Friday, March 24, 2023

Shakespeare References in Third Avenue

James Fritzhand’s novel Third Avenue contains a few Shakespeare references. There is one short paragraph in which Hamlet, Shakespeare and Romeo And Juliet are mentioned: “They circled Gramercy Park, then pulled over to the curb within sight of the statue of Edwin Booth posing as Hamlet. Beyond it, the ornate grillwork of the Players Club balcony seemed Shakespearean as well, a perfect setting for Juliet to call down to her beloved” (p. 181). James Fritzhand then refers to A Midsummer Night’s Dream by using the word “puckish”: “Then, rising up out of the water, a mermaid, flat-fronted, long-waisted, a face with sharp, puckish features, short gold hair like a cap pulled close to her ears” (p. 210). There is also a reference to Macbeth, with Fritzhand writing, “Michael thinks making money is the be-all and end-all of running a store” (p. 430). In Act I Scene vii of Macbeth, Macbeth says, “if the assassination/Could trammel up the consequence, and catch/With his surcease success; that but this blow/Might be the be-all and the end-all here.” And there is one other reference to Shakespeare: “You can think whatever you please, Mother. But in the words of the immortal Bard, you can also stick it up your ass” (p. 441).

Third Avenue was published in 1979, with the first Jove edition published in April of that year.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Shakespeare References in Between Two Worlds

Maisie Mosco’s novel Between Two Worlds is about a traveling Shakespeare troupe, and so it has a whole lot of Shakespeare references. The book’s prologue contains a reference to Shakespeare. There is a list of a character’s few possessions, including “a copy of Shakespeare’s plays, which he had scrimped and saved to buy” (p. vii). Then the first part of the book opens with a bit of that fantastic speech from Macbeth: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage…” (p. 1). In the book’s first chapter, the company is putting on a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and so there are plenty of references to that play. The first lines of that chapter are: “One of Alison’s earliest memories was of seeing her father transformed into an ass” (p. 3). Then Mosco writes: “Remembrance was evoked by the sight of her father once again playing Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But to twelve-year-old Alison, perched on a stool in the wings of the Theatre Royal, Bolton, on a winter morning in 1912, it was inconceivable that there had been a time when Shakespeare’s characters had not seemed to her like old friends” (p. 3). Alison’s mother is in the role of Titania. Mosco writes, “It was as if Shakespeare had had before him a painting of her, when he created Titania, the Faerie Queen” (pages 3-4). Then Alison tells her father, “Your portrayal of Bottom could not be bettered” (p. 5). Oberon is also mentioned: “Oliver caught Horace’s eye and doffed the crown he was wearing for his role of Oberon” (p. 8). And: “Gregory would have to take over the role of Oberon tonight” (p. 13). And some of the characters are named after Shakespeare’s characters. There is a Hermione, and there is a Jessica, for examples.

Then in the second chapter, Mosco writes, “When the tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream began, the wardrobe room had been staffed by three” (p. 9). Horace is trying to convince the others to expand their repertoire beyond Shakespeare. He says, “If you would only come down to earth, accept that our solely Shakespearean repertoire is simply not commercial, it might be possible to save the company from total disaster” (p. 11). Gregory says, “We shall keep our heads above water with readings from the sonnets and choice excerpts from the comedies” (p. 13). Then Mosco writes, “He revered Shakespeare no less than Gregory did, but was not prepared to continue living a hand-to-mouth existence in order to perpetuate the Bard’s work” (p. 13). Then: “As with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he would not recoup his outlay” (p. 14). Horace is Jewish, and Gregory says to him, “In the thirteen years you have been my son-in-law,. I have not staged The Merchant of Venice” (p. 14). Merchant Of Venice is referred to again: “But Gregory Plantaine had not found it difficult to equate Horace with Shylock” (p. 15). And again on that same page: “Which Shakespeare had immortalized when he created Shylock” (p. 15). We then return to A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “The actress playing Hippolyta called a friendly greeting as she passed along the corridor to her dressing room” (p. 17). Soon after that there is a reference to The Taming Of The Shrew: “Hermione laughed and the sound was not pleasant. It reminded Horace of her portrayal of the Shrew” (p. 19). And then All’s Well That Ends Well: “‘All’s well that ends well,’ Hermione blissfully quoted” (p. 22). It then goes back to Dream: “Bottom made his first appearance in Scene Two” (p. 22). And: “He left Hermione to finish transforming herself into Titania” (p. 23).

Early in the third chapter there is a reference to Shakespeare himself: “The Plantaines were nominally Christians, but it was Shakespeare, not Christ, whom they worshipped, Oliver thought” (p. 24). The book continues to mention characters from Dream: “And Grandpa had most certainly not enjoyed playing Oberon last night” (p. 26). Then in the fourth chapter, the company is performing Macbeth. Mosco writes: “The Players were currently staging Macbeth, which was supposed to be unlucky” (p. 30). And then: “Macbeth must never be referred to by its title, or disaster would surely descend” (p. 31). And: “Gregory had asked a young hopeful, engaged to play one of the soldiers, to take over Horace’s part of Macduff” (p. 31). And: “Most actors yearn to play Hamlet, but Horace’s high peak of challenge had been Macbeth” (p. 31). And: “His lifeless performance had, by contrast, made her portrayal of Lady Macbeth seem melodramatic” (p. 31). And: “Papa had been a failure as Macbeth” (p. 32). There is another reference to Shakespeare: “‘I’m the only female Plantaine not to be called after a Shakespearean heroine,’ Alison informed her” (p. 34). Then Mosco writes, “‘My wife wanted to continue the tradition and call her Viola,’ Horace told Lottie” (p. 34). Shakespeare is mentioned again in the fifth chapter: “How on earth can your Grandfather Plantaine hope to sell Shakespeare to them and their kind” (p. 41). And: “As life itself sometimes seemed the empty exercise that Shakespeare summed it up to be, in Macbeth” (p. 46). The sixth chapter also contains a reference to Shakespeare: “Yet she knew all Shakespeare’s texts by heart, before she was twelve” (p. 60).

At the beginning of the seventh chapter there is a reference to Macbeth: “The company was still touring Macbeth and playing to better houses than they had in the industrial north” (p. 68). There is another mention of the play later in that chapter, with Oliver asking Horace, “How would you like to play Macbeth for the rest of the tour?” (p. 75). In the eighth chapter, Horace is arguing with his wife. Mosco writes: “Who is she going to pull out of the hat? Juliet or Ophelia? Horace wondered” (p. 79). Then: “His wife had temporarily deserted Shakespeare’s heroines, in favor of the suffragettes” (p. 80). The ninth chapter returns to Macbeth: “Several of the actors in Macbeth had gone with Horace to enlist” (p. 84). In the tenth chapter, the company begins performances of Twelfth Night, Mosco writing, “By the winter of 1914, Gregory had managed to get together a cast to stage Twelfth Night” (p. 88). Alison says to Hermione, “I remember your losing several pounds when you last played Rosalind, Mama, so maybe playing Viola is having the same effect upon you – though it’s a much less strenuous role” (p. 88). Mosco writes, “When the company last presented Twelfth Night, her father had played Malvolio” (p. 89). Mosco then writes that Hermione “forced herself to return to the dressing table and resume transforming herself to Viola” (p. 92). Then: “Viola did not appear until the beginning of Scene Two, but Twelfth Night had only a short Scene One, which allowed Hermione little time to dawdle” (p. 92). That page also contains a reference to Shakespeare: “Hermione’s mind had, that evening, deserted the Bard, to concentrate upon her personal drama” (p. 92).

The eleventh chapter has another reference to Twelfth Night. Mosco writes, “The actor who was understudying him could have the pleasure of playing Malvolio to a packed Christmas Eve house” (p. 104). The twelfth chapter likewise has a reference to Twelfth Night: “Or Oliver Plantaine in London, on Christmas Eve, when the Plantaine Players are presenting Twelfth Night in Bournemouth” (p. 121). There is also a reference to Shakespeare, along with mentions of two plays: “There’ll always be a place for Shakespeare in the English theater – that goes without saying. The Old Vic has staged The Shrew this year, and the Savoy, The Dream” (pages 123 - 124). And there is another reference to Shakespeare: “But the Bard’s work is timeless and endures forever” (p. 124). And at a party, a woman approaches Oliver and tells him, “The last time I saw you was when I played Bianca in your father’s production of The Shrew” (p. 127). And Lucy asks, “Wouldn’t Mother be marvelous as Lady Macbeth, Mr. Plantaine?” (p. 133). And her twin brother Luke adds, “Or Portia?” (p. 133). Ruby, their mother, says, “I wouldn’t mind playing one of the Merry Wives of Windsor” (p. 133). Oliver then adds, “And Luke would make a delightful Ariel” (p. 133). Lucy says, “I should like to play Juliet” (p. 133), and Luke responds, “And I Romeo” (p. 134). Then in the fourteenth chapter, Hermione says, “Ruby May in a Shakespearean production?” (p. 159).

The second part of the book begins with a line from Romeo And Juliet: “Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love” (p. 161). The first chapter of the second part contains references to Hamlet and Romeo And Juliet, with Mosco writing: “Her grandmother had made hers playing Ophelia, and her mother Juliet. Alison had assumed that she, too, would be presented to the public in one of those two coveted roles. But her grandfather had produced Hamlet last season, and Romeo and Juliet, which was to open the autumn season, was in preparation now. With Lucy playing Juliet! Alison thought with a pang” (pages 164-165). There is another reference to Romeo And Juliet: “he was playing Mercutio and not presently required on stage” (p. 165). And then: “Had he cast Alison as Ophelia or Juliet, Ruby May’s fury would know no limits” (p. 165). Mosco then writes: “Gregory Plantaine, the autocratic actor-manager, was no longer a free agent, nor his repertoire solely Shakespearean. The latter was the consequence of the former, Gregory frequently apologized to the Bard’s revered memory” (p. 166). And: “Plays by Shaw and Maugham, Pinero and Galsworthy, Barrie and Ibsen, were a painful diversion from his own life’s work, but they were now included, along with Shakespeare, in the company repertoire” (p. 168). There is then another reference to Romeo And Juliet: “Gregory vented his spleen upon the twins, through their rendering of the balcony scene was not at all bad. ‘How I shall transform you into Romeo and Juliet – !’” (p. 168). That chapter contains more references to Shakespeare, with Mosco writing, “Gregory could have gone producing nothing but Shakespeare, if he hadn’t cooked his own goose” (p. 174), and “Gregory’s personal obsession with Shakespeare did not prohibit him from taking an academic interest in lesser works” (p. 175). Lucy then says, “We ought to be talking about Romeo and Juliet” (p. 175). There is another reference to Shakespeare, with the character Ruby saying, “They’d always been mad on Shakespeare and idolized the Plantaine Players” (p. 177). The next references are to Romeo And Juliet: “Afternoon rehearsal was to begin with the Capulets’ feast, a large-scale scene with which Gregory was not yet satisfied” (p. 178), and: “A mischievous quirk had impelled him to cast Hermione as Lady Capulet. Ruby had reluctantly had to make due with playing Romeo’s mother, Lady Montague – a lesser part” (p. 178). Mosco then writes: “For Shakespearean productions, Gregory had the final word on casting, and Ruby for other plays. Ruby had suggested this as a workable arrangement and Gregory had been relieved that she had. It was a way of keeping her hands off his beloved Shakespeare, and of ensuring she did not make a travesty of his work” (p. 178). And again regarding Romeo And Juliet, Mosco writes, “Jessica had the plum part of the Nurse, which she had played many times” (p. 178). Mosco then writes, “The mixed repertoire, after a lifetime of undiluted Shakespeare, and her husband’s unprecedented failure to maintain their former status quo, had disoriented her” (p. 180). And regarding Romeo And Juliet, Mosco writes, “Alison could go there now and watch the Romeo and Juliet costumes taking shape” (p. 181). And then: “Hermione turned her thoughts to Lady Capulet and, with satisfaction, to Ruby’s disappointment when she did not get that part” (p. 183). And there is another reference to Shakespeare: “But the pleasure of stretching her talent was tempered by a sense of disloyalty to her father and the Bard; and of injustice, because Ruby always had the leading role. Only in Shakespearean productions was Hermione able to score over her” (p. 183). That chapter also contains another reference to Hamlet, with Mosco writing, “but let us not forget the immortal words – ‘The play’s the thing’!” (p. 186). Then Mosco goes back to Romeo And Juliet: “These were Gregory’s dispassionate thoughts as the actors playing Maskers and Servingmen positioned themselves onstage for the Capulets’ feast. He went into the auditorium, to see how the grouping would look from out front when Capulet had entered with the Guests and Gentlewomen” (p. 186). Mosco then writes, “Romeo’s parents, the Montagues, did not feature in this scene” (p. 187). And then: “Gregory gave the signal for Capulet and his entourage to make their entrance” (p. 187).

The third chapter in the second part mentions Troilus And Cressida: “Hermione had pressed, in her copy of Troilus and Cressida, one of the tea roses from her bridal bouquet” (p. 219). The fifth chapter then goes back to Romeo And Juliet, with Gregory telling Alison, “You are now sixteen, Alison, and I have the utmost confidence in your ability to play Juliet, when we open tomorrow night” (p. 233). Jessica then says to her, “As my poor mother’s sudden death allowed me to step in and prove I was capable of playing Lady Macbeth, though I had not yet the experience for it” (p. 233). It is not long before there is another reference to Romeo And Juliet: “She took her copy of Romeo and Juliet from her bookshelf and began studying her part. Lucy’s ‘too sweet to be wholesome’ interpretation of Juliet was not how Alison would play the role. There were fiery depths to the tragic heroine, which tomorrow night would not be left unplumbed” (p. 236). Luke then asks, “What sort of Romeo is she going to make me look like?” (p. 236). This chapter contains more references to the play: “‘But not all entrances are required to be imposing,’ Alison countered. ‘And Juliet’s certainly isn’t!’” (p. 241). And: “It was Romeo whom she would love tonight! While applying her makeup, she imagined she was Juliet, seated before a looking glass in her home in Verona” (p. 242). And: “Alison wanted to present a flesh-and-blood Juliet, whose life is interrupted by events” (p. 242). And: “Juliet did not make her first appearance until Scene Three” (p. 242). And: “It was Miss Plantaine who emerged from the dressing room, but the girl who appeared onstage was Capulet’s daughter. When Alison stepped from the wings she stepped too, into the ancient city of Verona and into the heart, soul and being of Shakespeare’s best-loved heroine” (p. 243). And: “During the balcony scene, there came a moment Alison would remember always. Silence lay thick as a blanket in the darkened auditorium as she spoke her lines, and she knew she had made the audience forget they were seated in a theater; she had transported them backwards in time, into Juliet’s life” (p. 243).

The third part of the book begins with a line from Hamlet: “To thine own self be true” (p. 245). The first chapter of that section refers to Shakespeare, with Mosco writing, “It had caused her to rethink the meaning of drama and to view Shakespeare as a dramatist whose work, like Shaw’s and Glasworthy’s, held up a mirror to his day” (p. 247). That chapter also contains a reference to King Lear: “That’s what I meant when I said the degree of forgiveness was related to the nature of the sinned against” (p. 250), referring to Lear’s line “I am a man/More sinned against than sinning.” There is also a reference to Romeo And Juliet in this chapter: “How long ago it seemed since she had sat here in her Juliet costume, savoring for the first time the taste of success” (p. 255). The second chapter also contains a reference to Romeo And Juliet: “‘What’s in a name?’ he quoted wryly” (p. 263). The fourth chapter contains references to Shakespeare, as Mosco writes, “One month she would be performing in Shakespeare and the next in a revue, or a contemporary play” (pages 286-287). And then Alison says she’s bored with the company’s productions, “Including the Shakespearean ones” (p. 289). And then: “There are shades of meaning in the Bard’s work that Grandpa has not divined” (p. 289). There are also references to The Taming Of The Shrew. Mosco writes, “The company was currently staging The Taming Of The Shrew and Alison was playing Kate” (p. 292). And then: “Her portrayal of the Shrew was magnificent” (p. 293). And then: “I’ll suggest the final night of The Shrew” (p. 294).

The fifth chapter has a reference to Shakespeare almost right away: “It would, he said in his reply to Horace, afford him the pleasure of seeing Shakespeare produced by the man his father had called ‘the maestro’” (p. 294). And there are references to The Taming Of The Shrew. Mosco writes: “When the curtain rose on the final performance of The Taming Of The Shrew, it was for Alison just another Saturday night at the Playhouse” (p. 295). And then: “She forgot that Morton was there until Lucy, who was playing Bianca, began deliberately upstaging her. When it happened for a third time, Alison registered that the first occasion was during Bianca’s line: ‘Sir, to your pleasure I humbly subscribe’” (p. 295). And then: “It was then that Alison felt her fighting blood rise, which accounted for there never having been a more tempestuous Shrew; nor one who reduced her sister Bianca to an object of derision the Bard had not intended” (p. 295). Horace tells Alison, “You are not still onstage playing the Shrew” (p. 298). And then Mosco writes, “Hermione, who could no longer pass as a Kate, or a Bianca, had had to settle for the role of the Widow” (p. 298). In that chapter, Mosco also writes, “But Ruby, who wanted to play Lady Bracknell, had exercised her right to select the company’s non-Shakespearean production” (p. 300). There is also a reference to Hamlet: “And the play, even when by an author of whom Gregory didn’t approve, remained the thing” (p. 301). There is another reference to The Taming Of The Shrew: “So much for Morton’s not congratulating you on your splendid Kate!” (p. 302). There is another reference to Hamlet, with Horace saying to Alison: “I’m telling you to do what’s necessary to pursue your own art, Alison, To thine own self be true” (p. 303). Alison responds, “A fine time to quote Shakespeare to me!” (p. 303).

Between Two Worlds was published in 1983. The Bantam Book edition was published in 1984.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Shakespeare References in Los Angeles: Biography Of A City

I’ve been living in Los Angeles for a while, but knew little of its history. Los Angeles: Biography Of A City, by John and LaRee Caughey, is a fascinating look at different aspects of the city, told from various viewpoints. And it contains a couple of Shakespeare references. Both come from a piece written by Aldous Huxley. The first is to Shakespeare himself, with Huxley writing, “Talking of Shakespeare and the musical glasses, the great man and I strolled ahead” (p. 410). The second is actually the title of the essay from which this piece comes, “Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow” (p. 413), which of course is a reference to that fantastic speech by Macbeth after he learns Lady Macbeth is dead. Los Angeles: Biography Of A City was published in 1977 by the University Of California Press.


Shakespeare Reference in Cat’s Cradle

My two favorite writers are William Shakespeare and Kurt Vonnegut, and in Cat’s Cradle, Vonnegut includes a Shakespeare reference. Vonnegut writes, “Every question I asked implied that the creators of the atomic bomb had been criminal accessories to murder most foul” (p. 39). The reference is to the first act of Hamlet, when the Ghost says “Murder most foul, as in the best it is,/But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.” 

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Independent Shakespeare Company’s Live At The Porpentine: A Comedy Of Errors

Shakespeare fans in Los Angeles have long enjoyed Shakespeare in the park, the park being Griffith Park, where Independent Shakespeare Company has made its summer home for well over a decade. But the Independent Shakespeare Company also has an indoor theatre, supplying people with their Shakespeare fix throughout the year. Not only do they put on performances of Shakespeare’s works (and the works of other playwrights), but they also hold special events. The last several days the company held its Iambic Lab, the theme this year being “Celebrating Transformation.” And tonight, as part of that celebration, there was a screening of Live At The Porpentine: A Comedy Of Errors, a film the company made during the pandemic as a way to remain active and keep the actors employed, and a way to further explore the works of Shakespeare.

Directed by David Melville, the movie is an adaptation of The Comedy Of Errors, set in the early 1960s and presented as a musical. Several years ago, the company performed Shakespeare’s play in Griffith Park, with David Melville as Doctor Pinch. There was a musical aspect to that performance as well. Since that production, Doctor Pinch And The Pinchtones have apparently performed several times, and there was an idea for a musical centering on that character. As David Melville talked about in the Q&A following tonight’s screening, some of that material found its way into Live At The Porpentine: A Comedy Of Errors, such as the Frau Müller character (played by the incomparable Erika Soto), who takes the place of the Courtesan character of Shakespeare’s text. She delivers the songs in this film adaptation, most of which are performed at The Porpentine, here a club rather than an inn. And a club that serves a good milkshake at that.

The film is a delight. It stars Brent Charles at Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse, Xavi Moreno as Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse, Bukola Ogunmola as Adriana, Carene Rose Mekertichyan as Luciana, Richard Azurdia as Angelo, Luis Galindo as Solinus, and Sabra Williams as Emilia. The entire cast is strong, but Brent Charles and Xavi Moreno stand out in particular. Both do tremendous jobs distinguishing their two characters, yet finding enough similarities that others’ confusion makes sense. Those familiar with the play will enjoy some of the changes and additions, such as a reluctant firing squad member and of course the Dr. Pinch material, what with the laughing gas and all. And for those who haven’t seen or read the play, the action should be fairly clear, particularly as much of the information is provided in some of the songs. By the way, those who have attended performances in Griffith Park will certainly recognize some of the locations used in the film. And there is a goat.

A soundtrack for the film is available on CD. Let’s hope a DVD release of the film itself will follow. As for the theatre, next up is a new adaptation of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, which takes the action from the early 1930s and places it in Acapulco in the 1950s. This production is scheduled to open on April 6th. The theatre is located at 3191 Casitas Ave., Suite 130, in Los Angeles, California. There is free parking in the lot next to the building.