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Symbolism of Violets December 4, 2007

Posted by Kim Crow in : Twelfth Night , add a comment

A violet was a symbol for faithfulness, fidelity and constancy in love. The Shakespeare Garden by Esther Singleton offers an excerpt from the poem “A Nosegay always Sweet for Lovers to send Tokens of Love at New Year’s tide, of Fairings, as they in their minds shall be disposed to write” first published 1566:

Violet is for faithfulness,
     Which in me shall abide;
Hoping likewise that in your heart
     You will not let it slide,
And will continue in the same,
     As you have now begun;
And then forever to abide
     Then You My Heart Have Won.

Shakespeare’s Peddler explains that violets represent humility, innocence, modesty in needlework samples.

Stewards December 4, 2007

Posted by Kim Crow in : Twelfth Night , add a comment

I was very pleased with the description of the role of the steward at the “Life in Elizabethan England” site that I’ve included in the list of resources. I doubt I could describe the role more precisely as these articles:

The Steward and His Office

The Steward in Matters Domestical

Staffing a Great Household

A print copy of the three links will be available in my Dramaturg’s Black Book.

The role of the steward was honorable; in higher courts it would have been held by a gentleman. I wasn’t able to ascertain how one trains to become a steward. I believe one would work through the ranks as an understeward. I will keep my eye out for more information.

As a Beard of Avon note, The Earl of Derby was Queen Elizabeth’s steward for many years.

Sonnets December 4, 2007

Posted by Kim Crow in : Beard of Avon , add a comment

A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem, thought to have been invented by the poet Giacomo da Lentini (ca. 1200-1250). It is one of the most well known of all the verse forms in the Western world. The word sonnet is derived from the Italian word sonnetto, a little sound or song, which came from the Latin sonus, meaning “a sound.”

The sonnet form involves a certain way of thinking: the setting up or development of thought or idea which is brought to a conclusion at the end of the poem. Sticking to one subject in the sonnet and creating pauses at the ends or in the middles of lines make the poem resemble the way we think when we are thinking about a single idea.

The most common form of the sonnet is a fourteen-line poem in two parts: an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The octave can be divided into two four-line stanzas and the sestet can be divided into one four-line stanza and a couplet (the two lines at the end). The chance to have two lines at the end, set off from the rest of the poem, often gives the poet a moment to conclude the poem’s thought in a momentous and satisfying way.

In terms of sound and rhyme, there are many different ways of writing a sonnet. Many traditional sonnets were written I in the meter of iambic pentameter. Traditional rhyme schemes for the sonnet vary a lot, the most famous being abab cdcd efef gg (Shakespeare). The rhymes and sound schemes of the sonnet are similar to those of the ballad and of popular songs, but the sonnet is not a narrative poem, and is usually more complex or condensed, and more contained within itself, since it is shorter and has no repetition of lines or refrain.

Though sonnets can be written about any subject, they seem very often to be written about love, philosophy, or both. This is because, as each poetic form reflects a human way of thinking, he sonnet form seems to reflect the way people think about ideas of love. Maybe that’s why there is the need for a conclusion—as if we could attempt, through poetry, to make sense of our feelings about love, or to say something final and sublime about a particular thought about love, even just for the moment… besides writing about love, you can write sonnets about things that happen when you’re walking down the  street or any thing or idea you want to describe (octave), and then, what you think of that (sestet).

Excerpts from The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms, edited by Ron Padgett.

From the above information, I would venture to guess that sonnets were much closer to a pop song than an email or text message.  Many speculate that code or autobiography was an implicit part of Shakespeare’s sonnets; some feel this is conjecture.

The Shakespeare Sketch December 4, 2007

Posted by Kim Crow in : fun for you , add a comment

I thought I might get things rolling here at Upstart Dramaturg with a little bit of fun. In “The Shakespeare Sketch” William “Bill” Shakespeare goes to see his editor. The editor has a few qualms with the “dodgy soliloquy” in Hamlet. The sketch was originally seen in 1989 as a live version of the BBC’s Blackadder. It features Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie.

I’m still trying to work out the wrinkles of WordPress, so please, for the time being, bear with me and follow the link: http://youtube.com/watch?v=IwbB6B0cQs4

“The External Manifestations of Gender in Elizabethan Society” December 4, 2007

Posted by Kim Crow in : business , add a comment

I want to extend a thank you to Dan for sharing a packet of information called “The External Manifestations of Gender in Elizabethan Society.” This guide provides a lot of great information about courtly life, costumes, manners and gestures which made up 17th century England doctrine. I’ve posted a copy on the wall of the rehearsal and I am keeping another copy in my Dramaturg’s Black Book binder.

I’d like to encourage everyone to share information or resources in this forum or in rehearsal. I’m interested to see what will come from this assembly of minds!

Dramaturg’s Notebook: 12/1 December 4, 2007

Posted by Kim Crow in : Dramaturg's Notebook , add a comment

A first rehearsal traditional brings new names, new faces and a handful of paperwork.  This first rehearsal also brought two scripts, two directors, and a challenge: make both plays work on their own and as compliments to one another.  Chris spoke about the impetus to produce the two plays in repertoire. He spoke of “Will’s journey as an artist as he discovers the genius within himself,” in Beard of Avon. Jane, when speaking of Twelfth Night discussed the confluence between the pieces more thoroughly and discussed her idea to shift from a very theatrical world before “getting to real.”

We also had the pleasure of hearing two designers talk about their designs. Bill  reviewed his scenic design, which requires a strong vein of economy and adaptability to suit two very different texts and two directors. Deb also spoke about her costumes and the challenge that is brought about with living in the same clothes in different worlds. This idea is even reflected in her choice of color.The rest of the day was spent reading both the texts (in full dialect!). I am always impressed by how the simple gesture of connecting a person to a character can help to bring clarity to a script. For me, hearing the text spoken aloud brings a sense of tangibility to my role within the production. I am very excited to see how these plays will take shape and adapt over the rehearsal process.

Fools December 1, 2007

Posted by Kim Crow in : Uncategorized , 1 comment so far

“Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun; it shines everywhere.” (III.i)  Feste’s statement rings true; the role of the fool is manifest in art, literature and the stage. It spans cultures and generations. The character is identifiable in a number of contexts, from indigenous folklore to classic literature. Its origins are steeped in the tradition of court jesters.

Keeping a fool in court was practiced in England as early as 1202. Fools were kept throughout the noble and royal courts of England until the end of the reign of King Charles I. The demise of the English fool in court is attributed to Oliver Cromwell and his puritan cronies. Puritans were notorious for their displeasure at theatre and other merriment. The puritan Malvolio’s contempt for Feste’s folly therefore foreshadows the effects of a regime change which occurred some forty years after Shakespeare’s death.

The tradition of the fool or jester grew from travelling minstrels and bards. Records suggest that the fool was typically kept on the payroll of a court. However, the fool was also an itinerate entertainer (much like their predecessors). This would create a sense of society that a settled master would not be able to experience. Fools were kept as a status symbol; they were a luxury expense which marked the stability of the court and its established hierarchy.

Most fools can be distinguished as natural fools or artificial fools. A natural fool is characterized by an explicit impediment, either physical or mental, that prevents integration and financial independence within society. Natural fools were kept out of charity and often subject to cruelty and ridicule.  Artificial fools were more valued. These “wise fools” were recruited from diverse backgrounds. A learned fool could be a university drop out, a monk with celibacy issues, or a craftsman’s apprentice noted for his sense of humor. Both types of fools were typically identified by sight, either through physical anomalies or through costumes. The recruitment of a fool was informal and meritocratic. Many times fools were found patronage by turning a clever phrase at the right place at the right time.

It has been said that Queen Elizabeth I often found her fool to be of more service to her than wise counsel, doctors, and peers. Her father, Henry VIII also had a close relationship with his fool, Will Somers. Though a fool’s quips could be virulent jabs at the expense of his master. Still, fooling would undercurrent of  good-natured jest.  The jester was ultimately an ally of his patron. This relationship was often amiable; fools were often cherished and beloved by members of the family. Consider Hamlet’s recollection of Yorick, his father’s fool:

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? (Hamlet, V.i)



Fools were itinerate performers. Will Somers, in addition to serving the king, became a notorious performer in London taverns. Fools were typically placed on the court’s payroll. Though their station in the court would exceed most servants, their pay was not. Performing in additional venues was a common practice. The role could be a precarious position, one could lose favor quickly with a bad joke or one might be dismissed upon the death of a master. In Twelfth Night, Feste’s closest social equal is Malvolio. The fool and the steward are at once equals and opposites. Shakespeare makes use of this by creating a natural rivalry between them. Both characters operate in elevated roles of servitude, but their humors are hardly matched.

Fools would participate in events of the court as isolated observers. They evaluated the world with a lens for that questioned the prevailing order. Fools typically mock social constructs rather than people. Their role would be to respond to and act out the absurdity of the world around them. Foolery would extend to the realm of the physical. In order to be in good fooling, a fool would be as reliant on non-verbal methods of communication as he would be on wordplay and speech. 

Shakespeare’s wise fools are largely influenced by the actor Robert Armin. Armin was more actor than clown; he became reliant upon building a character in lieu of improvised jest.


Recommended Resources:

Bradley, A.C. Feste the Jester. Twelfth Night Critical Essays ed. Stanley Wells, Garland Publishing, Inc. New York. 1986

Goldsmith, Robert Hills. Wise Fools in Shakespeare. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, MI. 1963.

Otto, Beatrice K. Fools are Everywhere: The Court Jester Around the World. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 2001.