Romeo and Juliet

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The Play’s the Thing: Amidst the feuding Montagues and Capulets in Verona, Romeo (a Montague) and Juliet (a Capulet) meet at a party and fall in love. They chat for a bit at night and then get engaged and secretly married the next day. Following the marriage, Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, after Tybalt kills Romeo’s friend, Mercutio, which leads to the Prince banishing Romeo from Verona, who only gets to spend one night with Juliet. Just after Romeo leaves, Juliet’s parents inform her she’s going to marry Paris in three days which leads to her hatching a plot with Friar Laurence to fake her death to get out of the marriage and allow her to run off with Romeo. Romeo doesn’t get the memo about the fake death, buys poison, and drinks it over Juliet’s “corpse”. Juliet wakes up and stabs herself when she sees Romeo is dead. The Montagues and Capulets end their feud as a result of losing both their children.

Heroes and Villains: While the main focus is on Romeo and Juliet, my favourite character in this play has always been Mercutio, who’s a bit lewd but is a great friend to Romeo right up until he dies.

Pick-up Lines with Style: “the all-seeing sun/ Ne’er saw her match since first the world begun.” (I.ii)


  • “burn daylight” (I.iv)
  • “that which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet” (II.ii)
  • “parting is such sweet sorrow” (II.ii)
  • “A plague o’ both your houses” (III.i)

Speech to Know: When it comes to Romeo and Juliet, the choice of speech is pretty obvious. Romeo’s first speech from the balcony scene.

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun! –
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off. –
It is my lady; O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were! –
She speaks, yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answer it. –
I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing, and think it were not night. –
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!”  (II.ii)

View from the Pit: I’m an unabashed lover of Romeo and Juliet. Their relationship is brief and (I’ll admit freely) highly unrealistic, but the dialogue is so beautiful and romantic and the plot puts all emotions at such a fevered pitch that it’s just irresistibly enjoyable. The conflict between the Montagues and Capulets serves as a brilliant counterpoint to Romeo and Juliet’s relationship and the tragedy is heightened by its inevitability as the entire plot is outlined in the prologue. The play is so familiar to me (from multiple readings and viewings – theatre and film) that the play is one of the few where I anticipate and relish in the dialogue. Whether I enjoy it because the plot and dialogue is so embedded in the social consciousness or just for its own merits, the results are the same: I ❤ me some Romeo and Juliet.

King Lear

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The Play’s the Thing: King Lear is getting old and allocating his kingdom to his three daughters (Goneril, Regan,  and Cordelia) based on how much they say they love him with Cordelia ending up cut off because she won’t lie like her older sisters who really pour it on thick. Goneril and Regan almost immediately turn on Lear and treat him horribly causing him to go mad. Goneril and Regan also backbite with each other, both trying to get rid of their current husbands for Edmund (the manipulative bastard son of Gloster; see subplot) and eventually with one sister poisoning the other and then killing herself. Cordelia returns to England, helps her father recover a bit but is murdered by an assassin sent by Goneril and Edmund. Cordelia’s death drives Lear off the deep end and he dies of shock.

Subplot Edmund is the bastard son of Gloster who masterminds a plot to knock Edgar (Gloster’s legitimate son) out of the position of heir by causing Gloster to believe Edgar is going to kill him. Edgar goes into hiding and pretends to be a crazy man and hangs out with Lear’s entourage during Lear’s crazy phase. Gloster is blinded by Regan’s husband. He eventually joins up with Edgar (not knowing who he is) and Edgar prevents him from committing suicide. Gloster eventually joins up with Lear and he and Edgar reconcile, while Edmund is injured in battle (did I mention there’s a war going on in Act V?) and dies just before Lear.

Heroes and Villains: Cordelia really is the only likable and sane human being in this play so she wins the prize this time around.

Insults with Style:

  • “A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical wouldst be bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou denyest the least syllable of addition.” (II.ii)
  • “thou whoreson zed! Thou unnecessary letter” (II.ii)


  • “although the last, not least” (I.i)
  • “take her or leave her” (I.i)
  • “more sinned against, than sinning” (III.ii)
  • “that way madness lies” (III.iv)

Speech to Know: There’s no speeches in King Lear that I found super impressive, but there’s a brief moment of dialogue when Lear appears on stage in Act V carrying Cordelia’s dead body that brilliantly evokes the intensity of his grief.

“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 for ever!” (V.iii)

View from the PitKing Lear is fascinating study of madness and family relations. Lear himself goes really far round the bend and big chunks of his dialogue are truly batty. The parallel plots of Goneril and Regan betraying their father for more extensive power while Edmund does the same to Gloster provides for some truly heinous actions from some repulsive human beings. Admittedly, I have issues keeping Edmund and Edgar straight (dear Shakespeare, couldn’t you make their names a little more distinctive?) but Edgar is intriguing as one of the more heroic characters as he doesn’t just reveal himself to his father or Lear right away but maintains his disguise of madmen for much of the play after his banishment. And of course Cordelia is just the lovely human being who loves her father the right amount, is punished for not lying and saying she loves him more, still gets to marry a French royal, but ends up dead after doing her daughterly duty. Really, King Lear is all about the daughters and Cordelia is the best of them in the intriguing but horrifying mess that her sisters create.

Film Review – Timon of Athens (1981)

So what feels like ages ago I sat through yet another production from The Complete Dramatic Works of Shakespeare series. As set out earlier, when it comes to these adaptations I’ve now gotten to the point where I’ll pick just one act to watch. In the case of Timon of Athens (follow the link to refresh your memory on the plot) I went for Act IV. However, as I’m writing this review probably 3 months after I watched the single act it probably won’t be the most detailed.

The first thing worth noting is that Jonathan Pryce is playing Timon! Now while my first filmic encounter with Jonathan Pryce was probably in Tomorrow Never Dies he will always be Governor Swann to me. And boy is Governor Swann having a rough time of it in Act IV. He’s got strange body make up that makes his skin look like it’s peeling and burnt and he’s wearing nothing but a loincloth although everyone else he encounters are in full Elizabethan dress. Apparently the only things I felt were worth noting when I watched Act IV was that the gold is simply gold coins which are just hanging out in the ground (as gold coins are wont to do) and that I quite liked the dresses on the harlots. Jonathan Pryce carries the bulk of the acting and is lovely but it’s definitely not a film to write home about (although I did manage this post).

Jonathan Pryce, Timon of Athens

Poor Governor Swann in a loincloth.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Prior to the post proper (I do love me some alliteration), an apology fair reader. There has been far too long a gap in posts (slightly over two months!) and I have little excuse. But I do promise a true blitz in posts over the weeks that are left in this year. Now with that over…

The Play’s the Thing: Pericles has come to pursue the dangerous business of courting Antiochus’ daughter which requires solving a riddle (otherwise he’s executed), but while Pericles figures out the riddle he doesn’t give his response as it will reveal that Antiochus is having an incestuous affair with said daughter and instead goes into hiding. Pericles is shipwrecked in his flight and ends up meeting Thaisa whom he marries. Pericles then receives word he needs to return to Tyre and sails with his pregnant wife but there is a storm, Thaisa “dies” while giving birth to Marina, their daughter, whom Pericles leaves with Cleon as he continues on to Tyre, and Thaisa is rescued from her coffin and joins a convent.  Cleon’s wife is jealous of Marina’s beauty which outshines her daughter’s and sells her to a brothel (telling Pericles she’s dead) where Marina repeatedly manages to avoid doing the deed. Pericles, Thaisa, and Marina eventually reunite despite some truly ridiculous odds.

Heroes and Villains: There’s no real standout characters in this play due to its episodic nature, but I guess the prize goes to Marina for the strangest means of keeping her virginity.

Speech to Know: Pericles gives a highly romantic speech at the beginning of the play when he courts Antiochus’ daughter. Prior to finding out about the incest, of course.

“See where she comes, apparell’d like the spring,
Graces her subjects, and her thoughts the king
Of every virtue gives renown to men!
Her face the book of praises, where is read
Nothing but curious pleasures, as from thence
Sorrow were raz’d, and testy wrath
Could never be her mild companion,
Ye gods, that made me man, and sway in love,
That have inflam’d desire in my breast
To taste the fruit of yon celestial tree,
Or dies in the adventure, be my helps,
As I am son and servant to your will,
To compass such a boundless happiness!” (I.i)

View from the PitPericles, Prince of Tyre is highly episodic and a little reminiscent of Henry V (although not nearly as cool). Reading the play for the first time I was in honest suspense as to whether it would have a tragic or comic ending and have to admit that after reading many, many, many tragic endings, it was nice to have everything turn out right in the end. But due to the episodic nature of the play, the action feels extremely over the top. Each plot development feels even more insane than the last until we get to Marina in the brothel who avoids losing her virtue by shaming her potential clients for wanting to take away her virtue. Not super realistic that (I would guess). The play definitely has a heavy dose of Greek drama around it with each act opening with the equivalent of a chorus delineating the action but it never reaches the empathetic emotional heights that Shakespeare is capable of.