Described as a "problem play" Measure for Measure is only as much a problem as life itself is- that is, are there any easy answers to questions aplenty? For example: when "mortality and mercy" live in one person's mouth, can justice be said to exist - as such? And: when you're a young woman on the very verge of dedicating your whole life and being to the service of God and the judge condemning your brother to death for the newly re-invented crime of fornication with a loved one wants your love given him in return for your brother's life - well, what do you do then? There is, fortunately, perhaps, an old, fantastical duke of dark corners who, watching over all these machinations like a power divine, has all the easy answers; but his idea of a final, happy ending may not be, precisely, yours.
George Bernard Shaw
On the eve of World War I, Ellie Dunn, her father, and her fiancé are invited to one of Hesione Hushabye’s infamous dinner parties. Unfortunately, her fiancé is a scoundrel, her father’s a bumbling prig, and she’s actually in love with Hector, Hesione’s husband. This bold mix of farce and tragedy lampoons British society as it blithely sinks towards disaster.
A fairy tale with real life consequences, All's Well That Ends Well concerns a poor physician's daughter who goes to Paris to heal the King and asks of him a husband; not himself, but the Count Rousillon, in whose house her good father had lived. He weds her but does not bed her, flees to the wars where he is followed by his wife in a pilgrimage of which he is the object. How she uses his lust for a virtuous young woman to trick him into bedding her and giving her a child is but the real life drama to which, or so it would appear, a good woman is forced to commit herself to get herself a husband. When this blows up in the King's face he probably wishes he. or various of these young deceivers, he's not sure which, were dead. And they al live Happily Ever After.
In memory of my friends Henk and Rinie, for whom I read this piece. All's Well That Ends Well. In love and peace.
Summary by Tony Addison
Shakespeare's festive comedy combines classical Athenian characters (Duke Theseus and his conquered Amazonian bride Hippolyta) with four contentious lovers, a forest full of quarreling and mischievous fairies and adds a dose of amateur theatre for good measure.
Williams, Jesse Lynch
Why Marry? is a comedy, which "tells the truth about marriage". We find a family in the throes of proving the morality of marriage to a New Age Woman. Can the family defend marriage to this self-supporting girl? Will she be convinced that marriage is the ultimate sacredness of a relationship or will she hold to her perception that marriage is the basis of separating two lovers.
"Why Marry?" won the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Amends for Ladies falls within the genre of Jacobean city comedy. Three women debate which has the better lot: a maid, a wife, or a widow. Lady Honour, the maid, is loved by her servant, Ingen, and disguises herself as a boy to become servant to him. Lady Perfect, the wife, is suspected by her husband, Love-all, of infidelity; Love-all tries to trap his wife by having his devious friend, Subtle, seduce her. A young citizen, Bold, disguises himself as an old woman to enter into the service of the widow, Lady Bright, in the hopes of gaining access to her bed. Amends for Ladies also features a duel-gone-wrong, bawdy jokes aplenty, and a guest appearance by the "Roaring Girl" herself, Moll Cutpurse.
A Woman is a Weathercock is the first play by the former child star of the Jacobean stage, Nathan Field. The action takes place over a single day in London. A number of suitors vie over Sir John Worldly's three daughters: Bellafront, Katherine, and Lucida. These include the short-tempered soldier, Captain Pouts; the poetical buffoon, Sir Abraham Ninny; and the rich merchant, Strange. Quick-witted Nevill orchestrates multiple sham marriages and young Scudmore plans to elope with Bellafront, while the pregnant Mistress Wagtail seeks any husband who will have her
Ram Alley, or Merry Tricks, is a bawdy comedy by Lording Barry, a contemporary of Shakespeare. The production bankrupted Barry, landed him in debtor's jail, and set him off on a life of piracy. The action of Ram Alley takes place in a disreputable London lane where lawyers, lords, and ladies rub shoulders with prostitutes and vagabonds. One 19th century editor complained that it was "full of gross passages, allusions, and innuendoes," but more recent commentators have seen past the risque gags and recognised the play's wit, complexity, and intelligence. Ram Alley has only been revived three times since 1611, but recently came close to topping a poll of academics to find the best 'forgotten' play by an Elizabethan/Jacobean dramatist.
"Micio and Demea are two brothers of dissimilar tempers. Demea is married, and lives a country life, while his brother remains single, and resides in Athens." Things quickly get a bit messy with hushed-up debauchery, kidnapping/elopement/theft of a slave, general carousing, and marriage nuptials - the usual for the day perhaps, except that: "The Play concludes with a serious warning from Demea, who advises his relatives not to squander their means in riotous living; but, on the contrary, to bear admonition and to submit to restraint in a spirit of moderation and thankfulness."
Mr H is a farce that was first performed at Drury Lane in 1806. The plot is slender and revolves around a single rather feeble joke, but the characters are skilfully drawn and the sharp observations of contemporary fashion do much to divert the listener from the weakness of the central theme. More a comedy of manners rather than a true farce, this short play is best enjoyed as a gentle romp through the eccentricities of the Regency period.
Two gentlemen of broken fortune, disguised as master and servant, and thinking that a good dowry split both ways would solve their problems; some cludgy highwaymen and their confederates; foxy inn-keeper and saucy daughter; a country home with a drunken squire and his long suffering wife, medicine-practicing Lady, and beautiful daughter. What could possibly go wrong?
Creditors is a tragicomedy by August Strindberg that plumbs the depths of the twisted triangular relationship between Tekla, her husband Adolph, and her ex-husband Gustav.
The Beaux Stratagem, was written by George Farquhar in 1707. The Belle's Stratagem, "a Ladies' response" to the Beaux Stratagem play with strong female characters, was written by Hannah Cowley in 1780.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona is the earliest comedy written by Shakespeare (and possibly his first play), probably written around 1590-91. It focuses on two friends, Valentine and Proteus, whose friendship is disrupted by their mutual passion for the lovely Silvia. Proteus jilts Julia in order to pursue Silvia; she responds by enlisting the help of her maid Lucetta to dress as a boy and go after Proteus. The play also includes some wonderfully comic supporting characters, particularly Launce and his scene-stealing dog Crab.
"This remarkable melodrama [The Double Dealer] - for a comedy it can scarcely be called... Is it possible to imagine a more inextricable tangle? No human brain can keep the threads clear for two consecutive minutes.... What wonder if audiences were at first baffled and fatigued by the effort to follow the outs and ins of this Labyrinthine plot. Well may Lord Touchwood say: 'I am confounded when I look back, and want a clue to guide me through the various mazes of unheard-of treachery.' "
The Two Noble Kinsmen is a Jacobean tragicomedy co-written by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, first published in 1634. Set in ancient Greece during a war between Athens and Thebes, the narrative follows the title characters, Palamon and Arcite, noble youths whose friendship is destroyed by their mutual love for the beautiful Emilia. The subplot deals with the love and eventual madness of the Gaoler's Daughter, who falls hopelessly in love with Palamon. The play is based on "The Knight's Tale" by Chaucer, but also has echoes of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, as two of the major characters are Theseus and Hippolyta, who also appear in the earlier play.
The 'Peace' was brought out four years after 'The Acharnians' (422 B.C.), when the War had already lasted ten years. The leading motive is the same as in the former play—the intense desire of the less excitable and more moderate-minded citizens for relief from the miseries of war.
Trygaeus, a rustic patriot, finding no help in men, resolves to ascend to heaven to expostulate personally with Zeus for allowing this wretched state of things to continue. With this object he has fed and trained a gigantic dung-beetle, which he mounts, and is carried, like Bellerophon on Pegasus, on an aerial journey. Eventually he reaches Olympus, only to find that the gods have gone elsewhere, and that the heavenly abode is occupied solely by the demon of War, who is busy pounding up the Greek States in a huge mortar. However, his benevolent purpose is not in vain; for learning from Hermes that the goddess Peace has been cast into a pit, where she is kept a fast prisoner, he calls upon the different peoples of Hellas to make a united effort and rescue her, and with their help drags her out and brings her back in triumph to earth. The play concludes with the restoration of the goddess to her ancient honours, the festivities of the rustic population and the nuptials of Trygaeus with Opora (Harvest), handmaiden of Peace, represented as a pretty courtesan.
Such references as there are to Cleon in this play are noteworthy. The great Demagogue was now dead, having fallen in the same action as the rival Spartan general, the renowned Brasidas, before Amphipolis, and whatever Aristophanes says here of his old enemy is conceived in the spirit of 'de mortuis nil nisi bonum.' In one scene Hermes is descanting on the evils which had nearly ruined Athens and declares that 'The Tanner' was the cause of them all. But Trygaeus interrupts him with the words:
"Hold-say not so, good master Hermes; Let the man rest in peace where now he lies. He is no longer of our world, but yours."
Here surely we have a trait of magnanimity on the author's part as admirable in its way as the wit and boldness of his former attacks had been in theirs.
"The cold, historical fact is that at about 9:15 o’clock on the evening of August 29th, 1922, five or six hundred average New Yorkers, two or three hundred friends of the management, and about fifty sophisticated first-nighters were in grave danger of rolling off their seats in hysteria because of The Torch-Bearers."How can you resist a play with a review like that?
Often considered Killigrew's best play, this is a comedy with a bawdy tone where people flirt, trick each other and everyone else. It was the first play in England to be performed with an all female crew.
"Plays, where the scene is placed in a foreign country, particularly when that country is Spain, have a license to present certain improbabilities to the audience, without incurring the danger of having them called such; and the authoress, by the skill with which she has used this dramatic permittance, ... has formed a most interesting plot, and embellished it with lively, humorous, and affecting incident.... Here is contained no oblique insinuation, detrimental to the cause of morality—but entertainment and instruction unite, to make a pleasant exhibition at a theatre, or give an hour's amusement in the closet."
Generally considered one of Shakespeare's problem plays, Measure for Measure examines the ideas of sin and justice. Duke Vincentio turns Vienna's rule over to the corrupt Angelo, who sentences Claudio to death for having impregnated a woman before marriage. His sister Isabella, a novice nun, pleads for her brother's life, only to be told that he will be spared if she agrees to relinquish her virginity to Angelo.
The 1610 edition says it is by Shakespeare, and the play was in a volume of Shakespeare in the library of Charles the Second. But, well, likely not actually a Shakespeare.... Perhaps by Robert Green (1558 - 1592)
This play is mentioned as being popular in the 1611 Beaumont and Fletcher play 'The Knight of the Burning Pestle';. In fact, Mucedorus 'was enormously successful. This absurd play, with the merits and defects of a nursery tale, was acted by strolling companies everywhere till long after the Commonwealth, and passed through seventeen editions between 1598 and 1700, a record unequaled in the history of the pre-Restoration drama.'
Despite its optimistic title, Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well has often been considered a "problem play." Ostensibly a comedy, the play also has fairy tale elements, as it focuses on Helena, a virtuous orphan, who loves Bertram, the haughty son of her protectress, the Countess of Rousillon. When Bertram, desperate for adventure, leaves Rousillon to serve in the King's army, Helena pursues him.
Hidden and mistaken identities, requited and unrequited loves, pranks and jokes abound in this romantic comedy.
Shakespeare's great festive comedy, probably written and first performed around 1601, follows the adventures of twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated from each other by a shipwreck. Viola, believing her brother dead, disguises herself as a page in order to serve the lovesick Duke Orsino, who has been rejected by the Countess Olivia. The ensemble cast includes a roster of wonderfully comic characters: Olivia's drunken uncle Sir Toby Belch, his foolish friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the witty serving woman Maria, the social-climbing steward Malvolio, and the clever, riddling clown Feste.
Twelfth Night, or What You Wil is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written around 1601–02 as a Twelfth Night's entertainment for the close of the Christmas season. The play centres on the twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. Viola (who is disguised as a boy) falls in love with Duke Orsino, who in turn is in love with the Countess Olivia. Upon meeting Viola, Countess Olivia falls in love with her thinking she is a man. The play expanded on the musical interludes and riotous disorder expected of the occasion, with plot elements drawn from the short story "Of Apollonius and Silla" by Barnabe Rich, based on a story by Matteo Bandello. The first recorded performance was on 2 February 1602, at Candlemas, the formal end of Christmastide in the year's calendar. The play was not published until its inclusion in the 1623 First Folio.