Shakespeare’s Villains

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The Norton Critical Edition people put together the above “Periodic Table of Literary Villains,” and of course we here at the Bard and the Bible Blog were unsurprised to see how many of Shakespeare’s villains figure prominently. How many do you count?

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Reviewsday: @cincyshakes Midsummer Night’s Dream

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It would be an extreme understatement to say I was excited to attend my first performance (with the lovely Robin) in Cincinnati Shakespeare Company‘s new Otto M. Budig Theater in Cincinnati. Last Friday evening’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was not the company’s debut in this new space, but it was our first show there (we had previously toured it, which I posted about here).

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We arrived a half hour early and the place was already hopping. The spacious lobby is a far cry from the cramped confines of their former home.

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And the cozy theater is simultaneously intimate and roomy. It’s an amazing accomplishment. Just 230 seats, if I remember right, and each is a great seat. We took our first-row seats (which I bought months and months ago) and settled in for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

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It was a triumph. The actors were clearly having a great time, and so was the audience. We knew, when we saw one of our many favorites, Matt Johnson (above, center), in the role of Nick Bottom, that it would be a fun night. And it was.

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The lovers–Lysander (Crystian Wiltshire), Hermia (Courtney Lucien), Demetrius (Kyle Brumley), and Helena (Caitlin McWethy)–were perfectly cast and wonderfully acted. We especially enjoyed the willowy McWethy’s portrayal of Helena. Sara Clark shone as Puck (above, far left), and Miranda McGee’s Titania (above, right) was entertaining as well.

The cast and crew clearly exulted in the capabilities of their new home. Billy Chace, as Snug the Joiner, delighted the audience with an unscripted and unShakespearean line after running around the theater several times following Bottom’s transformation: “This theater’s a lot bigger than the old one.” And Sara Clark, flying overhead for the fourth or fifth time as part of her enchanting turn as Puck, sang out, “This is still awesome!”

I thought Giles Davies’s tiptoe portrayal of Oberon was slightly off-putting, and the frequency of the fairy flights was a tad distracting. But as always, Shakespeare’s characters and words cast a spell, from “Lord, what fools these mortals be” to “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” The players deserved the immediate and enduring standing ovation they received, and celebrated with a David-Bowie–themed jig at the end. I even got a high-five from Titania herself. Dream, indeed.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through September 30 at The Otto M. Budig Theater,
1195 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

 

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The Worst Kind of Scold

If you are one of those people who has trouble launching a good insult, we are here to serve. All you have to do is subscribe to this website and every Monday you will get a handy insult from Shakespeare.

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This week’s insult is spoken by Petruchio to several others about Katherina, the “shrew” of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew:

She is an irksome brawling scold (The Taming of the Shrew, I.2.185).

You may wish to keep in mind that an irksome brawling scold will be irked and inclined to brawl if you call her (or him, for that matter) an irksome brawling scold. So use it wisely.

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Wooing Women

TGIF and time for a new episode (listen here) on The Bard and the Bible Podcast. This episode features Olivia’s lovelorn speech about Viola (whom she knows as Cesario) from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (“O, what a deal of scorn looks beautiful”), followed by the Shunamite woman’s words in Song of Solomon 1:5-7 (“I am black, but comely”) in the King James Version of the Bible.

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I’m Not Sorry WILL Was Canceled

The news was announced last week that the TNT television series Will, a reimagining of the young William Shakespeare’s entry into the Elizabethan theater scene, has been canceled. Despite my early excitement (see here) and intense interest, I’m not disappointed. Here’s why.

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Reviewsday: A Lovely Love’s Labour’s Won

Love’s Labour’s Won is the title of a play that a couple contemporaries of the bard included in listings of William Shakespeare’s plays. Some scholars consider it a lost play; others think it was one title used for a play we know by another name. The most likely candidate for that second scenario is Much Ado About Nothing.

In 2014, the Royal Shakespeare Company took that possibility and ran with it, staging back-to-back runs of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won/Much Ado About Nothing, using mostly the same sets and actors for both. I’ve already blogged about the first production (here), which I watched on DVD and loved, so I was anxious to watch the “sequel.”

Like its predecessor, Love’s Labour’s Won is a lovely production. Excellent staging, brilliant lighting (see what I did there?), inspired music, and fine acting (especially Michelle Terry as Beatrice, Edward Bennett as Benedick, and Nick Haverson as Dogberry).

The DVD (which I obtained from my local library) includes extra features, such as the director’s commentary, and interview with the music producer, Nigel Hess, and more. I highly recommend it–but then I have yet to be disappointed by an RSC production.

 

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Going Alphabetical

A dozen years or so ago, my wife and I were touring Israel when our Palestinian bus driver described our Israeli guide as “zero to the left.” His diction was clear but his meaning was not. To this day we can only guess at what he meant. Today’s insult from Shakespeare may seem strange to American ears, but it refers to the last letter of the English alphabet.

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It is from the play, King Lear, and is yet another instance (like those featured earlier here and here) of the Earl of Kent berating Oswald, Goneril’s steward, in Act 2, Scene 2:

Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter! (King Lear 2.2.61).

It is an alphabetical insult. Very sophisticated. Though I know a few zany, zesty zebras who might argue against the unnecessariness of “zed.”

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