RICHARD II

AND MUST WE BE DIVIDED? MUST WE PART?

Richard II (Charles Edwards) giving his crown to Henry IV (David Sturzaker) in the Globe’s 2015 production of Richard II.

Richard II marks the beginning of my beloved Henriad, and it is a wonderful, mesmerizing play. It isn’t the titular character that makes this play so irresistible, though – it’s everything else.

In the Henry VI plays, it becomes obvious quite quickly that Henry VI isn’t a very good king. He’s weak, he’s passive, and the other aristocrats knock him down with very little effort. But you pity him – while completely useless, Henry VI also comes across as very gentle and kind. Richard II is another useless king – he is easily won over by flattery, is implied to have been involved in the murder of his uncle Gloucester, and is as weak as they come. But there is something in him that is lacking, because I found it very difficult to pity him at all. And this is coming from somebody who doesn’t care for Henry IV’s character either.

I was absolutely baffled by Richard’s decision to suddenly call off the fight between Bolingbroke and Mowbray in 1.3. He decides quite suddenly to exile them both – Mowbray for life, and Bolingbroke for a good six years. I was saddened by John of Gaunt’s reaction to the sentence:

GAUNT
Things sweet to taste prove in digestion sour.
You urged me as a judge, but I had rather
You would have bid me argue like a father.
O, had it been a stranger, not my child,
To smooth his fault I should have been more mild.
A partial slander sought I to avoid,
And in the sentence my own life destroyed.
Alas, I looked when some of you should say
I was too strict, to make mine own away.
But you gave leave to my unwilling tongue
Against my will to do myself this wrong.

John of Gaunt, of course, was involved in this decision. But nobody stopped him! And he knew he couldn’t show bias toward his own son. I wonder if he thought that his pleading and regretful words would sway Richard. It doesn’t matter, though, because Richard appears to be unaffected by Gaunt. He immediately turns to Bolingbroke and bids him farewell.

If I had been brave enough to pursue degrees in English, I probably would have spent a lot of time writing and thinking about the father/son relationships in Shakespeare’s histories. Gaunt, despite not fighting for his son outright, very obviously loves him. This contrasts sharply with York and Aumerle later in the play. And although Hal isn’t in this play, the way Henry IV speaks about him implies a tumultuous relationship (that is luckily explored in the Henry IV plays). We also have Northumberland and Hotspur (Hotspur! I was thrilled to see him in this play), a relationship that I would also argue is quite stable and based on mutual respect.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t love Henry IV (or Bolingbroke, or whatever you’d like to call him), but it appears that the people do:

KING RICHARD
He is our cousin, cousin, but ’tis doubt,
When time shall call him home from banishment,
Whether our kinsman come to see his friends.
Ourself and Bushy, Bagot here and Green,
Observed his courtship to the common people,
How he did seem to dive into their hearts
With humble and familiar courtesy,
What reverence he did throw away on slaves,
Wooing poor craftsmen with the craft of smiles
And patient underbearing of his fortune,
As ’twere to banish their affects with him.
Off goes his bonnet to an oysterwench;
A brace of draymen bid God speed him well
And had the tribute of his supple knee,
With “Thanks, my countrymen, my loving friends,”
As were our England in reversion his
As he our subjects’ next degree in hope.

Look, if I were a commoner living under Richard II, I would probably secretly prefer Bolingbroke as well. There is something to be said about Bolingbroke’s ability to charm the commoners. Richard is incredibly prideful, and believes himself to be an almost divine being, anointed by God himself – it’s no wonder that the commoners prefer his cousin to him.

On his deathbed, John of Gaunt very bravely tells Richard exactly what he thinks of him. When Gaunt eventually dies, York is distraught. Richard, meanwhile, is completely heartless in his reaction:

KING RICHARD
The ripest fruit first falls, and so doth he;
His time is spent, our pilgrimage must be.
So much for that. Now for our Irish wars:
We must supplant those rough rugheaded kern,
Which live like venom where no venom else
But only they have the privilege to live.
And, for these great affairs do ask some charge,
Towards our assistance we do seize to us
The plate, coin, revenues, and moveables
Whereof our uncle Gaunt did stand possessed.

Oh, right, I forgot that Richard has also dragged England into debt with his frivolous spending. See, although Richard is weak and passive, he also has moments of very clear hardheartedness. It would be unfair to group him with the weak Henry VI, who would never have said such awful things. York, much like myself, cannot believe what he’s hearing. He argues that Gaunt’s rights should be given to Bolingbroke.

YORK
[…] If you do wrongfully seize Hereford’s rights,
Call in the letters patents that he hath
By his attorneys general to sue
His livery, and deny his offered homage,
You pluck a thousand dangers on your head,
You lose a thousand well-disposèd hearts,
And prick my tender patience to those thoughts
Which honor and allegiance cannot think.

Richard is a fool who only listens to people who flatter him and stroke his ego. A bit like our current president, no? In any case, he ignores York’s wise warning. Don’t say you weren’t warned, Richard.

York is understandably fed-up with Richard, but he’s a man who plays by the books. He tells Bolingbroke off for coming back to England as soon as they meet. He acknowledges that he is powerless to stop Bolingbroke on his crusade:

YORK
Well, well. I see the issue of these arms.
I cannot mend it, I must needs confess,
Because my power is weak and all ill-left.
But if I could, by Him that gave me life,
I would attach you all and make you stoop
Unto the sovereign mercy of the King.
But since I cannot, be it known unto you
I do remain as neuter. So fare you well –
Unless you please to enter in the castle
And there repose you for this night.

I suppose I can respect York’s refusal to bend the rules, but there is such a thing as being too by the book. Richard may have royal blood, but England is crumbling underneath him.

Before York’s decision to remain neutral in this struggle, we meet Hotspur. As always, he is wonderfully flippant.

NORTHUMBERLAND
Have you forgot the Duke of Hereford, boy?

PERCY
No, my good lord, for that is not forgot
Which ne’er I did remember. To my knowledge
I never in my life did look on him.

He is eventually introduced, and Bolingbroke gives Hotspur his hand. Unfortunately, such actions aren’t indicative of anything, as we all come to see in Henry IV, Part One.

Richard returns to England, only to discover that his supporters have been executed, and that everybody else has joined Bolingbroke. Richard’s reaction is incredibly dramatic. I performed his reaction to this discovery in 2012 as part of my immersive Shakespeare class. It is fantastically written, and is some of Shakespeare’s best writing. I particularly like the end, even though it didn’t change my mind about Richard in the slightest:

KING RICHARD
[…] Throw away respect,
Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all the while.
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends. Subjected thus,
How can you say to me I am a king?

No pity from me, of course. Richard all but did this to himself, didn’t he? He is now beginning the long, rocky descent from anointed royalty to hated prisoner.

Annoyingly, Richard very easily bends to Bolingbroke’s demands. He resigns the crown, and Bolingbroke ascends the throne, now the newly crowned Henry IV of England. But things are not as simple as they seem, as there is a plot to get rid of Henry IV already.

Richard, meanwhile, is being separated from his Queen. While I dislike Richard immensely, I feel incredibly sorry for his poor Queen. For some reason or another, she seems to love him, and I thought their farewell scene was very sad. Richard is sent to Pomfret, and his Queen is whisked off to France.

York is now incredibly loyal to Henry IV, but his son Aumerle isn’t so sure. A very dramatic scene erupts when York finds out that his son is involved in a plot against the newly crowned king. He makes the decision to go tell the king immediately. The Duchess is rightfully horrified:

DUCHESS
Why, York, what wilt thou do?
Wilt thou not hide the trespass of thine own?
Have we more sons? Or are we like to have?
Is not my teeming date drunk up with time?
And wilt thou pluck my fair son from mine age
And rob me of a happy mother’s name?
Is he not like thee? Is he not thine own?

Poor Duchess! As I said, there is such a thing as playing by the book too much. I very much respected York before this, but I immediately changed my mind after his decision to go tell Henry IV. And he asks for his son to be executed! Remember what I said about father/son relationships earlier? We might have easily painted Aumerle and York’s relationship as a normal one at the beginning of this play, but we now see that York puts his loyalty to the king above everything else. His son, apparently, comes second. Knowing this, both Aumerle and the Duchess rush to reach Henry IV first.

While they ride off in desperation, Henry IV is doing what he does best: trash talking his son.

KING HENRY
Can no man tell me of my unthrifty son?
‘Tis full three months since I did see him last.
If any plague hang over us, ’tis he.
I would to God, my lords, he might be found.
Inquire at London, ‘mongst the taverns there,
For there, they say, he daily doth frequent
With unrestrainèd loose companions,
Even such, they say, as stand in narrow lanes
And beat our watch and rob our passengers,
While he, young wanton and effeminate boy,
Takes on the point of honor to support
So dissolute a crew.

Ah, my favorite of all the father/son relationships: the rocky one between Henry IV and Hal. I am a bit baffled at how Henry hasn’t seen Hal in three months. Did he not think to look for him before this? In any case, we see why all the nobles think very poorly of Hal, don’t we? His own father highlights his every fault to everybody in the room.

Hilariously, it’s Hotspur who saw Hal last:

PERCY
My lord, some two days since I saw the Prince,
And told him of those triumphs held at Oxford.

KING HENRY
And what said the gallant?

PERCY
His answer was, he would unto the stews,
And from the common’st creature pluck a glove
And wear it as a favor; and with that
He would unhorse the lustiest challenger.

KING HENRY
As dissolute as desperate. Yet through both
I see some sparks of better hope, which elder years
May happily bring forth. But who comes here?

Not to turn this into an entry about Hal, but…well, who am I kidding? Let’s talk about this. Hal is the very picture of a reluctant prince/king. His absence during this play is very telling of both his relationship with his father, and possibly about how he feels about this entire endeavor. When the crown was lowered onto Henry IV’s head, a whole new set of responsibilities was dumped onto Hal. He gives Hotspur an incredibly disrespectful reply, and doesn’t show his face for the entirety of the play. And although Henry IV quickly backtracks and says he feels a glimmer of hope about his son, it isn’t nearly enough. Hal is going to have to deal with the fact that everybody expects him to fail for a long, long time, and it is largely due to how vocal Henry IV is about his feelings. And despite being hopeful, Henry IV later scathingly tells Hal that he would rather have Hotspur as a son. What I’m saying is, these two sentences make no difference. The damage has already been done.

Moving on!

Aumerle enters, and begs Henry IV for his forgiveness. Henry IV grants it without knowing what is going on. The scene that follows is absolutely wild: York insists his son be executed (?!), the Duchess begs for Aumerle’s life, and Aumerle himself expresses his regret. Henry IV ignores York and spares Aumerle, much to the Duchess’ delight.

It seems we’ve forgotten about Richard all together. He’s been wasting away at Pomfret. A former groom of his enters to tell him that Richard’s old horse very proudly paraded Henry IV through the streets. Ouch! And worse yet, Exton and his men enter with the intention of murdering Richard. Shockingly, wimpy Richard manages to fight a few of them off before being killed. Exton, who is very obviously insane, happily runs off to tell Henry IV about what he’s done.

In a hilarious twist, Henry IV immediately banishes him. I don’t blame him – you really don’t want somebody who takes everything literally anywhere near your court. And suddenly, Henry finds himself full of regret. He decides to go to the Holy Land to was his hands of all this blood.

The play ends very abruptly with that. The story continues in Henry IV, Part One, which I spent all of the twelfth grade obsessing over. Peace doesn’t seem to last in England, does it? The story continues with more rebellion (hello again, Hotspur!), even more father/son dramatics, and a ton of bloodshed. But, hey, it’s all worth it in the end, isn’t it? In the end, England gets Henry V, and we get the best depiction of a stressed out king there ever was.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is next! Time to shift gears and move from the throne room of England to the fairy-ridden woods of Athens. See you next month!

SHAKESPEARE

#MYSHX400

The Folger Shakespeare Library (i.e., the library that owns my soul because I can’t stop buying their wonderfully annotated plays) is celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday by asking his readers why we love him! That’s me up there, recalling when I first connected with Shakespeare. You should participate too – the library will be keeping all of our reflections in their archives!

I only answered one question, but I do want to type up my other responses.

What does Shakespeare mean to you?

Shakespeare means discovering what it is to be human. It means finding comfort and peace in only dialogue. It means laughter, bloodshed, and tears. And for me, it means happiness.

Which words and lines from Shakespeare do you love the most and why?

I love this exchange between Berowne and Rosaline from Love’s Labor’s Lost:

BEROWNE
Did I not dance with you in Brabant once?

ROSALINE
Did I not dance with you in Brabant once?

BEROWNE
I know you did.

ROSALINE
How needless was it then
To ask the question.

I like my Shakespearean ladies to be witty and sharp-tongued, and Rosaline certainly delivers!

Here’s another one: in Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice’s uncle says he hopes to see her married one day. This is her response:

BEATRICE
Not till God make men of some other metal
than earth.

This is 100% something that I would say myself.

And, finally, you all know how I feel about the final scene of Henry V. Not the most popular wooing scene in Shakespeare, but definitely the one that’s closest to my heart.

Share your favorite Shakespeare quote.

KING HENRY
Upon the king! Let us our lives, our souls,
Our debts, our careful wives,
Our children, and our sins, lay on the king!
We must bear all. O hard condition,
Twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath
Of every fool, whose sense no more can feel
But his own wringing! What infinite heart’s ease
Must kings neglect that private men enjoy!
And what have kings that private men have not too,
Save ceremony, save general ceremony?
And what art thou, thou idol ceremony?

I love this passage in particular because we really get to see how vulnerable Hal is. You know how much I love Henry V – and it’s mostly for Henry himself. My six posts on the matter will tell you as much!

Tell us about your favorite play and why it is your favorite.

My favorite play is, and always will be, Richard III. It was my very first taste of Shakespeare, so there’s that. But I also love how skillfully Shakespeare manages to have the audience be manipulated by Richard as well. I am not easily manipulated, so it was thrilling to read a play that could affect me as both a reader and audience member.

Which Shakespeare character speaks to you and why?

I’m going to say Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. She and I are one and the same. I love her wit, her sharp tongue, and I adore how much she loves and supports Hero. I seem to be missing my Benedick though, hmm.

What is the most memorable production of Shakespeare that you’ve seen?

Unsurprisingly, it was a production of Richard III. I was at the Globe in the summer of 2012, and I was a groundling. It just started pouring in the middle of the theatre, and I couldn’t hear anything but the roaring of the rain. I distinctly remember thinking, “Well, it’s a good thing I have most of this play memorized!”

When did you first see or read Shakespeare?

I answer this in my Instagram video, but it was 10th grade. I will never, ever forget the opening to Richard III for as long as I live because of that classroom experience. The first time I actually saw Shakespeare was when I still lived in Abu Dhabi – I saw a modern production of Richard III. It was in Arabic, but luckily they had screens with English subtitles! Shameful for an Arab girl such as myself to have to use them, but even I can’t keep up with all the dialects people speak in the Middle East. Catesby was Iraqi, I remember, so I understood him, at least.

How would you answer these questions? I’d love to hear your thoughts! I am almost done with Richard II, so I’ll be seeing you around these parts very soon! Have a good World Book Day this Sunday, and remember to spare a thought for our favorite playwright.

LOVE'S LABOR'S LOST

WE ARE WISE GIRLS TO MOCK OUR LOVERS SO

Image result for love's labor's lost
A scene from The Old Globe’s production of Love’s Labor’s Lost.

You’ve heard of writer’s block, but have any of you ever experienced reader’s block? It sounds completely fake, but boy did I feel it this month. I received my plays in the mail and set them on my desk. I had zero motivation to read – me! But I said I’d finish going through the canon this year, and I’m the sort of girl that always keeps her word. So I (very listlessly) began to read Love’s Labor’s Lost, a play I had only ever heard of in passing. I felt nothing while I trudged through the first act. The next day, however, I found myself wondering what hijinks the men and women would get up to – and now, well, I’m in love with this play. There is just something incredibly whimsical about Love’s Labor’s Lost, and I will freely admit that I laughed out loud more than once. It’s clever, it’s silly, it’s charming, but the ending is strange. I’m getting ahead of myself, though, so let’s take it from the top.

The King of Navarre has a genius plan: to stay cooped up in his court for three years accompanied by books and his three loyal friends Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville. The purpose, of course, is to become learned men. But this declaration comes with a price: women will no longer be allowed in the court, and the men are forbidden from fraternizing with women. Dumaine and Longaville excitedly sign this edict. Berowne, meanwhile, seems a bit hesitant:

BEROWNE
So much, dear liege, I have already sworn,
That is, to live and study here three years.
But there are other strict observances:
As not to see a woman in that term,
Which I hope well is not enrollèd there;
And one day in a week to touch no food,
And but one meal on every day besides,
The which I hope is not enrollèd there;
And then to sleep but three hours in the night,
And not be seen to wink of all the day –
When I was wont to think no harm all night,
And make a dark night too of half the day –
Which I hope well is not enrollèd here.
O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep,
Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep.

Berowne certainly isn’t wrong to be hesitant. Forget women, how are they supposed to survive on only one meal a day and three hours of sleep for three years? The King manages to convince Berowne to sign off, even after he reads through all the ridiculous terms of this edict.

BEROWNE
So to the laws at large I write my name,
And he that breaks them in the least degree
Stands in attainder of eternal shame.
Suggestions are to other as to me,
But I believe, although I seem so loath,
I am the last that will last keep his oath.

[He signs his name.]

You’ll notice, of course, that the last two lines are an equivocation. Berowne is ambiguous in his words – we can either read this as him insisting that he will keep this oath the longest (despite signing off on it last), or as him implying that he will be the least likely to keep it.

It is perhaps worth mentioning here that it is largely believed that Berowne is Shakespeare’s self-insert character. Love’s Labor’s Lost is the only one of Shakespeare’s plays that is 100% his – it is not based on historical events, or even on tales of old. This is pure Shakespeare, and that means he can write himself in if he wants to.

For some reason, Navarre believes that women will somehow pose a danger to his educational pursuits. Although Berowne signs the oath, it can be said that he doesn’t quite agree.

In any case, the oath is sworn. But wait! The Princess of France is on her way to settle matters regarding Aquitaine – and she brings her three sharp-tongued ladies with her. If you haven’t read this play, you may be smugly thinking to yourself that you already know how it will end. But I’d hold your horses if I were you.

As the Princess makes her way to court, we find out that her ladies know the King’s men – Maria speaks of Longaville, Katherine recalls the last time she saw Dumaine, and Rosaline remembers Berowne. Shakespeare leaves us no room for guessing: here are our three couples. The Princess and the King make four!

Because the King is determined to keep his oath, he refuses to receive the Princess and her ladies. Instead, he forces them to stay in tents out in the field.

KING
Fair Princess, welcome to the court of Navarre.

PRINCESS
“Fair” I give you back again, and “welcome” I have not yet. The roof of this court is too high to be yours, and welcome to the wide fields too base to be mine.

KING
You shall be welcome, madam, to my court.

PRINCESS
I will be welcome, then. Conduct me thither.

KING
Hear me, dear lady. I have sworn an oath.

PRINCESS
Our Lady help my lord! He’ll be forsworn.

As it turns out, the Princess is as sharp as a tack. Her quick wit has Navarre in the palm of her hand almost immediately – but an oath is an oath. It’ll take a bit more for him to break out of his self-inflicted shackles. While the King handles the Princess’ business, Berowne approaches Rosaline (who, I’d argue, has the sharpest tongue of them all):

BEROWNE
Did I not dance with you in Brabant once?

ROSALINE
Did I not dance with you in Brabant once?

BEROWNE
I know you did.

ROSALINE
How needless was it then
To ask the question.

Berowne tells her not to be so abrasive, but you can tell he’s already smitten. The men descend on Boyet, the Princess’ attendant, asking after each of the ladies. Boyet, who is incredibly amused throughout this entire play, supplies them with what they need to know. And as they leave for their tents, he tells the Princess that he believes Navarre is in love. The Princess laughs and says that Boyet seems to be in a joking mood.

Meanwhile, in the background, Costard the clown seems to have gotten himself into a spot of trouble: he was caught fraternizing with Jaquenetta. Luckily for him, his warden Armado – an over-the-top, dramatic figure – finds himself in love with Jaquenetta, and frees Costard from his prison – but only if he’ll deliver a letter. As Costard leaves to carry out his task, he is stopped by Berowne.

BEROWNE
Stay, slave, I must employ thee.
As thou wilt win my favor, good my knave,
Do one thing for me that I shall entreat.

COSTARD
When would you have it done, sir?

BEROWNE
This afternoon.

COSTARD
Well, I will do it, sir. Fare you well.

BEROWNE
Thou knowest not what it is.

COSTARD
I shall know, sir, when I have done it.

Berowne finally manages to convince Costard to deliver a letter to Rosaline. Tsk, tsk! Breaking the oath already, I see. With two letters in hand, Costard is doomed to mess up. This is a comedy, after all.

Costard delivers Armado’s letter to the Princess – who gleefully makes fun of it. Berowne’s oath-breaking letter finds its way into the hands of Jaquenetta, who gives it to the Pedant Holofernes. Both Holofernes and Nathaniel the Curate catch on quite quickly that the words in this letter – addressed to Rosaline, of course – are against the King’s new rules. So they tell Jaquenetta and Costard to deliver the letter to the King.

This leads us into 4.3, my favorite act in this entire play. I was incredibly charmed and delighted while reading it. It’s genuinely hilarious, too. Berowne is dramatically lamenting the fact that he’s in love. Just as he wishes aloud that the others were in his situation, the King enters with a piece of paper. Berowne hides out of sight.

The King, believing he is alone, confesses that he is in love with the Princess. When Longaville enters to declare his love for Maria, the King hides. Longaville finds himself pressed to find a hiding spot when – you guessed it! – Dumaine comes in confessing his love.

As the men find each other out, they begin to bicker. Realizing that they’re in quite the pickle, the King exclaims:

KING
[…] What will Berowne say when he that shall hear
Faith infringed, which such zeal did swear?
How will he scorn, how will he spend his wit!
How will he triumph, leap, and laugh at it!
For all the wealth that ever I did see,
I would not have him know so much by me.

Berowne, sensing an opportunity to mock his friends, immediately makes his presence known. He hilariously pretends to be betrayed – until Jaquenetta and Costard arrive to hand his letter to the King.

JAQUENETTA
I beseech your Grace, let this letter be read.
Our person misdoubts it. ‘Twas treason, he said.

KING
Berowne, read it over.
[To Jaquenetta.] Where hadst thou it?

JAQUENETTA
Of Costard.

KING
[To Costard.] Where hadst thou it?

COSTARD
Of Dun Aramadio, Dun Adramadio.

[Berowne tears the paper.]

Berowne tearing the letter up had me in absolute tears. He is found out almost immediately, and together they all make a pact to woo their lady loves.

The fifth act is the longest in the play – and it makes the flow seem a little strange. Each lady has received a favor, and upon hearing that the men are coming to greet them disguised as Russians, they trade favors, don masks, and make a huge game of it. They do not take the men seriously at all – and why should they? The men have not been pursuing them seriously. Everything has been one big game.

The men then later return dressed as themselves, and the ladies mock them once again (to my utter delight, of course). Rosaline innocently asks Berowne which of the masks it was that he wore when he was pretending to be a Russian:

BEROWNE
Where? When? What vizard? Why demand you this?

ROSALINE
There; then; that vizard; that superfluous case
That hid the worse and showed the better face.

KING, [aside to Dumaine.]
They’ll mock us now downright.

DUMAINE, [aside, to King.]
Let us confess and turn it to a jest.

PRINCESS, [to King.]
Amazed, my lord? Why looks your Highness sad?

The men just can’t win. They still insist that they’re in love – but the Princess and her ladies are not so easily won.

Everything continues to be fun and games until sombre news arrives: the King of France is dead. The Princess means to leave immediately – but the King loves her. A deal is struck: if the King is still passionately in love after a year has passed, then he is welcome to the Princess, who will be mourning in the meantime. Rosaline strikes a similar deal with Berowne: he is to go to a hospital for a year and use his wit to make the sick laugh. After the passing of one year, he is welcome to come to Rosaline again.

BEROWNE
Our wooing doth not end like an old play.
Jack hath not Jill. These ladies’ courtesy
Might well have made our sport a comedy.

KING
Come, sir, it wants a twelvemonth and a day,
And then ’twill end.

BEROWNE
That’s too long for a play.

The play ends on this rather depressing note – the consequences of the King of France’s death cannot be avoided. I will say that despite scoffing at the plot initially, I was a bit sad that the play didn’t end on a cliche note. I wanted everybody to get married! Especially Berowne and Rosaline – those two were very clearly made for one another.

It goes without saying that something was going on with Shakespeare. Love’s Labor’s Lost was intended to be a typical Shakespearean comedy. Unsurprisingly, it was initially titled Love’s Labor’s Won – and it ended with a series of happy weddings. A handful of scholars believe that Shakespeare underwent a personal change – one that resulted in him changing the ending and title of his play. And we can blame this change on Sonnet 130’s Dark Lady. Who was she? Why did she inspire Shakespeare to change the ending of this play? What was it about her that forced Shakespeare to undergo something of an awakening? We just don’t know – and yes, I know, that’s frustrating, but that’s the way it is. I will say, though, that if Berowne is Shakespeare, perhaps Rosaline was based off of this Dark Lady. And if she was, well, I love her already.

To round off this whimsical and strangely sad journey, I watched Kenneth Branagh’s 2000 adaptation of Love’s Labor’s Lost. The film was set in the 1930s, and was essentially a musical. I’m something of a Shakespeare purist – I love seeing plays and films littered with the correct costumes and backdrops. So I was surprised to find myself laughing while watching this movie – it wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t too terrible. I think I’m too much in love with this play right now to hate anything based off of it. But I’d definitely jump at the opportunity to see it live one day.

Richard II is my next play for this month. Fortunately, Love’s Labor’s Lost has helped me overcome my reader’s block, and I’m excited to keep moving forward. I’ll see you next time, and we’ll sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings…

11:45PM on a Saturday night edit: where is my romantic comedy continuation of Love’s Labor’s Lost? Is somebody writing it? If not, can somebody please get started?