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Shakespeare is our greatest playwright, but he also wrote during a time when the world was so sexist, women weren’t even allowed to act on stage. Yet, we all know that Shakespeare’s works still speak to us today. How?
Many scholars could argue this better, so I’ll only put forth small corners of ideas:
1) Perhaps Shakespeare still speaks to us, because we as a society are still very sexist?
2) Perhaps the Bard still speaks to us, because his works were so magnificent that we can simply overlook the culture it was created in to focus on its timeless beauty?
3) Perhaps we humans are – each and everyone of us - all so wonderfully gifted that we can constantly adjust to find the positive in things. We automatically glean beauty from even the basest of situations; we naturally tune our ears to the music of the words despite the ugliness of the history it was born out of. Finally, we instinctively create ways for 500-year-old poetry to speak to us even in our modern world.
Perhaps it’s a bit of all three, but I personally like to hope it’s mostly the third reason.
LIGHTS UP: on a single spot in the middle of the stage floor. In the light stands DILLON. He is a man in his late twenties or early thirties. He is wearing the costume of a Shakespearian or Elizabethan woman.
Although DILLON’S wig and dress are as authentic as possible, and his makeup is exact, there is no mistaking that he is a man in drag.
(Stands, presenting to the audience, as if they were the board of a Master’s dissertation. He has fun with this first part, playing up the girlishness in the first four lines.)
I start with a brief prologue meant to shock,
Something to get my professors to talk.
You may laugh, or cover your blushing eyes,
Yes, I dress to tease, provoke, and surprise.
(Pause and then launching into the presentation of his dissertation with gusto and professionalism)
In Shakespeare’s time, all parts were played by males
And it never affected ticket sales.
Some scholars surmise that gender, in fact,
Had little to do with the play or act,
But that our Shakespeare purposefully bent
Gender constructs, thus forming new intent.
(A small pause)
Did Will Shakespeare politically start
The great war of the sexes through his art?
I would never, in one dissertation,
Go into such detailed ministration
(Another small pause for effect)
BUT! When a man, dressed as woman, pretends
To be a man disguised, as in Twelfth Night,
Does the rule of the sexes also bend,
Subtly giving women more equal right?
Did Shakespeare start, through dramatization,
The birth of gender equalization?
(A small pause)
Many sonnets lack significations.
Indicatory pronouns are missing.
There is not one identification.
Was it man or woman Will was kissing?
A sonnet; a love poem, a token,
Words often otherwise left unspoken,
No helpful "he" or "she" to light our way
through The Bard’s rhyming aphrodisiacs.
Were these tender couplets fashioned for, say,
Old England’s Juliets, or for its Jacks?
(A small pause, then he recites a famous Shakespeare sonnet – this one, ironically, likely, to a married couple)
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved."
The sound of crickets.
DILLON’S Master’s thesis has failed to stir up success, much less interest.
He peels off his wig, dejectedly. He takes two steps back and flops down on the couch behind him.
LIGHTS FULL UP: On a fairly blank stage. Pieces of simple, unadorned modern furniture: a couch and a chair.
TANSY enters. She is a pert and forceful woman in her late twenties. She is wearing a man’s dress-shirt and tie, and slacks. However, there is no disguising she is a woman in a man’s clothing.
Did you remember to send
Dillon, but the envelope
Is still there where I left it on the end-
(Small pause, disappointed, but trying to be understanding)
Baby, I know it’s hard to cope
With rewriting your dissertation yet
Again. Honey? I read it, and I thought
It was good. Really good. And I’d have bet
Our own money…
(She winces at bringing up finances… A small pause and a sigh, then quietly trying to be encouraging)
You gave it your best shot.
I told you I would support you through all
This. There is no shortage of work, God knows,
The firm’s busy, a stack of files this tall
Waits for me; and daily, it grows and grows.
Someday, when you’ve got your Masters and we
Get married, maybe…well, then I’ll start school,
And Shakespeare and you can take care of me.
I’ll be the student, you the working fool.
All that fearsome energy I have spent,
And still we’re struggling just to make the rent
I fell in love with a Shakespeare scholar,
I gave up worrying about dollar
Or cent. Or sense. Or (Smelling him) even scent and whew!
Bud, you need to find yourself a shower.
Let me guess, I smell like failure.
The party starts in less than an hour.
(Then, trying to joke with him)
You look like death, only a bit paler.
I think a nice long hot bath would do you
Wonders, c’mon, up and at ‘em. Get your
Cute little buns into gear, I’ve set out
Clothes on the bed. Don’t wear the shirt you wore
On Saturday. The thing’s almost worn out.
(Almost to herself)
I’ll never know how the male species wears
Their raggedy old discolored shirts with tears
And stains of food and dirty cuffs that fray
And never think to throw the thing away.
I had a dream I would be your great knight
In shining armor, earning a living
Teaching at a university, or I might
Take a job at small college job giving –
(Sitting beside him)
My knight? Oh, Dillon, what an old cliché!
Didn’t that dumb. sexist idea go the way
Of the dinosaur? We know better, you
And I, how to get through and what to do.
I know you. Don’t you want to have kids, too?
(Conciliatory and quietly encouraging)
That is just something we’ll have to work to.
(Trying to cheer him up)
Aren’t you excited about the soirée?
You are the guest of honor, by the way.
The party’s in honor of my failure.
Weird, your mom forgot that on the mailer,
C’mon, Dillon! Please! Go and wet your
Worried noggin; I swear you’ll feel better.
And while you’re washing your cute little tail,
I’ll just go drop the rent check in the mail.
Do we have enough money to cover—
You’ll never have to worry, my lover.
Yes, that you are, and don’t forget
Who owns you.
I’m sure you’d never had bet
You’d end up having to work so hard to
Support a damn loser.
(A little angry)
God! You need to
Get in the shower. I’m not your mother.
Dil… I did not choose a loser, lover.
(Kisses his forehead, she grabs his wig up off the couch)
We’ll get through this one way or another.
Now, to the shower. Hot water and soap.
No. You are. Fine.
Honey, we’ll cope…
DILLON starts to exit. TANSY grabs him on the ass in a very manly way. DILLON giggles a bit coquettishly and runs off.
LIGHTS FADE on all but the same center spot. TANSY talks to the audience; she is fiddling with the wig:
It has been said, and many unions prove:
candor has no place in the success of
Marriage, nor truth a part in trusty love.
I am no sage, but I do sense, above
These sideways winks and through the tempests of
Life, love’s truth stands firm and fixed and unmoved;
As Shakespeare said, unbending in the sway.
But also, loving changes and shifts like
We do ourselves – learning from day to day -
Revealing ourselves. We’re like precious stone
Worked in a sculptor’s hand, to end the way
We were meant to eternally be known.
The shower is heard turning on, running.
TANSY turns to hear the noise. She smiles; she takes a small moment to touch DILLON’S wig to her own cheek. And then she lowers it; it is obvious she loves him. She concludes, earnestly, to the audience:
Marble’s true sculpture, the artist removes.
True love’s nature, in due time, living proves.
She shrugs a little, happy with her lot.
She straightens her necktie.
She pauses, smiling, dreaming.
And with a small nod to no one in particular, she exits toward the shower.
Last edited on Thu Mar 1st, 2007 04:55 pm by schmacko