Question: Everyone knows about Macbeth, Shakespeare's Scottish king. But what other Scotsman is featured in a Shakespeare play?
Question: Who was by far the most famous French Shakespearean actor?
Answer: Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923). Parisian born, Bernhardt enjoyed a long professional career as a courtesan, actor, nurse during the Franco-Prussian war, mistress of two princes (and lots of other nonroyals), and theater impresario. (Impresaria?) She was the most famous actor of the nineteenth century, though she wasn't the best. She certainly was popular, and celebrated for her performance of Shakespearean roles, which included Cleopatra (above) and Hamlet.
Question: What literary masterwork of the twentieth century frequently refers to ("references" isn't a verb, students!) Shakespeare's Hamlet, as in these lines: "Speech, speech. But act. Act speech. They mock to try you. Act." Hint: The day's a clue.
Answer: James Joyce's Ulysses (1922). There are numerous references to Hamlet in Joyce's novel, beginning early when one of its two main characters, Joyce's avatar Stephen Dedalus, tells his friend Buck Mulligan that the tower in Dublin in which they are staying (based on this one, pictured above) reminds him of the cliffs of Elsinore, "That beetles o'er his base into the sea." The lines about speaking and acting, quoted above the photo, echo in Stephen's mind in the later "Scylla and Charibdis" episode in Ireland's National Library. They are widely taken to indicate Joyce's own sense of compulsion to write in his own way, shaking himself free of certain inherited literary expectations. (And he did.) Hamlet-like, the character Stephen struggles against the weight of various kinds of paternal authority: his actual father's wishes; the English presence in Ireland; and Irish history, a "nightmare" from which he is "trying to awake." Bad dreams, indeed. As for the significance of June 16th, it's Bloomsday, the date on which the action of Ulysses takes place, much celebrated in Ireland and worldwide among Joyce enthusiasts. It's named for the novel's other main character, Leopold Bloom. And here, apropos of almost nothing, is a good place to brag that my grandfather, George Shively, was the American editor (for Doubleday) for Oliver St. John Gogarty, poet and physician, the man whom Joyce turned into "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan."
Question: To what animal did Shakespeare most frequently compare women?
Answer: As the picture suggests, the answer is, the horse! (Even though, on closer examination, it appears to be a painting of a guy.) Shakespeare thought it very good for husbands to compare their wives to coursers, mares, jennets, and so on. The Winter'sTale's Antigonus says of wife Paulina, "When she will take the rein I'll let her run, but she'll not stumble." Though occasionally the women are "nags," in general the image of the man as rider and the woman as horse is, like this, a favorable one, denoting a proper relationship which owes something to Plato's image of the soul as a man governing the white horse of reason and the dark horse of passion. In Renaissance thought, the man was ideally the reasoning rider and the woman the passionate animal to be controlled. Fran Dolan's edition of The Taming of the Shrew features a picture of a "brank," or "scold's bridle," that was in rare (we hope!) circumstances imposed, in rough civic justice, on a woman who talked too much. Check it out:
Hmm. I don't know, it just seems like wishful thinking on the guy's part. Anyway: a horse is a horse, but of course (of course) Shakespeare "complicates" the conceit, as modern scholars like to say. Antigonus may say "I'll keep my stables where I lodge my wife," but he also swears "I'll go in couples with her," picturing marriage as a pair of horses pulling together. And though Benedick sneers at Beatrice, "I would my horse had the speed of your tongue," Beatrice comes right back at him with "You always end with a jade's trick" (a jade being a vicious horse). Also, men sometimes compare other men or themselves to horses, as when Twelfth Night's Sir Toby Belch says of poor Sir Andrew Aguecheek, "I'll ride your horse as well as I ride you" (meaning he's cheating him out of a horse). In one of my favorite lines, Richard III angrily says of his newly crowned brother, "I was a packhorse in his great affairs." Famously, Iago calls Othello a "barbary horse." But usually, as we see, the lines comparing men to horses are negative (the Othello line makes a sexual suggestion, so that may be an exception, if you know what I mean). On the other hand, the lines comparing women to horses are usually meant to be compliments, and there are way, way more of them. Have I counted? Hell, no. I have a life (sort of). I have, however, read. I've even written a book with a chapter on the woman-horse image in Shakespeare. The real expert, however, is Jeanne Addison Roberts. If you like this horse thing, see her "Horses and Hermaphrodites in The Taming of the Shew" (Shakespeare Quarterly 34) and also The Shakespearean Wild.
Question: Who was the first black American actor to play Othello?
Answer: Long before the great Paul Robeson, All-America football player turned opera singer turned Shakespearean actor, there was Ira Aldridge (1807-1867). Born a free American citizen in New York, Aldridge received a classical education in a New York school, trained as an actor, and went on to perform great Shakespearean roles, including not only Othello but Richard III and Shylock. Sadly for the United States, Europe was the primary beneficiary of Aldridge's talents, since he tired early of the racism he encountered among American audiences and journalists, including those who dismissed his performance of Othello since it didn't match American stereotypes of the maddened black man (should have rolled his eyes more, hollered louder, etc.) In other words, critics found Aldridge merely black, when he should have been, you know, "black"! Like Robeson would do (for different reasons) a century later, Aldridge left for foreign shores. In Europe his acting found the reception it deserved. He is the only African-American actor among the thirty-odd actors commemorated by plaque at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford on Avon. Yet his larger successes were in Russia and Poland, where he spent most of the later part of his life. He was known as the "African Roscius," after the most famous actor of Ancient Rome (whom Hamlet mentions). Aldridge is buried in Poland.
Question: What was the name of Shakespeare's granddaughter?
Answer: Like many girls born during or soon after the reign of England's greatest monarch, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare's granddaughter was named Elizabeth (she's pictured above, in a mid-seventeenth-century portrait). Her parents were Susanna Shakespeare, Shakespeare's eldest daughter; and John Hall, an innovative physician who had studied with Paracelsus in France and who prescribed wacky medicines like powdered magnesium. (In the seventeenth century there wasn't a clear dividing line between medical science and alchemy.) Elizabeth was born in 1608, and it is perhaps no coincidence that just after that time Shakespeare got interested in bringing babies (dolls, we hope) on stage. There are scenes involving infants in the late plays Pericles, The Winter's Tale, and Henry VIII, in which last the infant Queen Elizabeth is carried on stage at the end and gushed over by everyone. (Maybe Shakespeare also got his ideas for the wizards and wacky doctors of his late plays -- Prospero in The Tempest, Cerimon in Pericles, and Doctor Cornelius in Cymbeline -- from his nutty medical son-in-law.) In any case, it would be nice to think that Shakespeare's own genes continue in some descendant of Elizabeth, but alas, though she married twice, she had no children, and Shakespeare's two male grandchildren also died without offspring. Anthony Burgess fictionally suggests that Shakespeare had an affair with an African woman and fathered an Anglo-African son. He's a novelist, and he completely made that up. Granddaughter Elizabeth's life must have been interesting, because she lived through the English Civil War, a time when troops were marching back and forth through the midlands, and placed herself firmly on the Royalist side. I can imagine her harboring Cavalier soldiers in splendid Hall's Croft in Warwickshire, while Puritan soldiers menaced the town. Maybe a novel needs to be written about her!
Question: Which of the following three actors has never performed the role of Hamlet? Richard Gere, Patrick Stewart, Keanu Reeves.
Answer: As I tell my son, when you don't know the answer to one of those "Which one" multiple-choice questions, choose the one most unlike the others. In this case that would be Patrick Stewart, who, unlike Reeves and Gere, is English and a Royal Shakespeare performer. Yet despite his Shakespeare cred -- Stewart has (twice) played Hamlet's uncle Claudius, as well as Shylock, Prospero, Mark Antony, and even Othello -- he has not played Hamlet. I think this is because Patrick Stewart has always looked 45, as he does now, though he's 70. (He is like Coach K.) The perennially youthful Keanu Reeves, on the other hand, played Hamlet in Manitoba in 1995 (see him in melancholy black duds, above), and Richard Gere played the Dane in 1969 at the University of Massachusetts. By all reports, both were quite average Hamlets. For the 1969 production Gere was billed as "Richard Tiffany Gere" (Tiffany being his mother's maiden name). At the time he was thinking of taking "Richard Tiffany" as his stage name. I'm glad he didn't, but it makes me wonder, since both of us are from that general NYC area, whether I'm related to him. I wrote to him to ask him, but he has not responded. The hell with him. I'd anyway rather be related to John Tiffany, former director of the Scottish National Theater, ever since I saw his Black Watch in Chicago and, soon after, read an account of the fascinating one-man Macbeth, starring the great Alan Cumming, which he directed last year at Lincoln Center. I have written to John Tiffany demanding an account of his last name, but he has not responded! Geez. It's almost enough to make you stop writing to celebrities.
Question: What play is signified by the title of this Spanish adaptation: Noche de Reyes, o Como Quieras?
Answer: Although the subtitle "como quieras" can be translated "as you would like," which is indeed very much like the name of one Shakespeare comedy, still, "Noche de Reyes," the main title, should give it away. The play is not As You Like It but Twelfth Night, known as "King's Day" or, as in this title, "Night of Kings" in Spanish-speaking countries (and "King's Day" in New Orleans, where I used to live). Twelfth Night is the last day of Christmas, and the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the visit of the three kings to the baby Jesus. In Twelfth Night, the three kings are parodically represented by the three fools Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Toby Belch, and Feste. The play contains many more fools than these three, but this is the group that cavorts festively as a trio in the play's second act. As for the subtitle, "como quieras" (as you like [it]) is nice, but something is lost in its translation of "What You Will." What is lost (warning, middle-schoolers!) is not only Will Shakespeare's self-reference -- the play is what Will wills -- but a bawdy reference to a penis, for which "will" was an Elizabethan slang term (like the present-day English slang term "willie," which derives from it. Sorry if I spelled "willie" wrong. I'm an American, and we say things more rudely). One implicit meaning of "What you will" is something along the lines of "Would you like a penis?," which was funny to Shakespeare's audience because a.) it just is, b.) all the actors playing women in Twelfth Night were boys, and so had them, and c.) main character Viola, though played by a boy, is within the play a girl only pretending to be a boy, and therefore within the play is only pretending to have a penis. A problem arises (so to speak) when another maiden, Olivia, thinking Viola's a boy, falls in love with her. "Your will?," Olivia says, when she first meets the disguised Viola. Big laughs from the audience, who knows Viola isn't supposed to have a "will"! Viola hints at her "eunuch" state some lines later, answering that what she "would" (wants) is "as secret as maidenhead." Olivia doesn't get it, yet. Masquerading as a lad gets Viola in trouble later, when it embroils her in a duel, a type of combat in which men only (and gentlemen at that) were supposed to participate. "A little thing would make me tell them how much I lack of a man!," Viola complains to the audience. Big laugh! They know what "little thing" she lacks, and that in fact she's a boy actor anyway, so she really doesn't lack it. "Will" Shakespeare never tired of such jokes. He was at heart a middle-schooler. Now, middle schoolers, tell your teachers you want to read and discuss Shakespeare's Sonnet 135.
Question: Which Shakespeare character might be called a Renaissance English prototype of Charles Dickens's "The Artful Dodger"?
Answer: The best candidate is The Winter's Tale's Autolycus, whose "traffic is sheets," meaning he steals the sheets drying on hedges as he capers larcenously by. Like the Artful Dodger in Dickens's Oliver Twist, Autolycus makes his living stealing whatever he can get his hands on, mainly purses, though, in an age when pockets were in less short supply than they were in Victorian England, the term for this rogue would be "cutpurse" rather than "pickpocket" (see woodcut, above left). Such petty criminals carried knives to cut the purse strings of gentlemen, though some thieves were adept at putting their hands in plackets, or openings in women's garments, where purses, among other things, might be found. Autolycus -- whose name, borrowed from Odysseus' grandfather's, means "wolf" -- amusingly mirrored off-stage playhouse activity, bragging that a song just concluded on stage so mesmerized its play-audience of shepherds that he "pick'd and cut most of their festival purses." We can imagine the Globe audience nervously checking their belts at this line, since cutpurses abounded in the theaters. Autolycus, of course, is a country cutpurse, one of those rural predators the activities of whom England's 1572 anti-vagrancy law sought to curb (outlawing many traveling player groups in the process). So some might see a closer Shakespearean resemblance to Dickens's London Dodger in Falstaff, who also profits from urban thievery. Falstaff "must cony-catch," or rob gullible victims (see hilarious woodcut, above right). Or perhaps Falstaff's more like the Artful Dodger's wicked boss Fagin, and Falstaff's confederate Pistol is the Dodger analogue, since in The Merry Wives of Windsor Pistol robs for Falstaff as well as for himself. (There's a boy who hangs out with Falstaff's crowd, but he's just too sweet to be the Dodger.) Such seedy characters' stage popularity was assisted in Shakespeare's day by a wide array of cheap pamphlet literature explaining the tricks of the underworld trade, complete with lexicons of criminal jargon, ostensibly written to help citizens evade thievery, but maybe serving as instruction manuals to some. Esteemed Shakespeare scholar Arthur F. Kinney's Rogues, Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars gives a fascinating account of this world and Shakespeare's place in it. Why not conclude with Oliver!'s Ron Moody's inimitable song? "Robin Hood, what a crook! Gave away what he took. Charity's fine, subscribe to mine. Better pick a pocket or two!" Or, the executive version: "Why should we break our backs stupidly paying tax? Better get some untaxed income. Better pick a pocket or two!"
Question: What was the special significance of the date "March 25th" to Shakespeare and his fellow Elizabethans?
Answer: It was known as "Lady Day," but this of course had nothing to do with Billie Holiday. March 25th was the Feast of the Annunciation, commemorating the Archangel Gabriel's visit to the Virgin Mary. I like his racing-striped wings in the above painting. At least as or perhaps even more interesting, in Shakespeare's time in England -- indeed, until 1752 -- March 25th rather than January 1st was the official first day of the year. England held on to its calendar for over 150 years after Pope Gregory altered the calendar of Christendom, which must have made for substantial confusion in England's interactions with other European countries. England adhered to the earlier or Julian calendar, which dated from Ancient Roman times. Very likely the choice to ignore the new Gregorian calendar had to do with England's general and official distaste at this time for popes and all their pomps and works, and it's only a little ironic that England's Protestant individualism left the country using a traditional church holiday as New Year's Day (though some think most Englishmen and Englishwomen informally used January 1st as the new year's first day, like the rest of Europe, even before 1752). In any case, when Parliament officially adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 it lost 11 days from its calendar, which means English people got 11 days older than they really were. That wasn't fair. What does this have to do with Shakespeare? Why, all roads lead to Shakespeare. Did you ever wonder why time is so wacky in Othello? Why days seem to get lost, and the calendar is referred to every now and then? Certainly you have. Well, Steve Sohmer has made a convincing case that the time problem in Othello involves Shakespeare's complicated joke about the calendar problem, which was a fairly new problem around the time Shakespeare wrote the play. (See "The 'Double Time' Crux in Othello Solved" in English Literary Renaissance, Spring, 2002.)
March 17, 2014, Shakespeare challenge: What would Shakespeare have thought of this image?
Answer: I'd like to say he'd be as disturbed by it as your average Irish visitor to Notre Dame. However, he probably would have recognized the "Fightin' Irish" stereotype. His most notable Irishman, Captain Macmorris in Henry V, is quite disputatious. Macmorris takes quick offense when the Welsh captain Fluellen says, "there is not many of your nation --," interrupting, "Of my nation? What ish my nation? Ish a villain, and a basterd [sic], and a knave, and a rascal. What ish my nation? Who talks of my nation?" He means Fluellen is a bastard for implying that he, Macmorris, has some other "nation" than England. This Irishman's English patriotism is about as fanciful on Shakespeare's part as his strange accent (couldn't Shakespeare just write regular dialogue and have a player speak it "Irish"? Is this where G. B. Shaw learned to write his bizarre-sounding "regional" characters?). Are there other Irishmen in Shakespeare? Well, there are other references to Ireland. Hamlet strangely swears by St. Patrick after seeing his father's ghost for the first time. "St. Patrick's Purgatory" was a mythical cavern in Ireland thought by some who believed in Purgatory (no Protestant English person was supposed to) to be a tunnel to that region. Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt has written a whole book based on this line of Hamlet's, expressing the thesis that even though Purgatory was a banned Catholic doctrine in Protestant England, Hamlet's father's ghost speaks from there, and audiences entertained that offered fallacy. Other Irish references? Hapless Richard II goes off to fight the Irish, the "rough rug-headed kerns, / Which live like venom where no venom else / But only they have privilege to live." In his clever but ethnically insensitive way, Richard is referring to the myth that St. Patrick drove all the snakes ("venom") out of Ireland, but left the venomous Irish, who are rough and don't comb their hair properly. Two hundred years after Richard's death, when the actor playing him spoke these lines in a London playhouse, the Irish, still not happy to be England's subjects, were continuing to rebel, and soon Elizabeth would send the Earl of Essex to bring them into line. Instead, Essex made a deal with their leader. Perhaps Essex's friends hired Shakespeare's company to restage Richard II in 1601, on the eve of Essex's power-play against Queen Elizabeth, because they saw an image of Essex in Richard -- or perhaps they thought Essex more like the bold Bolingbroke, who pushes Richard II from the throne.
Happy St. Pat's!
Question: For what play did Shakespeare's company have to apologize publicly, and why?
Answer: No, Shakespeare fans, it wasn't Richard II. Queen Elizabeth may not have liked that deposition scene, but she never got a public apology for it (though who knows what happened in Star Chamber). And while self-deprecating apologies for the shortcomings of performances are found in or at the ends of several Shakespeare plays, the only play that required a public "apologia" in the Renaissance sense of the word (meaning an apology that's more like a self-defense) was Henry IV, Part 2. The apology was for Falstaff, the fat drunken knight who enlivens both part 1 and part 2 of Henry IV (pictured above). Why apologize for him? Because someone in Shakespeare's company, perhaps Shakespeare himself, had originally, less than brilliantly, named this disreputable character "Oldcastle," after the Lollard martyr John Oldcastle, an ancestor of a powerful court nobleman named William Brooke. This was risky from the get-go, but became especially problematic when Brooke was suddenly appointed Lord Chamberlain in 1596. This made Brooke, Oldcastle's proud descendant, the obligatory patron of Shakespeare's theater company. Brooke was then required to be the informal host of court entertainments when the Lord Chamberlain's Men were performing. The players must have been sweating bullets at the Christmas festivities in 1596, as they complied with the official request that they perform Henry IV, part one, in which Brooke's ancestor "Oldcastle" swigged ale, made dirty jokes, robbed the king's exchequer, and in all ways acted liked the character we would come to know and love in later centuries as Falstaff. Surviving reports of that court occasion indicate Brooke did not take it well. It's no surprise that a hasty name change was arranged for the second play in the series, and that an epilogue was appended that assured audiences the character's name was Falstaff, damn it, Falstaff, NOT Oldcastle, "for Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man." While some scholars have argued that the name-change was a response to protests of Puritan audience members against their proto-Protestant hero, Oldcastle, being portrayed as a drunk, Shakespeare scholar James M. Gibson has persuasively argued otherwise (see his "Shakespeare and the Cobham Controversy," Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 25). He shows it's really much more likely that the Lord Chamberlain's Men were fast-stepping to stay out of trouble with their new patron (who, luckily for them, didn't hold that office long). One might see in the apology at the end of Henry IV, part 2 Shakespeare's sly attempt to keep the controversy alive. (The epilogue doth protest too much, methinks.) Maybe the actors didn't like William Brooke (most people didn't). Probably they saw that their audiences were delighted by the scandal. Certainly Shakespeare kept making jokes about Falstaff's name in later plays. In The Merry Wives of Windsor, a woman asks Falstaff's servant, "What do you call your knight's name, sirrah?" The boy responds, "Sir John Falstaff." Puzzled, a man asks, "Sir John Falstaff?" "Hee, hee, I can never hit on's name," says another woman. And in Henry V, people similarly struggle with Falstaff's name. Who is "the fat knight with the great-belly doublet . . . he was full of jests and gibes and knaveries and mocks -- I have forgotten his name," says Captain Fluellen. "Sir John Falstaff," his companion has to remind him. Even Shakespeare's rival, Ben Jonson, got into the game. In a 1597 play, he has a character named "Cob" -- which sounds like "Lord Cobham," Brooke's title -- claim "to be able to smell the ghost of his ancestor." So in the playhouses, Shakespeare got away with the mockery. He was a crafty fox.
Question: In Shakespeare's day, what was a "rattoner"?
Answer: A rat-catcher. This was a professional office, if a lowly one. The rattoner above carries a box filled with rat poison, and advertises his skill with a jaunty rat flag. In Romeo and Juliet Mercutio insultingly calls Tybalt a "ratcatcher"; he's also, perhaps less insultingly, alluding to the fact that Tybalt is known as the Prince of Cats. (Think of Michael York's unforgettable portrayal of Tybalt in Zeffirelli's film; he wore a cap that looked like it had cat's ears.) Rattoners were a bit poetical and a bit magical. Elizabethans knew the Irish myth, related to the German Pied Piper story, that rats could be rhymed to death. In As You Like It Rosalind, reading Orlando's horrible rhymes, complains that she hasn't been so assaulted by poetry since a former life when she was an Irish rat.
Question: What line from a Shakespeare play was this 1998 Time Magazine image meant to invoke? Imaginary bonus points of you can guess the image's political occasion.
Answer: Nancy Gibbs's March 30, 1998, article, which featured this picture, was entitled "Outrageous Fortune," with a caption stating, "The slings and arrows of sex and politics have not dented Clinton's high ratings." Hamlet complained bitterly about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (which also, for him, involved sex and politics), but Clinton was and is obviously much more resilient than Hamlet. Maybe Hamlet should have borrowed some of his father's armor. The speech from which the lines are taken, as most Shakespeare aficionados know, is the famous "To be or not to be speech," in which a solitary Hamlet indulges in the most famous mixed metaphor in literary history, wondering rhetorically and aloud whether "'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them." It's hard to imagine how you would fight the ocean with weapons (though Achilles fights a river in The Iliad), but maybe the pointlessness is the point. Clinton, on the other hand, just let stuff bounce off him. The immediate occasion of Gibbs's article was former Clinton friend Kathleen Willey's then-recent 60 Minutes interview, where she recounted in vivid detail her already widely known story of how Clinton had groped her in the hallway outside the Oval Office. Monica-gate was already in full swing at the time. For those too young to remember who any of these people were, don't worry about it. It all seems even sillier now than it did then.
Question: In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins's futuristic trilogy, who is named after a Shakespeare character?
Answer: Coriolanus Snow, the head of state in Collins's dystopian nation (played by Donald Sutherland in the two recent films based on the trilogy).
Shakespeare's late tragedy Coriolanus is based on Plutarch's account of the victories of Roman general Caius Martius Coriolanus in the time of the republic. In an early scene, Coriolanus (magnificently played by Ralph Fiennes, above, in a 2012 film which he also directed) shows contempt for hungry "slaves" and "dogs," these being citizens who protest that their leaders "suffer us to famish" though they keep their own "storehouses crammed with grain." It's surely no accident that Collins chose Coriolanus for the name of her callous leader, whose government denies food to a starving population. It's also no accident that Collins's magnificent capital city is visually patterned after that of Imperial Rome (mixing historical periods, since, of course, Coriolanus and the Roman republic predated the Roman empire. But hey, it's fiction!).
By the way, Tom Hiddleston fans:
he recently performed the role of Coriolanus at the National Theatre. A broadcast was streamed live on Jan. 30th. Check the "Hot Shakespeare Links" page for details.
Question: What Shakespeare character and former Israeli prime minister share a name?
Answer: Ariel, from the late play The Tempest, shares a name with Ariel Sharon, who served as Israeli prime minister from 2001-06. The name is Hebrew and means "Lion of God." Shakespeare's Ariel is a spirit of light, imagination, and harmony who contrasts with the bestial Caliban. Caliban can only dimly hear and sense as well as dream of the magic of the island, while Ariel incarnates that magic. While Jews named Ariel are not named after Shakespeare's Ariel, Hispanic Ariels are, at least indirectly. Since 1900, "Ariel" has been a popular name for men in Latin America, a fact which owes much to Ariel, the Uruguayan author Jose Enrique Rodo's influential essay which drew its symbolism from Shakespeare's play. (Rodo's name should have a couple of accent marks, but I can't make them on this program.) Rodo saw Ariel as representing beauty, art, and spirit and Caliban as earth-bound utilitarianismo (utilitarianism). He argued that Latin American countries, with their nordomania (mania to be like the U.S.), were in danger of succumbing to a lifeless utilitarianism. Embracing the spirit of Ariel (said he), they should instead adhere to both native and European traditions of beauty and art.
Of course, many of my students prefer to make a Disney connection.
Question: What Shakespeare play was based on an episode in Don Quixote?
Question: Name the U. S. senator who quoted the following lines from Macbeth, and the situation in which he quoted them: "I am in blood stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er."
Answer: No, it wasn't LBJ talking about Vietnam, though I wouldn't be surprised to know he muttered those lines to himself on occasion. It was Senator Joseph McCarthy, who quoted this passage more than once in the 50s when publicly haranguing some hapless soul accused of Communism, in his dubious service on the House Unamerican Activities Committee. (The word "Unamerican" looks strange whether you capitalize the first "a" or not. Maybe there's something wrong with the word.) McCarthy meant that with members of the Communist party, one step led irresistibly to the next. The other Mac was more self-aware. Unlike Joe M., Shakespeare's Scotsman had a sense of decency (at long last), and knew he was talking about himself.
Answer: The play was A Midsummer Night's Dream (though the top photo is not from that production, but another). Lots of New York audience members left when they discovered that the dialogue was in Portuguese (it was a Brazilian company) and that the nude scenes made up only about five minutes of the play. Presumably they went in search of other and more comprehensively nude Shakespeare productions, of which there have been more than you might think. One example was a 2007 naked Macbeth in Arlington, Virginia (second photo, with Macduff in Mac-buff). This production left most patrons embarrassed and half-watching with their programs in front of their eyes. The idea behind nude Macbeth was that the play represented a kind of "animal" humanity. (Animals have fur, feathers, or scales, though.) I didn't see the performance, but was surprised that in no accounts of it I have read is there any mention of the fact that Macbeth is the play that most frequently compares human thoughts and actions to the putting on of clothes ("The Thane of Cawdor lives. Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?," "Was the hope drunk wherein you dressed yourself?," etc.). That must have been funny, though perhaps only to some.
January 6, 2014, Kings Day Challenge (advanced): The Feast of the Epiphany calls for three kings. So, name three British kings in Shakespeare's plays who are not Plantagenets.
Answer: The Plantagenets were a royal dynasty that began with Henry II in the twelfth century and ended with the defeat of wicked (or not) Richard III at Bosworth Field by Henry Tudor in 1485. That means all Shakespeare's English kings who ruled before Henry II or after Richard III were not Plantagenets. This includes the mythical King Lear, seen with his crown of weeds, flowers, and thorns above (as played by Ian McKellen about ten years ago), and first-century King Cymbeline, though both these early and somewhat imaginary kings might as well be styled kings of Britain as of England. A third non-Plantagenet English king who shows up on Shakespeare's stage, in his last, probably collaborative play, is Henry the Eighth, he of the wives. His father, Henry Tudor, who defeated Richard III and became Henry VII, is indeed an important character in Richard III, but the play ends just before he's crowned.
Question: In Kenneth Branagh's production of King Lear in 1990, what actor played the Fool dressed in a dark shroud and whiteface, evoking, at times, the scream face in Edvard Munch's famous painting?
Answer: Emma Thompson. Branagh's Renaissance Theatre Company production starred Richard Briers (above, left) as Lear, Branagh himself as Edgar, and, as the Fool, Thompson, who looked like "a skull on a bent pair of tweezers," according to reviewer Tom Morris. Thompson's Fool was criticized for sacrificing the Fool's close human relationship with Lear to a symbolism of approaching death, as her Fool frequently stood apart from Lear, and as the Fool himself became increasingly visibly decrepit as the play progressed. Her disguise and performance, however, made certain passages in the play hauntingly moving, as when, in response to Lear's "Does any here know me?," Fool/Death hesitantly raised a hand. A few lines later, Thompson's rejoinder to "Who is it that can tell me who I am?" -- "Lear's shadow" -- made an ambiguous line clear and specific. She was his shadow.
Question: In what play are the following lines spoken? (Imaginary bonus points to you if you can name the speaker.)
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Savior's birth is celebrated,
This bird of dawning singeth all night long,
And then they say no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm --
So hallowed and so gracious is that time.
Answer: My apologies if this blog is inducing Hamlet fatigue, but the answer is: Hamlet. 'Tis the virtual non-character Marcellus who says this in the play's first scene, in response to Horatio's observation that the spectral apparition of Hamlet's father disappeared -- or "faded," which is interesting -- at "the crowing of the cock." The cock or rooster, a symbol of Christ, is thought (by "Some") to dispel evil spirits. Does this mean it is Christmastime now, and the Ghost is an evil spirit being banished by the rooster? It's "bitter cold," so it might be Christmas. Then again, the rooster hasn't crowed all night and kept the Ghost from showing up at all, so maybe it's not, or maybe it is indeed Christmas and "Some" are wrong about the rooster crowing all night. (How annoying that would be, anyway! I'd take the witches and fairies.) A less likely possibility is that it is Christmas and the rooster has been crowing all night but still didn't manage to keep the Ghost away, and so therefore the Ghost might be a wholesome spirit. But it sounds like the rooster just crowed once and the Ghost disappeared, so, either this story about the "bird of dawning" singing all night long at Christmas is wrong, or it isn't Christmas. This is the kind of thing Shakespeare scholars like to argue about. I could easily go on with this topic for an hour, but instead, since 'tis the season, I'll comment on a couple of other Shakespeare plays that also allude, at least obliquely, to Christmas. There's Twelfth Night, whose title refers to King's Day, January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, even though the play does not seem to take place during the Christmas season. Very likely it was named in honor of the occasion of its presentation. Elizabethans (if they weren't Puritans) celebrated all twelve days of the Christmas holiday, and the schedule of entertainments at court was crowded with the names of festive comedies like Twelfth Night. Then there's The Winter's Tale, which is set, at the outset, in a time of winter, whose darkness and cold are like the bitterness and hurt that characterize the first half of the play. That's not the end of the story, though. Winter turns to spring, and the changing seasons give the characters -- one in particular -- time to reflect on the pain they have caused, to feel sorry, and, by miracle, to find one another again. Near Christmas once I saw a production of the play in Chicago which began with the entire cast of characters beautifully singing the carol that begins
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron
Water like a stone.
It concludes, "What can I give Him? I will give my heart." This song was the best prelude to a play about a man who hardens his heart and so loses his soul, but then gives his whole heart to recover it. A line from The Comedy of Errors also suits The Winter's Tale's Christmasy conclusion: "After so long grief, such nativity!"
Question: What famed actor, playing the role of Hamlet in 1963, concluded that every character in the play was insane?
Answer: Peter O'Toole, may he forever strut atop a derailed desert railway train as white-robed Lawrence of Arabia. O'Toole played the role of the Danish prince under the direction of Laurence Olivier. Below, proving that Shakespearean actors are better at acting than figuring plays out, are O'Toole and Orson Welles in 1963, discussing their interpretations of Hamlet. Enjoy this televised conversation between the youngish O'Toole and the jowly, middle-aged Welles, who behaves, for my taste, a little too sycophantically towards O'Toole (not verbally, but in tone, facial expression, and body language). (I just watched it again. These are undeniably great actors, but it's like listening in to a group of high school students who've read the play once and are now trying to figure out the plot.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97R83-KMhhc
Question: Name two living actors who played the role of Othello, the Moor of Venice, even though they were white. (And still are.)
As you can see from the photo on the left, Hopkins as Othello gave new meaning to the phrase "green-eyed monster," used by his frenemy Iago to describe jealousy. I'm not sure what he looks like, but it's not Othello. Hopkins played this role in 1981, the tail end of the time when it was still culturally acceptable -- among some -- for distinguished white actors to play black men if the black men were characters created by that white author, Shakespeare. Patrick Stewart's story is different. As he tells it, he grew up wanting to play Othello (what an odd boy!), but "When the time came that I was old enough and experienced enough to do it, it was the same time that it [was] no longer acceptable for a white actor to put on blackface and pretend to be African." The solution? Stewart convinced director Jude Kelly to put on what critics would call a "photo-negative" version of Othello wherein all the "white" roles were played by black actors, and "black Othello" was played by the unambiguously white Stewart. (A possible exception, as I recall it, was Bianca, who was played by a white woman. Because Bianca is a victim of social disdain in the play, as, in another way, Othello also is, directors have sometimes cast her as the second black character, thus releasing the potential irony inherent in her name, which means "white." So this choice of Kelly’s also supported the "photo-negative" theme.) Of the production, Stewart said, "One of my hopes . . . is that it will continue to say what a conventional production of Othello would say about racism and prejudice... To replace the black outsider with a white man in a black society will, I hope, encourage a much broader view of the fundamentals of racism." It didn't. Patrick Stewart's a great actor, but the whole thing was just baffling. Had Stewart and Kelly subtly changed Shakespeare's dialogue so that all the anti-black racial slurs became anti-white racial slurs, "it had been something" (to adapt a phrase from Ben Jonson's criticism of the original play). A 1988 Mabou Mines adaptation of King Lear which did this sort of reversal with gender-related terms, and used cross-gender casting, was fascinating. In this one, it just seemed weird that Patrick Stewart was saying things like "black as mine own face." Audiences do have imaginations, but that one strained the limit.
Question: At Richard Nixon's funeral in 1994, he was memorialized in the following statements: "He was a man, take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again." What statesman said this of Nixon, and what Shakespeare character was he quoting, who was speaking about whom?
Answer: Henry Kissinger was quoting Hamlet's words about his father, spoken in act one of Hamlet. Hamlet is wrong. He's about to see his father's like in a few minutes, stalking martially around the battlements of Elsinore. But was Kissinger wrong? Has there ever been a Quaker like Nixon, before or since him? And despite Barbara Garson's mock-tragic Macbird (1966), with its LBJ hero, has there ever been an American president whose political career more closely approximated that of a tragic protagonist? Kissinger chose his quotation well.
Question: Which Shakespeare play has most frequently been adapted to science fiction?
Question: As if boys playing women generally weren't enough, Shakespeare's company's youngest male actors sometimes undertook to play pregnant women. What pregnant characters appear on Shakespeare's stage?
Question: How many and which characters are fatally poisoned on stage in Shakespeare's plays?
Answer: I count eleven poisoned folks. Hamlet is a poison jubilee. Not only does the Player, enacting "something like" Hamlet's father's murder in The Murder of Gonzago, die spectacularly in front of the Danish court from ear-poison administered by "one Lucianus, nephew to the king," but Hamlet, Laertes, Claudius, and Gertrude all succumb to various kinds of poison on stage in the last scene. Hamlet and Laertes are stabbed by the poisoned foil, Gertrude drinks the poisoned drink that was meant for Hamlet, and Claudius gets it both ways. (Horatio tries to get in on the mass poisoning here, but Hamlet prevents him. Someone's got to survive to explain this mess to Fortinbras.) There are of course Romeo and Juliet, who die together from poison: Romeo because he thinks Juliet's dead, and Juliet because she knows Romeo's dead. Regan, wicked daughter number two in King Lear, comes very close to dying on stage. She is seen succumbing to the effects of her sister's poisoning, and then, after she staggers off, her dead body's brought back in so we can be sure. Antony and Cleopatra's Cleopatra should be included, as well as her servants Charmian and Iris. All are directly or indirectly poisoned by the venom of the asp; all prefer to drop dead on stage rather than participate in Caesar's triumph. There is plenty of "talk of . . . poisoning" in Shakespeare, to quote Hamlet, but these are the only instances where we actually see it. (I am not going to investigate all these new old plays that we are discovering Shakespeare had a hand in!) Poison is frequently metaphorical, as when Iago pours jealousy-inducing words into Othello's ear and then brags, "The Moor already changes with my poison." Poisoning sometimes has already happened, as in Claudius's weird pre-play poisoning of Hamlet's father, which his ghost reports. And sometimes poisoning is narrowly averted. In Cymbeline, Imogen's wicked stepmother "doth think she has strange lingering poisons," which she tries out on poor cats and dogs and wants to use on humans, but good old Doctor Cornelius tells us they are really only sleeping powders, like Nembutal. This is a relief to pet-lovers.
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Question: What five works of fiction by Aldous Huxley take their titles from Shakespeare plays?
Answer: First, the one everyone knows. Brave New World (1932), a dystopian fantasy, pulls its title from Miranda’s awestruck exclamation near the close of The Tempest: “O brave new world, that has such people in it!” Often thought to refer to Prospero’s magic island, which some modern scholars locate in the Americas (the New World, to Shakespeare and his contemporaries), Miranda’s remark is actually prompted by her first sight of the European men who’ve washed up on the island. Europe, full of such creatures, will be new to her. Woo hoo! Prospero, who drily responds, “’Tis new to thee,” knows the new world is an old one, and no utopia. No more is Huxley’s techno-paradise, where artificially created babies are the norm and folks worship Henry Ford. “Ford’s in his flivver, and all’s right with the world."
Then there's Mortal Coils (1922), a collection of short stories, which takes its title from Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” speech. “Coil” meant tumult or trouble to Elizabethans, and Hamlet calls life a “mortal coil.”
Time Must Have a Stop (1944) tells the story of a poet’s hedonism and ends with the poet's religious conversion. Check out that 40s book jacket! Again woo hoo! Bet Huxley hated it. The title derives from Hotspur’s death speech in Henry IV, part 1: "But thought's the slave of life, and life time's fool/ And time, that takes survey of all the world, / Must have a stop."
Here is number four, Brief Candles (1930), a collection of short stories whose title comes from Macbeth's famous speech: "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow," blah, blah, blah. Now the last:
Here is number four, Brief Candles (1930), a collection of short stories whose title comes from Macbeth's famous speech: "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow," blah, blah, blah. Now the last:
Here's the one hardly anyone knows about. Huxley's late novel Ape and Essence (1948) takes its title from a short speech by Isabella in Measure for Measure. She says, "proud man, / Dress'd in a little brief authority, / Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd / (His glassy essence), like an angry ape, / Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven / As makes the angels weep." Man's "glassy essence" is his soul, a thing both breakable and, like a mirror, self-revealing. Proud man ignores his immortal soul and behaves bestially. This idea fits Ape and Essence, a totally weird sci-fi story about a post-holocaust world that's been destroyed by intelligent baboons. Like all Huxley's works, it's chock full of allusions to Shakespeare. Read it!
Columbus Day Shakespeare Riddle: As we all know, Columbus wouldn't have made it to America without funding from Spain's King Fernando (Ferdinand) and Queen Isabella (below). So the question this week, in dubious honor of Spain (you'll see why), is, how many Spaniards appear in Shakespeare's plays?
Answer: Well, before answering I should remind you that during Shakespeare's career, Spain was England's religious and military enemy. As late as the 1590s, the fear of the Protestant powers (and the hope of oppressed Catholics, who didn't write many plays) was that Spain would invade and take over church and state. So don't expect highly admirable Spaniards to be jumping around gallantly displaying their virtue on the boards of London's stages. Having said that, I will admit that Shakespeare's first Spaniard, Don Armado of Love's Labor's Lost -- named in comic reference to the Spanish Armada, which a few years before had suffered a celebrated defeat off England's shores -- is not just a pompous, ridiculous, ruff-vaunting, sword-waving blowhard, though he is all that, but a decent gentleman and an ardent wooer who is no less likeable for being ridiculous. (That's Shakespeare for you.) The Merchant of Venice's Arragon (or Aragon), oddly called a prince although Spain's monarchs had by the time in which the play is set assumed rule over all Spain's provinces, is more arrogant (pun) than Armado, and less charming. His choice of the silver casket in Portia's wooing contest, made because he "will not jump with common spirits," shows Spanish aristocrats as many Elizabethans saw them: busy draining the New World of its silver (the English were jealous) and exhibiting haughty elitism. But even Arragon has a humble, likeable moment at the end of his scene, when, looking at the "portrait of a blinking idiot" that has been his prize, he admits he's been a fool. The third Spaniard in Shakespeare appears in Cymbeline. It's not a very good role. He's in a tavern, one of a group of men representing various European nations -- anachronistically, since the play is set in late antiquity, before the nations existed -- and he doesn't even get to say anything, or merit a name beyond "the Spaniard." The fourth and last outright Spaniard in Shakespeare is the ill-fated wife of Henry the Eighth, Katherine of Aragon, in his last play, Henry the Eighth. Interestingly, however, there may be some covert Spaniards elsewhere in Shakespeare's plays. Don Pedro in Much Ado about Nothing is named Pedro, not Pietro. Where's he from? [After initial post, Alberto Cacicedo reminds me that Don Pedro is a prince of Aragon, and so a Spaniard too, as would be his brother, Don John. Two more Spaniards.] Also, if Iago's really from Venice, why is he named Iago, rather than "Jachimo," the Italian version of his name? The name of Iago's patsy, Roderigo, is Spanish, too. Interesting. Strange. The scholar Eric Griffin has a fascinating theory about this, but to find out what it is you'll have to read his "Un-Sainting James: Or, Othello and the 'Spanish Spirits' of Shakespeare's Globe" (Representations 62 [Spring 1998]). Spanish swords get mentioned a lot in Shakespeare, and they are presented in a better light than the Spanish characters, perhaps because they were known in Elizabethan and Jacobean England as through the rest of Europe as the finest, most supple blades. Othello stabs himself with a "sword of Spain" (sorry if that was a spoiler), and The Merry Wives of Windsor contains a reference to a "bilbo," a fine sword made in the Spanish city of Bilbao. (Now we know that Bilbo Baggins's surname means "Sword." No wonder he's so fond of Sting). Okay. Bastante..
Question: What Shakespeare play was at the root of the 1849 Astor Place riot, in which 25 Manhattanites were killed and and 120 injured at the Astor Place theater?
Answer: The Scottish play, of course! The bloody May 10th event was fueled by animosity between upper-class New York Anglophiles, who thought British actors the only true actors of Shakespeare, and mostly working-class American supporters of Edwin Forrest, the first home-grown American Shakespearean actor-manager, who had just appeared as Macbeth in a New York theater somewhat less classy than Astor Place, and had earned great cheers with Macbeth's late line, "What rhubarb, cyme, or what purgative drug would scour these English hence?" When the visiting British actor Charles Macready opened his Macbeth performance a few days later at the opera house, he and his fellow players were cried down by Forrest supporters who had packed the house, then pelted with rotten fruit, shoes, eggs, and even chairs, as they bravely attempted to continue their performance in pantomime. These theater patrons made the rude observers of Love's Labor's Lost's "Pageant of Nine Worthies" look like models of grace, by comparison. Shakespeare was spinning in his grave. The violence spilled out into the street and became a riot, injuring scores of people and, as noted, killing twenty-five. Perhaps it was for superstitious fear of another such ugly scene that patrons were warned (via loudspeaker) not to say aloud the name of the play they were about to see, at a recent production of -- that play -- at Lincoln Center, starring the Scottish actor Alan Cumming.
Question: How many "Emilia"s are there in Shakespeare, and in what plays do they appear?
Answer: I count three Emilias. They appear on stage at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of Shakespeare's career. The first is the abbess of Ephesus who, at the close of The Comedy of Errors, startlingly reveals herself as Emilia, lost wife of the wandering Egeon, in a smashing reunion scene. (In a production I once saw in New York, the abbess discarded her wimple to reveal a shock of bright red hair.) The second and most famous Emilia is Desdemona's servant, Iago's wife Emilia, in Othello (pictured above). This Emilia is fascinating. She is the one responsible for the loss of the handkerchief, which loss pushes Othello over the edge into murderous jealousy. She steals Othello's precious gift to Desdemona and gives it to Iago, who gets it to Cassio, and Othello sees it in Cassio's possession. (As a murder motive it's trifling, but as Iago puts it, "trifles light as air / Are to the jealous confirmations strong / As proofs of holy writ.") Even when Emilia knows the loss of the magical gift is tearing Desdemona's and Othello's marriage apart, she doesn't reveal what happened to it, which makes her vociferous rage at Othello, when she sees that he's murdered his wife (spoiler!), a study in projected guilt. Emilia has lots of secrets (has she slept with Othello, in a failed attempt to advance her own husband's career? See 4.3.86-87), and they all stem from her misplaced, abject obedience to her husband. That's why her greatest moment is her rebellion against Iago in the final scene -- alas, too late. This great stage Emilia was followed, at the end of Shakespeare's career, by a minor Emilia in The Winter's Tale, a lady-in-waiting to Hermione, Shakespeare's second falsely accused wife (in tragedy, that is. There's the comic Mistress Ford in Merry Wives, and Adriana in The Comedy of Errors). Curiously, in this play Shakespeare gives the role of defender of Hermione's virtue not to this Emilia but to another servant, the fearless Paulina, who's less conflicted and whose timing is better than Othello's Emilia. In The Winter's Tale, it appears Emilia's been demoted.
Now, was Shakespeare's interest in women named Emilia sparked by his interest in a certain dark lady named Emilia Lanier? A question for fiction to answer.
Question: What are the only two non-human mammals to appear in scripted parts in Shakespeare's plays?
Answer: There are two parts for non-human mammals in Shakespeare, should your dog or grizzly be an aspiring actor. The first, truly a star part, is that of Crab the dog in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Crab doesn't have to do much but just stand there and have his various crimes described in lengthy, bitter speeches by his master, Launce, who calls him a "cruel-hearted cur" and claims to have taken the blame when Crab peed on a woman's petticoat. Crab shows no gratitude, and was apparently played, in Shakespeare's time, by a not very well trained dog, since the dialogue allows for him not only to say but to do nothing but wag his tail. "Ask my dog," says Launce. in answer to Speed's question, will a certain love relationship "be a match?" "If [Crab] say ay, it will; if he say no, it will; if he shake his tail and say nothing, it will." The second on-stage non-human mammal is the bear who chases Antigonus off stage in The Winter's Tale (and then eats him. Off stage). Now, some may say this is not a part for a real bear -- see the discussion of this famous staging problem on the bottom of this blog's home page -- but I like to think Shakespeare's company liberated one of the poor bears from a nearby Southwark bear-baiting pit and let him have his moment on stage. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Fellow Shakespearean Mike Jensen argues for three mammals, saying the dog who accompanies "Moon" in act 5 of A Midsummer Night's Dream is a real dog and not a toy; Mike's dog Emma, who is also a Shakespearean, has also argued that dogs mentioned in The Taming of the Shrew and in Henry IV should come on stage, but this, according to Mike, is because Emma wants to play those parts. Moving into the realm of the monstrous, we might say Bottom the Weaver is half an animal part when he's given an ass-head in A Midsummer Night's Dream. But of course, he's played by a human. (Falstaff with his antlers in The Merry Wives of Windsor doesn't count. He's not really part buck, just pretending.) Since animals are talked about so much in Shakespeare, it may seem odd that there are not more actual scripted parts for them. And animals have frequently been brought on stage for various reasons (like the sheep who wandered around once in a Central Park production of As You Like It). Maybe this was done in Shakespeare's time, as well. But in general, Shakespeare liked to invoke animals as an idea, a challenge to the audience's imagination: the cur that Shylock gets called, the monkey to which Emilia gets compared in Othello, the greyhounds Henry V wants his soldiers to imitate, the "weasel Scot." (You know those Scots, always trying to sneak over the border.) In The Merchant of Venice, Jessica trades her mother's ring for a monkey, but unless it's scampering around in act 5, we never see it. Richard III calls for a horse in his last battle ("My kingdom for a horse!"), but it's conspicuously absent, and, fighting on foot, he loses." "Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them," urges the Chorus in Henry V. Okay. We can do that.
Answer: Emilia Bassano Lanier, a late-sixteenth-and-early-seventeenth-century musician and poet who sometimes resided at the court of Queen Elizabeth and, later, King James. The clues in the sonnets are cryptic -- "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" could apply to anyone -- but the numerous lines in the poems that stress the lady's darkness (“a woman color’d ill” is one of the more insulting) make it clear she was darker-complected than was then the English norm, and that means she was Italian. Right? Not convinced? Well, other sonnets which refer to her musicality, added to the facts that Emilia Bassano Lanier was the mistress of a man who served briefly as the patron of Shakespeare’s theater company and that she was thought to have other lovers as well, have led some Elizabethan scholars (like A. L. Rowse and Peter Levi) to think, “Aha! ’Twas she!” Certainly Emilia Bassano Lanier’s life was colorful enough in her own right. She was a contradiction: a scarlet painted lady who wrote deeply religious poetry, invented the “country house” poem (though Ben Jonson got credit for that), penned a remarkable defense of Eve (“Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women”), and was probably the first Englishwoman to get her poems in print without being Queen Elizabeth. Sounds like the stuff of an enthralling novel, doesn’t it? Yes, you’ve guessed it. My publicist's name is ME, and you’re reading an advertisement carefully disguised as a riddle answer. Or is it a riddle answer carefully disguised as an advertisement? In either case, if you click the link to Bagwyn Books below, you will soon be flipping the pages of a book National Book Award finalist Bonnie Jo Campbell calls “by turns poignant and hilarious . . . . a story of murder, blackmail, seduction . . . and makeup.” Go Emilia Lanier! Here’s the link: http://acmrs.org/publications/bagwyn. Click here! I mean, click there! Click, I say! Click, brothers (and sisters), click with care! Click in the presence of the passen-jare! (That's for my Twainiac friends.) (Twainiacs are maniacal Mark Twain fans. They're out there.)
Question: What Shakespeare play was originally titled All Is True?
Answer: That would be the play now known as Henry VIII, Shakespeare's last play, which most scholars think was the product of a collaboration between Shakespeare and his younger colleague, John Fletcher. All Is True was a bold claim for a playwright, but also a sly one, since after all, it's the title of a play and thus resides in the domain of fiction wherein, as Shakespeare's contemporary Philip Sidney argued, nothing is ever claimed to be really true. In Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn is a demure young lady who's dismayed and nonplussed by the married king's interest (Ha! Ha! Ha!), and King Henry has a "conscience" (Ha! Ha! Ha!). This play was directly responsible for the destruction of the Globe theater, showing that too much dramatic realism can be deadly. In 1613 a cannon was shot off to salute "King Henry" in an early scene, and the thatch of the playhouse roof caught fire. The building burned to the ground in minutes (proving that Shakespeare was right to avoid firearms on stage; see August 12 puzzle). Sic transit gloria mundi. However, there is every reason to believe that the play was also performed at the King's Men's indoor playhouse, Blackfriars. That's interesting because the trial investigating the legitimacy of Katherine's marriage to Henry, staged in act 2, scene 4, had actually taken place in Blackfriars nearly a century before, when Blackfriars belonged not to a theater company but to the (still Catholic) Church.
Question: Which Shakespeare play, set in the early middle ages, anachronistically features an apparent escapee from -- or person described as a potential patient in -- an Elizabethan mental hospital?
Answer: King Lear, wherein young Edgar disguises himself as "Tom O'Bedlam." "Bedlam" was the received pronunciation of "Bethlehem," the mental hospital in Southwark, only streets away from Shakespeare's Globe, which is now the Imperial War Museum (!). Playwrights occasionally visited the hospital and viewed scenes of pathos which more than a few of them tried to represent on the stage. Lear's Tom O'Bedlam is only pretending to be mad, but his odd repetitions and self-wounding behavior mimic the behaviors of the genuinely mentally ill. Poor Tom has inspired much critical analysis and creative adaptation -- including a Robert Silverberg science fiction novel called Tom O'Bedlam -- because he's so genuinely heart-rending, but also because he's such an interesting hybrid. He reflects the Elizabethan interest in madness as a clinical phenomenon as well as the competing idea of madness as demonic possession, and also the literary and mythic significance of the madman as a divine fool, akin to the wise fool, of which we also have one in Lear. (The above sketch shows "mad" Tom seated on the right, next to Lear's Fool in the middle; the king, raving, is mad himself, during this famous storm scene. See also the discussion of clowns, fools, and the difference between them, farther down this page.) The most eloquent recent description I've read of the Elizabethan fool-madman nexus comes from Yasuko Shiojiri's Nature on the Verge of Her Confine: Experiencing _Lear_, published by Osaka Kyuoiku Tosho in Osaka in 2010. Shiojiri writes that "In England, madness and folly were often used interchangeably before the mid-seventeenth century, when the budding medical science began to struggle to free itself from the religious and moral frame of reference and society began to place madness under its control by sequestering it in institutions" (19). Nevertheless, as Derek Peat has shown, Bedlam was not designed as a place of torture, but as a real hospital meant to cure its patients, and in some cases, it did ("Mad for Shakespeare: A Reconsideration of the Importance of Bedlam," Parergon 21:1 : 113-132).
Question: How many and which of Shakespeare's plays are set, all or in part, in Imperial Rome?
Answer: One. That would be Titus Andronicus, which is set at some vague time during the later empire, and contains, in addition to an emperor, a Queen of the Goths (as opposed to a Goth queen, which I think is something different). Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, andAntony Cleopatra don't count, since they are all set wholly or partly in Republican Rome, prior to empire. At the end of Antony and Cleopatra Octavius Caesar, the third member of the second triumvirate comprised of himself, Lepidus, and Mark Antony, is poised to become "sole sir of the world" (in other words, the first Roman emperor, Augustus, whose statue is pictured above), but he isn't quite emperor yet. A late Shakespeare play, Cymbeline, is set during the time of Augustus and features a Roman captain, but that play takes place entirely in Britain and France; it contains no scenes in Rome. Still, Cymbeline, which imaginatively represents a brave British battle against Roman imperial forces, is, next to Titus Andronicus, the closest thing in Shakespeare to a play of Imperial Rome.
Question: Is a handgun ever fired in one of Shakespeare's plays?
Answer: No. Despite the fact that by the late sixteenth century some folks possessed blunderbusses (early rifles) and "wheel-locks" (still huge compared to today's handguns, but with shorter barrels than blunderbusses), and despite the fact that John Webster, a younger contemporary of Shakespeare's, sends a character on stage waving a pistol in the 1613 The Duchess of Malfi (a female character, at that!), and despite the fact that Shakespeare even names a character "Pistol" in his Henry IV, he chose never to stage the firing of a hand-held firearm, real or facsimile, on the stage. It's swords and daggers all the way. (This fact has been obscured by all the cops-and-robbers productions of Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Chicago.) Though several Shakespeare plays allude to guns being fired, these are cannons, and are almost always not seen. (The sole exception is the pistol toted by the murderous Thaliard in Pericles -- a play set in the time before Christ! -- but Thaliard never fires it, and many scholars think anyway that the Thaliard scenes were written by Shakespeare's contemporary, George Wilkins.) Hamlet famously complains about the alcoholic Claudius celebrating each of his toasts with cannonfire, Hamlet ends with the invader Fortinbras bidding "the soldiers shoot" in honor of dead Hamlet -- cannons again -- and in Henry IV, Part 1, when Hotspur complains about a foppish messenger who disliked the "vile guns" at the Battle of Holmedon, he's also talking about cannons (unhistorically, since there were no cannons at the Battle of Holmedon in northern England in 1403). Pistol, who shows up in the same play as Hotspur, is explosive, but he waves a sword, not a handgun. We do see a small cannon in Henry VI, Part 1, when a French master gunner decides to shoot a noble Englishman with "a piece of ord'nance" set up in a tower. His son helps him light it, and they shoot, dishonorably, from behind a wall. Those French! When the cannons went off in the playhouse the sound was simulated, sometimes by actors rolling cannonballs around on floors, always by the echo in audiences' imaginations, and perhaps once by a real gun being fired off stage. (In Henry V, the Chorus's report to the audience that at the Battle of Harfleur "the nimble gunner / With linstock now the devilish cannon touches" is followed by this stage direction: Alarum, and chambers go off. Hope no one was hurt.) Shakespeare seems to have been fascinated by gunpowder and the threat it posed to ancient traditions of chivalry, as guns in his era got smaller and more capable of being carried by knights. (I mean, don't you think there's something wrong with the picture, above?) Here's a puzzle I haven't been able to solve. Towards the end of Henry IV, Part 1, Hal encounters Falstaff on the battlefield at Shrewsbury. Hal, desperate to do a chivalrous deed, tells Falstaff, "lend me thy sword." Falstaff offers (anachronistically) to give him a "pistol" instead. What does Hal do? Does he utterly reject the ignoble offer? No. He says, "Give it me." Fortunately, Falstaff doesn't really have a pistol, he just has a bottle of booze, which Hal throws disappointedly on the ground. Otherwise, I guess Hal would have hunted down his valiant, honorable, chivalrous rival Hotspur and shot him dead.
Question: This one's for my Russian readers. In one of Shakespeare's latest plays, The Winter's Tale, Hermione, wife to the King of Sicilia, proudly proclaims, "The emperor of Russia was my father." Who was the emperor of Russia when Shakespeare wrote these lines?
Answer: Vasili IV, who succeeded an emperor whose name Shakespeare would have liked: "False Dmitry II." Vasili IV ruled between 1606 and 1612. He is not known to have had family connections in Sicilia.
Question: Name all the monarchs who are killed on stage in Shakespeare's plays.
Answer: Henry VI is killed by bad Richard of Gloucester in Henry VI, part 3. Then Richard, after he becomes Richard III, gets his. He's stabbed on stage by Henry, Earl of Richmond, at the end of Richard III ("The bloody dog is dead!"). Poor Richard II gets stabbed in his prison cell by the two most long-winded anonymous murderers in stage history, then gets dragged off to be stuffed in a barrel of wine. Hamlet features three on-stage king-killings. There's the Player King, who's killed in a playlet as Hamlet, Claudius, and Gertrude watch. (He's as real as all the other fake kings, isn't he?) There's King Claudius, pictured above, who's killed not in that confessional scene but in the last scene (doubly, with poison drink and poisoned sword). I also count young(ish) Hamlet, since he appears to be king for about two minutes before croaking (else whence comes his authority to bequeath the throne to Fortinbras? And he has earlier called himself "the Dane," a royal title, when challenging Claudius). Maybe we can also include Tamora, Queen of the Goths, who is stabbed in the horrible blood bath that concludes Titus Andronicus. Emperor Saturninus gets stabbed here too; I'll include him, since an emperor's a sort of mega-king. Next, Macduff kills Macbeth on stage, then drags him off, after which Malcolm comes back in holding Macbeth's head. I like it. Finally, Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, kills herself through snake-bite, then drops dead. That's it. Some monarchs (Lear, Henry IV) die but aren't killed. Others (like Duncan and wicked, incestuous Antiochus) are killed, but not in front of us (except in Roman Polanski's Macbeth. Wrong, Roman!). Shakespeare would probably have liked to stage Pericles' Antiochus being zapped by divine lightning and burned up in a chariot but found it beyond the resources of his stage, so he sent somebody in gleefully to tell the ghastly story. Maybe he told it himself. In Macbeth, Shakespeare seems to have wanted to leave the horror of certain things up to the audience's fancy so we might share Macbeth's own "horrible imaginings." Thus Lady Mac's suicide happens off stage except in bad productions, and so, earlier, does the murder of Duncan.
Did I miss any? Let me know. Meanwhile:
Question: What actress gained an audition to the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s by showing up (in Trevor Nunn's description) with almost nothing on?
Answer: Helen Mirren (now Dame Helen Mirren), of course. Doesn't it seem like something she'd do? In a relatively recent interview, former RSC artistic director Trevor Nunn recalled that there was no serious question regarding whether she would be allowed to audition, because she was almost naked. Fortunately Ms. Mirren turned out to be extremely talented as well as semi-exhibitionistic. She's still both, and rivals P. Stewart for the title of Sexiest Shakespearean (almost)-Septuagenarian.
Question: Can you name two plays in which Shakespeare refers to Russia or Russians?
Answer: While there may be more, the two that most easily come to mind are Love's Labor's Lost and The Winter's Tale. In The Winter's Tale, Queen Hermione, defending herself against her husband's unfounded accusations of her infidelity, proudly proclaims, "The Emperor of Russia was my father" (3.2). Hermione is named for the daughter of Helen of Troy, and her husband Leontes is King of Sicilia, so it seems that in this fanciful play Shakespeare was combining references to a variety of what to the English were far-flung and exotic locations, in keeping with the conventions of the romance genre. A more sustained and more comic reference to Russians occurs in the early play Love's Labor's Lost, where four lovesick suitors at the King of Navarre's court (including the king) approach the women they wish to court disguised (very badly) as "Muscovites or Russians," with purpose "to parley, to court, and dance." Such a bad idea. (See picture, above, from the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival's 2012 production of the play.) The women see through them immediately, though they claim to be "strangers." Why they choose "Muscovites" as a disguise is perhaps illuminated by a line in a sonnet by Shakespeare's contemporary Philip Sidney (sonnet 2 of Astrophil and Stella), where Astrophil, a worshipful thrall of his beloved Stella, calls himself a "slave-born Muscovite." "Muscovites" were apparently associated by the Elizabethans with serfs, or slaves. Like poor Sidney (or his poetic persona), the men of Love's Labor's Lost are in serf-like thrall to the adored but scornful ladies.
Question: In The Tempest, inside what kind of tree does the witch Sycorax enclose the spirit Ariel?
Answer: A pine tree. As Prospero reminds Ariel, "for thou wast a spirit too delicate / To act her earthy and abhorr'd commands, / Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee . . . / . . . Into a cloven pine."
I feel this answer is too short, so I will add an amusing anecdote. When the above-pictured edition of The Tempest was outsourced to some hard-working and well-meaning copy-editors in Mumbai (yes, they outsource scholarly editing now), one of said hard-working and well-meaning Indian copy editors changed Prospero's subsequent threat that if Ariel doesn't shape up and stop complaining, Prospero, imitating Sycorax, will "rend an oak" (a tree upgrade) and stick Ariel inside it -- this sentence is too long -- anyway, this copy-editor figured that line must be wrong, and changed it to "I will rent an oak" (for the purpose). I wonder how much Prospero would have to pay per month to rent this oak? I mean, what are storage fees for unruly spirits on the magic island? Do oaks cost less than pines? Who's the landlord? Caliban? Awesome mistake.
Question: In Shakespeare's plays, what's the difference between a fool and a clown?
Answer: In general, a clown is a country bumpkin or some other kind of yokel, like Dogberry in Much Ado about Nothing. A fool, when he's an actual character known as "the fool," is a professional satirical jester who is as far from the mentality of the "clown" as it's possible to be. King Lear's Fool and Twelfth Night's Feste, professional fools, are urbane, knowledgeable, and sophisticated, and highly aritculate social critics. The word "fool," however, is applied much more broadly in the plays, and can encompass either clowns or fools or both (and lots of other people, too), depending on the context. Also, the behavioral contrast between the comic stage clown and the stage fool is not always sharply marked. The arrival of the witty Fool in Shakespeare is attributed to the Lord Chamberlain's (later the King's) Men's acquisition of Robert Armin, a verbally adept poet, a songster and musician, and a playwright in his own right; he played the fool in As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and King Lear. The clownish buffoons in Shakespeare were played by various actors, most notably Will Kempe -- an actor one might imagine taking a pratfall for yuks -- who left the company in 1599, but Falstaff, who, though not exactly a professional fool, is very much the satirical wit, was very likely sometimes played by Kempe. Also, Robert Hornback finds elements of both innocent clown and wise fool ("the sweet and bitter fool") in Lear's great Fool. (See Hornback's The English Clown Tradition from the Middle Ages to Shakespeare.)
Question: Where does Shakespeare refer to the Americas?
Answer: Shakespeare refers sparingly to the Americas in his plays, but he does do so. In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock says scornfully that Antonio, the merchant, has recklessly aimed one of his trading ships "at Mexico" (1.3). In The Tempest, the spirit Ariel boasts that he has zipped airily around to "fetch dew" from the "Bermoothes," which meant the Bermuda Islands. (Maybe Ariel was also installing the Bermuda Triangle.) And the word "America" occurs in The Comedy of Errors in a jesting passage when Dromio of Syracuse is comparing a kitchen wench's body to all the countries in the world. "Where [is] America, the Indies?," his master Antipholus asks, and Dromio answers, "O, sir, upon her nose, all o'er embellish'd with rubies, carbuncles, sapphires, declining their rich aspect to the hot breath of Spain" (3.2). (See this performed on the Fourth of July at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151674414083433.) Although Shakespeare rarely uses the term "West Indies," we can tell by context whether his references to the "Indies" are to India or to the Americas. Indies associated with mined jewels and precious metals are generally the Americas, where large parts of the silver-rich southern areas were in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries being dug up by the Spanish. (It's no accident that Aragon, the Spanish suitor in The Merchant of Venice, chooses the silver casket during Portia's wooing test.) On the other hand, when spices are mentioned, Indies means India. (John Donne asserts that "both th'Indias of spice and mine" lie in bed with him, in his poem "The Sun Rising." It was popular in the seventeenth century for men to compare women's naked bodies to the world.) In The Merchant of Venice, when Bassanio refers to "the beauteous scarf / Veiling an Indian beauty" (3.2), he means a babe from India. She has to be, because the American Indian women the Europeans had met mostly didn't wear scarves (or much else). In Twelfth Night, when Maria crows that Malvolio "does smile his face into more lines than is in the new map, with the augmentation of the Indies" (3.2), she means the Americas. India was on the old map. When Shakespeare, or possibly his collaborator John Fletcher, has a London porter say in Henry VIII's last act that the city women are crowding in so thickly to see the baby Princess Elizabeth that it's like "some strange Indian with [a] great tool" is on display -- hmm, what kind of Indian would that have been? I'm guessing it was American and not Asian Indians who the Jacobean English thought were blessed with "great tools," and that the fact that Henry VIII's subjects probably hadn't heard that rumor wouldn't have mattered to Shakespeare, Fletcher, or their audience. But I can't be sure. Time for a dissertation on the sexploitation of seventeenth-century Indians. (And one on nude women being compared to continents. Oh, I forgot, there are already a bunch of books on that.)
Question: Who, in what Shakespeare play, is named after a major character in Dante's The Divine Comedy? And why?
Answer: Beatrice in Much Ado about Nothing is named after Dante's heavenly guide in the Paradiso section of Divine Comedy.
Okay, I don't know why. But I have noticed a humorous and, I believe, conscious contrast between Dante's and Shakespeare's Beatrices. Dante's Bea shows up at the end of Purgatorio to take over for Virgil as Dante's guide, moving him onward and upward, as they zip along at the speed of light. In act 2 of Much Ado, Shakespeare's Beatrice -- for a predominantly Protestant audience, even though she's supposedly Italian -- leaves Purgatory out of the picture entirely, in her joking account of how the devil himself would never let her into Hell, but would send her straight up to "Saint Peter," where she would hang and party with the bachelors, "as merry as the day is long." Shakespeare's version of the afterlife seems much more fun than what Dante envisions (a continuous circling around God, forever and ever). Do not attack me, Dante enthusiasts, for there is also a serious resemblance between these two Beatrices' roles. Dante's Beatrice leads Dante out of the middle Purgatorial ground up to Heaven, while Shakespeare's Beatrice leads Benedick similarly forward in the earthly realm, forcing a choice on him: stay a boy, or step right up and be a man. He chooses the latter, and everyone's ultimately happier for it.
I suppose I should say somewhere that I don't assume Shakespeare read Dante. But everyone with any interest in poetry knew about him and his use of Beatrice in his great poem. There's another interesting English Renaissance Beatrice in Thomas Middleton's sick (I mean that in a good way) play The Changeling, where a woman whose celestially beautiful exterior hides her inward evil is given an appropriately double name, "Beatrice-Joanna."
Shakespeare's Beatrice is not evil but good, like Dante's Beatrice, but she's a lot funnier. Here's the great Emma Thompson as Beatrice, reciting the lines I've mentioned (and mentioning legs again! See May 6 puzzle, below) in Kenneth Branagh's 1993 film of Much Ado. (Whoever added the skippable ad for diapers must have read the play.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl0lBHti99A
And here's Catherine Tate on stage performing the role opposite David Tennant's Benedick (the production trailer's in the form of an ad, but it's worth watching anyway): http://www.digitaltheatre.com/production/details/much-ado-about-nothing-tennant-tate
And lastly, check the home page of this blog for my April 1 review of the new Joss Whedon film Much Ado about Nothing. At the end of the post there's a preview in which you can see Amy Acker as Beatrice.
By the way, the painting above is Gabriel Rossetti's famous Beata Beatrix, 1863.
Question: Though iambic pentameter is the predominant verse form in Shakespeare, it's generally not the form used by elves, fairies, witches, and spirits. What verse form is favored by these supernatural types?
Answer: Trochaic tetrameter. This means four two-syllable "feet" (though sometimes the eighth syllable is a silent beat), with the emphasis on every first syllable. Here's Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream:
If we spirits have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended.
And here is The Tempest's Ariel:
Of his bones are coral made , , ,
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea change
Into something rich and strange.
And Macbeth's Witches:
When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain? (and)
Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble . . . .
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
It's like a nursery rhyme. I mean, a really twisted one. By the way, the painting above, by Odilon Redon, is of Caliban, and Caliban speaks either prose or blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter). Maybe he's human.
Question: What was the male body part on most conspicuous display at the Elizabethan court?
Answer: The leg. Now, I know what kinds of minds you Shakespeare people have, so I'm sorry to disappoint you by placing legs ahead of penises. Some of you may even say hey! Wait a minute! What about those fancy Elizabethan codpieces with their buttoned compartments for candy? (No, I'm not kidding.) And who could forget Len Whiting and Michael York frontally advertising themselves in Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, with its fairly authentic 1590s costume design? Not me. I was ten, and I was shocked. So indeed, I would not argue that Elizabethan courtiers on the make didn't parade their junk in ways that would prompt double takes on most modern American beaches, if not European ones.
But the leg. The leg was it. Those codpieces (which were only one variety of masculine advertisement, favored by the bold young "New Men") wouldn't have looked so prominent had they not been set off, and indeed necessitated, by those tight hose in wild shades of peacock blue and orange tawny. In an age when women hid their legs, men could advance socially by displaying particularly fine ones, which meant not just walking gracefully and knowing how to "make a leg" in a courtly bow, but by dancing. Strutting like a turkey-cock in the slow pavane, leaping in the morisco, whirling about in a fast French galliard! Puritans did not think well of this, but until they took control, a man's ability to dance with quick steps, conspicuously displaying his calves, was not just a social but a political asset, not only in the days of Elizabeth, who loved dancing, but in the Jacobean period under her successor, James I. History tells us that during a particularly dicey moment at court, when James was displeased at the progress of certain affairs of state, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, suddenly leaped up and executed a series of quick, fancy dance steps, kicking so high that the king was pacified.
I don't know why, but that's one of my favorite stories.
At a Shakespearean dance workshop I attended recently, we discussed how quick footwork was also aligned with another skill expected of the Renaissance gentleman, namely the ability to execute complicated moves in swordplay. Rage for things continental could be seen in all these fashions: clothing, dancing, and rapier-fighting. (Puritans hated that, too. Not fighting per se, but the Continental inflections. Unmanly, they seemed. And un-English.)
Very likely the connection Elizabethans made between skill at dancing and skill with one's rapier accounts for the fact that some of Shakespeare's plays where duelling is important also feature significant references to dancing and legs. In Romeo and Juliet, we have the morisco at the Capulet party, followed eventually by the quick-flying rapiers of Tybalt, Mercutio, and Romeo. More comically, Twelfth Night features the swordfight manque between Viola/Cesario and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, which follows on the heels (so to speak) of a lot of leg talk and masculine leg display. Sir Andrew claims to be a master of fencing as well as of dancing, and his first scene ends with him capering about as Sir Toby Belch urges him to kick "higher! ha, ha, excellent." "I did think by the excellent constitution of thy leg, it was formed under the star of a galliard," says Toby. And do we even have to mention Malvolio and his yellow stockings, cross-gartered? The dour steward's proud revelation of legs clad in yellow -- showing his transformation, through self-love, from sober Puritan to colorful popinjay -- may be the funniest moment in Shakespeare.
Here it is from a production in Norfolk, England. The film is fuzzy and unfortunately you can only see the stockings for the first few seconds, but it's worth seeing anyway because Malvolio is played by STEPHEN FRY. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Vku489X-yI
And here's a link to view a man showing off his legs in a galliard performed at an Elizabethan festival. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfCWPmamCrc
But best is this (I can't stop posting this everywhere), a moment at the end of a modern Globe performance of Richard II where you see lots of actors pretending to be aristocrats dancing their hearts out. This is what players did. I love the Bishop of Carlisle kicking high in those crazy robes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91wKLUCRVZA
For a captivating account of men's and women's dance performances at the Jacobean court, see Kevin Curran's recent Marriage, Performance, and Politics at the Jacobean Court (Ashgate, 2009).