Shakespeare reviews

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Shakepeare is actually pretty good. He's not highbrow or classy like you'd think. If he was writing today he'd be one of those guys everyone makes fun of for having sold out, but who's movies are always blockbusters. Even his historical plays are punched-up with romances and comedy.

Or that's how his plays were in 1620. 400 years later the language has changed so much he's hard to read. The ideas are pretty simple, like "you talk tough but never do anything", but decoding it takes a few careful read-throughs. That's what this is -- if your 17th century friend saw a play and gave you a recap right afterwards.

Summaries

Romeo and Juliet: two kids from feuding Montegue and Capulet families fall in love and secretely marry. After Romeo is banished for killing a guy, Juliet's plan to fake her own death backfires and they both commit suicide.

King Lear: he stupidly gives his kingdom to his 2 evil daughters, banishing his good daughter. They abuse him, banish his friends, and fight over a cute evil Duke. Lear goes nuts, says famous crazy stuff, realizes how stupid he was, then everyone dies.

MacBeth: Macbeth and Lady Macbeth murder the king to put MacBeth on the throne. Witches ("double bubble boil and trouble") make prophecies that he can't be killed by "man born of woman". Lady Macbeth sleepwalks and says famous "out, out damned spot" about imaginary blood on her hands. People rebel, Hamlet freaks out about prophecies and is killed by a guy who's mom died giving birth.

As you like it: 4 guys trying to study philosophy distraction-free fall in love with 4 visiting ladies, who mock them ruthlessly. Ends with each man getting a year-long task to prove themselves worthy of their lady-love.

The merchant of Venice: Shylock, an evil Jewish money-lender, jokingly says he gets to cut out a guy's heart (a pound of flesh) if he can't pay back a loan. But when the guy can't pay Shylock loses the court battle with secret help from the wives. The fine is all Shylock's money. His daughter abandons him and turns Christian. In a subplot: to marry a cute rich girl, suitors have to guess between a lead, a silver or a gold chest.

Much Ado about Nothing: the main characters constantly argue because they secretely love each other. Their friends trick them in admitting it and they finally kiss at the end. Another guy wants to marry a hot rich girl, but one of her enemies makes it look like she's a slut. Dogsberry, a terrible cop, solves that case and they get married after all.

Titus Andronicus: a war hero gets into a feud with the new Roman emperor and his barbarian wife and her black lover. Among other things, they rape Andronicus's daughter and cut off her tongue and hands. Adronicus kills the sons and tricks the emperor into eating them in a pie. Then everyone dies.

The Tempest: a sorceror and his beautiful daughter live on a deserted island, banished there by his brother who stole the Dukedom from him. There's also a perverted evil half-fishman named Caliban. One day his brother sails by, with his son. Sorceror Prospero summons a storm (with help from Ariel the spirit) to suck in the ship. He plans to torture them, but the two cousins fall in love, the brothers make up, and Prospero decides to give up sorcery and be the Duke again.

Richard-II: greedy King Richard-II banishes a guy and steals his land. That guy later raises a rebel army and becomes King Henry-IV. Richard-II is mistakenly killed while locked in the Tower of London.

Henry-IV, part-I: people who helped Henry become King feel slighted and start a rebellion. It starts to go well, but then they lose a big battle. Henry's son is a drunk idiot with his drunker idiot friend Falstaff. They do lots of stupid stuff, mostly in a bar. Falstaff eventually cons his way into being a war hero during the battle.

Henry-IV, part-II: the rebellion continues, but they eventually make a peace deal. Henry goes back on the deal, executing all of the leaders, but he's so sick he dies right after and his drunk idiot son becomes king. Falstaff does a lot more dumb stuff with a new, larger group of lowlifes. People are impressed when the new king throws his old loser friends in jail.

Two Gentlemen of Verona: a guy falls in love with his best friend's girlfriend, getting his friend banished so he can court her. His real girlfriend, who he had left behind, disguises herself as a man and follows to be his new servant. He keeps screwing up -- he tries to get her a puppy but it pees everywhere. Eventually everyone is back with their starting girlfriends and a group of friendly noble bandits is pardonned.

As You Like It: four couples living in the forest at the banished Duke's court fall in love and get group-married. One of them was pretending to be a man and got her future husband to date her (still thinking she's a man) by promising to pretend to be the girl he loves. At the end, the evil Duke apologies and unbanishes everyone.

Julius Ceaser: almost everyone in the Roman Senate agrees Ceaser is too dangerous and stabs him to death (including Brutus, who Ceaser asks "et tu, Brutus?"). They almost get away with it, but Ceaser's protoge Marc Anthony gives a really good speech at the funeral. Armies fight and most of the killers die.

The Life of Timon of Athens: a guy who likes to throw big parties and spend money goes broke. None of his friends help him, so he becomes a hermit who bad-mouths Athens all day. He pays a guy to invade Athens, it works, but he dies.

A comedy of errors: These two nobles are long-lost twins, and so are their servants. When one pair unknowingly comes into the town where the other pair lives, hilarity ensues. They're constantly confused for each other by wives, police, and even themselves (when a servant reports back to the wrong noble without realizing). It's straightened out, plus their estranged parents are reunited.

Henry-V: the formerly loser drunk son has become a decent king. England has previously conquered France, but the French are rebelling. Henry takes over an army and butchers the French knights at the famous battle of Agincourt. Falstaff and his idiot friends are killed off and/or humiliated.

The Taming of the Shrew: 3 guys want to marry a rich cute girl, but they have to get her older super-mean sister Kate married off first. They find a guy who dominatates her into submission by starving and sleep-depriving her. Meanwhile they all disguise themselves as teachers, try to seduce Bianca, but two get bored and drop out.

Henry-VI: the French are still rebelling, with the help of evil sorceress and slut Joan of Arc. After bloody battles and her death, they make peace. Back in England nobles are forming into the White and Red rose factions.

Othello: there's this terrific black guy who's the general of Venice's fleets and just married a rich girl who loves him. But his assistant and best friend Iago is angry about being passed-up for a promotion. He convinces Othello that his wife is cheating on him with his other best friend (the guy who got the promotion ahead of Iago) and gets Othello to murder her. They're caught at the end and more poeple die.

Midsummer Night's Dream: We meet the King and Queen of the Fairies Oberon and Titania, and assistant fairy trickster Puck. A potion that makes you fall in love with the first person you see has halarious results on 2 couples who ran into the woods. Bottom the weaver has his head temporarily turned into a donkeyhead. After a triple wedding, they all watch a terrible play and make fun of it.

Henry-VI, part-II: England gives away some of France in the war settlement then loses the rest through incompetance. English peasants rebel and almost win. Nobles intrigue to control England since Henry is just a kid. Lots of them die, good and bad. Ends in a cliff-hanger where rebel Lord York wins one battle against King Henry, who flees.

Henry-VI, part-III: it starts with York rebelling against King Henry. He wins, then is killed, but one of his sons, Edward, takes over the rebellion. Henry's Queen Margarette gets troops from her father in France, things go back and forth (this is the famous War of the Roses) until finally Edward York wins and Henry and his son are killed. Not many funny parts, just war, war, war.

Hamlet: Hamlet's dad, the King of Denmark, was murdered by his uncle who then married the queen. A ghost told him. Hamlet goes nuts, makes a fake play to find the truth, dumps his girlfriend then accidentally stabs her dad to death. She later kills herself. After being rescued by pirates Hamlet looks at skulls in the graveyard. A plan by the new king to get Hamlet poisoned in a friendly duel goes awry and everyone dies (from poison, stabbing, or both).

Anthony and Cleopatra: they're in love in Egypt, but Anthony's wife dies and he has to go back to Rome to marry Ceasar's sister. They all fight some pirates (I think). Then Anthony goes back to Cleopatra, they lose the war with Rome, and both kill themselves.

Twelfth night: A Duke is in love with Olivia, who doesn't love him. Viola loves the Duke so disguises herself as a man and takes the "help me court Olivia" job. Unfortunately, Olivia falls in love with Violet, but at the end accidentally marries Viola's twin brother. The Duke marries Viola.

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet quiz:

At the start Romeo is:

  1. a carefree youth
  2. mooning over some other woman
  3. talking trash about Juliet's family

Juliet's age is:

  1. 14, for sure
  2. A teen-ager
  3. Never specified except "at an age to marry"

Romeo and Juliet meet:

  1. Randomly on the street
  2. At her engagement party to someone else
  3. during a Montegue/Capulet brawl
  4. At a funeral

Regarding their marraige:

  1. It takes place in-between scenes
  2. It has some of the most memorable lines in the play
  3. They didn't get married

This first sign of trouble is:

  1. Their parents find out and ground each of them
  2. Someone starts rumors that each loves someone else
  3. Romeo is banished by the mayor

They think Juliet is dead and bury her because:

  1. She fainted relly hard
  2. Her medications got switched
  3. She faked her own death

The mix-up at the end where they both kill themselves is because:

  1. No reason -- it was just a big, tragic mix-up
  2. It wasn't a mix-up. They made a suicide pact
  3. The person supposed to tell Romeo the plan got stuck in quarantine

How many people does Romeo kill (not counting himself):

 

It starts slow. Two guys are standing on the corner. One is going on about how he's going to show those filthy Montagues who's boss, and the other is teasing him. Two Montagues walk by, not wanting trouble, but these guys go up and eyeball them. Pretty soon swords are out, another guy from each side has run in to stop it, more guys start whipping out swords and fighting, the town guard shows up, and finally the mayor. He says there have been too many Montague-Capulet street fights and this is the last straw. He's going to arrange a marriage to settle it. Meanwhile, there better not be one more incident.

After the brawl they run into cousin Romeo. He's going on and on about how hot he is for Rosalind but she doesn't even notice him. Mercutio tries to cheer him up. Eventually he says the mayor's having a ball -- Romeo can sneak in, see Rosalind, or even better, meet some new women. Romeo sulkily agrees.

At the Contagues' house before the ball, 14-year-old Juliet's mom is telling her how she's going to be married off to an older guy named Paris as part of the peace deal, and she'd better start liking him at this party. The mom birthed Juliet at 14 and it worked out fine for her (so, the mom is just 28). Romeo, at the feast, is still whining about how sad he is when he sees Juliet dancing and falls in love. He flirts with her, kisses her, and when she pretends not to like it he "takes it back" with another kiss. She tells her nurse about the young man she's smitten with. The nurse isn't thrilled, but admits Romeo is pretty cute.

That night Romeo sneaks to Juliet's window, overhears her sighing how much she loves him, and they flirt all night, become engaged, finally do that "you say good-bye first; no you" thing. It's early dawn and Romeo finds a priest who will marry them. There's a funny bit where the priest says "to Rosalind?" and Romeo says "Who? Oh, no, it's some girl I just met". After some back-and-forth with the nurse the next day, Juliet sneaks out and they're married. We don't see it -- the priest says "let's get to it", they follow him into a chapel, and the scene is over.

Later Romeo, his pal Mercutio, and some more guys run into Tybalt, a big-shot Capulet. Romeo tries to explain how Tybalt is now part of his family but does it badly. Well before he gets to the part about him and Juliet being married, Tybalt and Mercurio sword-fight. Romeo accidentally gets Mercutio killed -- he gets between him and Tybalt, who sneaks in a stab under Romeo's arm. After Mercutio's excellent death-speech, Tybalt swordfights Romeo, but Romeo quickly kills him. Then the mayor shows up, everyone goes nuts, and Romeo is banished.

There's some comedy where Juliet's nurse says "he's dead! He's dead!" and Juliet thinks Romeo is dead, but that's quickly resolved. Juliet takes the news well. She figures it's Tybalt's fault and Romeo was just defending himself. There's more back-and-forth where Romeo moans about how banishment is worse than death.

The next day, Juliet's wedding to Paris is still on, just pushed back because of Tybalt's funeral. Her dad is furious when she refuses (she never mentions marrying Romeo). He says she can marry Paris or be completely disowned. Her mom agrees. Even her nurse tells her it's hopeless with Romeo and to marry Paris.

Instead, Juliet fakes her own death with a sleeping potion. Her plan is to send a note to Romeo to sneak back and take her away from the crypts after everyone is gone. Sadly, the friendly priest with the note for Romeo was quarantined on suspicion of plague and Romeo never gets it. Romeo in exile hears of her death, bribes an alchemist into selling him illegal poison, and rides back to Verona.

At the graveyard Romeo runs into Paris, wanting to see his almost-wife one last time. They swordfight and Romeo kills him. In the crypt where she still looks dead, Romeo poisons himself next to her, she finally wakes up, complains that Romeo hogged all the poison, and stabs herself. But there's more. Their secret marriage gets out and Romeo's dad promises to build a big statue of Juliet. Her dad promises an even bigger one of Romeo. They decide to call off the quarrel. THE END

Not what I expected. Romeo is in love with someone else for the first 3rd of it. There's a whole plot where Juliet is supposed to marry someone else. And wow -- Juliet wasn't just a little underage -- she was 14. The line "Parting is such sweet sorrow" was actually a big joke! If you didn't catch it, Romeo kills 2 people, fairly easily. I thought he was a lover, not a fighter. He's both. And it was a huge tragic mistake. They could have announced the marriage immediately and the mayor would have said forced everyone to accept it for the peace.

As you like it

This is a very silly play, but popular. A prince and 2 rich guys go to a retreat to study. No women are allowed and they plan to fast on bread, but one of them clowns about how he plans to study "good food and beautiful women".

A princess and her friends are expected on official business. The prince forgot about that. Also, someone named Rosaline is seen cavorting with one of the servants. Pretty soon each of the 3 men has fallen in love with one of the ladies. The men each send poetry and a token of some sort to their loves and ask to meet with them in disguise. A servant spills the beans to the ladies, who then decide to mess with the men by switching tokens so the men are romancing the wrong women.

After their in-disguise courting is met with mockery, the men make an excuse to try again. The women decide to mess with them some more by saying what boring oafs the guys in disguise were. There's a play being performed while this happens. Not a very good one. The men start mercilessly kibizting on it. Finally the women each make the men promise to spend a year and a day reforming one of their flaws. If they do that, they'll be allowed to court them. THE END

The Merchant of Venice

This is the one with the Jewish money-lender named Shylock who wants a pound of flesh. But beyond that it's got some weird stuff in it. Some background: Christians weren't allowed to charge interest on loans. In real life many bankers/moneylenders were Jewish, since they could.

The story: right away a merchant needs some extra money to impress a girl and goes to Shylock for 3,000 ducats (which was a lot, back then) with his friend Antonio to vouch for it. They give Shylock a hard time about charging interest. He says if they stopped treating him like garbage he'd think about it. They refuse, explaining that he's a no-good Jew. He finally agrees to a no-interest loan, but the default is a pound of Antonio's flesh nearest to his heart. He talks to himself about how stupid that is, since even a pound of cow of pig flesh is worth more. But Antonio agrees to it since he's so rich (he's cash-poor just now, since his trading ships are all en route).

Next we meet the gorgeous and rich Portia. Her father has set up a famous test -- pass and you can marry her. Two very dull out-of-towners are here for it now. She's sure they'll fail. She actually loves Antonio, but he's too low socially to marry.

Next a guy Lancelot is complaining about his boss when he runs into his own blind, estranged father. He decides to play a joke and pretends to be someone else, but then gets mad hearing his dad bad-mouthing "my worthless son, Lancelot", so reveals himself. But his dad doesn't believe it and they argue for a while. When that's over, we find out Lancelot's boss is Shylock but he's about to quit and work for one of Antonio's friends.

Back at Shylock's, Lancelot runs into Shylock's daughter, Jessica. She hates her stupid Jewish dad and is in love with the guy borrowing the money. She's planning to run away with him.

Back to Portia, the first guy takes the test. He has to pick from 3 chests -- gold, silver and lead with sayings "what most men want", "what you deserve" and "you'll have to give up everything for this lead chest". He thinks out loud for a few paragraphs -- "what he deserves" isn't good enough for him, so he picks the gold. Of course it's wrong. A scroll stuck in the eyehole of a skull makes fun of him, starting with "All that glitters is not gold".

Antonio hears that one of his ships was seized by pirates. No problem, he's got more. Mean Shylock has made Jessica keep the windows closed so she can't hear any goyim Christmass carols and she finally runs off, plus Lancelot has finally quit.

Portia's second suitor does the same as the first, eventually choosing the silver chest, reasoning that "what most men want" isn't good enough since he's better than most men. He's so great that "what you deserve" is his chest. It's got another note mocking him.

Another one of Antonio's ships has been lost at sea. This happens a few more times and is kind of funny "uh, oh Antonio -- they found wreckage of another one of your ships". Shylock is mad about them stealing his daughter, who also grabbed a bunch of his jewelry when she went. He's saying he might take that flesh after all. They yell at him some more for being a stinking Jew and he gives the "if you prick me do I not bleed"? speech.

Finally Anotonio is allowed to try for Portia and correctly picks the lead chest with the "give up everything" message. If you were expecting them to explain what it meant -- they do not.

Finally the loan is due and shipless Antonio defaults. They go to a judge. Antonio's friends offer to pay back double or triple, but Shylock is so pissed off he refuses. The judge says he has no choice but to honor the contract. But then they bring in a very feminine-looking doctor who says blood isn't flesh. When Shylock carves out a pound from Anotonios chest he can take "not a jot of blood". In fact, the punishment for a Jew spilling Christian blood is death. He begs to go back and take the money, but the judge says he already refused, twice. Then they he's already guilty of plotting the murder a Christian -- forget the flesh-carving -- and the penalty is forfeiture of all assets, 1/2 to Antonio and 1/2 to the Venice, and also death. So basically, it was a rigged Kangaroo court.

Now we're back at the house. Jessica is asking about the ring she gave her new husband, who promised to wear it always. So is Portia. Both husband's had to give them to the doctor and the equally feminine defense lawyer at the trial as payment. The women say, too bad, now they have to sleep with those other guys. The husbands promise to be better, but the women say too late -- we already slept with them. Then they give the men the rings back. They explain it was them in disguise all along, testing their husbands. Also, Anotonio's ships are actually fine -- all of the news was mistaken.

So who was the merchant in Merchant of Venice? Antonio, I guess, the co-signer of the loan. Did they actually kill Shylock? They don't really say, but most people assume they let him live

Much Ado about Nothing

This one is sweet. Benedict and Beatrice have grown up together and are constantly teasing each other. If you read it carefully, it's pretty good "we fight because we're in love" teasing. Meanwhile, Benedict's friend Claudio, just back from the war, realizes he's in love with Beatrice's cousin Hero. He asks his Prince, with the awesum name of Don Pedro, to check her out and arrange things if Hero was interested. To sum up: we have two possible couples.

Next scene, "John the Bastard" is sitting around, complaining how he likes to ruin things for other people and is bored, when a friend tells him about the Claudio and Hero thing. He announces he's going to start a rumor how Don Pedro wants Hero for himself. He-he-he.

Then there's a lovely masked dance party. Benedict and Beatrice dance. He makes fun of Beatrice, pretending not to know it's her. She does the name ("say, do you know a huge jerk named Benedict?"). Random couples flirt. Claudio hears the "Don Pedro wants Hero" rumor, but later sees Don Pedro and they get it straightened out. Benedict complains how Beatrice is now insulting him to random men, not realizing she knew it was him the whole time.

John the Bastard has a new plan. He's going to get one of Hero's maids to dress up like Hero, stand by a window, and pretend to make-out with a guy, while arranging for Claudio and Don Pedro to be watching. It's so complex it just might work.

Back at the ranch, Claudio and Hero's wedding is nearly a done deal. Don Pedro has moved on to Benedict and Beatrice. He's heard Claudio talking about those two's secret love, and one of Beatrice's maids confirms it. Don Pedro decides to have Beatrice "accidentally" overhear her maids saying how Benedict loves her but is too afraid of how mean she is to ever tell. And that's just step one.

Now we move to some constables hanging around, joking, led by Sargeant Dogberry. Suddenly one of John the Bastard's henchmen approaches saying he has to come clean. Last night he helped convince Claudio and Don Pedro that Hero was slutty by having them watch a maid pretending to be her... . In other words, John the Bastard's evil plan happened off-stage, and it worked. But we know the Sargeant will eventually set things straight.

Next is the wedding. Claudio is acting weird. Finally during the "who objects" part he objects, accusing her of sleeping around. Don Pedro and John the Bastard pile on accusations and Hero passes out from shame. They say they hope she's dead and leave. A bit later Hero's friends have a meeting and decide to pretend she really is dead. Bendict and Beatrice are the last ones there and he finally says he loves Beatrice. But she says to prove it by killing Claudio for what he did to cousin Hero.

Then we're off to the trial for John's minions, who Dogberry has finally caught. There's some comedy while the clerk has to write everything down but isn't quit sure what and everyone yells at him to write different stuff. Then a bunch of guys including Benedict challange Claudio to a duel, but overhear the trial and realize what happened. I'm not sure why, since Claudio is still responsible for Hero's supposed death, but all are friends again. And it's off the the pretend funeral for Hero.

The family refuses to admit Hero's alive. Instead, they make up how Hero has an identical cousin (played by Hero). The dad tells Claudio he has to make things up by marrying the cousin, to which he agrees. At the wedding Hero finally pulls up her veil, he figures it out, and they joke about how the old Hero is dead and she's the new one.

Just after the wedding Benedict and Beatrice are both refusing to admit they love the other, going back and forth. Finally thier friends show them love poetry each has written about the other. Benedict kisses Beatrice and they talk about marriage. THE END. News come that John the Bastard was caught and is being brought back to town for punishment (for killing Hero, maybe?). The real end.

To review: the stuff with Claudio and Hero doesn't make much sense. He's not very upset when she dies, or when he finds out that was only a trick. She forgives him far too quickly for assuming she's a trollop and humiliating her at her wedding. But they're only secondary characters. The Bendict and Beatrice story is sweet, and up to the end it seems like they might both be too proud or too scared. It's nice how it just ends with a we're-officially-in-love kiss. And there are plenty of funny bits.

Titus Andonicus

This one is crazy and full of violence. We get just enough background to know why the killing starts and how it escalates, and then blood everywhere.

It starts off a little confusing. I think people were assumed to have read the program before the show. General Titus has 3 sons, a daughter Lavinea, and a brother Marcus. Saturninus and Bassianus are sons of the former emperor of Rome. Captured Queen Tamora has 3 sons and a "good friend" Aaron the Moor (which means he's black. This will be important later).

It starts out with Titus coming back from the wars to retire -- he's had 5 big wars in 10 years. He's lost lots of sons and is bringing yet one more back in a coffin. He's captured Tamora, queen of the Goths, plus her sons and friend Aaron. As part of the traditional burial ceremony he's going to chop up and burn her eldest son. Tamora begs him to be merciful, but he says the dead Roman soldiers demand it. Titus's sons leave then come back and desribe the hewing and entrail pulling. So there's going to be trouble with Tamora.

Saturninus, the old emperor's eldest son, is hoping to be named the next emporor. There's a bit of a rivalry with his brother Bassianus, and people are saying maybe it should be Titus. Saturnus is getting pissed at that. But Titus makes a speech about how Saturnus will be great. Instead of being grateful, Saturnus is pissed that he needed Titus's help at all. So that's more trouble. Since Titus is so popular, Saturnus announces he'll make Livinea, Titus's daughter, his emporess. He tells captured queen Tamorah that he'd rather marry her, but they can work something out later. Yikes!

As soon as the new emperor leaves, his brother Brassianus says "what the hell? Livinea and I are already pledged to each other!". He grabs her and they leave. Titus is furious about the disrespect for the new emperor, damands to get her back, and stabs one of his 3 remaining sons to death when they block his way. The emperor pops back in and says it's actually fine. Brassianus can keep Lavinea. He wanted to marry Tamora anyway.

After that slaughter we get a break. Titus's 2 remaining kids plead to have the one Titus just killed buried in the family tomb. Titus says it's for people who fell in battle. They say he was in lots of battles so deserves it. They go back and forth until Titus says "fine".

Next the 2 sons of now-queen Tamorah who weren't sacrificed are talking about Lavinea. One is in love with her. The other says not to worry -- let her marry Brassianus and they can sneak around with her later. Tamora's "friend" Aaron comes in and says why wait? You could both rape her now. Everyone is going hunting tomorrow and they can sneak up on her in the woods and do it. They love this plan, especially the part about "revelling in her treasury" (they have paragraphs of soft-core rape-porn).

Next we're in a spot in the woods. Tamorah wants to make-out with her lover Aaron but he's focused on a plan involving some gold he just hid. He sneaks off before newlyweds Brassianus and Lavinea show up, right on schedule. The two ask her if she's here alone to cheat on her new husband (which she was), and so on. Then, also as arranged, Tamorah's 2 sons show up. They expected to find just Lavinea, but Tamora makes up a story about them threatening to tie her to a tree to be bitten to death by snakes. The sons kill Brassianus and toss him in an extra-gross and disgusting nearby pit (they describe this pit in great detail). Lavinea begs Tamora to kill her instead of what the sons clearly intend. Tamora say no, takeing an entire page to explain how she wants Livinea to suffer in revenge for her sacrificed son, and then to be "trimmed" so she can't talk or write to tell anyone.

After they leave, Aaron is back, "helpfully" leading Titus's remaining two sons to where he says saw a sleeping panther they can kill. One falls in the pit with the corpse and starts yelling. He can see it's Brassianus since the moon is reflecting off Brassi's ring, showing his dead face. They talk about how bloody and nasty the pit is and yell an awful lot considering they're combat vets. Then emperor Saturnius shows up with everyone else dribbling in. Aaron has a forged letter saying the gold (which he hid) was payment for the sons killing Brassianus. That's good enough for him. He promises Titus they'll a fair trial before their execution. For good measure, Lucius, the third son, is banished.

Next scene Tamora's sons are mocking a naked, hands-and-tongueless Lavenia. They run off just as Titus's assistant Marcus comes in, followed by Titus. There's a long bit where they slowly figure out what's been done to her. Titus makes a touching speech about how her now-missing hands were so good at the harp and sewing and comforts her tenderly.

Aaron then comes from the Emperor. He says the sons will be set free if just one member of the Andonicus family chops off their hand. Titus's brother and last son argue about who will do it. Titus cleverly pretends to agree, sends them off, then borrows an axe from Aaron and cuts off his own hand. Turns out Aaron was once again lying. Titus is sent back the heads of the 2 sons, but gets to keep his (still cut-off) hand. He looks at the hand, the heads, Livinea and starts raving about how the heads are telling him to get revenge. A bit later Marcus kills a fly and Titus goes nuts first saying it had a mother. Then he decides fly-killing is the first step in getting revenge. Next day he and some friends are off randomly shooting arrows wrapped with pleas to the gods for justice. Then he pays a clown to unknowingly deliver a rude note to Saturninus.

Meanwhile, in the Titus compound, Lavinea has been creeping out some of the local kids. She's trying to flop open old books. Finally one of the kids decides she's trying to communicate and figures out how to write on sand with a stick in your mouth guided by just forearms. Livinea takes it and writes out the names of Tamora's sons.

While we ponder that, we go back to only-black-person-in-the-play Aaron with Tamora's sons. A nurse brings Tamora's newborn 1/2-black baby. Oops. One adult son says "thou hast undone our mother" and wants to kill the baby. Aaron replies, "no, I have done thy mother". Seriously, "I just did your mom" is Shakespeare! Aaron is actually thrilled to have a son. He plans to send it away with the Goths (Tamora's tribe) for now. He asks the nurse who else knows about it and she says "no one else". We've seen this next thing a million times in movies, and Shakespeare wrote it: he replies "good" and then kills her.

In the next compound over, emperor Saturninus is not happy about those arrow notes. Worse, banished son Lucius has followed Titus's orders and is a Goth leader now, marching on Rome. I suppose Goths respect any guy who kicked their butts and they aren't happy about Tamora being a Roman Empress now. Tamora says to let her handle things her way. Since everyone knows Titus is bug nuts she'll visit him, suss things out, and trick him into calling Lucius back to where they can deal with him.

At the Goth camp with Lucius they've discovered Aaron sneaking in with his baby. They quickly figure out who's it is. The tide turns! Aaron says he'll tell them everything if they agree to spare the kid. They do and he does. Plus he makes a famous speech about how he only wishes he could have done more evil stuff. Says he's so evil he once dug up a body, wrote on it, and dumped it at the door of the former family.

This is where it gets weird. Tamorah and her 2 sons put on disguises for Titus and she claims to be the Spirit of Revenge. Titus says they look a lot like Tamorah and her sons, but she insists otherwise -- the sons are Rape and Murder, who work for Revenge. Several times Titus says how much they look like Tamorah and sons, but he's eventually convinced and agrees to send for Lucius and the Goth high command for dinner. So her plan seems to be working. But he insists Rape and Murder stay here. Tamorah is so sure she fooled him that she agrees.

Right after she leaves, Titus says he wasn't fooled, has the sons tied up, and explains how he plans to cook them, in detail, twice (he's making rapist head pie). He has Lavinea hold a blood bowl with her stumps and cuts their throats to bleed into it.

Dinner the next day is with the emperor, Tamora and son Lucius. Titus is oddly dressed in a chef's outfit while Livinea is there in disguise. Titus asks the emperor about an old poem where a daughter is raped and the father stabs her to preserve her honor. Saturnus agrees that was proper, and Titus stabs Livinea to death. He's shocked until Titus explains what happened to her and who did it. "Where are Tamorah's sons?" the emperor asks. "You're eating them!" Titus replies. He then stabs Tamorah to death, Saturninus stabs 1-handed Titus, and Lucius stabs the emperor. THE END

Well, almost the end. The people outside proclaim Lucius as the new emperor (he's the only war hero left alive. Hell, he's the only character in the play left alive). He then proclains that Aaron be buried up to his chest and left to starve. The real end.

Supposedly this is Shakespeare's worst play. It seems fine. There are some funny lines, but I guess most are just weird, like that pit scene. The characters aren't deep, but they seem good enough. We're worried for the Andonicus's when Tamora and Saturninus get together. It feels right with the clod-like sons going for the rape, while Aaron plans elaborate stuff and Tamorah gets Saturninus to go along. It's as good as villain stuff today. Titus is fine as a ram-rod stiff slightly shell-shocked soldier who justs wants to retire in peace. He goes nuts in a fun way, ands when he dies -- eh, he did kind of deserve it. Making Aaron a proud father drives the plot, and was pretty funny. I even like how the adults are so crazed over Lavinea that it takes a kid to figure out she can write what happened. I could do without the long, brutal scenes with her in terror and agony and so on. It's got a nice vengence and re-vengence arc and Lucius as the only survivor feels fine. He was a good kid.

The Tempest

My copy of Shakespeare's works calls this a Love Story. It's more like a weird, not-too-serious Sci-Fi B-movie. It's the one where a wizard lives on an island.

We start on a ship in a terrible storm. Antonio is bothering the crew and they say not even a Duke like him can give orders to a storm. So Antonio is a Duke. A servant named Gonzalo tries to calm everyone down. Then people are washed overboard, the ship snaps in half, and they all die.

Then we move to Prospero and his daughter Miranda, on the nearby island. She asks him to explain why he sank the ship. He says it's because this one guy he hates was on it. The she says he promised to tell her why they're alone on the island. Ah yes, the old "I just happen to need to explain the plot to another character" trick. Prospero explains that he was the Duke of Milan but spent too much time studying magic. He let his brother Antonio run things, who took over as Duke and exiled the two of them on a boat. That was 12 years ago, when she was 3 (go ahead, do the math. She's 15). There's a funny bit in there where she thought Prospero wasn't her real dad, since she once heard her real dad had been a Duke.

Then Ariel the spirit shows up. He(?) explains how the illusion of a storm went well -- everyone totally believed it. The ship is safe in a cove with the crew magically asleep and the 3 groups of people are at different spots in the island. Also, as requested, their clothes are like new and completely dry.

Ariel asks if he's free now and Propero uses the plot-explain-as-a-reminder trick again. Ariel was controlled by the evil witch Sycorax, but was sorcelled into a tree for disobeying an order. Then was stuck forever when Sycorax died, until Prospero came along and saved him. Which somehow means no, they're sticking with the original deal -- Ariel is free after 2 more days of service.

Then comes along a deformed slave half-fishman named Caliban, the son of Sycorax. They trade insults until Caliban says if you didn't want me swearing you shouldn't have taught me how to talk. Then he complains that Prospero was all smiles when he landed here, tricked Caliban into showing him the whole island, then turned on him for no reason. Properso says "you tried to rape my daughter". Caliban counters with "Yeah, and I'd have lots of kids by now if you hadn't stopped me". Wow! Shakespeare invented that joke too! "What did I do that was so bad? Oh, right, I forgot".

Recall the non-magically-asleep crew are in three groups. They first visit Ferdinand, evil Duke Antonio's son (making him Prospero's nephew and Miranda's 1st cousin). He and Miranda immediately fall in love. To mess with him, Prospero calls him a spy. Ferdinand gets angry and draws his sword, but Prospero casts a freeze spell. Then he explains to Miranda that Ferdinand is the 3rd man she's ever seen, and anyone would look good next to Caliban. But Miranda is adamant. She loves him. Ferdiand is then unfrozen and agrees to cooperate as long as he can glimpse the lovely Miranda just once a day. Somewhere in there Ariel sings a cool song about how Ferdinand's supposedly drowned dad "doth suffer a sea change, into something rich and strange". This play has a few songs in it.

Now we move to the evil Duke and friends. They're sharing how their clothes are like new and dry -- awwww, they noticed Ariel's hard work! They yak about how the ship was coming back from Antonio's daughter's wedding in Tunis, which they think might also be Carthage; and about who back home will be the new Duke of Milan when they turn up missing. Someone asks Antonio if he feels bad about betraying his brother to become Duke. He makes a long speech which boils down to "Nope. I'd do it all again".

The last group is 2 sailors. Caliban sees them and plays dead for a joke. One finds Caliban and decides to hide under him for warmth. The other comes later and thinks he's found a 4-legged 2-headed monster. Then they give Caliban some rum which he really likes, drunkenly pledging to be their servant. It's kind of a funny scene, I guess.

Next day, Propero is in the study. Ferdinand, working hard to haul logs for them, is resting and flirting with Miranda. He does sexy stuff like asking her name, saying he's a prince, and that he's such a slave to her beauty that he'll gladly be her log-man. That's a penis joke, right? She offers to marry him on the spot. Propero overhears, isn't happy, but will deal with it later.

Now we're back to the two drunk sailors and Caliban. They're still messing around (one actually says "you lie like a dog" -- what didn't Shakespear invent?) Caliban them sums up the plan he was pitching. It's long, very long, but is basically to murder Propero during his afternoon nap. Unfortunately, Ariel was listening the whole time, invisibly. To make trouble he copies voices to make one sailor keep saying "You're lying". The other finally threatens threatens to punch his teeth in: "by this hand, I will supplant some of your teeth". They eventually brawl, but finally go along with Caliban's plan, up to who gets Miranda. Caliban says she might be pretty, but he's only seen 1 other woman, his mom, so they can't go by him.

Back to the evil Duke and company, Ariel has prepared an illusionary feast and a band. But halfway through stops it and moans in a spooky voice how the Duke's son is dead at the bottom of the sea and the Duke is being punished for what he did to his brother. Then the feast is back, but sadder.

At the house, Prospero is telling Ferdinand how he's really impressed him over the last 2 days, and he can marry Miranda. Ariel conjures up some spirits for a long wedding party. Prospero stops it when the time comes for the sailors to kill him. Ariel has led Caliban and the drunks here, but through nettles and a swamp. They arrive wet and start trying on new clothes, talking about which looks more kingly. Caliban is yelling at them to just kill Prospero and loot later. Finally Prospero magically summons dogs and a hunting party to chase them away.

The evil Duke and friends now arrive and Prospero reveals himself. He demands the Dukedom back and his brother says "fine, whatever". The crew of the ship comes back and tells everyone the ship is actually fine. Ariel asks "I did good, right?". Trying to be funny Prospero says "you lost a son (Antonio still thinks his son is dead), but I lost a daughter", then reveals Ferdinand and Miranda, married. Not a single person seems to care they're first cousins. Miranda exclaims that she's never seen so many people. The End.

Then Prospero gives a final speech to the audience. He's giving up magic, has freed Ariel, forgave his brother, and promises to be a better Duke. But past magic use is still a sin, so wants us to pray for him for forgiveness as we'd want someone to forgive us (wow, a Bible paraphrase).

So what the heck happened? Prospero seems to have really wanted vengeange on his brother. But then, partly due to Ferdinand and Miranda, he mellows out. The worst thing he does is say "your father/son is dead". But after that he just shows them a feast, then says "ha-ha, it's actually a slightly worse feast". Maybe it seemed a lot better in his head?

Or maybe we're supposed to compare him to Caliban, who's a murdering rapist, but oblivious. Whereas Prospero can learn. Or maybe Ariel sums it up when he says "Gonzalo seems so upset that if I were human I'd take pity on him". Maybe we should all focus on acting more human.

Richard-II

Historical plays don't sound fun, but then you remember England had The War of the Roses, Robin Hood, and the Tower of London. Plus Shakespeare's not stupid. He skips the boring parts and makes up new fun stuff.

In Richard-II we start with Lord Bolingbroke accusing Lord Mobray of treason. Mobray defends himself by saying, yes, he kept a quarter of the money given for the troops, but only because the King owed him for, you know, other stuff. He also executed the Duke of Glouchester, but that was partly an administrative error on his part. And he did plan an ambush to kill Bolingbroke, but he confessed it to a priest so it doesn't count. They're having the trial (a joust to the death) when King Richard says stop -- you're both exiled instead. Richard makes them promise not to come back with an army (yes, it's foreshadowing).

A bit later Duke Gaunt, Bolingbroke's dad, and the widowed Duchess of Glouchester are talking about how the old King had 7 sons, with Kingly Blood, and they're getting killed left and right these days. So I guess that's the plot.

Next Richard is worrying about how he's going to pay for the invasion of Ireland when he hears Gaunt is deathly ill. He jokes they shouldn't hurry. With luck Gaunt will be dead when they arrive and they can go straight to taking his money. But he's alive and yells at the king about spending too much and stealing it from nobles, then dies. York, Richard's most trusted advisor and Uncle, tells Richard he's only a King because he inherited it from his dad, so he should be careful about stealing the inheritances from others. Richard ignores him.

As soon as Richard is off for Ireland, Bolingbroke is back from exile with an army. York is trying to stop it, but there's no money and everyone is defecting. He tries to borrow some money from his sister the Duchess but a servant says "that's what I've been trying to tell you -- your sister died". Poor York. The rebels march in to popular acclaim. Finally we see York with some Welch mercenaries who tell him they'd stay, but with things so uncertain they have to go back to keep their families in Wales safe.

When the rebels arrive York gives a speech about how disloyal they are, but says they may as well come in for tea. Some captured loyalists and two other guys who fled instead of protecting the queen have their heads chopped off. The king finally comes back from Ireland and hides in his last castle. Bolingbroke goes in, kneels before him, and sweet-talks him into coming out.

Next scene the queen is soooo booored, asking her maid to entertain her, and shooting down every suggestion. They hide when the gardeners arrive, who are talking about how King Richard is depressed, being basically held captive, and is going to abdicate to Boligbroke. Now that's the way to move the plot along.

Bolingbroke, soon to be King Henry the 4th, is coronated. Richard has to publicly abdicate, but hems and haws and finally "yeah, whatever, I abdicate". It's kind of funny, I guess. Then he's locked in the Tower of London and the queen is sent to France. They compete with various "I'll miss you", "no, I'll miss you more" (but fancier. It's not bad).

In the next scene Henry's been King for a while. Things are a little tense, but not too bad. Then we go to York and his son, who seems to be hiding some paper in his jacket. His dad asks to see it, and the son says it's nothing. It's, uh, papers for a loan he took for new clothes. York asks why he loaned money to himself and grabs it. Then he goes pale, jumps on a horse and says he must warn King Henry. Turns out his kid is part of a regicide plot. His mom tells him to get there before York and beg forgiveness, and she also jumps on a horse.

At the palace, York's kid gets there first and insists on talking with Henry in a locked room. He starts to say how it's not his fault, when York knocks, is let in and explains the letter and the plot. Just then York's wife demands to be let in and Henry just throws up his hands and lets her in. She says her knees are welded to the floor until Henry pardons her son, York grudging goes along with her, and the son rolls his eyes. At one point York jokes "what if you just said Pardonez-Moi?". After lots of amusing begging, King Henry pardons the kid, but the rest of the plotters are getting their heads cut off.

Two guys overhear this (I think?) and somehow assume he means to kill the old King. In the tower, the old King is talking to himself, going nuts. His ex-stableboy comes in to say hi and to say Richard's favorite horse was used for the coronation. Richard insults his horse, then forgives it, and generally raves. Then the two guys come in. Richard grabs a sword and stabs a few people, but is finally killed. When Henry hears of this he's horrified, thinks he's partly to blame, and pledges to make a pilgrimage to Rome.

So that was odd. In real life Richard probably died in jail of old age -- Shakespeare clearly knew about artistic license. Lots of heads were chopped, so that's fun. I didn't mention this part, but besides a still banished Mobray we also meet a promising young man named Percy, and the new King Henry has a useless drunken son. So, like StarWars movies, Shakespeare understood setting up the rest of the franchise (Henry-IV part I and II, and more).

Two Gentlemen of Verona

This one is great. Stuff you'd see in a good romantic comedy today, but with a weak ending (so also like a romantic comedy today).

We start with the two gentlemen, friends Valentine and Proteus. Valentine is leaving the city (of Verona). Proteus's family won't let him travel, and Valentine is teasing him about that and about Proteus's new love, Julia.

A bit later Proteus's servant Speed (that's his name -- Speed) returns from delivering a love letter to the aformentioned Julia. Proteus is desparate to know how it was received. Speed rambles, gets confused, then says it went terrible -- because he didn't get a tip. Through-out, the gentlemen's servants, Speed and Launce, are complete idiots, frequently mishearing things and driving their masters crazy.

Next scene is in Julia's boudoir with her maid Lucetta, talking about which suitor Julia might marry. Maybe that knight? Ick. The rich guy? Blah. That Proteus guy? Nooo...why do you think I like him (she clearly does). It turns out the idiot Speed thought the maid was Julia and gave her the note. Lucetta mentions the love note to Julia who gets all flustered and sends Lucetta away with the letter, then calls her back to ask for it. But Lucetta has already "accidentally" dropped it as she left. When Julia finally pounces on it she get nervous and tears it up instead. Then she castigates herself for being so scared of love. It's a pretty good scene.

Meanwhile Valentine has been abroad and his letters have convinced Proteus's father to let Proteus go. But Proteus has finally received a love letter back from Julia, and wants to stay. Sadly, his dad has already converted Proteus's room into a study, so it's off to visit Valentine.

Over to Valentine in the royal court. The Duke's beautiful daughter Silvia has asked Valentine to write a love letter for her to someone else. He loves her but grudgingly does it. Silvia says the letter is fine, but could be better, and gives it back to him, telling him to write a better one and then read it to himself. He's completely flummoxed until Speed explains she wants to send a love letter to you, you dummy, but is so shy she's making you write it.

A bit later we meet Thurio, the man the Duke wants Silvia to marry (oops!) We also learn Silvia and Valentine have courted and are now secretely an item (double oops!) As for Protues, he's finally about to arrive. Valentine is talking him up to the Duke -- great guy, great friend, would never try to steal your secret girlfriend.

When Proteus arrives he's instantly in love with Silvia. He knows Valentine likes her, waffles a bit, then decides true love wins over friendship. When Valantine asks for his help eloping with Silvia, Proteus sees his chance. He coyly tells the Duke how he hates to betray his friend but he has sooo much respect for the rights of a father, and spills the elopement plan.

Then comes a funny scene where the Duke catches up with Valentine. "Can we talk", "Well, I'm kind of busy", "With what?", "Uh, mailing some letters", "important ones?", "Uh, no, just about how great this place is". "Well that can wait. Let's talk". Then the Duke throws a curve. He's sick of his daughter not liking Thurio so he's going to allow her to marry anyone, but cut her off from the cash. He also wants Valentine's help with this widow he wants to court -- he's been out of the dating game for so long, you know. After a bit the Duke explains that she's up in a tower. Valentine says to use a rope ladder and grapnel, which can be hidden under a cloak. "Like your cloak?" the Duke asks, "Uh, I guess". The Duke yanks it and a rope ladder, grapnel and love note to Silvia fall out. Valentine is banished on the spot.

Proteus next convinces the Duke that he's the perfect person to get Silvia to forget about Valentine and to focus her love on Thurio. Of course he's lying. His plan is to court her for himself. But she knows everything he's done and hates his weaselly guts. Up in her room he says he'll do anything for her. Anything? Anything. OK, then leave and never come back! He tells her Valentine is dead, but he just sounds desparate at that point.

Back in Verona, Julia has heard the news, is heartbroken, and decides to go win Proteus back. Lucetta convinces her she would be safer dressed as a man, which begins a long discussion of what men wear. She'll have to wear a codpiece (a padded mens' G-string worn on the outside). And off she goes.

Meanwhile, banished Valentine has run into the Outlaws. He explains that he's broke since he was just banished. Turns out they're also all banished gentlemen. "What did you do?", "Oh, I, uh, killed a man, in a fair duel". One outlaw says he merely tried to elope with some girl. So Valentine could have told the truth. But another says he killed someone. They eventually ask him to be their new leader since he speaks more languages than anyone else in the gang. I didn't see that comming.

At the court, Julia-in-disguise has taken a job as her ex-boyfriend Proteus's second servant. He gives her a ring to give to Silvia -- the ring Julia gave him just before he left. Ouch! She asks him about his ex-girlfriend in Venona and gets madder and madder as Proteus says she wasn't much. Julia delivers the ring and finds out for herself that Silvia hates Proteus. Also, Silvia's found out about Protues's ex-girlfriend Julia. She wants to question disguised-as-servant Julia about ... Julia. She gets answers: "oh, she's about my complexion", "she's about my height", "she's the same dress size as me -- I borrowed one from her for a play once". After all of that, Silvia previously agreed to give Proteus a picture of her, handing it to Julia-in-disguise to deliver. Once alone, Julia holds it up and it compares to her face, point-by-point. So that's pretty weird.

Proteus has another plan involving giving Silvia a puppy. But servant Launce lost it and decided his dog is 10 times bigger, so 10 times better. Unfortunately, his dog was blamed for a fart under the table that Launce knows by smell was from another servant. Previously his dog had crapped on the rug but Launce said he did it and was put in the stocks. But today his dog took a wiz on a woman's skirts. There was no way Launce could say he did that.

Proteus yells at him and is about to deliver another puppy himself when news comes that Silvia is gone. In an earlier scene she asked this guy Eglamour for help escaping. When his wife died Eglamour vowed to stay chaste, so Silvia knew he understands true love. But they're captured by the Outlaws. Eglamore runs off, with Silvia delivered to their leader. Everyone else chases them and are also captured. Thurio says he was never in love and isn't going to risk his life for Silvia. the way is clear for Valentines and Silvia to wed, with the Duke's approval. Proteus decides Julia is a decent second choice, and she somehow still wants him. Valentine is somehow not angry at Proteus.

Valentine has just one request for the Duke: these Outlaws are all good, useful people. How about you pardon them all. The Duke agrees. THE END.

Like I said, weak ending -- feels good, but Thurio bowing out and Proteus and Julia getting back together makes no sense. The mass pardon doesn't bother me as much, since we know the Duke banishes people on a whim (well, the unbanished murderer may be a problem). Even so, this may be his best play -- things move along, get somewhat serious but not too dire, and plenty of laughs.

Henry-IV, pt-1

This is the sequel to Richard-II, starting soon after. A bad civil war is going on. One of Henry's Dukes has been captured, killed and mutilated in an unspeakable manner. But there's good news -- the son of one of Henry's Dukes is turning into an excellent fighter and leader. Henry muses about his own worthless son, wishing they could switch. And there's our theme: bloody war, worthless Prince.

The next scene shows us Henry's worthless son, once again hung-over. His pal Falstaff asks what time it is and the Prince asks "what do you care? We drink and chase women no matter what time it is". They joke around then another friend takes the Prince aside. It turns out that Falstaff and some friends plan to rob wealthy travellers. How about they disguise themselves and rob Falstaff right after? A quick reminder: this is still Shakespeare's dramatic history Richard-IV; and the plot so far is the Prince of Wales stealing beer money.

Back to the war, the King is demanding those recent captives be sent to him. The commander, HotSpur, explains how he's getting to it, but the King's envoy pissed him off. Right after the battle this fresh-as-a-daisy noble with a handkerchief to his nose rode up demanding the captives. The dead are still being carried out and this fop is grabbing for his snuff box and asking for the corpses to be moved downwind. Hotspur, still covered in blood, told him to get the hell out. So that's why there was a delay with the prisoners. Then HotSpur asks if the prisoners will be traded for Lord Mortimor. The King gets mad and says "No, and never speak to me of him".

After the King leaves, they find out there's a rumor Mortimer was named the next king by Richard, before Henry took over. So maybe Henry wants Mortimor to stay captured. At this Hotspur has had it. He doesn't like how he's been treated now, he never liked how Henry treated him, and the murder of old King Richard in the Tower -- who wasn't all that bad in retrospect -- it's all too much. His uncle Worchester is trying to calm him down, to no avail. They all finally decide to rebel: take the prisoners to Scotland, get Mortimor back and raise an army themselves.

Now back to the Prince. Some guys are clowning around in a barn. Really. Some random messengers, early morning, are goofing off. They leave and the Prince and company come. As part of the prank they've hidden fat Falstaff's horse and he's moaning about his poor feet. But eventually he and his pals rob those travellers, then Poins and the Prince in disguise rob them. Back at the inn, the Prince and Poins are pranking an employee and talking about great Lord HotSpur who kills a dozen men before breakfast then complains to his wife that he's bored. They start to do a play about it, using bar employees, eventually covering Hotspur's revolt (ah, so it's a few months later and HotSpur's plan worked). Falstaff and his gang arrive, covered in blood with beat-up swords, and describe how they were attacked by 2 men, no 3, 7, 9, 11 ... 50 men and they killed at least 5. Then the Prince reveals it was just him and Poins. They all have a good laugh. Falstaff even explains how much effort they put into looking as if they'd been in a huge battle. Then the sheriff arrives with a warrent to arrest Falstaff but the Prince says he'll take care of it. Again, a quick reminder -- this is the grand historical play Henry-IV.

The Prince takes some stuff from passed-out Falstaff as a joke and goes to see his father. The King goes on and on about how Prince Harry isn't acting very royal, etc... . The Prince explains that was a long time ago, people made up a lot of it, and he's reformed now. The King buys it, mostly. Back at the inn, Falstaff is accusing the inn-keeper's wife of robbing him. They argue, she says he already owes her money, it escalates, and right as Falstaff is saying he'd beat the Prince with a cudgel, the Prince gets back. It's a classic "uh, were you behind me the whole time. How much did you hear?" "oh, I heard enough". Falstaff then calls the inn-keeper's wife an "otter" since men don't know what to do with her; she rises to it and says men very much know what to do with her. The Prince finally reveals he picked Falstaff's pocket. More laughs all around.

Before all of that, with the rest mixed in, a lovely scene begins with HotSpur reading a reply to one of his letters, a line-at-a-time, and yelling at it. This guy won't join his plot since he thinks it's too dangerous. "Danger?", HotSpur yells, "hell, just going to sleep is dangerous". It goes on: the other people in it don't seem reliable. HotSpur yells out the names of everyone so far, reliable to a man. HotSpur suspects this weakling is going to tell the King so the revolt needs to be moved-up. His wife comes in, asking what the problem has been these last few weeks. They go back and forth. She asks if it involves her brother Mortimor. He says women talk too much so he can't tell her, but he'll send for her a day after he leaves, then she'll know. Shakespeare does that a lot -- quickly gives plot details, then goes over them again, slowly, for the really drunk audience members.

Later they're all at camp discussing how many times they've driven back the king's armies. A bishop has drawn up a map dividing lands between them. HotSpur gets angry about a winding river and says he'll damn it to straighten it out and get more land. They argue. Finally HotSpur says it's fine, they're all friends. He just got overexcited and treated it as a business deal by mistake.

The wives are all there -- a big battle is coming up soon. One man's wife only speaks Welsch. With some translation she wants to sing a song. HotSpur complains he'd rather hear a cat howl in Irish than the best Welsch song, but she sings it anyway. Then it's off to war again.

On to the battle. The rebels are worried that all of their troops haven't arrived yet and the horses are tired. Hotspur points out the king's horses are even more tired and even more of the king's forces are due to arrive, so they attack now. At the King's camp poor Falstaff, as a joke by the Prince, is leading a company of very poorly equipped foot-soldiers. Elsewhere a bishop is sending off important letters to everyone about stopping the war, which we later find aren't read in time.

A rebel delegation meets with the King. They explain that they helped him when he was back from being banished, and even went along when he changed his mind and decided to become king. In return he screwed them. The King says he heard all of those complaints and saw the posters with them, but he was busy. If they stop rebelling he'll forgive them and think about their complaints. The rebel delegation is worried some might believe that nonsense, so when they go back to camp they lie -- the King told us "no deals".

During the battle Douglas, a rebel, meets Blunt in disguise as the king and kills him. Hotspur shows up and tells him there are lots of king duplicates. Douglas vows to kill them all. Poor Falstaff has lost almost all of his men and vows to play dead at the next chance. The Prince asks to borrow Falstaff's sword, or at least his pistol. Falstaff hands it to him, but it's just a bottle of wine. Douglas finally finds the real king, but the Prince shows up to save him. Later HotSpur finds the Prince, Falstaff arrives, followed by King-killing Douglas. He "kills" Falstaff (who just played dead again) then leaves, and the Prince somehow kills HotSpur. THE END.

Well, almost The End. In the battle, after they all leave to fight elsewhere, Falstaff jumps up, stabs HotSpur's corpse and carries him back. He says both of them were only stunned and he killed HotSpur in a fair fight after everyone left. Then we hear that the rest of the rebels have fled, many leaders have been captured and will be executed, including the herioc Douglas, who fell off a short cliff. The King splits his forces to deal with the remaining rebels. The Real End.

So what the heck? 2/3rds of the play is the Prince just messing around playing pranks. The historical part was: "some people who helped him become King rebel, almost pull it off, but the king gets lucky". The way the scenes tell the story is what makes Shakespeare worth reading. We see the new King treat his old friends badly -- the rebellion seems somewhat justified. The play in the inn lets us see it through the common man's eyes. Hotspur reading the letter is a terrific "this is what happened so far". Then we get a really nice eve-of-the-battle scene with the wives. The negotiation scene beautifully sums up Henry's entire rise from wronged-noble into arrogant king. We see the horrors of war when Falstaff's useless peasant squad is wiped-out. The battle is just 3 sword-fights, but tells the story: the rebels do well, then the King's superior numbers win it. This is a great play.

Henry-IV, pt-II

This is really the 3rd in a row of English history, after Richard-II and Henry-IV, pt1. To review: Henry was banished, came back and became king, angered his friends, who revolted and have just lost one big battle to him.

It starts with cuteness. A character named "Rumor" says how rumors of bad news is fun, but even better is a rumor of good news when the real bad news is coming. Sure enough, Northumberland, Dad of many rebels, hears they won, then that they lost. He's so sad that his wife and daughter convince him to take his army back to Scotland. Bad idea -- after the rebels are dealt with he's rounded up anyway.

We go to King Henry. He's sick and reminiscing about his former friends, now rebels. We get "heavy is the head that wears the crown" from this. The rebels hear rumors the king's army is huge, but the king hears the rebel army is huge. Before the battle they once again parlay. The king's representative again promises to review their grievances, and this time the rebels go for it. But once they send their armies home, the leaders are arrested and executed. The sick king then dies, making drunkard Prince Harry into King Henry-V. False advertising! The title said this was about Henry the Fourth.

Meanwhile, Falstaff is back and has a new crew with funny names. He argues with a tailor who won't give him any more credit. He's almost arrested because he promised to marry the tavern owner so he could sleep with her. They bring in a prostitute named Doll Tearsheets. You may be assuming that's a common old english name -- nope. It means she's a doll who will tear up the sheets with you. It's a total porn name. The Prince and Poins desguise themselves and listen to Falstaff badmouth him in front of the ladies. When confronted he stammers "I, uh, these are bad people and I was trying to keep them from bothering you". Falstaff, now some sort of Captain, takes bribes from men who want to avoid serving in his regiment. After the rebel leaders are captured, Falstaff grabs one and makes a big deal about how he captured this really important guy and wants credit. Later Doll is arrested for murdering a man with one of Falstaff's crew but she claims to be pregnant.

When he hears the Prince is now the King, Falstaff rushes to court and is all "Hey, Harry, buddy!". Henry tells him to get lost. Falstaff tells a buddy "Harry had to be rude to me in public, but I'll go see him tonight privately and things will be the same as ever". Instead, Falstaff and his crew are tossed in jail. Everyone is impressed -- Henry might be a good king after all.

It ends with an announcer telling us Falstaff will be back in Henry-V, then a very strange apology. It turns out Shakespeare had some terrible luck. Falstaff was based on an historical person, John Oldcastle, thought to have engaged in real-life scumbaggery similar to Falstaff's. But while this play was being written Oldcastle's real-life descendant complained about "Falstaff" in the last play. At the same time, Oldcastle's historical reputation was changing to a good guy. Oopps. So at the end of this play they carefully explain how Falstaff isn't based on Oldcastle at all, and no disrespect was intended.

This play and the last one are much like a modern period piece. Important Historical Stuff happens and our tickets say "Educational Historical Play" on them. But it's mostly about some completely invented lovable rogues who lived through it.

As you like it

This starts out with a complicated scene. A noble named Orlando is complaining to his brother Oliver that he's stuck in this town, not allowed to do anything. Oliver clearly hates his brother. Next Oliver is talking to the Duke's wrestler -- you know, like the Duke's juggler or singer, except he wrestles people. See if you can follow the conversation: "So, you never go easy on anyone?", "That's right -- the Duke likes to hear bones break. If I don't, I'm fired", "that's too bad, since my brother is challenging you", "he'll heal", "But he'll take revenge, deadly revenge. Unless you make sure he can't. He poisoned the last guy who beat him". So, Oliver is trying to trick the wrestler into killing his brother Orlando.

Then we go to lifelong friends Rosalond (daughter of the exiled Duke) and Celia (daughter of the current evil Duke). Those 2 ladies hear about the wrestling event from their jester and go to attend. So far the champion has mangled 3 peasant brothers. We see their dad crying over his dying sons where they've been thrown in a pile. Orlando is next. Rosalond and Celia try to talk him out of it, but he fights -- and wins, nearly killing Charles (yes, the Duke's brutal wrestling champion was named "Charles"). Rosalond is smitten. Who wouldn't be. Orlando sees her and feels the same way. But the Duke calls him over and learns Orlando's dad is a follower of the ex-Duke. We can't have that, so he orders Orlando's house burnt down that night. Orlando is warned and flees to the Arden Forest (where everyone knows the banished Duke now holds court). Still angry, the Duke also banishes Rosalond (recall, the daughter of the ex-Duke). His own daughter Celia insists on going with her best friend, coincidentally also into the Arden forest. At this point it goes without saying: Rosalond disguises herself as a man.

In the forest, Orlando's meets a guy named Jacque who's sulking as usual. That inspires Orlando to write bad love poems to Rosalond and to leave them in trees. Next Celia and Rosalond and their clown arrive, buying a house from some shepards. They find the tree-letters and realize Orlando is also here and still in love with her. The only logical thing is for Rosalond to stay disguised as a man, tell Orlando she knows Rosalond, and convince him to pretend she's Rosalond and go on dates. It will be like exposure therapy to cure his hopeless love. Orlando goes for it. Pretty soon everyone in the forest knows "Rosalond" is what crazy Orlando calls the man he's dating.

Meanwhile the female shepard (who they bought the house from) has noticed man-Rosalond and sends "him" a playfully rude love-letter. Rosalond and Celia explain to her how the other shepard is clearly in love with her and seems like a good guy. Their clown has also met a country woman, Audrey. They're in love and plan to marry.

On his way to the regular date with faux-Rosalond, Orlando is delayed by his evil brother Oliver in trouble. We're not sure why, but Oliver came to the forest. While resting, I kid you not, a snake and a lion found him. The lion won't eat him if he stays perfectly still, which means the snake has free reign to crawl all around him, nibbling. Orlando fights off the lion but is slightly injured and needs to see the nurse. He sends Oliver to the date to explain why he's missed it. Oliver sees Celia there and falls in love. Which is weird since he would have known Celia from court.

Rosalond finally comes clean, in a weird way. Instead of revealing her disguise, she says she knows a magician who can summon the real Rosalond. Then all 4 pairs are married -- Rosalond and Orlando, brother Oliver and best-friend Celia, the 2 shepards, and the clown and Audrey. A messenger arrives saying the current Duke heard how much fun they were having and brought an army to kill everyone. But on the way he met a forest holy man and decided to quit being the Duke. THE END.

This is so stupid that it's good. It's just one crazy thing after another. The ex-Duke has this always-ready dining table set up in the middle of the forest. The current Duke is just all rage. And a quadrouple wedding -- wow! It's also the kinkiest of his plays. Orlando takes very little convincing to flirt with a man. He seems to like being ordered to do it. Rosalond stays a man for way too long, even taking pains to preserve her male alter-ego. Maybe for that shepardess -- who knows?

Julius Ceaser

Oh, wow. Shakespere wrote a play about Julius Ceaser. It's full of famous Shakespeare quotes, too. It's got "et tu, Brute", "the fault is not in our stars", "It's all Greek to me", "a coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man dies but once", and "friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears".

We start with some guys complaining about how the rabble is so excited about Ceaser being crowned emperor. We learn everyone who actually knows Ceasar thinks he'll suck at it: he can't swim well, is deaf in one ear, is a baby when he's sick -- and he faked fainting to make people feel sorry for him. That's terrible emperor material. Cassius is trying to convince Brutus to go along with anti-Ceaser activity. Lots of other guys are in on it. As Ceaser parades along, some crazy old Hermit tells him to Beware the Ides of March. That sets up the action nicely

That night they all come over to Brutus's place during a full moon (the Ides). The plan is a simple one: stab Ceaser to death the next day in the Senate. They consider also murdering his protogee Marc Anthony, but killing two Senators in the same day is too much, even for Rome. Cassius's role is make sure Ceasar shows up. They have a few more names of guys who might want to be in on it, then Brutus's wife drags him back to bed. Good meeting, guys.

An aside: this is brilliant. For real we know Ceasar gets stabbed, the play knows we know, so there it is. It's happening the next day, and the play has barely started. Now I'm on the edge of my seat wondering what else is going to happen.

The next morning they gradually show up at Ceaser's house to escort him to the Senate. Last night was full of horrible portents and Ceaser's wife had a bloody dream. She tries to keep him home, but they convince Ceaser the blood represents all the great stuff he'll achieve. Someone tries to slip Ceaser a note "don't trust these guys" but he's hustled away. In the Senate the conspirators first ask Ceaser to reinstate a guy he banished. Ceaser refuses. That's weird -- why ask that if they're going to kill him anyway? Cassius approaches, which is the signal, and they all stab him and wash their arms in his blood.

Marc Anthony, not present, has heard and sends a message. They negotiate, and finally they agree to let him run the funeral and give a speech. Brutus speaks first, explaining how Ceaser was a great man, but too ambitious, so had to die. Then he just leaves. Anthony starts his speech with "I come not to praise Ceaser, but to bury him" (a total lie). He says it seems like Ceaser did all these great things for Rome, but according to Brutus it was all just ambition. Who am I to say otherwise? Then he mentions having Ceaser's will. "What? You want me to read it? I shouldn't, but if you insist". It turns out that Ceaser left everything to The People. That does it. The riled-up crowd sets off to kill the conspirators. They meet a poet with the same name as a Senator and kill him for good measure. That's how riled they are.

Brutus and Cassius have fled Rome to their armies, and are arguing. Brutus says "not in front of the troops. Let's use my tent". They smooth things over and decide the pro-Ceaser forces are gaining in strength so they have to attack now. Also, we hear Brutus's wife has killed herself out of shame and fear. Also, Brutus sees Ceaser's ghost.

This is one of the few battles Skakespeare describes. Brutus charges against some weaker troops, but spends too much time chasing them down. This allows Anthony's larger forces to surround Cassius. After thinking he saw his best friend captured by the enemy and the battle lost, Cassius kills himself. But those enemy troops were actually freindly reinforcements and his best friend is leading them. When the best friend sees dead Cassius he also kills himself. Brutus has fled to a cave, things seeming hopeless. He sees Ceaser's ghost again, and kills himself by running into a sword. Very manly. Anthony makes a speech about how Brutus was the only decent one of them and should get a good burial. THE END

King Lear

King Lear quickly goes to the part everyone knows: crazy King Lear is retiring, dividing his kingdom between his three daughters based on how much they love him. Goneril says she loves him more than any other daughter. Regan says she loves him so much that she hates everything else. The whole time sister Cordeilia has been making fun of them. On her turn she says she loves her dad a normal amount and will love her husband just as much when she marries (both older sisters are married). Lear is furious and Cordelia gets nothing. The Earl of Kent tries to explain how she's his only good daughter, but he banished for his efforts. All of Cordelia's suitors back off, but the King of France still wants to marry her. He was her first choice anyway, so she goes to France.

Meanwhile, someone asks the Earl of Glouschire if that guy over there is his son. Glouschire explain how that one is his lawful son by his wife, but the other is a bastard son of his. He recently stopped denying it since the boy's mom was so attractive and they had a good time conceiving him. He's a very embarrasing dad.

It turns out bastard son Edward is evil. He tells his dad the good son is plotting against him. To prove it, Glouschire can hide and listen to a conversation between the brothers. That never happens. Instead Edward cuts his arm and runs to his dad "someone told me to kill you but I refused. I told him I love my dad". Bastard Edward won't say who it was until his dad promises to believe him and hunt down the traitor, then reveals "it was your other son!". That's a terrible frame-up, but Glouschire goes for it. The good son is now on the run, much like Lear's good daughter Cordelia.

Back to Lear, he and a hundred of his men are staying with daughter Goneril. Banished Lord Kent is back, disguised as Lear's loyal servent. In his chambers, Lear is shoving one of Goneril's servants, Oswald. Kent joins in, tripping him. The next day Goneril dismisses 50 of Lear's followers. Angry, Lear decides to stay with Regan, but the two are in cahoots -- Goneril sends abused Oswald ahead with a note to warn her. When Kent arrives at Regan's he sees Oswald there, and starts insulting him. Oswald says "I don't even know you". Kent draws his sword and replies "I'm the guy that tripped you back at Goneril's!". That gets Kent put in the stocks. Lear arrives and is furious. Regan says he should go back to Gonerils's, or she could take him with only 25 followers. Goneril arrives and says if he comes back it's down to 10. Finally the offer is down to just Lear and 0 followers.

The sisters overhear Gloucester offering to let Lear and his men stay with him. That's no good, so they take away Glouschester's castle as punishment. Bastard son Edward takes advantage of this by writing a letter framing his Dad for betraying England to France.

At the end of the "you'll have 0 men" scene Lear walks out into a raging storm. This is the classic scene were he yells at it: his daughters owe him, but he didn't give this storm half his kingdom -- it's morally free to rain on him all it wants. And so on. Finally they find a shack where Glouchester's good son, on the run, is hiding in disguise. Lear asks him "let me guess -- were you also betrayed by ingrateful daughters?" and goes nuts when Kent says how unlikely that is. Glouchester arrives and Lear has everyone perform a mock trial for his daughters.

A bit later we're in court and the sisters have arrested Glouchester, based on Edward's fake letter. They blind him (and we find he was already missing one eye) and make Edward the new Duke. Goneril asks Edward to kill her husband so she can marry him. But just then Regan's husband is fatally wounded in a scuffle with one of Glouchester's loyal servants (who Goneril takes out with a stab in the back). Regan now decides she should marry Edward, being newly single. They release Glouchester but later change their minds, calling for his death.

Wandering blindly, Glouchester is met by his good son, still in disguise. He wants to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff into the sea. His son pretends to lead him to one, Glouchester jumps and faints before realizing there's no cliff. His son then pretends to be a fisherman discovering him at the bottom of a cliff, describing a miracle cushioning his fall. That convinces Glouchester to renounce suicide. Lear then wanders by and says crazy stuff. Some men from the French army sent by Cordelia find them all, but Lear hears "daughter", assumes it's one of his evil ones, and runs off. Goneril's servant Oswald arrives (this is a busy field) and gets ready to kill Glouchester for the reward, but the son kills Oswald. He stays in disguise the whole time, speaking with a terrible German accent.

Good daughter Cordelia finally tracks down Lear. They clean him up, put him in a nice chair, and eventually convince him he's not dead. But the French lose the battle and Lear and Cordelia are captured by the evil sisters. Unfortunately, Goneril's husband has found the "if you kill him we can be together" letter and accuses Edmund of being a traitor. Apparently that means you blow a trumpet 3 times and anyone can challenge the suspected traitor. On #3 Edward's good brother, still in disguise, comes out. They fight and Edward falls. Goneril says the fight doesn't count as a legal judicial battle, but her still angry husband waves the letter in her face, and she runs off. She poisons Regan so she can't have Edward, and stabs herself. We learn the good son finally told his dad who he was, they made up, but Glouchester died of shock anyway. Back at the fight, dying Edward says he sent someone to hang Cordelia and make it look like a suicide. They send someone to stop it, but Lear arrives carrying Cordelia's dead body. Lear killed the assassin, but too late. Kent reveals himself to Lear, but Lear dies of heartbreak anyway. Finally Edward dies of his wounds. THE END.

All-in-all, really good. Not one but 2 people are betrayed by ingrateful children. Lear's dividing his kingdom that way seems stupid, but "for real" his 2 evil daughters probably fooled him over years. Edward is delightfully evil, and the evil sisters fighting over him is pretty good. There are 4 swordfights and 9 deaths, so I can't complain there, plus plenty of funny bits -- for example, when Kent explains Lear's main servant was always him in disguise, Lear asks "OK, but how's he doing?"

MacBeth

This is the one with the witches and where Lady MacBeth encourages her husband to kill the king.

MacBeth and his friend Banquo are Scottish commanders fighting a rebellion. MacBeth has personally sword-fought his way to cut the rebel leader in half, the long way, and display his severed head. Ick. Just after, the Norwegians invade with help from a traitorous Scottsman. MacBeth drives them off as well. He's a big hero and is rewarded with the traitor's title and lands.

He and Banquo then run into 3 witches. They say MacBeth will be a king, while Banquo will have sons for kings, but never be one himself. Banquo is amused, but MacBeth is very suspicious about how they know this. Later he makes the odd remark "if I'm going to be king, I can just sit and wait for it". When he gets home and sees his wife we find out why: they've been plotting to kill King Duncan for some time. He's staying with them tonight, which is when it was going to happen. McBeth tells his wife he wants to pull out since he just got such a great new title. But Lady MacBeth says can't chicken out now, and besides, he's gone as high as he can -- Duncan's sons are still in line to be king, not MacBeth. This is the famous "screw your courage to the sticking point" and "I'd rather pull a baby off my nipple and dash out it's brains than not take my one chance" speech.

The plan is to frame the 2 royal guards by getting them drunk and killing Duncan with their daggers. MacBeth is nervous all night -- the "is this a dagger I see before me?" speech. He finally kills Duncan but can't go back to smear blood on the guards, so Lady MacBeth does it. When it's discovered the next morning, MacBeth finishes the frame-up by killing the drunk bloody guards in a fit of pretend rage, before they can be questioned. King Duncan's two sons know McBeth really killed their dad, so flee the country. Sadly, that makes almost everyone assume the sons were behind it. MacBeth becomes the new king. Yay! The plan worked!

Since he heard the prophecy, Banquo is suspicious. MacBeth realizes thus and hire some guys to kill him, They do, but his son, Fleance, gets away. People figure either Fleance killed his own dad, or else Banquo was just out too late. At a dinner party than night, MacBeth sees Banquo's ghost and start yelling at it. His guests quickly excuse themselves.

He visits the witches again. This is where we get the list of cauldron ingrediants and "bubble, bubble toil and trouble", and "something wicked this way comes". MacBeth hears he should beware MacDuff, a Scott who fled to England. Also that "no man born of woman" can harm him. Another prophecy says he's fine until certain forests rise against him. So he feels pretty safe. But they also show him how Banquo's heirs will be the next 8 kings. Just for good measure he sends his guys to kill MacDuff's wife and children (the last we see is the son stabbed to death and the wife running away, but we hear later they were all killed).

As Lady MacBeth's doctor and maid talk about her sleep-walking problem, here comes Lady MacBeth sleep-walking. She sleep-washes her hands and mutters the famous "out damned spot" line, talks about killing, then goes back to bed. Later, just before the battle, she dies (the rumor is suicide, but we never find out for sure).

In England, MacDuff and Malcolm, one of Duncan's sons, are talking in kind of a funny scene. They're complaining about MacBeth when Malcolm says if he were king he'd be worse, since he's so lusty he'd make love to every wife, daughter and maid he could get his hands on. MacDuff says there would be plenty of willing women, so he'd be fine. Malcom goes on about his other faults, then says he was only testing MacDuff ... he's actually a virgin. Then we find they've been loaned an army of 10,000 Englishmen. They invade Scotland to overthrow MacBeth.

Because of the "rising woods" part of the prophecy, MacBeth makes his stand at a not-so-good castle near one of them. People find that odd. The English army tries to disguise themselves by taking branches from a nearby wood as they march. MacDuff freaks out as "the wood has come" part of the prophecy is fufilled. He makes the famous "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" speech. But he still thinks he can't be killed. He goes out to fight and kills the commander's son. MacDuff finds him, hears "I can't be killed by man born of woman", and says his mother died in childbirth - he's born of a corpse, not a woman. At this, MacBeth is ready to give up or flee, but finally decides he may as well die fighting and says the famous "lay on, MacDuff". He's killed and Malcom is made king. THE END.

So is this good? We certainly get lots of action quickly: a battle, a promotion, killing a king. Banquo might be a problem, then isn't. MacDuff is the next problem, things go downhill quickly, then a double-surprise ending. There aren't even any sub-plots. It's got the whole "believing prophecies makes you do stupid things" bit, which was probably original back then. The witches are fun, as is guilty sleep-walking. It's got lots of good lines. It only has 4 fights (including the 2 stabbings, not counting the young-boy one). That seems low, but off-camera violence makes up for it.

The Life of Timon of Athens

You've never heard of this since Shakespeare scholars don't like it. It starts off with 4 guys who want favors from Lord Timon, bringing him gifts. On his way in Timon is told about an old friend in prison and says to pay the guy's debts, then he solves a problem where a father doesn't like the guy his daughter wants to marry. So cool! This is the overused (today) trick where you show the main character's personality right away by having them rapid-fire hit with stuff on their walk-in.

Later he's hosting a big dinner were women dressed as amazons come in to dance with the guests. All along, this guy Apemantus is going on and on about how all these fakers just want something from him.

The next day, big surprise, Timon is in debt. His steward has been telling him to spend less on parties for years. The guy he bailed out of jail is now rich after his dad died. Timons has many long-time friends who are only rich because of him. But none of them will help out -- tough times, wouldn't be prudent and other excuses. One even bribes Timon's messenger to say he wasn't home. Some guys on the street hear about this and say they've never met Timon, but hear he's a good guy and they'd lend him a little if asked. The Senate meets and decides they need to execute Timon for non-payment. One guy stands up for him and says Timon was a war hero. They say then he should have died in the war.

Timon has one last dinner with all his friends. When uncovered, the meal is warm water and rocks, which he throws at everyone calling them a bunch of ingrates. His now ex-servants have a final meeting where the head butler divides up his money between everyone and they promise to never forget what a good employer Timon was.

Timon goes into the wilderness and starts digging for roots but finds buried gold. A soldier and two prostitutes walk by. Timon pays the soldier to attack Athens and kill everyone. He pays the whores, who he constantly insults as disease-ridden floosies, to infect as many Athenians as possible with whatever diseases they have. His always complaining friend Apamantus comes by and complains "being a crazy jerk is my thing, you're stealing it". His old servant comes by and Timon admits maybe not all people suck. There's now a rumor Timon has piles of buried gold. Some bandits come by and he confuses them into attacking Athens. Two of his fake friends from the first scene come by hoping for gold.

Finally some senators come by begging him to lead the army again, since Athens is under attack. Amazingly, the attack is led by the guy with the two strumpets, doing what Timon asked! Timon tells the Senators how he wants everyone in Athens to be killed. He continues: "I wish I could catch the plague so I could give it to you". Back in Athens they surrender and beg the invaders not to do too much damage. Also, we hear Timon is now dead and his gravestone says "You've seen my grave, now get the hell out". THE END.

Is this good? There aren't any sub-plots, which is odd for Shakespeare. The crazy scenes in the wilderness are a little funny. It's got a nice moral, delivered by the steward: some friends are false, some aren't; don't get mad when you can't tell them apart. That's about the same theme as King Lear. This play is "based on real events". There really was an Athenian named Timon known for this. Educated people could even call someone a "Timon".

A Comedy of Errors

Fun with twins! It's introduced by a poor merchant explaining how he had twin sons with twin playmates who were separated as babies (a sailing accident) into identical son/playmate pairs. When his son and servant both turned 18 they searched everywhere for their twins. They saved this town for last since it's a death sentence for people from their town to come here. Sadly, while his sons and son's servant got in, he was caught and needs to pay the 1,000 marks fine in one day, or be killed.

Now the play starts. One pair of twin-halves are strangers in town, another has always lived here, and they don't know of the other's existences. The servant twin from this town has been sent to bring his master home for dinner, but mistakes the out-of-town master for his master. Out-of-town master has no idea why his servant (so he assumes) is telling him to come home to eat. Instead he asks about the 1,000 marks the servant was given for safe-keeping. This servant has never heard of that, so gets beaten. The servant goes back to the wife and sister, explains how strange her husband is acting, and the two women decide to find him themselves. Like I wrote -- fun with twins.

The out-of-town nobel twin then meets his actual out-of-town servant. That servant says the 1,000 marks is safe. The master beats him for lying earlier. Then they talk about baldness for a page. As they do that, the wife and her sister arrive. They eventually order both to come back "home". Still puzzled, they agree, partly since the women know their names (yes, both twins have the same names, which doesn't make sense).

Meanwhile, the in-town pair are leaving a jeweler's shop. Boss twin says if his wife asks, he's been there all day. What a skunk. They finally attempt to go home, but are refused entry since "they" are already inside. The out-of-town servant is manning the windowless door, yelling at his twin to stop all the racket and leave. The outside pair are about to get a crowbar but are convinced by passer-by that would look bad, so go away.

In the house, out-of-town noble tells his "wife's" sister how attracted he is to her, which freaks her out. The out-of-town servant finds he's engaged to a kitchen girl. She's very fat, like a globe, and they discuss what countries would be where on her, finally stopping at "the Netherlands". The jeweler comes by and gives out-of-town twin the gold chain he was working on. A bit later, outside, the out-of-town pair run into in-town twin's mistress. She's given in-town noble an expensive ring, for which he promised her a gold chain. She asks for the chain, or at least the ring back. Of course out-of-town twin only sees a stranger asking him for gold. After arguing and being called a disease-ridden tramp, she decides to ask for the ring back directly from the wife.

Back outside, the jeweler's gold supplier has brought the police to help collect his money. They've found the jeweler and are going to the house to get the money he's owed for the chain. On the way they see the in-town noble leaving a brothel and stop him. He and the jeweler argue back and forth "I just gave you the chain", "no, you owe me a chain". The police detain both of them (someone owes the gold supplier). Out-of-town servant then arrives on a mission to find a boat to get out of this crazy town. Instead he's is ordered back to the house for bail money.

At the house, the wife and sister are talking about the flirtation. The sister says he very properly wooed her, like a gentleman, except for the part about being already married, to you. They conclude he's gone insane. The out-of-town servant comes back for the bail money, gets it, but accidentally brings it to his real (out-of-town) master. The in-town servant the returns to the jail with rope. He was sent to find that long before the arrest, and took his time doing it. He knows nothing about any bail money, they argue, more beatings occur, and they're put in jail.

Now the wife, sister and mistress arrive. Both men in jail are clearly mad, saying they didn't do stuff last night that their twins did. The wife (who is the rich one in the family) has them hauled-off to an asylum for being bonkers. A bit later, the out-of-town pair arrive with swords out (which isn't really explained). The police scream "they've escaped!" and flee. The jeweler then runs into the out-of-town pair, sees the gold chain the in-town twin claimed not to have, and asks for it back. That would have worked, but he also insists on an apology for lying about not getting it. Swords are drawn again, the women arrive with more police, and the twins run into an Abby.

In the Abby, we learn that mental breakdown is always the wife's fault. She knew he was cheating on her, didn't yell at him enough to stop it, but then yelled at him too much later on, destroying his manhood. The Abbess won't allow visitors until the doctor has cured them. The police and wife go to get the Duke, who is nearby for an execution of some foreigner (the dad). They bring him to the Abby only to hear the pair in the Abby have gotten loose and attacked the doctor (whos cures were downright abusive). Just then the in-town twins arrive from the Asylum, having chewed through their ropes. The matter with the Abbess is dropped.

The father, who's execution has been delayed for this, sees the wrong twins and calls out to them. Of course they don't know him. The other twins come out of the Abbey and things start to get sorted out. Oh, twins. The sister asks the out-of-town twin if he still wants to court her (he does). Then the Abbess reveals that she's their mother. She was also lost in the shipwreck and didn't recognize them before. The Duke is so tickled that he suspends the execution. Wife is reunited with husband. THE END

Is this good? Well, the happy ending has a problem -- in-town noble was caught cheating on his wealthy wife. Maybe his newly-found mom and dad can straighten him out. Shakespeare also loves to give a bonus wrap-up: in this case, the dad also finding his wife. The play seems like a Jerry Lewis movie. No great morale, just all-out for situational laughs.

Henry-V

This one is famous for being the third of the "Falstaff" ones, but with no Falstaff. It's also the super-famous Battle of Agincourt, where heavily plate-armoured knights died in droves to English longbows, spelling the end of Chivalry (not exactly, but that's what people remember).

The new king is the drunk loser prince from Henry-IV, pt2. We overhear townfolk saying how he's become really kingley -- maybe all of that hard-living taught him something. Some bishops complain how he's going to tax the Church too much, but pretty quickly we move to the invasion of France. Some English Lords have title to castles they won way, way back, but the French aren't recognizing them. There's a funny scene where a lawyer reads out everyone's claims through family lines, very seriously, through a maze of usurpations and bastards which "proves" England's rights.

Scottland is still rebelling. In a long discussion the bishops convince Henry he can send 1/4th of his army, still beat France, and hold off the Scotts. They then somehow discover 3 traitor lords who sold them out to France, call them in, take their sweet time revealing what they know, and then have the traitors apologize and beg to be hanged. It was a long, brutal, seemingly pointless scene.

Mixed-in, surprise, surprise, is Falstaff's old crew. Henry threw them in jail at the end of the last play, but against legal advice he's let them out in this one. Pistol is now married to a tavern hostess who one of his friends is also in love with. They start to fight over her, talk about who owes who money, and describe how Falstaff died in bed. Yep -- the famous and much awaited Falstaff dies off-camera. It was a little funny: she felt his ice-cold feet, then his ice-cold legs, then his ice-cold "further up".

Back to the war, the Dauphine (the prince of France) has responded to the ultimatum by sending tennis balls as sort of a "here are some balls to play with, you idiot". Henry quips about knocking them into the rough, so maybe golf was called tennis back then? Tennis wasn't invented until the late 1800's, but that's what the play says, so they must have been something. Henry tells the French ambassadors they can give back all of the land, or else die horribly. Later we get a similar scene at the French court. The Dauphine explains that the tennis balls were an insult, for the drunker members of the audience. So there will be war.

Next Henry has discovered more traitors. Somehow they've conspired with France. He brings them in, toys with them, and finally has them arrested. They say they're very sorry and deserve to be hanged. Good Lord! I suppose that really happened, yet again, and Shakespeare had to work it in. Plus it shows how Henry is cleaning things up at home, I guess.

Then we get a chorus asking us to imagine a huge English fleet, as big as a city, disembarking at France. You don't get many of those with Shakespeare. Usually he has some characters say "whew, that was a long journey!". But this chorus is so well written that I can't complain.

Over in France in the English camp, dead Falstaff's friends Pistol, Bardolf and Nym are bragging about how hard they fought, while a boy calls them out as liars. Then 2 Scottsmen in charge of sapping a town are called in and complain in super-thick accents "by chrish, law. tis ill done", get increasing mad at what they think the other is saying, and almost fight. But then the French town sends for parlay. Henry tells them if they don't surrender now, his men will rape all the virgins, bash in the old men's heads, impale the babies, and then rape all of the remaining women. The town has gotten word the French army is nowhere near, so surrenders.

Then we get a funny scene where Katharine, a French princess, is learning French but confuses most of the words with dirty ones. It's in French, but with enough english words thrown in to get the gist. Next the Dauphine and his dad the French King banter. They eventually decide the English army is hungry, sick, tired and will go home soon. Later on they're back talking about shiny armour with suns and stars and how cool the Dauphins's horse is. He says it's his mistress which he rides, but not the way other men ride their mistresses. They all agree the battle will be easy.

Over in the English camp, the clownish Pistol is asking for his friend Bardolf to be spared. Poor Bardolf was caught looting a church and is about to be hung for it. English officers not only explain that he must die as an example, but they also remember how Pistol is a lazy braggart and yell at him. King Henry eventually hears about the hanging and praises them for it. Then the French send a message: we know you're tired and sick. We left you alone so you could march to us and get even more worn out. Henry replies that, yes, they are tired and sick, but they're coming anyway. You can fight us now, or later, it doesn't matter to me. But he's really impressed by the French messenger, Lord Montjoy, and says so.

Over on the French side the Duaphine and some Lords are making jokes. The Prince repeats how his horse is his mistress, and they're punning about mounting and riding them, whether old ones are better, and how you can fall into a foul bog with either type. They praise the English bravery, but they're going to get their butts kicked tomorrow. A chorus then tells us about the tired, nervous English with the King walking tent-to-tent cheering them up to at least die well. He wanders around talking more about how they're probably going to lose, but they can't let that get them down. He gives some speeches. There's a short scene where the idiot Pistol wanders in, doesn't recognize the King, and starts insulting the entire nobility. Then quickly back to the French camp where they're still over-confident.

The morning of the battle the English are seeing that yep, they're badly outnumbered. There's more doom and gloom and finally Henry makes a speech about how, worse case, after they die in droves and their souls go to heaven, their festering corpses will burst open and cause plague in France.

And we're onto the battle. Somehow Pistol has captured a French knight. Through a boy translator he's trying to figure out if this guy has a good ransom, but misunderstanding 1/2 of the words. The boy finally leads the prisoner to the rear supply area and says "I sure hope no one attacks us here, since it's barely guarded". Next we go to the French Dauphine who wants to know what happened. They're getting murdered out there. But then someone realizes they still outnumber the English so should keep trying. On the English side poor York was hacked to bits trying to defend the Earl of Suffolk, and the French have rallied. Then we're at the English supply area. Surprise -- the French have raided it and Henry has panicked and ordered the French prisoners killed. They are, but the Englshmen there argue about what Alexander the Great would have done.

Finally a French delegate approaches asking for a pause to clear the dead. It's going to take some time to sort out the Lords in all the bloody muck. Henry asks who won and the messenger says "you did". Henry is surprised. They decide to name the battle "Agincourt" after the nearest castle. There's a weird bit about how some English lord is wearing a glove in his helm over some grudge with another lord, then we get a casualty list. 10,000 dead French with so many dead French lords it's like a chapter in the Bible. War over.

Then we're back to Pistol. He was the guy the glove was about. Fleullen runs into him, slaps him around, and forces him to eat something gross. Then Pistol complains how his wife Doll has died of an STD. At least she got a mention. He's also going to tell everyone back home how the beating he just got was from fighting, which will hopefully make him a big war hero.

The wrap-up is the peace deal. The French give a long speech about peace. Henry says sure, just agree to every demand, especially that he gets to marry Princess Katherine. They leave to decide while he talks with her. She's the one with the French lessons but her nurse has to translate. Henry is trying to talk French, she's giving her best shot at English, it goes poorly, but eventually she agrees to marry him. The French come back -- they've agreed to everything. "Kate" and Henry kiss, the kingdoms are united. THE END. Then a chorus informs us that later Henry and Kate's infant son losses it all. Way to ruin an ending.

So, was that good? Removing Falstaff and killing all of the lowlifes was a big change. It's as if Shakespeare is apologizing for having been so unpatriotic. The end with Katherine was a swerve -- he didn't seem that interested in her early on and she's played for comedy with that terrible accent. As usual, we don't get many details of the battle. But it seemed accurate. For real Henry stupidly choose to march towards a vastly superior French force with no plan, and the French stupidly choose to send heavy cavalry into muddy fresh-plowed farmland with forests on either side where they knew the English had archers. The part where Henry says he'll brutalize the town if they don't surrender at once -- in general very accurate. I also liked how he had to ask who won. Battles are a mess.

But overall, this is the worst history play so far. Maybe if I saw it performed the comedy bits would stand out and be a nice contrast with the war. Maybe.

The Taming of the Shrew

I know -- the title alone makes you vomit. Parts of how he tames her are worse then you imagined. But a lot of this is actually pretty funny.

It starts with a passed-out drunk in a bar. On a whim a passerby decides to play a joke on him, convincing the man that he's filthy rich and has just woken up from a long coma where he dreamed his old life. He hires musicians, gets the best food, briefs all of his servants, gets one to dress up as the guy's wife... . When he wakes, the drunk is skeptical but they gradually convince him. He orders his "wife" to disrobe and hop in bed but they explain it could cause a relapse. The best thing for him is to watch a private play. That's right -- the Taming of the Shrew is a play-within-a-play. There's a short jump back here when they ask him how he likes it, but otherwise these scenes are completely pointless and could be cut.

Now we're in the play. We meet two men courting the meek and rich Bianca. Gremio is an old but wealthy man, and Hortensio is just this guy. The problem is she can't marry anyone before her older sister does, and Kate is mean. To prove this we get a short scene with her yelling at someone. The two suitors agree to work together to marry off older sister Kate.

Next Lucentio and his servant arrive in town. Lucentio sees Bianca on the street or something and falls in love. But since he killed a man as soon as he got here, his servant needs to pretend to be him and court Bianca in his stead. That's 3 suitors for Bianca. 1, 2, 3. Three. Ah-ha-ha!

Then we meet Patruchio. He and his servant are arguing about the meaning of "knock me that door. Knock me I say!". Then we get to business: he's the guy Gromio found for Kate. He'll do it, sight-unseen, when they confirm she's definitely rich. They explain she's the most bad-tempered woman in Padua but he doesn't care -- he knows how to deal with women like that.

Now that Kate is almost out-of-the-way, the real jockeying begins. Hoetensio disguises himself as a lute teacher, which will give him a chance to win over Bianca. Gremio has merely hired a teacher for Bianca who will talk him up. But -- get this -- the teacher he finds is actually Lucentio in disguise. Meanwhile, Lucentio's servant, pretending to be Lucentio, announces himself as the 3rd suitor to Bianca. The other two tell him to get lost, but he points out Helen of Troy had 1,000 suitors. That convinces them, so they fill him in on the Patrucio plan with Kate and all three go have a beer.

Then we get a really odd scene where Kate has tied up her sister and is interrogating her on which suitor she loves. Bianca doesn't seem to like either of the two very much (she hasn't met fake Lucentio yet). The dad shows up and chases them both away. I can't tell if this is to show how Kate deserves what she gets, or to show she really loves her sister, or maybe just to show us Lucentio has a chance with Bianca.

The next day Kate has the first lesson from the fake "lute teacher" Hortensio. She breaks the lute over his head where it dangles around his neck. Yes, Shakespeare invented the "guiter over the head" gag. Then Patruchio is introduced. He explains his plan for Kate: whatever she says he'll tell her that was the nicest thing he's ever heard, killing her with kindness. It doesn't go great. They eventually argue whether verbal wasp stings can come from the mouth and he rebuts with the filthiest line in all of Shakespeare: "with my tongue in your tail". Then he lies to the dad and says Kate agreed to marry him. She's only saying the exact opposite now for appearance sake. The dad doesn't care -- this is the first person left alone with Kate who still wanted to marry her. After Patruchio promises that Kate will inherit his stuff if he dies first, Kate's wedding is planned.

Gromio and servant/"Lucentio" immediately jump on the dad about who gets to marry Bianca (Hortensio still has a lute concussion). Gremio is rich and will die soon, letting Bianca inherit faster. But Lucentio's actual Dad is super-rich. So "Lucentio" wins, as long as his dad agrees to the "Bianca will inherit" thing. The plot is really moving along. Later the two teachers (Hortensio and the real Lucentio) are both instructing Bianca, fighting over her by insulting the other with snide remarks about their skills.

The wedding is the next day. Patruchio doesn't show up and Kate runs out humiliated. He then arrives dressed as some sort of clown, on a horse dressed the same way. During the wedding, which he does not change for, he punches the priest and yells "I do by God's Blood!" during the vows. Later, he insists Kate, who is now his property, skip the wedding feast and ride all night back to his house.

The fake Lucentio finally meets again with the real Lucentio in disguise and tells him they need someone to pretend to be his rich dad to seal the deal. They chat about how the real Lucentio is doing with Bianca.

At the Patruchio household Kate has nearly frozen to death on her horse and has fallen in the mire at least once on the way. Sadly, the servants (who have a long scene where they wait for the bridal couple to arrive) have cooked the food badly, It's totally unfit for his new wife. Of course, all of this is fake. Patruchio fills in the rest of his confused servants on the plan: he's going to isolate, starve and sleep-deprive Kate. They should tell her the bed isn't good enough for her. The next morning the cook can't serve her a proper meal, so can't give her any food at all. Later a tailor has her new outfit -- not good enough for her, not even the hat. Toss them away. Kate can wear the same dress every day.

Back to Bianca, real and fake Lucentio and Hortensio are with her. "Lucentio" says he's so offended that Bianca is flirting with the other teacher (the real Lucentio) that he's withdrawing. Hortensio rips off his disguise, saying "Ah-ha! I'm not a lute teacher. I am in fact, Hortensio!" Then he also resigns. It turns out that all along there's been this rich widow in love with him. He's decided to marry her tonight, so bye. He was never really a contender, but now the way is almost completely clear for fake-Lucentio to marry Bianca.

Next an errand-boy from Mantua arrives. I don't think anyone sent for him -- he just happened to come to Padua. There's talk about a death sentence for any Mantuan in Padua, which is from a different play and is quickly ignored. They finally ask if he's heard of Lucentio's dad (who lives in Mantua). He has, and yes, that guy is super-rich. Lucentio and his servant offer to put him up for the night, somehow convincing him to pretend to be the fake dad. It makes no sense why need need him -- maybe they needed someone who looked Mantuan? Anyway the next day he tells Bianca's dad: "I'm Lucensio's father, glad to meet you. The inheritance thing is fine with me." So it's completely settled.

Now it gets weirder. One of Bianca's Dad's servants pulls Lucentio aside (who he thinks is merely one of Bianca's teachers). He says he knows that "Lucentia" and Lucentia's dad are both fakes, which they are. He knows Bianca actually likes you, her humble teacher. The servant has arranged for them to sneak away and get married on the sly, before she has to marry a fake. That's romantic, right? Bianca wants to marry the real Luncentio even when she thinks he's poor.

Now we're back to torturing Kate. Patruchio is forcing her to agree the sun is the moon then back again, with help from Hortensia (so this is where he went!). Then he makes her call an old man a young woman, and then to apologize. Later we find out that old man is Lucentio's actual dad, travelling to see his son.

The last scene has the families and the three couples (Hortensio & the widow, Putruchio and Kate, Lucensio and Bianca) sitting around at Bianca's after-wedding feast. This is the first time Kate's eaten in days but she doesn't show it. They're just yacking and kidding around, then the women adjourn and the men decide to bet on who has the most obediant wife. The winner is whomever's wife comes fastest when called. The problem is, all three wives say they're busy -- this could be interesting. But it's not. Kate comes the second time she's asked, saying "what is your will?". She's orderd to throw her hat on the floor and does it without question. Patruchio then orders her to lecture the other wives on their duties and she gives the most sexist diatribe about how women are soft in and out and husbands are their king's and protectors and total obediance is the least women can give them.

Somewhere in there Kate and Bianca's dad is so impressed he tells Patruchio "not only have you won the bet, you've won Kate's dowry for taming her so well". THE END.

So what is this? The ending is vile, but it never really happened -- it was just a play put on as a joke on a drunkard. We also don't find out much about Kate. The only thing she ever does is tie up Bianca. Putruchio is a monster, but it's hard to feel bad for Kate specifically.

The situational comedy part is funny. Three guys in disguise, with Lucentio in a double disguise (as "not himself" then as a teacher). There's some nice conniving and backstabbing for Bianca. The excuses they make to gaslight Kate seem comically see-through, but only if she'd figured it out. And lest we forget, Lucentio is still wanted for murder.

Henry-VI

As you may recall, Henry-V recently conquered France and married a French princess. Well, he died soon after, leaving his 7-year-old son as the new king. We're all getting tired of these Histories by now, but most Shakespeare plays have something famous in them. so let's try to get this one over with.

It starts out with Henry-V's coffin being carried around and everyone sad about how great he was at conquering stuff. Before they finish two messengers arrive. The first says we lost half of France. There wasn't a battle -- we just didn't pay the troops so they left. The second is about a battle. Lord Talbot was surrounded, but killed 50 guys and rallied the troops, but then that coward John Falstaff leading the reserves fled and Talbot was speared in the back and captured. Hold on! Falstaff died in the last play. But Shakespeare didn't write them in order. This play was first.

Then we see the French side. The other half of France will be much more difficult to retake. The French Dauphine attacks the city of Orleans and gets his butt kicked. Then this woman shows up in court saying she can lead them. They try to trick her with a false King, but she knows the real one. Then the King fights her and loses, so they put her in charge of the army. Her name is Joan Pucell, better know as Joan of freaking Arc. Every historical play has something famous! Let's see what it says about her (hints: Shakespeare is English. They don't like the French. She's French).

Then we're in England where the Lord Protector is arguing with some cardinal who won't let him in the Tower of London. Their men fight, they fight, and finally the mayor says they can't carry weapons anymore in London and makes them all go home. A few scenes later, because of the weapons ban, the followers are throwing rocks at each other's heads and breaking windows by accident. The leaders try to talk them down, but no dice. In short, there's trouble at home.

Lord Talbot is back in action, being traded for some French prisoner. He's currently supervising a cannon from way up high, doing a number on the French forces. But a French gunner and his son have noticed. Just as Talbot is about to blast some French nobles his men get hit. Two guys drop, half of Lord Salisbury's face is turned into salisbury steak (I couldn't resist). He's groaning in pain but Talbot says "see, he cries for revenge!". Talbot goes out, calls Joan of Arc a witch and a strumpet, then loses to her in a long fight, twice. Then she runs off to finish retaking Orleans. Quick note: as we know, New Orleans was colonized by the French, based on this French city, regular Orleans. It's 100 miles south of Paris and today only 100K people, a third the size of it's American namesake.

A little later Lord Talbot and his men sneak past the guards and retake Old Orleans. King Charles and Joan are suspciously sharing a room, and flee together. A French countess asks if Talbot can visit. He does and she says "ah-ha -- now you are now my prisoner". But he says "nah-ha. I brought my army. Hope you made enough food for them all!" The scene is really that silly.

Next we're back in England with lots of nobles arguing over white or red roses. Whoa! This is the start of the war of the roses, an English civil war. This play has two famous things in it! Recall that Henry-IV, 2 kings back. wasn't of kingly blood. He was just Lord Bollingbrook. Now that the remainder of his line is a too-young grandson, people are thinking they should go back to the Richard family line.

Expanding on this, we see old Mortimer in prison. Cool -- he's the guy the Percy's were trying to put on the thrown 10 years ago in the last play. He's been in prison ever since. He sees his nephew Richard, encourages him never to give up his royal claim the the throne, and dies. So cheesy.

Now we're back at the war in France. "Pucell" (Joan) recaptures Roans, Talbot takes it back, but she taunts him that she can out-recapture his re-recapturing all day. Somewhere in there Falstaff runs away from battle again. Finally, inspired by god, Joan sweet-talks the French traitor Lord Bourbon into re-joining the French side (it was a very nice speech).

Young Henry-VI comes to France, promotes Talbot to Earl of Shrewsbury (is that a good title?) and tells them all to stop fighting over the stupid red and white roses. Falstaff shows up with the defection letter from French ally Lord Bourbon. This is Talbot's first shot at Falstaff since the cowardly retreat. He strips Falstaff of the prestigeous knighly Order of the Garter by yanking off his garter, right in front of the King. That's a real thing and still exists -- it was supposed to be like a new Knights of the Round Table.

Talbot is back in the field, now with his son. But the White and Red rose faction argue, delaying his reinforcements to where Talbott is clearly going to be slaughtered. There's a long bit where his son says he could save himself, but that would be unworthy of the Talbot name. So they both die. The son first, so we get to see Talbot cry over him. When the English come to get the bodies Pucell (Joan) is there and is very mean -- "oh, you're hear for the maggot infested corpses? Check that pile".

Then it gets weird. Pucell calls up her pet fiends, as she apparently does before every battle. She offers them parts of her body, more of her blood, then her soul, but they shake their heads and leave. She says "rats, without their help I'll lose the next battle", and she does, and is captured. What the heck was that? My theory is that for real she was burned as a witch, so Shakespeare has to show her being, uh, witchy.

Just before the burning Pucell's dad shows up, but she denies him, saying she's a daughter of the Lord (so now she's not a witch?) He cusses her out and leaves. She repeats how she's very holy and still a virgin. The executioner says he'll make the fire extra hot so she doesn't suffer as much. Then she says she's pregnant with the King of France's baby and they can't kill her until it's born. They say he'd probably want it killed anyway. She counters that she slept with two even more important people. But the Englush remind her she said virgin first, and no take-backs. The last we see is her being sent off the the fire, cursing them.

Then there's peace after the Pope has said Christians shouldn't fight each other (where we he during the last 3 wars?) Henry-VI proposes French King Charles rule all of France, but as the English regeant. Charles is insulted since he's already the absolute king of 1/2 of France, but one of his ministers whipers in his ear that he can go back on his word once he's running all of France again. So it's settled. Also, Henry's regeant Lord Suffolk has wooed the ultra-noble, beautiful but poor Margerette for young King Henry; but mostly for Suffolk to sleep with until Henry is old enough. THE END

Was it good? Well, it's a History play, and an early one, so there aren't any funny characters or witty dialogue. But how about the history and the action? We get 2 cities captured and recaptured and guys running around with swords. "Pucell" and Talbot are each built up, have a long sword fight, then both die. Talbot and his son's death is pretty melodramatic. And don't forget Salisbury shot in the face, moaning. We get some comedy with the red&whites slap-fighting. And it ends on three big cliff-hangers: whites vs. reds, the sneaky King of France, and the sneakier regeant Suffolk.

It seems watchable, but, to borrow an expression, it's not exactly Shakespeare.

Othello, The Moor of Venice

This one is famous but no one knows what's in it. If you know a "moor" is a black guy you'd assume Shakespeare made him the villain. But he's the good guy, well, sort of. Not a spoiler since this is a Tragedy: almost everyone dies. It only has one semi-famous quote: "one that loved not wisely, but too well".

It starts with this guy Iago complaining how his recent promotion wasn't good enough. Cassio and he each work for general Othello but Cassio got the promotion to the top spot. Iago makes a long speech how he's going to devote his life to ruining Othello. He knows this rich idiot Roderigo who has a crush on Othello's girl, Desdamona, and convinces him to help. In the middle of the night they go to Desdamona's house and yell that General Othello is banging his daughter. The dad tells them to piss off, but then checks his empty daughter's room and runs out with a lynch mob for Othello.

Meanwhile messengers are running around the city to alert General Othello about the enemy Turkish fleet's arrival. They and the dad-mob find Othello at about the same time. The angry dad has to let him go so Othello can save the city, but tomorrow he has to defend himself against daughter-despoiling charges in court.

Othello starts his defense with "as you all know...". Ah-ha! Shakespeare's almost-clever trick to explain the plot. As you all know, Othello is a long-time friend of Desdamona's dad. He'd come by and tell war stories: how he was enslaved, and fought cannibals, and fought the headless Apropaggi who have faces in their chests. Desdamona always got close and said "oh, tell me more, in private". After a while she said "if you have a friend who likes me, teach him your stories and I'll fall in love with him". And so they ran off and got married. The Duke likes that story. The dad has to agree. Desdamona liking Othello first makes way more sense than her just really, really loving war stories. Desdamona gives an odd speech how she owes a duty to her father, but following her mother's example she owes more of a duty to her husband. So that's settled.

Othello is reminded there's still a Turkish invasion. Oh, right. He makes a speech about how a soldier's duty comes first, and leaves to stop it. But not for long. A huge storm smashes the Turkish fleet and almost gets Othello. When his ship finally comes over the horizon it's very exciting.

Iago was in charge of taking care of Desdamona while Othello was away. His overall plan is to spread a rumor that she and Cassio are having an affair. To get it started he purposely starts insulting Desdamona in front of Cassio until Cassio pats her hand. Everyone saw that! Part one of his plan is done.

The next part of the plan is a swerve. It involves telling everyone in a bar that Cassio isn't good enough to be Othello's 2nd-in-command, then proving it by getting Cassio drunk and sending the idiot Roderigo in to insult him and start a fight. To get Cassio drunk he uses the old "but surely just one more beer" and "you have to at least drink to Othello!" tricks. Roderigio insults Cassio in private and next thing we know Roderigo is running through the bar being beaten and called names by a sodden Cassio. People try to stop him and Cassio turns on them, wounding one. As per the plan, Roderigo runs outside, calls for the guard, and soon Othello is there demanding to know what happened. Iago pulls the old "I couldn't posibly rat out my best friend" and gets someone else to say it was Cassio, whom is fired on the spot. Implausible part two of the plan: total success!

The next morning Cassio goes to his best friend Iago and says he can't even remember how he got so drunk, and can't bear to face Othello. Iago suggests having Desdamona put in a good word. Cassio could secretly meet with her somewhere out-of-the way -- somewhere it might look as if they were having an affair if some evil person were to lead Othello there and put ideas into his head.

Unfortuately for Iago's plan, Cassio meets her but is too nervous to ask for her help. Othello just catches him leaving Desdamona in front of their house. But Iago can impovise. He reminds Othello that Cassio was the go-between when he and Desdamona were wooing each other. So he's good at sneaky romance. Then he pulls the old "there's something -- oh, never mind, I shouldn't tell you". This goes on for a page before Iago let's slip there might be something between Cassio and Othello's wife.

Othello is pretty upset by this and regrets getting married. I skipped over a lot, but Iago is really convicing. Desdamona comes back with her loyal servant (who is also Iago's wife). She wants to get frisky but Othello is still imagining her and Cassio having sex and says he's got a headache. Desdama tries to cure it by tying a hankerchief around his head but he just pushes it off and they leave. Iago's wife pounces on the dropped hankerchief -- it was the first gift Othello gave his wife. Her husband Iago has been asking her to steal it all day! She's pretty pleased with herself when she gives it to him.

Othello has been going nuts thinking about the affair. Desdamona seemed so chaste and pure -- if Iago has any proof he damned well better show it now. Iago says he has: while he and Cassio were sleeping together, as men do, Cassio cried our "oh sweet Desdamona!" and started making out with him in his sleep. Then he works around to how he saw Cassio with that hankerchief at his house. Othello eats it up. If Iago can show any physical proof at all, Iago is promoted to the top spot and has permission to kill Cassio. Othello gets down on his knees and swears.

Meanwhile Desdamona thinks she's smoothed things over with her husband (not even close) and wants him to make peace with Cassio and rehire him. All Othello wants is for her to produce that handkerchief. He lies and says it's actually a magic love handerchief his mother used on his dad. If you lose it you also lose your spouse. After more demands she yells "what is your deal! I'm trying to patch things up in your military command and with the Best Man at our wedding, and you're worried about a freaking peice of cloth?"

Now we get a twist. Iago planted the hanky in Cassio's room, but Cassio found it. He's not sure how it got there, assumes he'll find the owner, but likes the design and wants another one made. The best person for that is Bianca, his favorite prostitute. Wow! You learn something every day. Bianca can do it, but as usual, she wants to know when he'll marry her. He puts her off with his old lie "I would, but as you know, Othello prefers to work with single men".

Now we're ready for the proof. With Othello hidden in a closet (yep, that again), Iago starts talking to Cassio about how his meeing with Desdamona went, then switches to "so are you going to marry her". That's clever. Cassio knows he's switched topics to Bianca, but Othello doesn't. Cassio goes on about how she's great in bed -- lots of men will attest to that -- but she's been getting so clingy.

Then another swerve. During this conversation Bianca shows up and angrily returns the handkerchief to Cassio. She suspects he didn't just "find it" in his room, as he said. It must be from another girlfriend. Later Iago spins this to Othello as "see, after your wife gave it to him for such great sex, he gave it to a whore!".

To review: Othello has 1) seen his best friend get drunk, 2) heard from his other best friend that best friend is doing it with his wife, 2) seen them together in a completely normal situation, 3) heard 3rd-hand how his wife's napkin may have been in Casio's room, and 4) heard Casio talking about sex with some woman. He does what any normal man would do: plans to strangle his wife. And the deal about seeing proof -- he's seen it. His new 2nd-in-command Iago can kill Casio now.

Next are two plot twists, but not really. Othello has to sail back to Venice, and idiot Roderigo comes to Iago demanding satisfaction. All along Iago has talked him into all this crazy stuff, and took a ton of money from him saying it's to buy presents for Desdamona on his behalf, but nothing has happened with her. Iago talks him into just one more thing -- murder Cassio. To us he says he hopes they both die.

Iago and Rederigo both hide along Cassio's route. Roderigo jumps Cassio but is beaten back and wounded. Iago stabs Cassio from behind and runs off. Cassio is yelling "murderers. Get a medic!" and a few townspeople arrive, including Iago, who finishes off Roderigo on the sly. Bianca arrives, worried about Cassio who was coming back from her place. The authorities take her away on suspicion.

At Othello's house his wife is asleep and he's holding a pillow to smother her with. He kisses her and she wakes up. "Have you prayed?", he asks. "Have you confessed all your sins, like, say, adultery?" "No? What if you knew you were going to die tonight -- still nothing to get off your chest?" He really thought she would confess. After some thought, he decides to go ahead with killing her anyway. He smothers her a bit, she's still kicking, so he tries it some more. Then her maid knocks, distracting him. But a little more smothering and she stops moving. He draws the bed curtains and lets the maid in.

While he's chatting with maid Emilia, distracting her from the bed, Desdamona comes to. She say "murder" then ammends it to "I'm murdering myself" and dies. Eventually Othello mentions the hanky and Emilia says that was her doing, and Othello realized he was tricked. Emelia is also pretty pissed to find what it was used for. All she can say is "my husband!" over and over. More guys arrive, including Iago and the cops.

Iago, furious at his wife's betrayal, stabs her. He runs out with everyone chasing him. They took away Othello's sword but he's got another. They come back in and he stabs Iago, non-fatally. They take away that sword and he makes a speech about how to remember him, then pulls out yet another hidden dagger and kills himself. Casio is the new general. THE END.

The score is 4 dead: Othello, his wife, her maid Emilia and poor Roderigo. 5 dead if you include Desdamona's dad (one person says "I'm glad her dad isn't alive to see this", so he must have died off-camera). Iago is merely wounded, in jail. It's nice how his evil plan goes unbelievably perfectly, then he has some problems, then, as we knew it would, completely unravels. We weren't sure if his wife was in on it or not until the very end, which was cool.

Iago has lots of sex talk. I get it -- half of why his plan works is him getting Othello to vividly imagine Cassio and his wife making "the beast with two backs" and so on, plus other ways Desdamona is a total slut who plans to work her way through the army. Othello is off-balance with jealous rage. But we can do without the pages of it. Except the scene where Iago describes Cassio making love to him as if he were Desdamona. That's pretty good.

The funny thing is, it's also a modern comedy. The jealous best friend trying to get his pal to dump the girlfriend he secretely loves, using crazy schemes that work as long as it's funny. Just without all of the death at the end.

Midsummer night's dream

This is the one with Puck, the mischievious fairie, and the scary Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the faries.

The set-up: tomorrow King Theseus is going to marry Hipolyia, Queen of the Amazons. Meanwhile, Hermia and Lysander are in love, but Hermia's father approves of Demetrius for her. Worse, Demetrius's old girlfriend, Helena, is still in love with him. Soon enough Hermia and Lysander run into the woods to elope. Helena tips off Demetrius, who runs into the woods to win Hermia, while Helena runs after Demetrius.

At the same time, a few doltish tradesmen want to put on a play for the King's wedding. In a somewhat funny scene, Quince the carpenter is handing out parts. Bottom the Weaver gets the first role but then says he'd be perfect for every other role. Poor Flute the bellows-mender has to play Thisby, a woman. He's not happy since he's got a beard coming in. They decide to go into the woods to rehearse in secret.

Then we meet some fairies. Puck, AKA Robin Goodfellow, just happens to meet a fairy from out-of-town who needs some background: fairy Queen Tatania and fairy King Oberon are fighting over Titania's pet human. Then, speak of the devil, those two walk in and insult each other: Oberon is messing around with human women, according to Titania; and she's mean not to share her pet. Both agree they want to have some fun during the King's wedding. Later we learn the human child isn't some plaything: he's the son of Titania's favorite human maid who died in childbirth, who Titania is raising as her own. Awww.

Oberon decides to have Puck smear a love potion on Titania's eyes while she sleeps. It will cause her to fall in love with the first person she sees on waking. Your basic prank. But then Oberon spots Demetrius calling out for his love Hermia, followed by Helena pleading how she loves him and Hermia doesn't. Feeling magnanimous, Oberon commands Puck to also apply the love potion to "the guy dressed as a Roman citizen" when he sleeps.

We know where this is going. Further in the woods Lysander and Hermia are sleeping at either ends of a grove, for modesty. Demetrious walks right past, but Helena happens to fall asleep nearer to Lysander. Puck comes along and rubs the potion on Lysander by mistake, who wakes after his nap and falls in love with Helena. We now have a love square: everyone in love with someone in love with someone else. That could be fun, but Oberon sees the problem, berates Puck for the screw-up and has him try again (they take a lot of naps, I guess). To be sure, he has Puck bring Helena near a sleeping Demetrious. This time it works. Both men now love Helena.

The problem is, after Lysander says he's done with Hermia and loves Helena, Helena thinks it's a prank. When Demetrious next changes his mind so quickly Helena is sure it's a prank. When her friend Hermia says it's all true Helena is furious -- they're all in on pranking her! Next the two men decide to fight over Helena. Oberon is all-in on things now, so commands Puck to summon some fog, fake their voices, and lead both in circles trying to find each other. Puck manages that without screwing up (in kind of a long scene).

All four somehow end up near each other in the fields, exhausted. Oberon has Puck smear the antidote on Lysander's eyes. Hopefully everything will be fixed in the morning (it is -- we now have two couples, mutually in love).

While all of that goes on, the dolts are rehearsing. They're worried parts may be to scary for the ladies so decide to announce ahead of time "I'm not really a lion -- I'm Snug the Joiner, from town, so don't be afraid". They have more terrible ideas. Puck has been watching this. As Bottom goes off to get into character, Puck turns his head into a donkey head. He comes back, everyone runs away in terror, and Bottom looks around "hey, where's everybody going"?

Also meanwhile, Titania has been given the potion, wakes up, and sees ass-headed Bottom. She swoons over him and sends fairies PeachBlossom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed to give him the best of everything. Bottom is confused but goes along with it, joking with the faires. Oberon is pretty happy -- he was hoping she would randomly fall in love with something super gross, so this is great. He tells Puck that off-camera he and besotten Titania talked and she agreed to give him the kid. I'm thinking that despite being King and Queen, they don't live together. Satisfied. Oberon has Puck apply the antidote to Titania and unspell Bottom's head.

The next morning the King and Queen-to-be and wedding party are walking to the chapel and come upon the sleeping couples. Hermia's dad is furious at the elopement, but King Theseus knew about the love triangle and is so glad they worked things out that he insists they get married alongside him. We don't see the triple wedding, but afterwards the 3 newlywed couples are hanging out at post-wedding festivities.

The steward has a list of entertainment which they reject as boring. Then he comes to the play. He warns them it's terrible, and not only that, it's too short. The King overrules him -- honest men showing devotion to their King is not to be mocked.

The rest of the play are the three couples watching the play and making fun of it. The person playing the moon messes up his lines and loses his place with all the heckling. The wall the lovers talk through (played by a person) explains he's a wall, then when it comes to it, explains how his open hand represnts the crack they talk through. As promised, the lion lengthily explains how he's not a lion so no women should be worried.

The play turns out to be like the end of Romeo and Juliet. Pyramus and Thisby have been in love, talking through a crack in the wall between their properties. As they plan to elope, a lion comes by. Thisby (played by a beardless Flute) flees, dropping her scarf. The lion chomps it and somehow gets blood everywhere. Pyramus sees it, assumes she's dead, and kills himself. Thisby comes back and kills herself. The End. Also the end of Midsummer Night's Dream.

Almost. The very, very end is the humans asleep while the fairies come by. They clean and promise to ensure good health and safe childbirths and healthy children. But I'm sketical -- Titania couldn't even keep her maid from dying.

Was that good? Not really. There were funny bits, but we never care about the plot. After the love spell, Demetrious says he only had a temporary crush on Hermia. He's loved Helena from childhood and of course she'd be a much better wife for him. You don't often hear young people making such practical love decisions in Shakespeare. This is the second one where they watch a play and make fun of it. Of course, Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the Faries, has been stolen by everyone. I was surprised how little Shakespeare tells us about them.

King Henry VI, part 2&3

As you may recall, in part-I young King Henry's forces attempted to quell the unrisings in France, currently ruled by the English. The situation was finally resolved when he agreed to marry young French princess Margarette and let King Charles rule France for the English.

It starts with Henry welcoming his new bride to England, then his regeant Glouchester. I thought it was Suffolk at the end of Part-I, but whatever. Glouchester is reading the peace agreement: they get Margarette, and France gets back the provinces of Anjou and Maine. There's more but Glouchester dramatically drops the scroll out of shock and starts again. They're definitely giving the French back those two regions. The next few pages are nobles complaining how they spilled blood to conquer them and we can't just give them back for no reason.

The queen is complaining how Henry has no power and doesn't care. Besides being too young, he's very religious, so maybe he should be the Pope, she jokes. The regeant and the various other Lords have all the real power. Next a parade of Lords accuse regeant Glouchester of skimming funds, executing people for no good reason and selling offices in English-held France. He just leaves.

Next we get a sub-plot. Someone named Hume tells Glouchester's wife Elanor he can help increase her power, using magic; but he secretely plans to milk her of gold. Later they hold a seance, along with Lord Bolingbroke, where they contact a spirit who makes prophecies about various nobles and the King. As it ends, York, a King's man who was suspicious of Elanor and had her followed, busts in and arrests them. He reads the prophecies (so we get to hear them twice -- they must be important) but is unimpressed.

A few scenes later, Glouchester's wife Elanor is banished for her part in black magic. Armed with this, Queen Margarette convinces Henry to announce he's old enough and to remove Elanor's husband Glouchester as regeant. The queen seems pretty happy about that, as is "The Cardinal", who's been in most scenes with her and the your King.

Off in the country, another tiny subplot. A man accuses another of declaring York should be the King. The accuser is an apprentice and the accused is his maaster, York's armourer. The master says his apprentice is just angry about work and telling lies. So it's off to a trial -- a battle to the death. A few scenes later the squire (Peter Pound) is complaining how he has no training in weapons, while his master is ... a master with them. But Peter wins! With his dying breath the armourer says "It's true, I was treasonous and said York was rightful King. Arrrg!". That was something. Trial by combat actually worked!

A little later we get a scene with York himself, talking to Salisbury and Warwich. He goes on for most of a page summarizing old King Henry-IV's family tree; then about his own parentage, finally explaining how it comes down to his claim is through a 3rd son, while Henry's is only through a 4th son. His two friends agree on what a clear, obvious explaination that all was (it wasn't) and how York is clearly the rightful King.

Then we get some humor. A man comes claiming St. Albans has cured his blindness-since-birth (but not his lameness). The King and Glouchester (this is before he was un-regeanted) question him about colors of their cloaks. He can name the colors perfectly, which they remark is odd since he's never seen colors before. They ask if he knows them. Thinking quickly, he insists he doesn't. Which is also odd since even a blind man would know who a kid dressed in kingly robes is. So they get a whip and beat him. He quickly runs away, not lame at all, yelling "it's a miracle -- I can run again!". I did not make any of that up -- the "it's a miracle" joke is in a serious historical play by The Bard.

Elanor's banishment has finally come. She has to walk wearing only a sheet and no shoes on the spikey pavement -- a long scene where she accuses her husband Glouchester of taking pleasure in it. Next Glouchester is summoned back to court where Suffolk, York and The Cardinal accuse him of treason -- he withheld pay from French forces (a squire earlier popped in and said France was lost, so this is a big deal). The King says he thinks Glouchester is innocent, but has to go with what everyone else says (no he doesn't). Even so, there will be a fair trial. Once the king leaves the rest get worried about the trial and decide to simply kill Glouchester, letting the Cardinal handle the details.

Then a messenger from Ireland pops in. There's a rebellion over there. It's decided York will raise a big army from all over England to stop it. Then he tells us the rebellion is fake, and so is a later rebellion here in England. It's a trick to get him a big army and make him into a hero so he can seize the crown. He notes that's he's covered his tracks -- even if they catch and torture the rebel leaders he put up to it, they won't talk.

The next day Glouchester is found dead in his bed. A guy named Warwick examines the eyes, hands, hair... and declares it wasn't natural -- it was strangulation (we saw the hired murderers half a page earlier as they reported on how they made it look natural. They didn't count on Warwick!) A mob outside who loved Glouchester is calling for Suffolk to be killed or banished, since he clearly did it. Henry decides on banishment, but en route Suffolk is captured by pirates and executed (somewhat in the way Hume's earlier prophecy said). The same night, The Cardinal sees the ghost of Glouchecter and gets horribly sick in bed. He dies in agony begging for "more of that poison he bought" to end it (so he had the murderers poison Glouchester?) On-lookers actually comment on how a death that painful meant The Cardinal must have been super-guilty of something.

Elsewhere in England a rebel leader named Cade is bragging to rebels about his noble parents and so on as on-lookers mock each line as false. It's sort of funny. But they go along with him anyway (this is the guy York mentioned as his patsy). Some idiot yells "first kill all the lawyers" since a legal document took away his farm. They capture a scribe with a book, clearly evil conjuring magic and not just a book. When he admits he can write his own name, they hang him for being literate. Two nobles named Stafford ride in with some men, tell the rebels to give it up, but instead are both killed in the ensuing battle. York's plan is working, perhaps too well.

Later the rebels break into London and catch Lord Say. He's their main target since they blame him for giving Anjou and Maine back to France (English peasants are very interested in foreign affairs, it appears). Plus Lord Say built grammer schools and they hate reading. He's executed along with his son-in-law, with both heads put on pikes. But then Lord Buckingham shows up. He makes a great speech about how only Henry can protect them against the evil French, so they all give up and Cade goes on the run. Five days later he's starving and breaks into a random guy's garden. The guy offers him food but Cade insists on fighting. He's killed and with his dying breath says who he is. Young Squire Isen takes the head to Henry, gets the 1000 gold reward, and is knighted. Good for him.

York is now back from Ireland. The English rebels are gone, so he says he's marching to stop the traitor Summerset (not sure why). When the King hears this he has Summerset put in jail. York is forced to start sending his army home. But when he comes to court and sees Summerset is out of jail he goes nuts. He spills it all, saying he should be the king.

There's a big battle and Summerset is killed along with another King's man named Clifford. York has won "The Battle of St. Albans". King Henry flees to London. THE END.

So was that good? Lots of people died, but nothing famous happened. I mean, the War of the Roses actually started at the end, but that's been teased for a few plays now. Some of the plots were good, as were some of the funny parts. I liked how he tossed in a seance. We also learn "first let's kill all the lawyers" is something idiots say.

I think the problem is that lots of this stuff really happened and had to be covered, but it didn't really gel. Shakespeare did his best, and it's good enough. It's a series and those have to get pretty bad before you stop watching. If you saw Part-I, then saw this, you'd probably watch part-III when it came out.

King Henry-VI, Part-III

The long awaited part-III. Recall ptI was a battle in France with Joan of Arc and PtII was a somewhat boring local rebellion and scheming around young King Henry. This one starts almost exactly where Part-II left off...

After winning the battle against the King's forces, York's men are bragging. One shows his sword covered with an enemy Lord's blood, another shows his sword with more blood from someone even more important. A third outdoes them with the bloody head of Lord Sommerset. They decide to wait here for the King to come back (why is he coming back?) calling it the Bloody Parliament. York has a seat on the throne while waiting.

King Henry and friends actually come back. They argue. Henry says his dad conquered France, but York counters that Henry lost it. Henry says he was only 9 months old when crowned (which sounds wrong, since he was talking in Part-I). Henry goes way back and says old King Richard actually resigned in favor of his granddad Henry, but York's team points out it was by force; plus there's no such as as "resigning in favor" of someone -- kingship always goes to the son. So really, York is merely counter-rebelling against Henry's grandfather's initial rebellion.

I think that really sums it up. York is from the "real" line of Kings, but Henry, who only goes back 2 generations, is King now. They both seem equally legitimate. Oh, York's men call themselves the Pantagenets and have white roses pinned on them, and the King's men are Lancastrians and have red roses. This is definitely the War of the Roses, hinted at in earlier plays.

After York stamps once to signal his soldiers to step out of hiding, Henry agrees on a compromise: he'll make York his heir. Henry is king as long as he lives, but then it passes to York and to York's children. That seems weird -- isn't Henry young, and York old? But it seems very legal; plus, Henry might die from foul play. So York goes for it. Queen Margarette, when she's told later, is furious. Equally angry is Henry's now "disowned" son, the Prince of Wales (they have a grown son? But he just married her). The two storm off to the North to raise an army to crush upstart York.

At York's castle his followers are trying to convince him to break the deal, attack Henry and be King now. They say the deal's not valid since he swore it to a false King. He refuses to break his word. That turns out not to matter since Margarette and the Prince are attacking. York's men are outnumberd 5 to 1 but they say they've beaten better odds in France and women can't lead armies anyway. They leave the castle to fight and of course they lose. York is captured and mocked by the Queen, showing a hankerchief with the blood of one of his dead followers (seems like a theme in this play). He gives a speech about how Margarette is French and also lacks womanly qualities. That moves one of her followers, but the are enraged and she stabs him to death.

Then we go to York's 3 sons, who have barely escaped. They hear about their dad's death. Just after that their ally Warwick rides up with more bad news. He tried to fight the Queen's army as it went south, but also lost. Then they strategize. The Queen can probably round up 30 thousand men, and they can get about 25 thousand. So a big battle is coming up.

After some speeches all around about this will be the big one and nobody will back down, they fight. York's men are fleeing, are caught, then rally the troops. One of York's sons meets Lord Clifford, the primary fighter for the King and the most angry. They fight but Clifford flees when York's man Warwick arrives. Poor King Henry has been told by wife Margarette that he just gets in the way so he's sitting and making a long sad speech about the minutes, hours, days and months in a life; how much time we spend at each task, and how pointless it all is. Wow! When you read stuff like "the average American spends 106 days tying their shoes", that's Shakespeare!

As Henry moans a soldier runs in who's just killed an enemy and is preparing to loot the corpse. He recalls that his father's lands are on the other side of the war. He looks at the corpse's face -- he just killed his dad! On the other side is a guy in the same situation, except he accidentally killed his own son!! Henry hears both and agrees that's bad, but trust me, I've got things even worse. Then the Queen and her son enter, chased by York's men, and take Henry away with them.

There's still more battle. Clifford comes in with an arrow in his neck (yowch!), gives a long speech about how he's glad to die for the King, and passes out. York's sons run in asking where the heck Clifford is -- they were just chasing him. Just then he moans and dies. They hear and feel sorry for whomever it was, then see "hey, that's Clifford" and yell at his dead face for a while.

A bit later King Henry is wandering in disguise past two hunters arguing over how best to shoot some deer (the only bit of comedy in this play). They overhear him saying how his Queen has gone back to France to ask for help, but so has Yorkist supporter Warwick, and he's good. Warwick is going to try to arrange a marriage between the oldest York, Edward, and a French princess. After letting him monologue, the game-keepers capture Henry. He says he's been their King for decades, so they should be loyal, but they tell him Edward of York is the king now, so tough luck.

Now we're in new King Edward of York's throne-room where an attractive widow is asking for a favor. Edward's brothers are joking about what she'll have to do for it. It takes the King about a page to get to the point to say she has to sleep with him. When she won't, he says he'll marry her. She refuses, saying it's clearly a cheap ploy to get a test-ride since he could never marry a low status noble like her. If that's not weird enough, off in a corner brother Richard of York (who in real life will be the next King) gives an ominous speech about biding his time.

Over in France things are going as ex-King Henry said: Margarette's father, King Lewis (huh? not Louis?) isn't so hot about giving her an army -- maybe she should just stay with him in France? Warwick shows up and charms him with the marriage thing. Amazingly, French King Lewis asks his daughter "what about it? Do you want to marry this York guy?" She says she knows Edward and likes him, so it's settled. That is, until everyone gets a special delivery note from England. Edward married the widow! An furious King Lewis gives all Henry supporters their own armies. Even Warwick is angry and switches side to Henry. To really commit, Warwick agrees to have his daughter marry the Queen's son, the Prince of Wales (she tells her son not to worry -- Warwick's daughter is a real hottie -- always what you want to hear from your mom). When the news of Warwick's defection reaches England, a few more lords switch sides back to Henry (who is now somehow free and hiding in Scottland).

The first action of this new war is Warwick and some friends sneaking in and capturing King Edward. But it turns out everyone is terrible at guarding kings, and he's quickly freed. Henry is still useless. He'll agree to be King in name, but his former enemy Warwick has to be the real king and do everything, with loyal Lord Clarence 2nd-in-command. Meanwhile just-escaped King Edward was planning to lie low but some allies arrive and convince him to march right back into battle. He does and they capture Henry, again.

King Edward marches to Warwick's castle and gives him the news about Henry. He'll starve him out if need be. But then some of Warwick's and Henry's allies arrive and go in (I guess armies just walk past each other if there wasn't a formal battle announced?) Then another army does that. Then Lord Clarence arrives. Oh, oh. But they have a word with him and he switches sides to Edward of York, staying outside with them. Things seem pretty equal, so they agree to a battle. Next thing we know a dying Warwick is being brought in and his two allies are fleeing to the safety of the oncoming French army. King Edward plans to march down there ASAP, picking up reinforcements as he goes.

Sure enough, Margarette and the French are just getting ready when Edward attacks. He starts to lose, then rallies, then captures everyone. Young Prince Edward of Wales mouths off enough to enrage King Edward into stabbing him, with his brothers joining in. A lot of that going around. Henry is later killed about the same way -- Richard of York visits him in the Tower of London and angry words turn into stabs. Margarette is shipped back to France. A final shocker: the widow takes on the name "Queen Elizabeth" (and has a son). THE END.

To sum up: no comedy, a few cute scenes, but mostly it's all about fighting. If you like battles, this is your play. I think we learn some good historical stuff: France was always involved in English politics, intermarriages were useful tools, Lords can quickly change sides, and there's always a son or cousin; like when York was killed the York rebellion didn't end -- son Edward stepped right in.

Hamlet

Everyone knows this one, so not too many major surprises. But I didn't realize how well it was put together and how many famous quotes were in it. This is a long one:

2 guards getting off duty meet 2 going on. The new guards ask if they've seen the ghost yet. The what!?! They explain it's been here for the last 2 days, just after midnight. As they chat more, the ghost appears. It looks a little like recently dead King Hamlet Sr. But it could be old King Fortinbras. Hamlet Sr. killed him in single combat and we won his lands. His son, Fortinbras Jr., has raised an army and is trying to get his land back (which is why we're on double watches tonight). It appears again, but still won't talk. They suggest perhaps Hamlet Jr. might be able to get the ghost to speak.

Now we're in the throne room with the King, the Queen and their top advisor, Polonius. P's son Laertes says he only came for the coronation but now wants to go back to France. Yes, go. Next Hamlet, son of the former King Hamlet Sr., wants to go back to college at Wittenburg. They say no -- he still seems too depressed and his mother, the Queen, also needs him here. In case you didn't understand what happened, Hamlet makes a long speech about it: he's angry because his mom waited just 2 months before remarrying; and she married her ex-husband's brother, Hamlet's gross uncle, making him the new King of Denmark. He groans the wedding was so soon that the food was left-overs from the funeral.

Enter Horatio, one of the guards who saw the ghost earlier and also Hamlet's best friend. He and a fellow guard are here to lead Hamlet to the ghost area. Hamlet goes with, they find the ghost, and it beckons for Hamlet to follow. They insisting it will trick him into walking off a cliff, or worse, but Hamlet goes anyway. The ghost is Hamlet's dad and wants revenge. He was murdered by none other than his own brother, the current king. It looked like a natural death since his brother poured poison into his ear while he was asleep. I think that was a thing back then -- they couldn't inject poison, after all.

After setting up that Hamlet will be getting revenge, we get a funny bit. Horatio and the other guard say catch up to Hamlet and he swears them to secrecy. They didn't hear the ghost and say they already swore, but Hamlet makes them swear on his sword. The ghost, now invisible, keeps saying "yes, swear on the sword!", which freaks them out. They keep moving away but it keeps following saying "swear! swear on the sword!". This is also where we hear "there's something rotten in the state of Denmark".

Next scene, chief advisor Polonius is asking his servant to spread rumors about his son, Laertes. Just causally mention how he's been drinking, gambling, been seen coming out of brothel's -- you know, manly stuff. His servant is shocked but Polonius assures him a colorful past will make Laertes seem more like a regular guy. The weird thing is, this is the last we hear of it. I can't tell if it's meant to be funny, or what.

But now his daughter Ophelia rushes in for some actual plot. She's just come from her room where Hamlet has bust in, grabbed her arms, stared at her intently, then wandered off mumbling. We know it's the news from the ghost, but Polonius muses about how Hamlet and Ophelia were dating but he recently made her cut it off. Hmmm. Later he tells the King he's discovered the root of Hamlet's depression: he's still in love with Ophelia! Polonius can prove it: they'll hide and listen to Ophelia get Hamlet to confess. In Shakespeare's plays this trick has about a 50% success rate.

Back at the throne room, Hamlet's two surprisingly Jewish childhood friends Rosenkranzt and Guldinstein have finally arrived in Denmark. The King and Queen sent for them both to cheer up Hamlet and to spy on him. Those two give us the famous quote "Brevity is the sole of wit". I think it was a joke since it was in the middle of a long, boring speech. We also learn Fortinbras Jr. is heopfully diverted from attacking Denmark to attacking Poland. Wow -- I forgot about that subplot.

R&G are soon cheering up Hamlet and we finally get some Shakespeare banter. He asks how they are and they say "fine, but not at Fortune's cap". He asks, "but not down at the sole of her shoes?", and they reply they're about in her middle, like in her private parts. Hamlet finds that funny since Fortune is a whore. Then there's an actually funny bit where Hamlet asks if they were sent by his parents and R&G say no, no; OK, fine, yes.

R&amd;G mention how they passed some thespians on the way here. Hamlet runs to see and chats with them. R&G report back to the Queen how excited Hamlet seemed by the thespians, and she's very pleased. But he's excited since he has an idea: make them do a play where a King's brother gives him ear-poison then seduces and marries the widow. Famous quote incoming: "the play's the thing, to catch the conscience of the King".

Just before the play we get the trap with Ophelia. Hamlet is wandering alone, giving his famous "to be or not to be" speech. It's long, so long. I think the point is to establish that Hamlet has gone nuts. Then Ophelia intercepts him near the hidey-hole. She tries to return some love letters but he says he never wrote any such things. Then admits he did and says he used to love her, but he was actually lying to get in her pants. He finally utters the semi-famous "get thee to a nunnery", implying he's ruined her reputation. Then he's even more of total dick to her for 3 paragraphs. The King, listening, mocks Polonius: "oh yeah, he's so lovesick for your daughter. Idiot!" But he also notes how Hamlet has clearly gone from moody to just crazy. The new plan is to ship him off to England first thing tomorrow, with R&G for company. The English are good at dealing with nut-jobs.

The play goes as planned. People are a little shocked. There's a funny bit where Hamlet tells people this is totally a real play -- an Italian one based on a guy named Gonzago who killed his brother. About halfway the King orders it shut down. They all leave and Hamlet's mother sends for him.

Hamlet first has to visit the King's chambers, sword in hand. The play has worked on the King -- he's on his knees moaning how he's done the worst thing possible -- brother murder -- and knows he can't properly confess since he's still got the fruits of it -- the crown and his new wife. Hamlet decides being murdered in the middle of prayers is too good for him (as we all know, going to Heaven or Hell is greatly influenced by what you were doing when you died). He'll will wait until his uncle is drunk or having sex (but with his mom, ewww. I don't think he thought that one through).

In the Queen's chanbers, Hamlet's next stop, Polonius has heard and doesn't like this. He coaches the Queen on what to say, plus he'll be hiding behind a tapestry. Hamlet comes in angry, they argue and for no real reason the Queen asks if he's going to kill her. She shouts for help. Behind the curtain Polonius hears and shouts for help, which Hamlet hears, thinks is part of a trap (I assume) and stabs the lump in the curtain. Polonius flops out, dead. Hamlet then lectures his mom about how she knows what her new husband did and how dare she bang him in the royal bed and so on. Out-of-the blue, Hamlet Sr's ghost floats in. Hamlet talks to it and the Queen asks why he's talking the thin air. Hamlet finally tells her to abstain from sex for a few nights, then give in and see if she can get a confession during pillow-talk (which never happens).

Next morning, the King and Queen agree Polonius's death was their fault for not realizing how crazy Hamlet was sooner. It seems Hamlet is late for his boat to England, due to him dragging Polonius's corpse somewhere. A late Hamlet says he's hidden the body where you'll never find it, but a certain set of stairs might start to reek in about a month. He goes into a long bit about how we're all just worm food in the end. After everyone leaves, the King says he's told the English to kill Hamlet (in a secret letter sent on the boat). Whoa! It seems the King knows that Hamlet knows!

On the way to the boat, Hamlet (with R&G) meet young Prince Fortinbras. He's getting permission to march through Denmark on his way to attack part of Poland. Hmmm...is he, or is this a trick? The next short scene is Ophelia coming to see the Queen and singing random songs about her dead father. In a cogent moment, she says they need to get her brother Laertes back for the funeral. Then back to crazy songs. The King and Queen say "oh great, we just got rid of one crazy person and hear's another".

Just then it's announced Leartes is outside the castle, also with a group of commoners saying he should be the king (I guess he didn't leave for France yet). Laertes demands to know who killed his dad. While Ophelia is still singing nonsense, the King calms him down and preps him: "when I tell you who did it, you'll get revenge on them, no matter what? Promise?"

Then the plot thickens. Horatio has gotten a note from Hamlet at sea: Pirates attacked their ship, Hamlet jumped over and fought them, was captured, and he's writing this from the pirate ship. The ship to England got away safely. Bet you didn't know Hamlet had pirates? The King gets a similar note that basically says "I'm coming back for you, alone -- Hamlet".

Frightened, the King quickly makes a new plan: Leartes will challenge Hamlet to a friendly duel, but using a poisoned sword. As back-up, the King will offer Hamlet a poison drink midway through. Before they realize how stupid that is, another messenger arrives -- Ophellia's dead. She went to the river, put on a bunch of homemade flower necklaces and drowned herself, singing as she went under.

We then move to a famous, and also funny scene. The grave diggers are arguing about whether she can be buried in a church since suicide is a mortal sin. They conclude rich people always have it better, even when they kill themselves. Then they tell a joke about the best builder of all being a gravedigger, since the houses they make last until judgement day. Hamlet wanders in and ask about the man buried there. "What, no man?", "Well, what woman?", "No woman", Well who's grave is it?", "It's my grave", "yes, you're digging it, but who's it for?", "it's for someone who used to be a woman". Yeessh! Hamlet also picks up skulls and asks them what they were like in life. We also learn most corpses rot in eight seasons, but tanners last nine since their hide is water-resistant from tanning fumes.

Finally, the gravedigger pulls out the skull of the King's jester Yorick, dead these 23 years. Hamlet delivers his famous line "alas poor Yorrick. I knew him". Then he talks about how Yorrick played with him, way back. It's not that great a speech, and this is the third skull Hamlet has been talking to, just today. While he moans about more stuff, the royal funeral starts. Hamlet hides. Laertes jumps into the grave, on top of the coffin and start weeping for his sister. Hamlet runs out of hiding and jumps in as well, and they start wrestling. It turns out Hamlet is angry because he loved Ophelia way more and only he deserves to jump on the coffin. Then we get the famous quote "every dog will have its day". The weird thing is, it's actually: "Let Hercules do what he may, the cat will mew, and dog will have his day". So I don't think it means what people thing it means.

Then we get a break with a completely gratuitous scene. Hamlet and Horatio are off somewhere and he explains that while on the boat he found the note for his execution. He was so mad he forged a fake note saying "kill the people who gave you this note, immediately". Horatio reminds him how Rosenkrantz and Guildenstein might be the ones handing it over but Hamlet says that's tough luck -- they were probably in on it.

Then we're back to the action. A kid named Osric explains to Hamlet how the King has made a bet on a friendly sword fight between Hamlet and Leartes. The details are cool: 12 rounds and since Hamlet isn't as good he only needs to win 5 out of 7. They really give Osric a hard time as he tries to deliver the message, which is kind of funny.

When Hamlet arrives for the contest he apologizes to Leartes for everything, saying it was his madness and he's really sorry. Laertes says he forgives him, but he must be lying since he goes ahead with the murder plot anyway.

The end is pretty obvious: everyone dies from poison (well, the King and Queen, and Hamlet and Laertes). The King tries to give Hamlet the poison wine, but he's not thirsty so the Queen chugs it before the King can stop her. Hamlet and Leartes lock up swords, fumble them, and both get poison scratches as they swap blades. The Queen drops and people say she fainted, but Laertes lets everyone know about the poison, plus how he and Hamlet are both walking dead right now, then dies. Hamlet gashes the King, who dies from poison and blood loss, then finally Hamlet takes a last cool drink and dies himself.

The conclusion is pretty neat. Young Fortibras arrives back from Poland (so the plan to redirect him worked!) He's told he's probably the next king of Denmark. With him are English ambassadors saying they killed R&G as requested by ... ooops ... by that dead King over there. Horatio has the bodies moved to make room for everyone to sit down and hear the story of how everyone got so dead. THE END.

Was it good? Well, the pacing was impressive. The next thing is always introduced before the last is resolved. We're always looking forwards to something. Of course, being Shakespeare, there are plenty of long boring speeches through-out. It also had pirates, ghosts, a crazy amount of poison, skulls and ended in a long swordfight.

As for the ghost, we know the uncle really killed his brother since he confesses (to himself) midway through. I feel like the ghost merely represented Hamlet's suspicions, except that several people saw it. So a message from a ghost is a for-real plot point in this one.

This play confirms, for me, that Shakespeare either can't write women, or knows his audience doesn't care. The Queen and Ophelia never get a speech telling us what they think. Why did the Queen marry her brother-in-law? Did she suspect near the end? Why didn't the ghost tell her? Instead she couldn't even see it in her room. And did Ophelia really love Hamlet? Did she argue with her dad when ordered to cut things off? I suppose her killing herself made sense: her father and brother dead, her boyfriend dumping her and calling her a whore. But having her go crazy in such a lazy way -- ugg.

Finally the totals: 7 people dead. Polonius in 1 quick stab; Ophellia off-stage; the Queen, Laertes, the King and Hamlet all at the end; and finally R&K off-stage but very gruesome.

Anthony and Cleopatra

Arrg! Another history. But Shakespeare is probably the reason everyone knows about the beautiful Queen Cleopatra, and why the movie with Elizabeth Taylor was made, and the Xena Warrior Princess episodes in Egypt, and so on. So let's take a quick look:

Right off, in the list of characters, we're in trouble: Octavia, wife of Marc Anthony and sister to Ceaser. Oh-oh, he's married! And not to someone you can just divorce, either. First scene is some guards saying Anthony has forgotten his duties he's so love-struck. Then we get to hear him tell Cleopatra it would take "a new heaven" to explain his love for her. OK, we get it. They get a message from Rome which Anthony wants to blow off.

We get a funny scene where a soothsayer is giving vague fortunes to lady in Cleopatra's court. Some sound a bit ominous, but no one cares.

Two more notes arrive -- Anthony's wife is engaged is some delicate business back in Rome, and then she's dead. Anthony seems to wake up and realize he's been wasting his time here and needs to get home to take care of business. And aquaintance compares dead wives to old clothes -- it's great when one wears out since you can get a new, fresh one.

Anthony explains his leaving to an angry Cleopatra, who thinks he's going back to his wife. When he explains that she died Cleopatra notes how he's not even crying -- is this what she can expect when she dies? But he finally patches things up.

In Rome we learn a rebel named Pompey is causing trouble on the sea; plus there are pirates. Back in Egypt Cleopatra is asking for drugs to sleep until Anthony returns. A messenger arrives with a pearl Anthony has kissed for her. Back in Rome Anthony meets Ceaser. It turns out his wife and brother were causing trouble, but Anthony explains he had nothing to do with it. To seal the friendship, Anthony agrees to marry Ceaser's sister, Octavia. It's only political -- he doesn't care about her -- but we know this will be trouble. Also, Pompei is raising an army.

Nearby, some Romans talk about how the two first met: everyone was eating whole roast boars at big parties in Egypt when Cleopatra came by on her golden barge, with boys fanning her and sexy attendants. Anthony was smitten, she asked him to come over for dinner, and he plowed her. Not making that up -- except Shakespeare spelled it "ploughed". They're wondering if his new wife Octavia can keep Anthony away from Cleopatra. In a ltater scene Anthony is telling Octavia how his job will keep him away from her, and she shouldn't believe any rumors she hears. Yeesh. Then the soothsayer, now in Rome, is telling Anthony that Ceaser will always eclipse him and Anthony needs to get away from Rome to ever acheive anything.

Back in Egypt Cleopatra is hanging out with her best friend Charmain listening to music and shooting pool. They joke about the time they played a fishing joke on Anthony by a fish to his hook (a salt-water fish, in the Nile. Ha!), then how they made love all night. But then a messenger comes. In little bits, clearly afraid, he says Anthony is well (she threatens to pour molten gold down his throat if "well" is another way of saying "dead"), and he and Ceaser have made up, and ... and ... he's with Octavia. Cleopatra pulls out a knife and chases the messenger around. Eventually he's coaxed back and says Anthony has married Octavia; yes really; yes married; and so on to satisfy her it's not a trick. Cleopatra says she still might kill this guy, but mostly she wants every bit of research they have on Octavia. Later we find that Octavia is ugly: she's shorter than Cleopatra, has a round face, a low voice, enters a room by creeping; and if that doesn't repulse you enough, she's an old widow -- possibly as much as 30. As before, Cleopatra comically double-checks all of this by asking if her spy is sure, and having someone vouch for the spy.

Somewhere in the Mediteranian, Ceaser and Anthony make peace with Pompei, mostly by showing the two of them now firmly on the same side. During the celebratations one of Pompie's men asks if he should slit the throats of the two drunken Romans. Pompei is angy, but not why we think. He exclaims "you should have just done it behind my back. Now that you asked I have to say No". Then some servants talk and Ceaser says goodbye to his sister, who whispers something into his ear (which we don't hear -- another thing he invented). Somewhere in there we learn this play happens after "Julius Ceaser". This is the same hyper-competent Marc Anthony who got revenge for the old Ceaser's murder.

The deal with Pompei didn't last long -- we're getting reports of the war with him. The soothsayer was right: Anthony is doing all the work and Ceaser is getting all the credit (which we hear while he complains to Ocatavia). We hear about a guy who has it worse -- he fought just as hard for Ceaser but was tossed him in jail. Basically, Ceaser is a glory-hog. Octavia goes to talk to her brother about the problem. He cuts her off and says Anthony is back to bangingn Cleopatra and working against Rome. In the next scene we see that. He's been kicking butt on Egypt's side, but now Anthony is hell-bent on a naval battle -- despite everyone in Egypt telling him about Rome's better ships and more experienced marines. After a few quick scenes the Egytian navy is in full flight. They ask for surrender terms but Ceaser says he won't even talk until she sends him Anthony.

Cleopatra is about to sell-out Anthony ans surrender, but Anthony gets back, whips Ceaser's messenger and says they can still win. That convinces her. Predictably, Ceaser refuses Anthony's proposall to settle this with a 1-on-1 fight. We get the usual night-before-battle stuff, then an odd scene with a bunch of Roman soldiers milling about asking "what's that?" "Beats me" for a 1/2-page. Anthony hears about a leader who deserted to join the Romans and commands all the gold from the man's house be sent over as well. The guy is so impressed that he quits the Roman army is dies the next day in Egypt, apologizing.

Amazingly, the next day Anthony is winning. His right-hand man says the fighting was so tough a T-shaped scar was turned into an H. He commands his men to wash off the congealed blood and kiss their wounds. But the next day the Egptian navy deserts. Anthony furiously tells Cleopatra to run before he kills her. She does, then fakes her own death. Anthony, not to be outdone, commands a servant to kill him, but the servant kills himself instead. Anthony stabs himself, but fails to die. Then he's told Cleopatra is still alive, is brought to her, they make up, and he dies.

Ceaser tells Cleopatra he'll treat her well, but she knows she'll be paraded through Rome like a trophy. She sends for some poison snakes and she and her favorite servant Charmain kill themselves. Ceaser rushes in and says she'll be buried next to the monument where Anthony is. THE END.

Was that good? We get one short love scene with the two of them, at the start to trick us into thinking it's a love story. But then no more. I was hoping more would happen with how Anthony was married, twice, while having his affair. But nothing came of that. The battles at the end seemed nice, with the sea stuff and scars and blood, but by then we're just confused about what kind of play it is. Was there a moral -- like "a man will always go back to his mistress"? It really happened, I guess, so it's history. I'd say it's a case of: ancient Rome is cool, so was Egypt; a so-so play about them both with some funny parts will be a good, if not memorable, time.

Twelfth Night

This is one where the name isn't so famous, but the plot elements are. We start with Duke Orsino of Illyria telling us how much he loves Olivia, who doesn't love him back. She's using the excuse of still mourning her dead brother (later we hear her father also died. Neither is mentioned ever again).

Then we kick into high gear with a shipwreck. A young woman named Viola has been rescued and is worried about her brother. He was last seen tying himself to the floating mast, which is the approved practice. Ashore, Viola decides she wants to marry the Duke, disguises herself as a man, and volunteers to be the go-between for the Duke and his love Olivia. There isn't much explanation for her sudden love or why she chose this plan -- but clearly it's the premise.

Then we meet Olivia's loser cousin Toby and his drinking buddy Andrew Aguecheek. Toby has been uselessly trying to set-up Andrew with Olivia for so long that the maid and the steward are making jokes about it. We get two sex-puns in there: Toby says women should put Andrew's head between their legs (it's a loom joke -- his hair is like fine thread). Olivia's clown says it's good to be well-hung (after the maid says Olivia will hang him for being late).

It turns out that silliness was to get us ready for a really deep moment. The clown is trying to cheer up Olivia and asks her if her brother is in hell. She says of course not -- he's in heaven. The clown asks how she can be upset about him being in such a good place. A lot to think about there. Later on we get another deep observation, about clowns -- they have to be very observant of people's moods and really read the room, so are actually not clowns at all.

Viola, disquised as a man, finally visits Olivia as part of her please-marry-the-Duke job, but Olivia falls in love with her. It takes a few scenes. At first they flirt, then Olivia says to never come again -- well, OK, you can come again. She flirtatiously pretends Viola left a ring and sends her maid to return it. A bit that doesn't go anywhere but I liked: when they first meet Viola asks Olivia to unveil and is suprised by how pretty she is. Viola keeps complimenting her looks woman-to-woman, but it comes off as courting her.

In between, Viola's brother Sebastion is also rescued. Yay! A guy named Antonio found him on a beach and pledges to be his servant. Sadly, Antonio is a wanted man in Illyria (for not returning the spoils of war after a peace deal) but will risk going. Sebastian laments how his sister died in the shipwreck. This will be important later.

Back in Illyria, we get to the subplot. Olivia's maid and cousin and drunk Andrew hatch a plan to embarrass the steward. He's pretty stuffy. They're going to write a fake letter from Olivia to him saying she really likes him, if only he would dress up funny, smile like a maniac, and so on. There's an entire page where he puzzles out the clues in the letter saying "ha! this proves the letter is for me!" while the crew watch from behind a tree, laughing. Much later he does all of that, Olivia is horrified, he's tied up in a dark room while the clown pretends to be a doctor and evaluates whether he needs to be send to an asylum. Several scenes there, some while Viola is coming and going.

Midway in that love letter we get another famous Shakespear quote, which I didn't even know was Shakespear: "some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have it thrust upon them". Awesum, but it's kind of a let-down -- I figured that quote was about some herioc leader, but it's about going all-out to impress a woman.

We get a sweet scene with the Duke and man-Viola. He asks if (s)he has any romantic prospects. Viola says she likes someone who's about as tall as the Duke and about his age (after he asks for those details). He goes off how that's crazy -- a man has to marry a younger woman. Then she asks what he'd do if he found out some other woman loved him the way he loved Olivia. The Duke says that's also crazy -- women can't fall in love as deeply as men. But she keeps it up and he seems to be thinking about it.

Midway through the many Viola/Olivia meetings, cousin Toby decides to mess with his pal Andrew. He says Olivia is clearly using man-Viola to make you jealous. She hoped you'd bust into one of their sessions and assert yourself. Now you're only chance is challenging Viola to a duel to show Olivia how manly you are. That happens a few scenes later. Toby has Andrew wait down the block, ready to fight. Then he catches Viola leaving Olivia's estate and warns her a guy is waiting to fight her. She's scared and confused. Then he runs and tells Andrew it turns out Viola is a master-duelist and Andrew is ready to run. But eventually they meet, each terrified of the other, slowly draw swords, and are interrupted at the last second.

Sebastion and Antonio got into town that morning and split up, with Sebastian holding Antonio's money so he won't spend it on something stupid. Back at the duel, Antonio sees Viola draw, thinks she's Sabastian (we later learn she's wearing Sebastian's clothes) and jumps in to help. The police immediately arrive and arrest him for his war crimes against Illyria. He demands "Sebastian" give him his money back from that morning and hilarity ensues.

Meanwhile, Olivia is looking for Viola but finds a puzzled Sebastian, who she takes for Viola. She's brought a priest to marry them. Sebastian shrugs and goes with them.

Later Toby and Andrew go after Viola to finish the fight but also find Sebastion, who they can't tell from Viola. They argue, start fighting, and the scene ends mid-brawl.

The final scene is in the Duke's court. He and Viola are there. Antonio is brought in by the cops, still thinks Viola is Sabastian they argue. Then Olivia comes in and says Viola is her husband (so we know she and Sebastion went ahead with the marriage). That causes a problem with the Duke, but then Sebastion comes in and everyone is all "there's two of them"? Recall each thinks the other is dead, and Viola is in disguise, so they go back-and-forth before figuring it out. Then Toby and Andrew run in all bloody, calling for a medic. It turns out Sebastion cracked both their skulls. Then the steward runs in, having untied himslef, waving the fake love-letter. That's sorted out and cousin Toby is forced to marry the maid to make up for the deception

Somewhere in there the Duke remembers all of those times man-Viola said she loved him and realizes she meant it as a woman, and argees to marry her, except she has to be his man-servant until she can find her real clothes. THE END

Was it good? It moves at a decent pass. The lesser characters give us the fake love-letter subplot, but also the funny you-guys-must-fight stuff which is part of the real plot. I don't really believe the romance between the Duke and Viola, but it's got some nice scenes. The bit with the twins confusion near the end is a nice surprise. It's a romantic comedy, so of course it's silly, but as far as one of those goes, it seems pretty good.

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