Friday, October 31, 2014

Coriolanus - Act III


You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate
As reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize
As the dead carcases of unburied men
That do corrupt my air.

The rebellion against Coriolanus seems to be gaining steam. His mother and a few trusted advisers suggest that he might make nice with the rabble so he sets off to the marketplace to do just that. But Coriolanus is not really the type to take something like this lying down and so it doesn’t go so well. As the act draws to a close he has vowed to take his leave of Rome, to much rejoicing from those who were just as happy to see him flung from a cliff.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Coriolanus - Act II

Act II

Good den to your worships: more of your conversation would infect my brain.

Coriolanus, the conquering hero, returns to Rome, to the adulation of the masses. But not everyone is quite so enamored of their new hero. Brutus and Sicinius seem to be the ringleaders when it comes to fomenting discontent. By the end of this rather long-winded act they have succeeded in rousing the ire of a mob of citizens and sending them off to overthrow Coriolanus. For whom things are starting to look rather bleak. But I wouldn't count him out just yet.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Coriolanus - Act I

Act I

You souls of geese,
That bear the shapes of men, how have you run
From slaves that apes would beat!

The villagers are gathering with pitchforks and torches looking for Boris Karloff. Or something like that. Actually it’s a bunch of poor Romans who have gathered up those primitive weapons that mobs are often stuck with and are expressing some advanced displeasure with the scarcity and high prices of food. Shakespeare’s economic inequality moment, if you will. A few authority figures, including Caius Marcius, show up and try to reason with them or berate them, as their inclination might be.

Next thing you know, word comes that the Volsces (whoever they are) are rebelling and Marcius is among those sent to put down the rebellion. At first it looks like his boys have been soundly thrashed and he wastes not words in laying into them for their failings. Then fortunes turn and the battle is won, with Marcius being proclaimed Caius Marcius Coriolanus.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

As You Like It - Summary

As You Like It

It’s a bit early in the game to be drawing any conclusions about Shakespeare’s plays. After all, I’ve only read three of them. But I’m not going to let that keep me from shooting off my mouth. The comedies – all two of them – haven’t really done much for me. The tragedies – all one of them – were more to my taste. Which is odd because nowadays I’m not much of a tragedy kind of guy.

As for As You Like It, it didn’t match up to Antony and Cleopatra, but it worked a little more well for me than All’s Well That Ends Well. As with All’s Well That Ends Well, the plot device of people in disguise is pressed into service here and once again the plot device of the scurrilous villainous chap turning over a new leaf is also employed and that’s not just once, but twice. Which seems a bit flimsy considering just how scurrilous Duke Frederick and Oliver were, not that anyone asked for my opinion.

Monday, October 27, 2014

As You Like It - Act V

As You Like It
Act V

There is, sure, another flood toward, and these couples are coming to the ark.

A bad egg, that Oliver. But it seems that after Orlando saved him in the forest he’s had something of an epiphany. Oliver is going to marry Celia and give everything he owns to his once reviled brother. Who should be happy about this sudden turn of good fortune but all he can manage to do is to mope about not being able to have Rosalind.

Turns out Rosalind is something like a cross between and the Reverend Moon presiding over one of his famous mass weddings. Various and sundry parties converge upon the forest to be wed and news comes along that nasty old Duke Frederick has gotten religious and become an all-around good guy.

As You Like It - Act IV

As You Like It
Act IV

I verily did think
That her old gloves were on, but ’twas her hands.

Rosalind is a stickler for punctuality. It doesn’t sit well with her when Orlando shows up an hour late to meet with her. She’s still in the guise of a man, by the way. But she agrees to overlook this if he’s prompt for their next get together. Turns out he’s late again but who should happen along but Oliver, with a bloody handkerchief and a fanciful story about how Orlando was attacked by a lion. Fortunately, the latter is still among the living. Must not have been that formidable of a lion, after all.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

As You Like It - Act III

As You Like It

Cry, 'holla!' to thy tongue, I pr'ythee.

Cranky Duke Frederick has got it in for Orlando, for reasons I'm not completely clear on just yet. Perhaps it's just his innate crankiness bubbling to the surface. He recruits Orlando's brother Oliver to round him up, under duress. Not that there's any love lost between the brothers, mind you.

In the meantime a bunch of the players are cavorting around the forest engaged in various mild antics and Orlando meets up with Rosalind. Though he professes his love for her he doesn't realize it's her because she's dressed as a guy at the time. Must be a helluva disguise.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

As You Like It - Act II

As You Like It
Act II

Holla, you clown!

A relatively uneventful act, in which various players venture into the woods, where Duke Senior and his men are already hiding out after he was banished by crabby Duke Frederick. They include Celia, Rosalind and Touchstone the clown, as well as Orlando and the elderly servant Adam, who have decided to pick up and go rather than deal with a good murdering at the hands of Orlando's brother Oliver.

As You Like It - Act I

As You Like It
Act I

Holla, Dennis!

One act into it and so far we've got wrestling, feuding brothers, people talking like rappers (Shall we go, coz?), and a cranky Duke with a penchant for banishing people. In spite of all this As You Like It isn't really floating my boat just yet. Perhaps it's just in comparison to Antony and Cleopatra, which I just finished and which I quite liked. Maybe things will pick up in the next four acts but it's not quite as I like it yet.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Antony and Cleopatra - Summary

Antony and Cleopatra

I dream'd there was an Emperor Antony.

I'm only two plays into this project so far, with 40-some plays to go. But there's a clear favorite already and that's Antony and Cleopatra. All's Well that End Well seemed kind of frivolous and the characters tended to pontificate on weighty matters to no real effect. There's no shortage of pontificating in this one, mind you, but in the context of the play it seems to work rather well.

Even as a Shakespeare novice I pretty much knew how this one ended, except for some of the nitty gritty details. I have to admit that I expected the ending to be rather melodramatic and perhaps even sappy, but it was executed pretty well.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Antony and Cleopatra - Act V

Antony and Cleopatra
Act V

Lay me stark nak’d, and let the water-flies
Blow me into abhorring!

As things kick off, Caesar and his crew are gathered in his camp to reminisce about what a spiffy guy Antony was. Even though just recently many of them were probably hoping to ram a spear through his head. In the meantime Cleopatra wants to be done with it all but first gives a rather effective speech about the late great Antony :

His legs bestrid the ocean; his rear’d arm
Crested the world; his voice was propertied
As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends;
But when he meant to quail and shake the orb,
He was as rattling thunder.

And so on. A rather bang-up finish, this Act V, and it's probably not a spoiler to anyone to reveal how things wind up. Though Caesar promises to treat Cleopatra well she's not having any of it and proceeds to do what she must do. And curtain.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Antony and Cleopatra - Act IV

Antony and Cleopatra
Act IV

Let our best heads
Know that to-morrow the last of many battles
We mean to fight.

'Twas the night before the big battle and Caesar and Antony and their respective camps are discussing the morrow's adventures. Caesar has declined Antony’s challenge to one on one combat and Antony is a bit miffed. But like a pair of pro wrestlers they’re both talking the big talk. Then Antony switches gears and gets into such a melancholy mood that he upsets his servants and advisors.

When the day comes it appears that Antony’s forces have taken the upper hand but then things take a turn for the worse. Antony blames Cleopatra, assuming that she’s sold him down the river. He flips out and she runs off to fake her own death. Antony hears of this and tries to do the same but makes a mess of it. Just about then word comes to him that Cleopatra isn’t dead after all. Oops.

Antony lingers just long enough for his final scene with Cleopatra and then he’s done for. Even a Shakespeare novice knows pretty much how it goes from there. But there is that one final act.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Antony and Cleopatra - Act III

Antony and Cleopatra

He hath given his empire up to a whore.

Antony and Octavia take their leave of Caesar, having apparently tied the knot already. Back in Alexandria, Cleopatra’s not having any of this marriage crap and grills a messenger with regard to Octavia’s attributes or lack thereof. Meanwhile, things remain tense between Caesar and Antony and Octavia visits the former to try to smooth things over. Who makes some choice remarks about Cleopatra and advises Octavia that Antony has gone back to her.

Next thing you know Caesar and Antony’s forces are gearing up to duke it out. Antony’s advisers advise that he shouldn’t fight Caesar at sea but he doesn’t listen. It doesn’t go well and when Cleopatra’s ships turn tail and run at the height of things so does Antony. Caesar is hardly in a forgiving mood toward Antony after this but agrees to go easy on Cleopatra if she’ll bump off Antony. Methinks this ain't gonna end well. But of course even as a newbie I know that much.

Antony and Cleopatra - Act II

Antony and Cleopatra
Act II

The poop was beaten gold.

Antony is back in Rome now. He’s being called on the carpet, as the saying goes, by Octavius for the rebellious activities perpetrated by his recently deceased wife and others. Agrippa pipes in with the helpful suggestion that Antony should promote peace and understanding between the two by getting hitched to Caesar’s sister. Antony and Caesar agree that this is a worthwhile plan.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Antony and Cleopatra - Act I

Antony and Cleopatra
Act I

Thou didst drink the stale of horses and the gilded puddle.

So if I've got it straight - and I wouldn't swear to it - Antony is in Egypt kicking back and making nicey-nice with the ever so foxy Cleopatra while his wife is back in Rome. But there's some other stuff going on back there - rebellions and the like - and so Antony is called back. Oh yeah, and his wife kicks the bucket. Cleopatra decides she's not so keen on the idea of being parted from Antony and decides she wants to get really bombed so that she'll be out of it until he gets back.

All’s Well That Ends Well - Summary

All's Well That Ends Well

So that's that. My first experience with a Shakespeare play. I decided to go into each play cold rather than doing any research ahead of time. It was kind of hard to follow the thread in spots but I managed. I wasn't terribly impressed with All's Well That Ends Well and I can't imagine that it's one of the plays that gave old Will his lofty reputation but I'm hardly the expert here. For my money it seemed like a romantic comedy that had been stripped of most of the comic elements. And I didn't really get why Bertram made such an abrupt turnaround at the end regarding Helena and why she would ever want anything to do with such a dope. But 'tis not for me to say.

Next stop, Antony and Cleopatra.

All’s Well That Ends Well - Act V

All's Well That Ends Well
Act V

I will henceforth eat no fish of Fortune's butt'ring.

The key players end up back in France for this act and Bertram is set to marry again, now that his despised wife has apparently kicked the bucket. But not so fast, butthead, as Helena, Diana and the gang show up and reveal what a rat Bertram really is. He's so impressed by this deceit (I didn't get it either) that he agrees to be Helena's beloved after all. She's fine with it too (inexplicably) since he's clearly shown that he is a total loser. No accounting for taste, as the saying goes.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

All’s Well That Ends Well - Act IV

All's Well That Ends Well
Act IV

Tongue, I must put you into a butterwoman's mouth, and buy myself another of Bajazet's mule, if you prattle me into these perils.

A bunch of Bertram's men pretending they are not Bertram's men gang up on Parolles and kidnap him. If I've got it straight the point is to test his loyalty. In the meantime the spurned Helena has something up her sleeve for good old Bertram and enlists Diana to assist. Which results in the latter two trading a whole lot of sweet nothings and generally slowing down the pace.

Parolles shows what he's made of by singing like a canary at the first hint of duress. I'm unclear at this point if he knows who his captors are but it's not the first time I've been baffled and probably won't be the last. I've also missed a key plot point somewhere as it now seems that many of the players think Helena is dead. Spoiler alert - she ain't.

All’s Well That Ends Well - Act III

All's Well That Ends Well

I must go look my twigs.

Bit of a slow starter, this act. Early on, the Countess – Bertram’s mother – mutters and grumbles about what a cad he is for spurning the fair Helena. Things pick up a bit as the latter turns up at the front, disguised as a pilgrim. Then there’s a bit about a drum – I confess I have no clue what they were going on about – but apparently the loyalty of Parolles, Bertram’s flunky, is being called into question. Then Helena conspires to pull a fast one on good old Bertram. I’m not clear on exactly the nature of the deceit so that remains to be seen.

All’s Well That Ends Well - Act II

All's Well That Ends Well
Act II

Why, your dolphin is not lustier.

A breakthrough. After switching from audio to a text version for Act II I’m better able to grasp what the hell is going on. I’ve divined that the King is indeed ailing and that furthermore he is actually the King of France. Who chews the fat with a few of his lords as they prepare to head off to the Florentine war. I didn’t catch who Helena is but she offers to cure the big cheese of what ails him in exchange for being able to take her pick of a husband.

The fair lady cures the king and decides that she’ll have one Bertram, who prefers not to have her due to her low station in life. After a stern talking to from the King he sees the error of his ways. Then there’s a spat between Lafeu and Parolles – still not quite clear on who they are – with the latter getting the worst of it. And Bertram doesn't want anything to do with Helena after all and goes off to ware. Onward I go now and haste me again to Act III.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

All’s Well That Ends Well - Act I

All’s Well That Ends Well
Act I

My very first experience with Shakespeare – aside from a few stray sonnets – began recently with Act I of All’s Well That Ends Well. It didn’t go well. My first mistake was in listening to a audio dramatization of the work. That’s perfectly fine, if you’re suited to that sort of thing but I’m not. I tend to process printed words on a page better than audio and so when listening to the latter my attention strays approximately once every 4.3 words.

So thus far I’ve gathered that there’s a king and he’s not doing so well (I think) and there was a long and somewhat baffling discourse about the merits and drawbacks of virginity. That's all I've got.