Monday, April 29, 2013

Shakespeare References in John Mortimer’s Rumpole A La Carte

Rumpole A La Carte, a book of short stories featuring the character Horace Rumpole, has many Shakespeare references. The volume’s first story, “Rumpole A La Carte,” has a reference to Hamlet: “‘When sorrows come,’ Mr. Bernard, ‘they come not single spies, But in battalions!’” (page 13). That is a line that Claudius speaks in the fourth act. That story also has a reference to Julius Caesar: “Claude looked at me sadly, as though wanting to say, Et tu, Rumpole?” (page 30).

The second story, “Rumpole and the Summer of Discontent,” obviously contains a reference to Richard The Third in its title. It is a play on the first line of that work, “Now is the winter of our discontent.” At one point in the story one character says, “Remember the Winter of Discontent, do you?” (page 54). This story also has a Hamlet reference in the line, “Manslaughter in jest; no offence i’ the world?” (page 49). That is a reference to Hamlet’s line in Act III: “No, no, they do but jest – poison in jest. No offence i’ th’ world.” There is also a reference to King Lear in the line, “After his movie show, Ernie Elver was called to give evidence, and, as a hard-pressed boss more sinned against than sinning, he clearly had the sympathy of his Lordship” (page 64). In Act III Scene ii, Lear says, “I am a man/More sinn’d against than sinning.”

The third story, “Rumpole and the Right to Silence,” contains a reference to Hamlet: “So far as Rumpole was concerned the rest was silence.” This, obviously, is a reference to Hamlet’s last line of the play: “The rest is silence.”

The fourth story, “Rumpole At Sea,” also contains a reference to Hamlet (actually, several). This one is an extended passage, which Rumpole quotes to his wife, Hilda: “‘I could a tale unfold, Hilda, whose lightest word/Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,/Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,/Thy knotted and combined locks to part,/And each particular hair to stand on end,/Like quills upon the fretful porpentine’” (page 124). Those lines are from Act I Scene v, from the Ghost’s speech to Hamlet. There is actually a second reference to that same scene: “There he sat, immersed in Murder Most Foul, the latest Howard Swaintown, when, glancing up after the discovery of the fourth corpse, he saw Hilda standing at the end of the passage” (page 136). “Murther most foul” is another of the Ghost’s lines to Hamlet. Later in the story, Mortimer writes: “Looking down the bar, I saw Gloria talking to Alfred, the barman, while beside me Swainton was babbling with delight at his ingenious plan. ‘See if he looks guilty,’ he said. ‘Do you think that’s an idea?’ ‘Not exactly original,’ I told him. ‘Shakespeare used it in Hamlet’” (page 152). Swainton’s idea was basically Hamlet’s The Mousetrap. Mortimer writes, “However, Swainton’s threatened re-enactment of the play scene from Hamlet seemed likely to add a certain bizarre interest to an otherwise tedious occasion” (page 154). Continuing this theme, Mortimer writes, “Obediently playing the part of guilty King Claudius, Bill Britwell rose from his seat and fled from the room” (page 155).

The fifth story, “Rumpole and the Quacks,” has a reference to The Tempest: “He did this with the avowed intent of causing a certain quantity of Rumpole to vanish into thin air and leave not a wrack behind” (page 163). That is actually a combination of two lines from Prospero’s famous speech from Act IV. Prospero says, “Our revels now are ended: these our actors -/As I foretold you – were all spirits and/Are melted into air, into thin air;/And like the baseless fabric of this vision/The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,/The solemn temples, the great globe itself,/Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve/And like this insubstantial pageant faded/Leave not a rack behind: we are such stuff/As dreams are made on, and our little life/Is rounded with a sleep.” And, of course, the story also contains a reference to Hamlet: “Does he protest too much?” (page 163). This is a reference to Gertrude’s line to Hamlet during the play scene: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” There is a second reference to Hamlet later in the story. A woman says, “Mr. Rumpole, isn’t it?” And Rumpole responds, “A piece of him” (page 173). In the first scene of Hamlet, Bernardo says, “Say -/What, is Horatio there?” And Horatio responds, “A piece of him.” This story also has a reference to Antony And Cleopatra. When Rumpole’s wife asks, “How are you, Rumpole,” he responds, “‘I am dying, Egypt, dying’” (page 164). Antony speaks that line to Cleopatra in Act IV. Twice.

The sixth and final story of this volume, “Rumpole for the Prosecution,” has a reference to Hamlet (surprise, surprise). Rumpole says, “’Use every man after his desert, as a well-known Dane put it, and who should escape whipping?’” (page 208). Hamlet says that line to Polonius in Act II Scene ii. This story also has a reference to Twelfth Night, when Rumpole quotes, “‘Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges’” (page 227). Feste speaks that line near the end of the play.

This book is more evidence for my argument that everyone should read the complete works of William Shakespeare. After all, someone who reads this book of short stories is going to get a lot more enjoyment out of it if he or she understands all the references.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Shakespeare Study: The Two Noble Kinsmen

I'm nearing the end of my Shakespeare study. I've read the thirty-seven plays, the poems and the sonnets, and now I've moved on to the apocryphal plays. In April, I read The Two Noble Kinsmen.

I have been reading the Yale version of the complete works during this study, and that book does not include The Two Noble Kinsmen. The Two Noble Kinsmen was not included in the First Folio, and was first published as a Quarto in 1634, and attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. There has long been disagreement over the authorship. While most scholars now believe it was written by those two authors, there are some who think that Shakespeare had nothing to do with it, while others think that Shakespeare wrote it alone. It is now often included in versions of the complete works. For my study, I read the Arden Shakespeare Third Edition volume, which was edited by Lois Potter. I enjoyed the play, particularly the Jailer’s Daughter.

Related Books:

- Shakespeare And The Two Noble Kinsmen  by Paul Bertram  -  In this book, Paul Bertram argues that The Two Noble Kinsmen was written by William Shakespeare alone. He makes a fairly convincing case. He also includes chapters on Henry The Eighth and The History Of Cardenio, the other two plays supposedly co-written by Shakespeare and Fletcher. Bertram writes that prose passages from the 1634 Quarto were turned to verse by early editors, and have been maintained as such be editors ever since. Bertram writes, “Nearly all the erroneous and doubtful lineation is found within scenes ascribed to Fletcher, which together comprise about 1450 lines in modern editions. The remaining scenes in these editions are generally free of such errors; they include the two scenes inaccurately printed as verse in 1634 but now corrected to prose, and ten scenes of regularly lined verse in which a few questionable details about half-line speech-endings and the like may be regarded as negligible. Every modern text, moreover, introduces into the scenes ascribed to Fletcher a host of minor verbal alterations (contractions or expansions of the sort we observed earlier) whose purpose is clearly to render the metrical arrangements more plausible; yet even with recourse to such liberties, not one modern edition has failed to print as pentameter many lines that the most broad-minded reader would be forced to reject, and whose authority does not go back farther than Seward” (page 30). Later he writes, “The assumption of dual authorship in The Two Noble Kinsmen has usually been maintained by critics who, in general, did not say very much about the language of the scenes they ascribed to Fletcher. When they did observe and comment on the language of these scenes, however, they were usually forced to acknowledge that it resembled the language of Shakespeare, but they dismissed these resemblances as instances of ‘elaborate imitation,’ apparently on the assumption that other kinds of evidence for authorship, less visible to the naked eye, must carry more weight; the language they found in the play did not influence them as much as did the words of earlier scholars, and as evidence they found it less admissible than the numerical abstractions of the metrical testers and the moral abstractions of the critics of character” (page 242). Later still he writes, “And if Fletcher had put his efforts into studying and adapting The Knight’s Tale in partnership with Shakespeare, it is more than a little surprising that no record appears in either Prologue or Epilogue. Such speeches, especially in plays written for the King’s company after the acquisition of Blackfriars, were frequently used to acknowledge collaboration or revision” (page 259). And then: “Waterson’s title-page of 1634, we may recall, is the earliest historical testimony of any connection between Shakespeare and Fletcher” (page 260). Published in 1965.

- Shakespeare, Fletcher, And The Two Noble Kinsmen  edited by Charles H. Frey  -  This book is a collection of essays on The Two Noble Kinsmen. Donald K. Hedrick writes, “In the play’s added subplot, moreover, the Jailer’s Daughter does see difference between Palamon and Arcite, but the difference is inconsequential since in her madness she accepts the unnamed Wooer as the surrogate Palamon and is thus fooled into sleeping with him” (page 48). Arguing that Shakespeare did no co-write The Two Noble Kinsmen, Hedrick writes, “The non-Fletcherian parts of The Two Noble Kinsmen, while rich in a Shakespeare-style poetic diction and complex syntax, are almost entirely devoid of the misconstructions, inference-drawings, and indirect modes of conversation that occur in what is summed up in the idea of ‘uptake.’ Typically, the dialogue there is more limited to direct speech acts, in patterns of question/answer, assertion/agreement or disagreement, and topic/comment, requiring less sense of the context in order to convey complete meaning” (page 75). Jeanne Addison Roberts writes, about Emilia, “but, whatever passion she may feel, she shows no joy on Arcite’s victory and speaks not at all to Palamon after she is awarded to him by default” (page 141). Richard Abrams writes, “Pressured by Theseus to accept Arcite as her master in marriage, Emilia in the second act exits with a mildly insubordinate rejoinder; on her heels the Daughter enters, trumpeting rebellion – ‘Let all the dukes and all the devils roar’ (2.6.1) – as though she has become the secret voice of Emilia’s resentment” (page 159). Published in 1989.

- The Gloss Of Youth  by Horace Howard Furness, Jr.  -  The subtitle of this play is “An Imaginary Episode In The Lives Of William Shakespeare And John Fletcher.” This play takes place at the time when they are at work on The Two Noble Kinsmen, though the beginning of the play states that it is April 1615 (two years later than most scholars believe the play to have been written). Early in the play Shakespeare says, “Dan Chaucer hath told the tale well, but it is naught but a tale at best. What was it you called this – play?” Fletcher responds, “The Two Noble Kinsmen – Let me see what thou hast writ –“ (page 14). So clearly Furness is stating that it is mainly Fletcher’s play. Fletcher then reads what Shakespeare has written: “Let us leave the city, before we further sully our gloss of youth” (pages 14-15). That line, from which this play obviously gets its title, is from Act I Scene ii of The Two Noble Kinsmen. Arcite says to Palamon, “let us leave the city/Thebes and the temptings in’t, before we further/Sully our gloss of youth.” Fletcher comments that “our gloss of youth” is a good line, then continues reading: “And to follow the common stream ‘twould bring us to an eddy/Where we should turn or drown; if labour through/Our gain but life, and weakness.” He then tells Shakespeare he doesn’t understand the last part. Those lines are from the end of that same speech by Arcite. Fletcher wants the two of them to get back to work on the play and, because Shakespeare seems to be in a bad mood, Fletcher tells him, “thou shalt have all the serious parts” (page 17). Fletcher mentions how they wrote Henry VIII together (page 16). Later Noll tells Shakespeare that he and his father were at the performance of Henry VIII when the Globe burned down. This play has references to many other Shakespeare plays including Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, Romeo And Juliet, Richard The Third (Noll acts out a bit from Act IV Scene ii), Henry The Fourth, Henry The Fifth, Hamlet (several references, including Shakespeare instructing the children, “Speak the speech trippingly on the tongue,” page 39), The Two Gentlemen Of Verona (only in as much as Nan’s dog is named Crab), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare says to himself, “Did e’er the course of true love run smooth?”, page 27), As You Like It, King John and The Tempest. And at the beginning of the volume, before the play, Sonnet 29 is presented in full. (By the way, two of the children in this play are Oliver Cromwell – Noll – and John Milton – Jack.) Published in 1920.

Film Versions:
Well, it turns out there really aren’t any film versions of this play. Weird, right? I read of one television adaptation from 1979, but it is unavailable (it isn’t even mentioned on IMDB). Well, never fear, for I am now at work on a screenplay. (No, I’m not kidding.)

Other Shakespeare Books I Read This Month:

- Serenissima  by Erica Jong  -  This is a novel about an actor named Jessica who goes to Venice for a film festival and to start work on her new film, an adaptation of The Merchant Of Venice, in which she’ll play the role of Jessica. She then magically travels back in time and meets William Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton in Venice. And of course, as this is an Erica Jong novel, Jessica ends up having sex with Shakespeare. Who wouldn’t? And of course she ends up disguising herself as a boy (and it’s while she’s dressed as a boy that Shakespeare first kisses her). This novel is full of references to Shakespeare’s works, and also to well-known bits of trivia surrounding his life (such as the “Master Shake-scene, the upstart crow” bit on page 68, and his will’s “second-best bed,” page 87). Shakespeare is even mentioned in the dedication: “For/My Mother and Father/who loved Italy and Shakespeare/before me.” The character Jessica was named for the Jessica in The Merchant Of Venice (which, by the way, is the first known use of that name, though that’s not mentioned in the novel). Erica Jong really works in as many quotes as she can.
Here are a few of the novel’s many Shakespeare references, organized by play:
Antony And Cleopatra: “The Contessa Venier is sitting in a gold chair (‘the barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne/Burn’d on the water; the poop was beaten gold…’), but no Cleopatra she” (page 64). “Eternity was in our lips and eyes,/Bliss in our Brows’ bent” (page 74).
Coriolanus: “’Some say the earth was feverous and did shake’” (page 86 – though the actual line from the play is “the world/Were feverous and did tremble”).
Hamlet: “’Not kind at all,’ he said, ‘or, as your poet says, ‘a little more than kin and less than kind’” (page 32). “He nods at the courtesans and makes a lewd gesture with his fingers to indicate copulation, country matters, lechery, the business of the bed” (page 118). “’Now cracks a noble heart,’ says the poet. ‘Goodnight, sweet princess, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest’” (page 146). “’What a piece of work is man: how noble in bearing, how like a god in reason, yet how treacherous and mean against his fellow’” (page 188). “’Ah, someday, Jessica, I shall, by my troth, write a ghost’s part and play it myself!” (page 198 – referring to the possibility that Shakespeare himself played the Ghost of Hamlet’s father). “’To drink or not to drink?’ he asks” (page 204).
King Lear: “‘Is this the promised end?’ he howls. ‘Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones. Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so that heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone forever. I know when one is dead and when one lives. She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass. If that her breath will mist or stain the stone, why then she lives!” (page 218).
Love’s Labour’s Lost: “the velvet leaves” (page 78).
Macbeth: “What would Lady Macbeth do? Would she succumb to fear?” (page 45)
The Merchant Of Venice: “’In sooth I know not why I am so sad,’ he says, quoting the first line of The Merchant of Venice” (page 45 – it then goes on to quote Salarino’s first speech). “Who choseth me must give and hazard all he hath” (page 97). “If you did know to whom I gave the ring,/If you did know for whom I gave the ring…” (page 111). “’A pound of flesh,’ jokes the Jew, my father” (page 128).
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “’I’ll speak in a monstrous little voice…’ Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act One’” (page 53).
Othello: “’I do not wear my heart upon my sleeve – for daws to peck at,’ says Lord S. as he hurries us along” (page 181). “Harry says, ‘I kissed thee ‘ere I killed thee!’ then plants a lingering kiss upon Will’s lips” (page 184).
Pericles: Jessica is put into a coffin in a boat, and there is a storm, and the coffin goes into the water, a fate similar to that of Thaisa in Act III of Pericles (pages 219-220)
Romeo And Juliet: “…or merely an Italian punk Romeo and his American bimbo” (page 74). “Would Romeo and Juliet, ten years later, walk by each other with never a flicker?” (page 96). “…the dreamy-eyed state wherein Queen Mab flits through one’s brain with her fairy train” (page 117).
The Tempest: “It was rumored that in Serenissima Shakespeare himself was to appear as a character representing the director, as Prospero represented Shakespeare in his last play” (page 6). “We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” (page 149-150; and yes, she writes “of,” not “on”).
The Winter’s Tale: “’Let me counter with a line from The Winter’s Tale,’ I say. ‘There was speech in their dumbness, language in their very gesture’” (page 53).
There are references to the sonnets as well. A character calls Jessica “my Dzark Ladzy of the Sonnets” (page 20). Later Jong writes, “…as to disguise Harry’s preference for the double-pricked pleasure of man on man, the passion of a master who is also a mistress, a master-mistress, so to say” (page 119). Several of the sonnets are presented in full, including Sonnet 61 (pages 14-15), 57 (pages 34-35), 129 (page 83), 42 (page 84), 135 (page 177), and 19 (page 195).
Published in 1987.

- Who Was William Shakespeare?  by Celeste Davidson Mannis; illustrated by John O’Brien  -  This is a children’s book about William Shakespeare. Interestingly, in the first paragraph, Celeste Davidson Mannis writes, “He lived four hundred and fifty years ago, wrote at least thirty-five plays, and more than one hundred and fifty poems” (page 1). Thirty-five? I wonder which one of the thirty-six from the First Folio she is doubting. Henry The Eighth? Or perhaps The First Part Of King Henry The Sixth? Later she writes, “Most scholars believe he wrote thirty-eight plays. The Two Gentlemen Of Verona is thought to be the first” (page 47). She writes, “Hundred or words and phrases we use every day were invented by him – words like cold-blooded, quarrelsome, and love letter” (page 2). A list of words and a list of famous phrases coined by Shakespeare are included. The book does mention how certain idiots believe that Shakespeare didn’t write the plays: “Some believe that Christopher Marlowe, a famous playwright of the same time was really Shakespeare. Still others even suggest that Queen Elizabeth I or a nobleman – the Earl of Oxford – may have written the plays. But grammar school then was very different from elementary school now. By the time Will finished grammar school, he had studied many subjects taught in college today, such as philosophy, history, and great literature” (pages 22-23). About The Globe, Mannis writes: “For the grand opening of the new theater, a flag with the Greek hero Hercules on it was flown. On play days, different colored flags flapped merrily in the breeze. A black flag announced a tragedy, white a comedy, and red a history play” (page 78). This book does mention several of his plays, including Titus Andronicus, The Taming Of The Shrew, Romeo And Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant Of Venice, Henry IV, The Merry Wives Of Windsor, Julius Caesar, Richard II (in relation to the Essex rebellion), Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear and The Tempest. In the bit on the sonnets, the Dark Lady is mentioned, but not the male friend.  Published in 2006.

Other Shakespeare Films I Watched This Month:

- The Reduced Shakespeare Company: The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (Abridged) – This is a live performance by The Reduced Shakespeare Company (Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor) of Shakespeare’s complete works. They begin with Romeo And Juliet, then do Titus Andronicus as a cooking program (perfect), and Othello, Moor Of Venice as a rap. All of the comedies (and this company considers sixteen of Shakespeare’s plays to be comedies) are done as one play, which they title The Comedy Of Two Well-Measured Gentlemen Lost In The Merry Wives Of Venice On A Midsummer’s Twelfth Night In Winter; or, Cymbeline Taming Pericles The Merchant In The Tempest Of Love As Much As You Like It For Nothing; or, Four Weddings And A Transvestite. They move back to the tragedies for Macbeth, Julius Caesar and Antony And Cleopatra. There is a joke about Chernoble (SPELLING?) Kinsmen, and they explain why they’re not doing The Two Noble Kinsmen. After Troilus And Cressida, they perform all of the histories as a football game (the order being something like Richard III, Henry VI Part 1, Henry VI Part 2, Henry VI Part 3, Richard II, King John, King Lear – though quickly disqualified – Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, Henry V, and Henry VIII). They mention Timon Of Athens and Coriolanus, but don’t really do any of either of those (yes, they cheat a bit). They refer to the sonnets, and then spend the longest portion of the show on Hamlet. They bring a female audience member up on stage to portray Ophelia, and get the rest of the audience to help out with her character too. This performance is a lot of fun, though I wish they would spend more time on King Lear.

- Acting Shakespeare (1982) with Ian McKellen. This film captures Ian McKellen’s one-man Shakespearean performance. It begins with him backstage, and he begins Jacques’ stages of man speech as he applies makeup in the mirror. He then continues the speech on stage in front of the audience. I love that he almost immediately addresses the foolish notion that someone else might have written Shakespeare’s plays. He then recounts his personal experiences in acting in Shakespeare’s plays, and performs some soliloquys and scenes from the plays, particularly scenes having to do with the art of acting. For example, he does Polonius’ bit about the various types of drama, and then does Hamlet as he first talks to the players, asking for a particular speech. And then he does the player’s part, performing that speech. He later does the famous instructions to the players. He performs the scene from The First Part Of King Henry The Fourth when Falstaff and Hal each take a turn acting as Hal’s father (yes, he does both parts). Ian McKellen talks about how boys performed the women’s parts, and then, with that in mind, reads the infamous Sonnet 20. He talks about the double meaning of “to die,” and then does a series of scenes from Romeo And Juliet, including a portion of the balcony scene (again, doing both parts). He does Garrick’s version of Macbeth’s death scene (which gets a lot of laughs), and then speaks Macbeth’s famous speech with the accent that was likely current during Shakespeare’s lifetime. He then discusses the “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech, breaking it down into beats and ideas. This is an excellent performance, and at the end he does Prospero’s most famous speech. (86 minutes)