Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Romeo and Juliet, pt. 3

Two final things about Romeo & Juliet.

First, a pet peeve.

When Juliet first speaks on the balcony, she says "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art though Romeo?" In looking up the earlier stories about the balcony, I found this abomination among the headlines: "Oh Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thy Marriage License?".

But Kelly, you may ask, why do you find that to be an abomination? See, it's like this: "wherefore" means "WHY". It has nothing to do with location. So that headline reads as "Oh Romeo, Romeo, Why are your marriage license?" To which I respond, "What the hell does that even mean?"

So, to restate it: when Juliet says "wherefore art thou Romeo", she's asking "why do you have to be a Montague", not "where are you".

Second, a conversation to relate.

A few days back, when I was first typing yesterday's post, I called my parents in Arizona to ask them if they could recall what year it was when they saw the Zefirrelli Romeo and Juliet at the drive-in. They never called me back.

Tonight, I called to follow up on it. Dad answered the phone.

"We never saw that movie," he said. "I'm sorry, but I didn't call you back since we didn't see it."

After a bit of back and forth on that and other subjects, he put my mother on the phone.

"What's all this about Romeo and Juliet?" she asked.

"I blogged about it, and I wasn't sure whether we saw it at the drive-in when in 1968, when I was four, or whether it was a year or two later, since it was at the drive-in."

"We didn't see it at the drive-in," said she. "Daddy and I saw it at the Bryn Mawr theater."

"But I distinctly recall seeing it (or parts of it anyway) from the back of a car at the drive-in."

After a few more minutes of back and forth about this (as my memories were exceedingly visual and featuring Olivia Hussey, etc., I reject my mother's assertion that my memories were concocted from reading the play; particularly since I never read the full play until May of 2009, in preparation for these posts), we moved on to more conversation about the play.

"I am of the opinion," I said, "that Romeo and Juliet isn't really a love story; it's a tragedy."

You should know that my mother and I are mirror images when it comes to percentages of logic v. emotional thought.

"Of course it's a love story! It's the greatest love story ever told!" she said. Loudly. And with feeling. (See Jama, someone else in your camp!)

I didn't argue with her. I just asked her why that was so. And here is (roughly) what she said:

It's a great love story because "they fought everything. They went against it all. They loved so much that they followed each other to death."

"Doesn't that make it a tragedy?" I asked.

"No," said she.

"You don't think it's a tragedy that they die at the end?"

"No. It's okay that they die. They love each other enough to die for it. That makes it a love story."

I've probably given you quite a bit of insight into my relationship with my mother here. But I felt duty-bound to report her side of the conversation. It is exceedingly foreign to me, but I am well aware that she is not alone in her position.

Wherefore else would folks be paying to get married on Juliet's balcony?

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Romeo and Juliet in the news

It's terribly nice of the Universe to send Romeo & Juliet-related news my way during Brush Up Your Shakespeare month - and while we're discussing that particular play, no less!

Yesterday's news brought information about Juliet's balcony in Verona. You see, there's a house in Verona that is reputed to have belonged to the Capello family, with a balcony that is reported to have belonged to the real Giulietta (if ever there was one). Visitors have come there for years to see the balcony, stand on it, and leave love letters (and love-oriented graphitti) on the walls.

But now, you can actually get married there. If you are a citizen of a country in the EU, it will cost you 700 euros to rent the use of the balcony; for non-EU citizens, it's 900 euros. Soccer player Lucca Ceccarelli and his bride were the first couple to get hitched there just the other day. And no, I'm not making this up. I like this commentator's take on it:





As some of you might remember from when I reviewed the book The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper, there is also an actual Juliet Club, composed of people who respond to letters to Juliet seeking advice in matters of love.

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Romeo and Juliet, pt. 2

Oh hai Mr. Shakespeare: I see what u did thar

I thought I'd focus today on the language of the play. Yeah, I know it's Elizabethan English. What I want to look at specifically is how the way that Romeo speaks shows character growth and an increase in maturity. (One must put aside the knowledge that the play only covers five days for this; although, I submit that because of the increase in Romeo's maturity level as expressed through his speech during the play, and because so very many events transpire, that it feels as if the play must have stretched over a longer period of time. Also, I freely acknowledge that I'm about to argue in favor of Romeo learning what real love is and learning to express himself appropriately, which kind of contradicts some of what I said yesterday. So sue me.)

Romeo first turns up near the end of the first scene, blathering on about his Petrarchan-style adoration of Rosaline and speaking largely in rhymed couplets (some of which rhyme with lines interjected by Benvolio, and some of which are anomalous and do not rhyme at all – still the effect is of a sing-songy rhyme). In scene two, Benvolio and Romeo speak using Venus and Adonis stanza (a poetic form used by Shakespeare in his poem Venus and Adonis, written in iambic pentameter with a six-line stanza rhymed ABABCC) to talk about Rosaline and the upcoming party at the Capulet house. Like so:

Romeo
When the devout religion of mine eye
Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fires;
And these, who often drown'd could never die,
Transparent heretics, be burnt for liars!
One fairer than my love! the all-seeing sun
Ne'er saw her match since first the world begun.

In scene five, he's back to rhymed couplets for a while. But once he meets Juliet, he adopts a slightly more courtly poetic form. His first four lines to her are a cross-rhymed quatrain (four lines, rhymed ABAB); Juliet's comments back echo the format he used.

But soft! What form through yonder dialogue breaks!

It is the sonnet!

That's right. As it turns out, the opening lines of dialogue between Romeo and Juliet fit together to make a Shakespearean sonnet (ending with a couplet formed by Juliet's line ending in "sake" and Romeo's ending in "take"). The sonnet is often used as a love poem. Coincidence? I think not.

Their remaining lines together are a cross-rhymed quatrain (four lines rhymed ABAB), where the last line is split in half between the two of them, almost a "finishing one another's sentence" sort of thing.

Here's their first encounter in full:

Romeo
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

Juliet
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

Romeo
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

Juliet
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

Romeo
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray: grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

Juliet
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

Romeo
Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.

Juliet
Then have my lips the sin that they have took.

Romeo
Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.

Juliet
                You kiss by the book.
Act I, sc. 5.

Here is a clip of this scene (with Juliet's parting line lopped off) from the 1968 Zeffirelli version, starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting:






Oh. Are you swooning? This post will be here all day – take all the time you need to reorient yourself and we'll go back and take a closer look at what Will did here.

Break it down with me, fellas

If you examine this section of dialogue, you can see what Shakespeare did here: He gave Romeo 4 lines to break the ice, then Juliet 4 to establish her footing in the conversation. They are speaking using church-based metaphors, which adds a bit of extra weight to what's being said, and has the overtones of being some form of holy vow. Romeo claims that Juliet is a shrine, at which he worships. He "profanes" her with a kiss (a bold move), and she lets him off the hook for it, giving him leave to touch her hand. Romeo ups the ante by hinting that he wants to kiss her lips, which they talk around for six lines (or until the end of the sonnet), leading to a kiss at the end of the sonnet's last line: "Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take."

The couple continues to flirt, again exchanging rhymed lines, leading to a second kiss. All of this establishes their attraction, as well as creating a fairly light-hearted tone to the play. (It makes it easy, therefore, to discount Juliet's lines to her nurse just after this, wherein she says to her Nurse "Go ask his name; if he be married,/My grave is like to be my wedding bed." Because based on those lines I just quoted and those two kisses, she's already in love with Romeo. And she's not at all happy to find out he's a Montague. But I digress.) Juliet's parting comment, "You kiss by the book" is likely a compliment to Romeo's proficiency.

Back to talking about Romeo's speech.

Let's move ahead to Romeo's next appearance on stage – standing in an orchard in sight of Juliet's balcony and speaking an oft-quoted soliloquy.

Romeo
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold, 'tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
  Act II, sc. 2

Here we see Romeo moving on to blank verse, which is unrhymed iambic pentameter, with an occasional line of iambic trimeter (three iambic feet) thrown in for good measure. Both the tenor of his lines and the way in which he speaks show greater maturity and seriousness of purpose. Not only is he using blank verse and speaking intelligently, but he's also using celestial metaphors to describe Juliet in an extended conceit (a conceit being an elaborate metaphor used in poetry).

*N.B.: Celestial metaphors help to establish an ongoing theme throughout the play that is related to astrology. It begins with the mention of "star-crossed lovers" in the Prologue and threads itself throughout the play, as far as the Prince's concluding words, wherein he mentions the fact that "the sun (to which Juliet has just been compared in Act II, sc. 2), for sorrow, will not show his head". I'll be back to talk about that point again in a wee bit.

In the next scene, where Romeo plots his marriage to Juliet with Friar Laurence, a man obviously well-acquainted with Romeo, the entire scene is written in rhymed couplets using iambic pentameter. It gives the scene a decidedly plotting feel (as in, those two guys are plotting something – kind of like in The Court Jester, where the exchange between Danny Kaye's character and others runs playfully as "Get it?"/"Got it."/ "Good." Not rhymed couplets, but playful interplay to show serious intent to conspire.) In the following scene, Romeo jests and puns with his friends but speaks in earnest with Juliet's nurse, and then is again quite serious of purpose (and all in blank verse) when we reach the wedding scene in Act II, sc. 6. From thence onward in the play, he sticks mostly to blank verse, with an occasional rhymed couplet when declaring intention or in postcoital conversation with Juliet (wherein they trade the lines back and forth).

Oh my stars!

In the First Folio edition of Romeo and Juliet, it's described as a "conceited play", meaning that it contains an extended metaphor. Given the vast number of references to celestial bodies throughout the play, beginning with the Prologue and continuing until the last part of the last scene of the last Act, it is quite possible that the "conceit" was astrological in nature, particularly when one considers that astrology was widely relied upon at the time (it was considered a form of science), with the Queen and upper classes relying on individual consultations with astrologers and the less affluent relying on almanacs.

By specifying that Juliet's birthday was on Lammas Eve (the midway point between midsummer and the fall equinox), and having this play take place within a two-week period as she approaches her 14th birthday, Shakespeare invoked the approach of Juliet's first Saturn opposition – a time when the individual tends to act out against authority, something that Juliet does in spades in this play, not only on her own, but in convincing Romeo that they must be married in secret. Now, at that point in time, secret marriages were a big-time no-no, and could (and did) get people imprisoned – just think of Sir Walter Raleigh, imprisoned in the Tower of London when the Queen discovered his secret marriage to one of her ladies-in-waiting.

The astrological thread throughout the play indicates that Fate is against the relationship between the lovers. Consider, for instance, Romeo's lines in Act V, sc. 1, when Balthasar tells him (wrongly) that Juliet is dead: "Is it e'en so? – Then I defy you stars!", and shortly before he kills himself with poison inside Juliet's family burial vault, he says, ". . . O, here/Will I set up my everlasting rest/And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars/From this world-wearied flesh!" (Act V, sc. 3)

Friar Laurence's lines, "A greater power than we can contradict/Hath thwarted our intents" are further testimony to the prominence of the notion of Fate governing the lives of the characters in the play, and were probably seen as a warning that individuals ought not to buck the system.

*Trying to get down to the heart of the matter

Near the end of yesterday's post, I dubbed Juliet "the true heart of the story." Despite all the swordplay and bluster, and despite us having met him first, it's my opinion that Romeo isn't really the main character as between the two leads. As a brief digression, it makes me wonder who the young man was for whom Shakespeare wrote Juliet's role (remembering that back in Elizabethan times, all roles were played by males). He must have been exceedingly pretty and a very emotive actor, I think. But I digress.

Juliet is both the central figure to the story (why else would so much of the play, including pretty much all of Act IV, revolve around her?) and a "true heart" – a person who believed her love was epic and true. Some of her lines in the balcony scene are magical (and no, not the rose by any other name line, which is a filthy sexual pun, by the way). Some of her lines that are completely swoon-worthy (in my opinion):

O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.

And yet I wish but for the thing I have:
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.

Or these, wherein she proves herself a woman capable of decision and action, and basically proposes to Romeo:

Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed.
If that thy bent of love be honourable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow,
By one that I'll procure to come to thee,
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite;
And all my fortunes at thy foot I'll lay
And follow thee my lord throughout the world.


Other things that I considered writing about, but didn't, so I'll pose them as topics here:

1. The light motif running throughout the play.
(I know, I kill me, too.) By which I mean all the various references to light and dark, and how neither one is classified as absolutely good or bad; it's all a matter of context. The word light is used in terms of weight (as contrasted with heavy), and includes appearances in words such as lightning as well (to indicate "lightness" or rapidity of speed). How big a deal is that for you in this play?

2. The idea that this is a condemnation by Shakespeare of the Petrarchan lover, who is fixated on his notion of the ideal (think Romeo at the start, worshiping the unattainable Rosaline from afar), and how far off the skids he goes once he takes up with Juliet, the embodiment (as it turns out) of an individual who is bent on action; she defies her parents in taking up with Romeo, then marries him secretly, then decides she'd rather die than deal with Paris and, when she wakes up in the tomb to find Romeo dead beside (or on top of) her, she refuses the offer of life in a convent and offs herself.

3. The emergence of the individual as a being separate from society. Romeo's focus on his feelings from the start of the play – whereby he wants nothing to do with the feud between the families, but prefers to moon after Rosaline – and Juliet's willingness not only to defy her parents in selecting a partner of whom they would not approve, but also to engage in a secret marriage (which would have been frowned on by society) are indicative of them behaving based on their individual desires, rather than as compliant society members obeying convention. The dichotomy between society and the individual is a key element of the play, which was written at a time when society was changing dramatically.

4. How Mercutio's death is the fulcrum on which this play turns. Mercutio was neither Capulet nor Montague; he was related to the Prince, and was Romeo's friend. He is named after Mercury, the Roman god of communication. His personality is mercurial, or changeable, and he is witty and flamboyant and irreverent. He's a scene stealer; so much so that Shakespeare is reported to have said that he had to kill Mercutio, or else Mercutio would have killed him. When Mercutio dies (cursing Tybalt and Romeo with "a plague on both your houses", then punning about them finding him "a grave man"), the play seesaws irrevocably from possible comedy to definite tragedy.

5. The enormous quantity of sexual puns and double entendres in this play. From the opening dialogue between two men who serve the house of Capulet, to the exchange at the end of the balcony scene that immediately precedes Juliet's "Goodnight, goodnight, parting is such sweet sorrow!" line (involving a wanton and a bird, with Romeo wishing to be the bird, and Juliet saying she'd kill him "with much cherishing"; *wonders whether the phrase "to flip the bird" is related somehow, and suspects it is*) to references to death and dying in their post-wedding night conversation (where "to die" is a reference to orgasm, as much as to actual death)

Talk Amongst Yourselves

I'll give you a topic, even. "The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman. Discuss." Kidding – that's one from Coffee Talk with Linda Richman. Try this instead: What do you believe the principal theme of the play is? Or, if you prefer, what is its message?

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Will's will

William Shakespeare died a fairly wealthy man, and was buried in the chancel of Trinity Church at Stratford-upon-Avon. At the time he died, his wife (Anne Hathaway Shakespeare) was still living, as were his two daughters, Judith and Susanna. His Last Will and Testament is an interesting insight into his life and relationships.

The Second Best Bed
In his Will, Shakespeare left most of his estate (including his land) to his elder daughter, Susanna and 300 pounds to his younger daughter, Judith, with some restrictions because she had just married a widower who was recently busted for "incontinence", and he was worried about the guy getting his hands on the money. He left his clothing and a life tenancy in the house that he owned and in which she was living to his sister, Jone. He left cash gifts to his nephews (Jone's sons) and to others (including 10 pounds to the poor of Avon, and other cash gifts). He left money for three theatre friends - John Heminges, Richard Burbage and Henry Condell - so they could buy themselves rings. All three men were actors in Shakespeare's company, The King's Men. Burbage was, in fact, the lead actor, and originated the roles of Hamlet, King Lear, Richard III, and Othello, as well as appearing in plays by other writers of the age. Heminges and Condell were the editors of the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare's works. Shakespeare left his sword to Thomas Combe. To his wife he left his "second best bed with the furniture".

Much has been said about the bequest to his wife, Anne Hathaway, but according to the good folks at the National Archives in the U.K., it was common practice in his time to leave one's best things for one's children, and the second-best to one's wife. As Jonathan Bate notes in Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare, the best bed would have been set aside for guests, and would have gone with his house to his daughter Susanna and her husband. The second-best bed would likely have been the bed in which Shakespeare and his wife slept, so leaving it to her isn't necessarily a slight. I assume that Mrs. Shakespeare would have been kept as a member of her elder daughter's household, which explains why no land or money went directly to her in the Will. It is possible as well that she had her own money (perhaps inherited from her father), and she would of course have kept all her personal belongings as well.

What his Will actually said, complete with Latin, cross-outs and Elizabethan spellings
Vicesimo Quinto die Januarii Martii Anno Regni Domini nostri Jacobi nucn Regis Angliae etc decimo quarto & Scotie xlixo Annoque Domini 1616

Testamentum
Willemi Shackspeare
Registretur

In the name of god Amen I William Shackspeare of Stratford upon Avon in the countrie of Warr' gent in perfect health and memorie god by praysed doe make and Ordayne this my last will and testament in manner and forme followeing that ys to saye first I Comend my Soule into the hands of god my Creator hoping and assuredlie beleeving through thonelie merittes of Jesus Christe my Saviour to be made partaker of lyfe everlastinge And my bodye to the Earthe whereof yt ys made.

Item I Gyve and bequeath unto my sonne in Law and Daughter Judyth One Hundred and fyftie pounds of lawfull English money to be paied unto her in manner and forme follewing That ys to saye One Hundred Poundes in discharge of her marriage porcion within one yeare after my deceas with consideracion after the Rate of twoe shillinges in the pound for soe long tyme as the same shalbe unpaid unto her after my deceas & the fyftie pounds Residewe therof upon her surrendering of or gyving of such sufficient securitie as the overseers of this my will shall like of to Surrender or graunte All her estate and Right that shall discend or come unto her after my deceas or that she nowe hath of in or to one Copiehold tenemente with theappertenances lyeing & being in Stratford upon Avon aforesaied in the saide countie of warr' being parcell or holden of the mannor of Rowington unto my daughter Susanna Hall and her heires for ever.

Item I gyve and bequeath unto my saied Daughter Judyth One Hundred and ffyftie Poundes more if shee or Anie issue of her bodie Lyvinge att thend of three yeares next ensueing the daie of the date of this my will during which tyme my executors to paie her consideracion from my deceas according to the Rate afore saied. And if she dye within the saied terme without issue of her bodye then my will ys and and I doe gyve and bequeath One Hundred Poundes therof to my Neece Eliabeth Hall and ffiftie Poundes to be sett fourth by my executors during the lief of my Sister Johane Harte and the use and proffitt therof cominge shalbe payed to my saied Sister Jone and after her deceas the saied L li shall Remaine Amongst the childredn of my saied Sister Equallie to be devided Amongst them. But if my saied daughter Judith be lyving att thend of the saeid three yeares or anie issue of her bodye then my will ys and soe I devise and bequeath the saied Hundred and ffyftie poundes to be sett out by my executors and overseers for the best benefit of her and her issue and the stock not to be paied unto her soe long as she shalbe marryed and Covert Baron by my executors and overseers but my will ys that she shall have the consideracion yearelie paied unto her during her lief and after her deceas the saied stock and condieracion to bee paid to her children if she have Anie and if not to her executors or Assignes she lyving the saied terme after my deceas provided that if such husbond as she shall att thend of the saied three yeares by marryed unto or attain after doe sufficiently Assure unto her and thissue of her bodie landes answereable to the portion gyven unto her and to be adjudged soe by my executors and overseers then my will ys that the saied CL li shalbe paied to such husbond as shall make such assurance to his owne use.

Item I gyve and bequeath unto my saied sister Jone XX li and all my wearing Apprell to be paied and delivered within one yeare after my deceas. And I doe will and devise unto her the house with thappurtenances in Stratford where in she dwelleth for her naturall lief under the yearelie Rent of xiid

Item I gyve and bequeath unto her three sonnes William Hart—Hart and Michaell Harte ffyve pounds A peece to be payed within one yeare after my decease to be sett out for her within one yeare after my deceas by my executors with thadvise and direccons of my overseers for her best proffitt untill her marriage and then the same with the increase thereof to be paied unto her.

Item I gyve and bequath unto her the said Elizabeth Hall All my Plate (except my brod silver and gilt bole) that I now have att the date of this my will.

Item I gyve and bequeath unto the Poore of Stratford aforesaied tenn poundes; to Mr Thomas Combe my Sword; to Thomas Russell Esquier ffyve poundes and to ffrauncis collins of the Borough of Warr' in the countie of Warr' gent. thriteene poundes Sixe shillinges and Eight pence to be paied within one yeare after my deceas.

Item I gyve and bequeath to mr richard Hamlett Sadler Tyler thelder XXVIs VIIId to buy him A Ringe; to William Raynoldes gent XXVIs VIIId to buy him a Ringe; to my godson William Walker XXVIs VIIId in gold and to my ffellowes John Hemynges, Richard Burbage and Heny Cundell XXVIs VIIId A peece to buy them Ringes.

Item I Gyve Will Bequeth and Devise unto my Daughter Susanna Hall for better enabling of her to performe this my will and towardes the performans thereof All that Capitall Messuage or tenemente with thappertenaces in Stratford aforesaid called the newe plase wherein I now Dwell and two messuags or tenementes with thappurtenances scituat lyeing and being in Henley Streete within the borough of Stratford aforesaied. And all my barnes, stables, Orchardes, gardens, landes, tenementes and herediaments whatsoever scituat lyeing and being or to be had receyved, perceyved or taken within the townes and Hamletts, villages, ffieldes and groundes of Stratford upon Avon, Oldstratford, Bushopton and Welcombe or in anie of them in the saied countie of warr And alsoe All that Messuage or tenemente with thappurtenances wherein one John Robinson dwelleth, scituat, lyeing and being in the blackfriers in London nere the Wardrobe and all other my landes tenementes and hereditamentes whatsoever. To Have and to hold All and singular the saied premisses with their Appurtenances unto the saied Susanna Hall for and during the terme of her naturall lief and after her deceas to the first sonne of her bodie lawfullie yssueing and to the heiries Males of the bodie of the saied Second Sonne lawfullie yssyeinge and for defalt of such heires Males of the bodie of the saied third sonne lawfullie yssye ing And for defalt of such issue the same soe to be Reamine to the ffourth sonne, ffythe, sixte and seaventh sonnes of her bodie lawfullie issueing one after Another and and to the heires Males of the bodies of the saied ffourth, ffythe, Sixte and Seaventh sonnes lawfullie yssueing in such mamer as yt ys before Lymitted to be and remaine to the first, second and third Sonns of her bodie and to their heires males. And for defalt of such issue the saied premisses to be and Remaine to my sayed Neede Hall and the heires Males of her bodie Lawfully yssueing for default of...such issue to my daughter Judith and the heires of me the saied William Sahckspere for ever.

Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture; Item I gyve and bequeath to my saied daughter Judith my broad silver gilt bole.

All the rest of my goodes Chattels, Leases, plate, jewles and Household stuffe whatsoever after my dettes and Legasies paied and my funerall expences discharged, I gyve devise and bequeath to my Sonne in Lawe John Hall gent and my daughter Susanna his wief whom I ordaine and make executors of this my Last will and testament. And I doe intreat and Appoint the saied Thomas Russell Esquier and ffrauncis Collins gent to be overseers herof And doe Revoke All former wills and publishe this to be my last will and testament. In witnes whereof I have hereunto put my Seale hand the Daie and Yeare first above Written.

Witness to the publishing hereof: Fra: Collyns, Juilyus Shawe, John Robinson, Hamnet Sadler, robert Whattcott.

By me William Shakespeare

Probatum coram Magistro Williamo Byrde legum doctore Commissario etc xxiido die mensis Junii Anno domini 1616 Juramento Jahannis Hall unius executorum etc. Cui etc de bene etc Jurati Reservata potestate etc Sussane Hall alteri executorum etc cum venerit etc petitur.

Inventarium exhibitum.



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Romeo and Juliet, pt. 1

Whereas the posts for Much Ado About Nothing walked through the play start to finish, I find myself inclined to approach the discussion of Romeo and Juliet a bit differently. I'm going to assume right up front that you know this story, because you read it in school and/or saw it on stage and/or you saw either the 1968 Zeffirelli version starring Olivia Hussy or the 1996 Baz Luhrman version starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio, and/or because you got the gist of it from some movie or TV show that had this play going on as a theatre production and/or because you love West Side Story, so I'm jumping right to discussion.

In which I jump to the discussion

First, an important point: The story of Romeo and Juliet is not original to Shakespeare. There was an earlier play called Romeo and Giulietta (in which Juliet was 16), Painter's Palace of Pleasure, Hero and Leander, and Pyramus and Thisbe (known to fans of A Midsummer Night's Dream as the play performed by Bottom and his friends – there's probably no coincidence that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream at the same time, and the theme of star-crossed lovers touches both plays).

Romeo and Juliet is, hands-down, one of Shakespeare's best-known and most popular plays. It's been a major motion picture twice already during my lifetime, and I remember seeing it at the drive-in when I was little. (For those of you born in the time of VCRs and whatnot: you've probably only seen a drive-in in the movies (Grease and Twister both feature them). Back in the day, they'd play 2 (and sometimes 3) movies. The first one was always kid-friendly. The second one was for the grown-ups, with the theory being that families could leave or that in many cases, the kids would be asleep. Which explains why so many children in pajamas could be found at the drive-in.) I have no clue what the opening movie was, but I can assure you that I was awake for most of Romeo and Juliet, and that I was riveted by it. Particularly since there's a naked bed scene in the Franco Zeffirelli movie. Then there was poison and a dagger and death, and I was dumbfounded. (Did I mention that I was, like, four at the time?)

These days, I've found other things about the play to dumbfound me. Such as the fact that the time-line for the entire play spans a mere five days. Five days from the beginning, where Romeo is convinced he's horribly in love with a girl named Rosaline, who won't give him the time of day, until Romeo is dead, having met and married Juliet, murdered someone, fled the town, and returned. I mean, really . . . he didn't stay fled for long, is all I'm saying. Or, if you prefer this take, five days from when Juliet – a mere two weeks from her 14th birthday (!) – meets Romeo until she kills herself, having married and bedded him in secret, and then having been all but sold off to Count Paris by her father in the interim. That's right – she's still 13 at her time of death. I have heard it said that most Englishmen in Shakespeare's time hadn't met any Italians, and they conceived of them as a hot-blooded, passionate people, with men predisposed to temper and women predisposed to marry and breed at an exceedingly young age. Still, I find Juliet's age as selected by Shakespeare to be a bit skeevy. Particularly when one examines some of his likely source material and finds that Juliet/Giulietta was previously depicted as being 16 – much, much more appropriate, methinks.


Setting aside your dismay for a moment, what about the play?

Um, not yet. First I want to talk about why I picked Romeo and Juliet to follow Much Ado About Nothing.


Okay, then. Why did you pick this play to follow Much Ado About Nothing?

Well, you see . . . it has to do with Claudio. Tessa Gratton () said it concisely in one of her comments to yesterday's play-related post: "One note that I want to make about Claudio, which is appropriate since we're moving on to R&J tomorrow: If Romeo had lived, he'd have become Claudio. They have the same faults. Probably why I dislike them both." Well-spoken, Tess.

Claudio, as you may recall, was all "I'm bored now that there's no war, gee, Hero's kind of pretty – is she rich? Okay, I'll marry her," and then he proved ambivalent about wooing and to be a complete wanker later on, although he did deign to marry her after all. Romeo, as you probably know, begins the play pretty much in tears, mooning over Rosaline, who won't give him the time of day. In a trice, he forgets all about the woman he's been pining over for weeks and fixates on Juliet, and in five days, he's dead. Had he not been dead, the likelihood of him staying "happily ever after" was pretty slim – one of the reasons that Shakespeare killed his characters off, according to Harold Bloom, is that Shakespeare faced two "pragmatic possibilities" when dealing with romance: "Love dies or else lovers die". (See Bloom's Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, p. 88.) This play chooses option B.

In addition to perceived similarities between Claudio and Romeo, both couples have similar issues in their relationships. For instance, both have a troubled relationship that involves the female pretending to be dead at some point. In both cases, the virginal maiden falls for the swashbuckling guy, to whom she is faithful and true. In Hero's case, she is slandered, falls into a swoon and everyone pretends she's dead until Claudio comes to his senses. In Juliet's case, her father tries to force her to marry Paris, so she takes a sleeping potion and everyone thinks she's dead; she's supposed to come around once Romeo comes to Verona, but, well, things gang agley, so to speak.


Anything else?

Gee, I'm glad I asked.

In both cases – that of Hero and Claudio and that of Romeo & Juliet – reference is made to the much older story of Hero and Leander, an ancient Greek tale that appears to have been wildly popular in Shakespeare's time. Shakespeare references the story of Hero and Leander directly in Much Ado About Nothing, not only by using Hero's name (which would have reminded contemporary audiences of the story of Hero & Leander on its own), but also by having Benedick compare himself to Leander; in Romeo and Juliet, the tragic ending, wherein Juliet kills herself once she learns Romeo is dead, is a direct echo of the story of Hero & Leander as well. In addition to Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and Sir Walter Raleigh all wrote about Hero and Leander as well.

This ancient Greek tale, let me tell it to you

Hero was a lovely woman (and one of Aphrodite's priestesses) who lived on one side of a strait. Leander, her lover, lived on the other. At night, she'd put a lamp in the tower and he'd swim across to her. Things went beautifully well for a while, until the night that a storm came up and Hero's lamp went out and Leander drowned. In sorrow, Hero threw herself off her tower and died.


Wow, that's sad.

It is indeed sad. Which reminds me that I'd like to talk about what this play is.

This play is not a love story.



There are folks out there who will tell you they think it's one of the greatest love stories ever told. I am not one of them. I will say that I believe it's one of the best tragedies ever written, but I don't think it qualifies as a love story, really. Sure, Romeo and Juliet fancy themselves in love with one another. Certainly, Juliet has some of the loveliest love lines ever spoken on stage. During the balcony scene, Romeo asks her to exchange vows of love with him.

Juliet
I gave thee mine before thou didst request it,
And yet I would it were to give again.

Romeo
Would'st thou withdraw it? For what purpose, love?

Juliet
But to be frank and give it thee again;
And yet I wish but for the thing I have.
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep: The more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
  Act II, sc. 2

Those last three lines are gorgeous. But when one thinks they're said by a 13 year old virgin, they lose a bit of credibility; who among us wasn't desperately "in love" as a young teenager, only to find out that we had no clue what love really was? Also, let's be real here: Juliet's declaration of love was based on her brief meeting with Romeo in Act I, sc. 5, in which they exchanged little more than 14 lines of dialogue and two kisses. In my experience, they made it to the infatuation level and decided that was the same thing as "epic and true", which is laughable. (Probably why this T-shirt from zazzle.com, excerpted from Sarah Rees Brennan's recent release, The Demon's Lexicon, is so funny to me.)

But as S said yesterday when I discussed this notion with her, it doesn't matter whether or not Romeo and Juliet were actually in love; they themselves have become a metaphor for true love whether they actually qualify as great lovers or not. I have been schooled by my 16 year-old, but I'll be damned if I don't think she's right. I'd love to hear what others think about this particular issue: Is Romeo and Juliet a love story?


In which I blather about Shakespeare's use of suspense and expectation

I think the story structure is what makes the play so compelling – and so tragic, really. When it opens, this play feels like a comedy, notwithstanding the somewhat ominous prologue that assures listeners that it's a sad story, the first two Acts lull the reader/watcher/hearer into a false sense of security. The play opens with comical characters in the form of Capulet and Montague henchmen who are biting their thumbs at one another. There are hints of violence between the two families, and warnings about death to anyone who breaks the peace, but those are more than counterbalanced by Romeo's ridiculous mooning over the unattainable Rosaline, whom he quickly swaps out for Juliet after meeting her at a party, and by the developing relationship between the two young lovers, who acknowledge that being from the warring families is a problem, but not enough of a problem to prevent them from getting hitched.

By the end of the second Act (a total of eleven scenes), nothing's actually gone wrong. The young lovers have met, wooed (such as it is – one conversation where she's on a balcony and he's in the orchard isn't much of a basis for a relationship, but perhaps you think me too cynical), and managed to get married. Well done, happy ending, let's all go home.


Only the play isn't over – there are, in fact, three Acts to go. And in the first scene of Act III, a street fight breaks out, wherein Juliet's cousin Tybalt kills Romeo's friend (and fan favorite) Mercutio, and Romeo manages to kill Tybalt, making him a dead man walking (because either the Capulets will get him, or the Prince's men will, the Prince having declared a penalty of death to anyone who breaks the peace between the families). In the 4th scene of Act III, we learn that Juliet's father (unaware of the secret marriage between Juliet and Romeo) has decided to sell marry her off to her cousin, Paris. In the final scene of Act III, we find that Romeo and Juliet have consummated their marriage, and that he's bound for Mantua, out of range of the Prince's men. Readers/hearers may be excused for hoping that perhaps maybe this will all turn out well after all. It could happen, right? It's at least possible.

Act IV is all about Juliet, who is the true heart of the story. (Why, yes, that was a double entendre, thank you for noticing.)* Paris at least seems to be in love with her, judging from his conversation with Friar Laurence. Juliet is having massive hissy fits and threatening to kill herself, and good Friar Laurence figures out how to give her a sleeping draught that will cause everyone to think she's dead. He sends a letter to Romeo to let him know what's up. Juliet takes the sleeping potion, everyone thinks she's dead – just as planned. Hey, this could still have a happy ending!

Act V contains 3 scenes. In the first, Romeo gets word from Balthasar that Juliet is dead, so he buys poison for himself and plans to head to her grave. In the second, we learn that Friar Laurence's letter telling Romeo about the sleeping potion never got sent; Friar Laurence rushes off, hopeful of catching Romeo at Juliet's tomb. In the third, Paris shows up to pay tribute to the sleeping Juliet, followed by Romeo and Balthasar. Paris intercepts Romeo, they fight, Paris dies. Still, our lovers have a chance, right? After all, Juliet might wake up in time. And Friar Laurence is on his way. And then, in rapid order, Romeo hauls Paris into the tomb, soliloquizes, then drinks his poison and dies. And the audience now knows for the very first time – a mere 200 lines from the end of the play – that things are not going to end well. Friar Laurence turns up, Juliet to wakes up, figures out that Romeo is dead and stabs herself, just to be sure she's good and dead before anyone can stop her. Pretty much everyone in the cast enters to mourn their losses and make a real and lasting peace, which comes far too late to do anyone any good. Ironic, isn't it?


Points to ponder

Tomorrow, further discussion of the play. Meanwhile, remember that substantive comments to this post count as entries in this week's contest. The clever suggested yesterday that perhaps it'd be easier for folks to come up with substantive posts if I asked questions to get things started. So here are a few to think about: Is this play a love story? Can you remember what your expectations were the very first time you saw or read this play? At what point did you know that it was not going to end well, and why did you come to that conclusion?

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Sonnet 87 by William Shakespeare

I quite frequently post poetry on Tuesdays, because poetry just once a week (for Friday) never seems enough to me. Today, I'm posting one of Shakespeare's sonnets - number 87 ("Farewell, thou are too dear for my possessing").

Today's sonnet is part of the Fair Youth sonnets (#1-126), all of which are believed to have been written for the same young man (the leading candidate for which is Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. The first 17 of the Fair Youth sonnets advise the young man to marry and have children, so that his beauty can be passed on to subsequent generations, and appear to contain nothing more than platonic love (although the fact that the Shakespeare loved the person for whom they were written is not seriously in doubt). From sonnet 18 onward, a far more romantic relationship appears to exist between author and subject, with ups and downs as the sonnets progress, including linked sonnets here and there that tell a particular "chapter" in their relationship. Read together, the sonnets tell a story of an evolving relationship, with the introduction of additional characters as the story progresses, including rival poets and the Dark Lady (for whom the last 28 sonnets were written).

This particular sonnet comes at the end of a sequence of poems talking about the importance of the Rival Poet to the Fair Youth. Rather than bidding farewell to the Rival Poet, Shakespeare appears to be releasing the Fair Youth. It reads more like the work of a wounded lover who wants to hurt the Youth and earn his pity (and reassurance from the Youth that no, he still loves Shakespeare) than it does to an actual break-up poem to me, but lots of analysis indicates that others read this as a straight-up break-up poem.

Sonnet 87
by William Shakespeare

Farewell, thou art too dear for my possessing,
And like enough thou know'st thy estimate.
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting,
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thyself thou gav'st, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gav'st it, else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision* growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment making.
  Thus have I had thee as a dream doth flatter:
  In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.


*misprision: misjudgment
Form
This poem is a Shakespearean sonnet, with the rhyme scheme ABABCDCDEFEFGG, and written in iambic pentameter. Yes, even though 12 of the 14 lines of this poem have 11 syllables and not the 10 you'd typically expect. The second and fourth lines of the poem are in standard iambic pentameter; the rest contain what is known as a "feminine" or unstressed ending. It's one of the reasons I selected this poem for the day, to discuss the fact that sometimes one can have a feminine ending in iambic pentameter without it changing the name or nature of the metre.

Analysis
This poem sounds an awful lot like a break-up poem; at the very least, the speaker (who I will assume is actually Shakespeare) thinks that he owes it to the youth to break up with him, and is operating from the "woe is me, I'm not good enough for you" position. The conceit (here a word which means "extended metaphor") which is in place for the poem is a comparison of the Fair Youth to a piece of property, which sounds like it ought to be demeaning, but isn't because of how Shakespeare goes about it.

He says, in essence, that the Fair Youth is so much better than he is (either in social position or otherwise) that Shakespeare can't possibly deserve him. (Cue Wayne and Garth bowing and saying "We're not worthy!") Being unworthy, Shakespeare wants to release the Youth from the relationship so that he can have the better life that he deserves. In the closing couplet, Shakespeare says that while the relationship lasted, he felt like a king, but now he realizes it was simply a dream.

The structure of the poem forms an interesting argument/progression:

First stanza: You're too good for me, so I understand if you want to be rid of me
Second stanza: I am nowhere near good enough for you, but maybe you didn't realize that before
Third stanza: You are too good for me, but maybe you didn't realize that before
Closing couplet: No matter what the cause of misjudgment, you're released by the mistake, and I'm left here to remember our time together when I felt like a king.

*cue Donkey from Shrek singing "I'm all alone, with no one here beside me . . ."*





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Much Ado About Nothing - part 2

So, when we last saw our characters, Hero was fixing to marry Claudio, Benedick and Beatrice were in love but hadn't discussed it, and Don John was busy a-thwarting.

And . . . cue action!

On the day of Hero's wedding to Claudio, Claudio declares her a whore, and the Prince seconds it. Don John piles on as well, and Hero faints. Exit everyone except Hero, Beatrice, Benedick, Leonato and the Friar, whereupon Leonato, Hero's father, calls Hero a whore as well and threatens to kill her himself. Because he loved her so very much, you see, and love can't tolerate disappointment. Or something.

Remember that bit yesterday in Act I, sc. 1, where I mentioned the foreshadowing, when Claudio said he loved Hero, and the Prince said she was worthy, and Benedick was all "I don't like her"? Well, when the fat hits the fire, Benedick is the first male to be solicitous about Hero's well-being, the first to caution Leonato to chill out for moment, the one to talk Leonato into going along with the story that Friar concocts (claiming that Hero is dead), and the first to suggest that Don John is to blame.

Leonato and the Friar take Hero off to stash her away, and Beatrice and Benedick converse.

In which I give you their entire conversation,
because I love it too much to cut it up or summarize it


Bene. Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?

Beat. Yea, and I will weep a while longer.

Bene. I will not desire that.

Beat. You have no reason; I do it freely.

Bene. Surely I do believe your fair cousin is wronged.

Beat. Ah! how much might the man deserve of me that would right her.

Bene. Is there any way to show such friendship?

Beat. A very even way, but no such friend.

Bene. May a man do it?

Beat. It is a man’s office, but not yours.

Bene. I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is not that strange?

Beat. As strange as the thing I know not. It were as possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as you; but believe me not, and yet I lie not; I confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin.

Bene. By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me.

Beat. Do not swear by it, and eat it.

Bene. I will swear by it that you love me; and I will make him eat it that says I love not you.

Beat. Will you not eat your word?

Bene. With no sauce that can be devised to it. I protest I love thee.

Beat. Why then, God forgive me!

Bene. What offence, sweet Beatrice?

Beat. You have stayed me in a happy hour: I was about to protest I loved you. 280

Bene. And do it with all thy heart.

Beat. I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.

Bene. Come, bid me do anything for thee.



Beat. Kill Claudio.

Beat. You kill me to deny it. Farewell.

Bene. Tarry, sweet Beatrice.

Beat. I am gone, though I am here: there is no love in you: nay, I pray you, let me go.

Bene. Beatrice,—

Beat. In faith, I will go.

Bene. We’ll be friends first.

Beat. You dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy.

Bene. Is Claudio thine enemy?

Beat. Is he not approved in the height a villain, that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O! that I were a man. What! bear her in hand until they come to take hands, and then, with public accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour,—O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place.

Bene. Hear me, Beatrice,—

Beat. Talk with a man out at a window! a proper saying!

Bene. Nay, but Beatrice,—

Beat. Sweet Hero! she is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone.

Bene. Beat—

Beat. Princes and counties! Surely, a princely testimony, a goodly Count Comfect; a sweet gallant, surely! O! that I were a man for his sake, or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into curtsies, valour into compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules, that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving. 300

Bene. Tarry, good Beatrice. By this hand, I love thee.

Beat. Use it for my love some other way than swearing by it.

Bene. Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?

Beat. Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul.

Bene. Enough! I am engaged, I will challenge him. I will kiss your hand, and so leave you. By this hand, Claudio shall render me a dear account. As you hear of me, so think of me. Go, comfort your cousin: I must say she is dead; and so, farewell.
  Act IV, sc. 1.

Benedick's line here is one of my very favorites that Shakespeare ever wrote:
I do love nothing in this world so well as you: is not that strange? *swoons*

The dialogue about love that follows Benedick's confession is heartfelt and lovely. Benedick's offer to do anything to prove his love, followed by immediately balking at killing his friend shows him to be a man of sense, I think, even though he later allows himself to be talked around to the notion. Beatrice's impassioned declarations whereby she seeks to convince Benedick to challenge "County" Claudio to a duel show courage and fire and clearly evince protest at the constraints placed on women as well as a hankering for a more active role in her world. At least that's how I take lines such as "O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place." I admire Beatrice's fire here, and have to wonder if Shakespeare wasn't a bit of a closet protofeminist after all, some of his more misogynistic characters notwithstanding.


On to Act IV, sc. 2, where Dogberry manages to get a confession from Borachio

Members of the Night Watch have overheard Don John's lackeys and apprehended them, and the heads of the watch, Dogberry and Verges, take Don John's cohorts before the Sexton. Dogberry displays his idiocy through his misuse and abuse of the English language. In seeking to speak like a gentleman and one of his betters, he frequently seizes on a completely incorrect word – sometimes giving actual offense to those he seeks to impress (at least Shakespeare's original audience would have understood it so):

Dogb. Is our whole dissembly appeared?

Verg. O! a stool and a cushion for the sexton.

Sexton Which be the malefactors?

Dogb. Marry, that am I and my partner.

Verg. Nay, that’s certain: we have the exhibition to examine.

Sexton But which are the offenders that are to be examined? Let them come before Master constable.
  Act IV, sc. 2.

You can watch much of what's just transpired in this post in the following clip from the 1993 movie production, which proceeds a bit forwarder in the action at its end. I have to say that much as I laughed at Michael Keaton's take on Dogberry, the Master Constable, the first time I saw this, I'm now a bit disappointed that he played the part so broad – I think he'd have been funnier still if he'd played it straight and serious in a very pompous manner; but that's just my opinion and, moreover, I digress. Here's the clip:








In which challenges are issued and perfidy is brought to light
After getting the full story of Don John's treachery from Borachio and Conrade, the Watch manage to bumble their way to Leonato, who failed in his attempt to challenge Claudio to a duel (Benedick was far more successful, to the dismay of Claudio and the Prince). Leonato learns what has occurred, thus letting Hero off the hook. Both Dogberry and Verges are proof, I think, that a little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing.

Prince Officers, what offence have these men done?

Dogb. Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and to conclude, they are lying knaves.

Prince First, I ask thee what they have done; thirdly, I ask thee what’s their offence; sixth and lastly, why they are committed; and, to conclude, what you lay to their charge?

Claud. Rightly reasoned, and in his own division; and, by my troth, there’s one meaning well suited.

Prince Who have you offended, masters, that you are thus bound to your answer? this learned constable is too cunning to be understood. What’s your offence?

Borachio Sweet prince, let me go no further to mine answer: do you hear me, and let this count kill me. I have deceived even your very eyes: what your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light; who, in the night overheard me confessing to this man how Don John your brother incensed me to slander the Lady Hero; how you were brought into the orchard and saw me court Margaret in Hero’s garments; how you disgraced her, when you should marry her. My villainy they have upon record; which I had rather seal with my death than repeat over to my shame. The lady is dead upon mine and my master’s false accusation; and, briefly, I desire nothing but the reward of a villain.
  Act V, sc. 1.

Having learned what transpired, and having spoken with Leonato, Claudio is made to realize (through a combination of Benedick's quite serious challenge to him and evidence from the bad guys) that Hero was innocent, and that he wronged her. He is chastened, but completely willing to marry her (fictive) cousin in her stead. Because, as I believe I said earlier, he's a bit of a wanker. You are welcome to disagree with me on that point, however, and I welcome you to do so in the comments.

I should note that in the BBC's production of Much Ado About Nothing for its Shakespeare Re-Told series back in 2005, Claude turns out to be a prat, and Hero (played by Billie Piper) will have nothing to do with him once she comes out of her coma, and tells Claude off, saying she's sick of being treated like someone's property. I clapped like a seal at that point. (One can watch a very bad copy indeed in 9-10 min. segments on YouTube, after which time one will likely find one ordering a copy of the DVD - I mean seriously, Damian Lewis and Sarah Parish as Benedick and Beatrice? James McAvoy as a sous-chef named Macbeth with Richard Armitage as Macduff? Rufus Sewell as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew? Imelda Staunton and Rupert Evans in A Midsummer Night's Dream? How can one NOT order it?) I suppose I've digressed. Kind of. Forgive me?


In which Benedick and Beatrice have further conversation about love

Bene. . . . And, I pray thee now, tell me, for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?

Beat. For them all together; which maintained so politic a state of evil that they will not admit any good part to intermingle with them. But for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?

Bene. ‘Suffer love,’ a good epithet! I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will.

Beat. In spite of your heart, I think. Alas, poor heart! If you spite it for my sake, I will spite it for yours; for I will never love that which my friend hates.

Bene. Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.

        . . .

Bene. . . . And now tell me, how doth your cousin?

Beat. Very ill.

Bene. And how do you?

Beat. Very ill too.

Bene. Serve God, love me, and mend. There will I leave you too, for here comes one in haste.

[Enter URSULA.]

Urs. Madam, you must come to your uncle. Yonder’s old coil at home: it is proved, my Lady Hero hath been falsely accused, the prince and Claudio mightily abused; and Don John is the author of all, who is fled and gone. Will you come presently?

Beat. Will you go hear this news, signior?

Bene. I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes; and moreover I will go with thee to thy uncle’s. [Exeunt.]
  Act V, sc. 2.


A few things to note about some of the lines here. The line "suffer love" is indeed a good epithet, and constituted at least a triple entendre to audiences in Shakespeare's day. It means that Benedick was experiencing love, that he was subjected to love (which we all know can be a painful condition), and, moreover, that he was allowing himself to love and be loved. In the last case, the meaning of the verb is similar to the phrase "suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not" from the New Testament, Luke 18:16, which is from the King James Bible (King James I being Elizabeth I's successor).

Ursula's line about "old coil" just means that everyone's in a tizzy, or something roughly equivalent.

Benedick's closing line in this scene, like many of Shakespeare's lines, contains a double entendre in the form of a sexual pun. The phrase "die in thy lap" means, on its surface, that he will die of love for her. It also means that he will reach orgasm in that general vicinity, if you catch my drift. And I think you do.


A Funeral and a Wedding

Scene 3 of Act V finds Claudio and the Prince mourning for Hero, with Claudio reading a poem and singing a song in her memory. Knowing as you do my take on Claudio, you will not be surprised to hear me say that I find his poem lacking in true feeling – it's more of an obligation he's setting out to fulfill – and I find his song worse.

In the closing scene of the play, Act V, sc. 4, the Messina clan prepares for the upcoming wedding. Benedick pulls the Friar and Leonato aside for a little consult:

Bene. Friar, I must entreat your pains, I think.

Friar To do what, signior?

Bene. To bind me, or undo me; one of them.
Signior Leonato, truth it is, good signior,
Your niece regards me with an eye of favor.

Leon. That eye my daughter lent her: 'tis most true.

Bene. And I do with an eye of love requite her.

Leon. The sight whereof I think you had from me,
From Claudio and the prince: but what's your will?

Bene. Your answer, sir, is enigmatical:
But, for my will, my will is your good will
May stand with ours, this day to be conjoined
In the state of honorable marriage:
In which, good friar, I shall desire your help.

Leon. My heart is with your liking.

Friar And my help.
Here comes the prince and Claudio.
Act V, sc. 4.


I love Benedick's line about Leonato being "enigmatical" - it is a word we should all be striving to use more often, I think. Also, one must remember that at this point, Benedick has absolutely no idea that he and Beatrice have been set up. Moving on . . . Claudio turns up at the betrothal ceremony, where he asks which of the veiled women he "must seize" (die-hard romantic that he is, eh?) Only after he commits himself to the veiled "cousin", sight unseen, does Hero reveal herself alive:

      Re-enter ANTONIO with the ladies masked.

Claud. Which is the lady I must seize upon?

Antonio This same is she, and I do give you her.

Claud. Why, then she’s mine. Sweet, let me see your face.

Leon. No, that you shall not, till you take her hand
Before this friar, and swear to marry her.

Claud. Give me your hand: before this holy friar,
I am your husband, if you like of me.

Hero And when I lived, I was your other wife: [Unmasking. ]
And when you loved, you were my other husband.
  Act V, sc. 4.

You can see these scenes, rearranged in order ever so slightly in the 1993 movie version. Even thought it's nothing to do with me, I feel constrained to apologize for the poor acting by the young Robert Sean Leonard (aka Claudio), who adds a bit of injury to what I consider an already insulting role (although to be truthful, he does try to seem sincere, even if his character is a wanker):







Bring it all home, Will!

The marriage of Claudio and Hero is set to go when Benedick recalls that he meant to get married himself.

Bene. Soft and fair, friar. Which is Beatrice?

Beat. [Unmasking.] I answer to that name.
What is your will?

Bene. Do not you love me?

Beat. Why, no; no more than reason.

Bene. Why, then, your uncle and the prince and Claudio
Have been deceived; for they swore you did.

Beat. Do not you love me?

Bene. Troth, no; no more than reason.

Beat. Why, then, my cousin, Margaret, and Ursula,
Are much deceived; for they did swear you did.

Bene. They swore that you were almost sick for me.

Beat. They swore that you were well-nigh dead for me.

Bene. ’Tis no such matter. Then, you do not love me?

Beat. No, truly, but in friendly recompense.

Leon. Come, cousin, I am sure you love the gentleman.

Claud. And I’ll be sworn upon ’t that he loves her;
For here’s a paper written in his hand,
A halting sonnet of his own pure brain,
Fashioned to Beatrice.

Hero     And here’s another,
Writ in my cousin’s hand, stolen from her pocket,
Containing her affection unto Benedick.

Bene. A miracle! here’s our own hands against our hearts. Come, I will have thee; but, by this light, I take thee for pity.

Beat. I would not deny you; but, by this good day, I yield upon great persuasion, and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption.

Bene. Peace! I will stop your mouth. [Kisses her.]

Prince How dost thou, Benedick, the married man?

Bene. I’ll tell thee what, prince; a college of witcrackers cannot flout me out of my humour. Dost thou think I care for a satire or an epigram? No; if a man will be beaten with brains, a’ shall wear nothing handsome about him. In brief, since I do purpose to marry, I will think nothing to any purpose that the world can say against it; and therefore never flout at me for what I have said against it, for man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion. For thy part, Claudio, I did think to have beaten thee; but, in that thou art like to be my kinsman, live unbruised, and love my cousin.
Act V, sc. 4

Wedding merriment and dancing ensue, with the actual wedding to occur after the curtain falls.

A further note about this play.

It includes a lovely song in the midst of Act II, often called "Sigh no more, ladies", which is performed by a character named Balthazar in the company of men only. (You may recall from yesterday that the role of Balthazar was played by actor and composer Patrick Doyle.)

The play includes a good deal of misogynism on the part of any number of the male characters (pretty much only the good Friar is exempted, I must say), and quite a number of references to cuckolding, both in references to the cuckoo and in references to horns – the "putting on of horns" was one of the ways in which Elizabethans talked about cuckoldry, and the men in the play seem somewhat obsessed with the notion that their women have cheated or will cheat on them (from Leonato saying that his wife "has many times told him" that Hero is actually his daughter to Benedick saying that if he ever marries, he's to be hung up "at the door of a brothel-house for the sign of blind Cupid" and saying, moreover, that they ought to "pluck off the bull's horns and set them in [his] forehead."

And now, the text of Sigh no more, ladies and a lovely YouTube montage with the full Patrick Doyle solo version:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no more
Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.








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