her and therefore that makes it hard to stay engaged.
There is really only monologue that I really enjoyed, when Enobarbus realises his grave error and wishes to die. I'll post it when I have the text to hand.
All I can say is, thank the lord I don't have to do an essay on this one, 'cause I'd be struggling to get passionate about it.
Labelled a 'problem play' by F S Boas in 1896, Measure for Measure supposedly borders comedy and tragedy. Comedy in that it follows the conventions of disguise, artifice, coincidence and the typical happy ending with the pairing off of all couples. This is all true, but the overwhelming mood of this play is dark, sinister, and troublesome. 'Tragedy' doesn't cut it really.
This is a play about power, justice and sexuality - and the abuse of all of the above. The Duke leaves control of the unruly state of Vienna to the 'precise' Angelo. Meanwhile Claudio finds himself imprisoned, awaiting execution for impregnating Juliet. They aren't married, you see. Isabella, Claudio's sister, is a novice nun and she goes to see Angelo with a view to pleading for her brother's life. Her impassioned speech stirs a passion in Angelo previously unexperienced, and this leads him to make her an indecent proposal. If she will sleep with him he will release Claudio. But Isabella is no Demi Moore and she refuses.
However, the sneaky Duke has disguised himself as a priest/friar, in order to spy on his state and test the righteousness of Angelo. When his abuse of power comes to light, the 'friar' intervenes and weaves a web around Angelo.
This play is riddled, unfortunate phrase, with allusions to sex, syphillis, prostitutes, brothels, physical sexual disease...it's not a nice world, and the language reflects that.
I came to Cymbeline completely anew, knowing nothing of the story, apart from the slim nugget that it was a 'romance'. I wasn't sure I wanted to read it either, after all, it's hardly one of those Shakey plays that has entered the collective consciousness. But the OU made me, as is so often the case with my life.
King Cymbeline has a daughter Innogen who wants very much to marry Posthumus. In fact, she does secretly, much to Cymbeline's anger, and he banished Posthumus from the kingdom. Giacomo makes a bet with Posthumus that he will bed Innogen, after Posthumus's much boasted trust in his wife and English girls as a whole. Giacomo wins the bet - by nefarious means, and Post instucts Pisanio to kill Innogen. Pisanio, instead helps her disappear in Wales, disguised as a boy. Here she meets Belaruis and his two sons. Only, are they his sons?
There is much in this play to enable it to be called a political play or even to be included in the Roman plays. It's up to the reader to decide if the Innogen/Posthumus plot is a subplot to the refusal of Cymbeline and his quite evil wife to pay Rome its treaty, therefore sparking a feud. Or vice versa. Ever the romantic (!), I much prefered the Inn/Post plot. Especially how Post could go from marrying the angelic, virtuous Innogen -the Madonna, to wanting her dead - the whore, and back again.
The machinations of Giacomo make him a worthy villian, worthy of Iago-like notoriety. How he uses information to manipulate Posthumus is quite gripping.
I believe George Bernard Shaw didn't like this play too much, criticisms of Innogen aside, he believed that the last act and the Welsh brothers plot was boring and incredible. Not in a good way, either. I can't agree - I think it is fairly typical Shakespeare: myriad plots that all tie up in the end with a satisfying resolution.
I don't hold my chances well, but I'd love to see this forgotten and ignored play performed.