Shakespeare in Jersey

Shakespeare in Love is a charming tale of a young man and a young woman’s fancy in the context of the language-theatrical explosion that was London in the 1590s.

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In some respects the script reads like a trivia compilation:

“And for ten points, which sonnet is referenced in the opening scene? For a bonus quail’s egg, who are the offstage Elizabethan celebrity authors mentioned in the De-Lessops-at-home scene?”

Brown, Whitney Maris_website headshot
The splendid Whitney Maris Brown. She plays Viola

A frivolous confection, a charming love-letter to the Bard and all who sailed with him. Fights, sex, poetry. In short: something for everyone. This production, fielding 21 actors (who, in regional theatre can do that, these days?) — kudos to Bonnie Monte, an artistic director with the drive, enthusiasm and resources to field this show — opens at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, October 11th and plays thru mid November.

Shakespeare has been on my mind lately as I’m re-reading ‘Shakespeare and the Stars’, an excellent volume of muscular scholarship which reveals the depth and breadth of commonplace astrological understanding in the Elizabethan world-view. As someone with a life-long interest in the mantic art, and as an actor in my fourth decade of work, having appeared in about a dozen productions of Shakespeare’s plays, it is kind of humbling, but I have to admit I have missed this insight, or if I noticed it dimly, I simply did not get the implications.


As with so many things, it’s obvious once you have it pointed out for you. For example The Tempest deals with the 12-year cycle of Jupiter, the many Martial references in the history plays juxtapose with the Venus/Mercury verse of Love’s Labor’s Lost, the insistence on The Moon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, including the almost drug-induced highly Neptunian speech “The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact…” — notwithstanding that was written approximately 260 years before the blue gas giant was discovered. Romeo and Juliet has a Geminian flavor, right from “Two households, both alike in dignity…” onwards, and once you have the key, The Duke’s speech in Act 3 of Measure for Measure; “… reason thus with life … a breath thou art, servile to all the skyey influences that dost this habitation where thou keepst, hourly afflict...”, fairly hits you between the astrological eyebrows.

Of course it is possible to interpret Shakespeare as a Catholic, a Protestant, a humanist, a monarchist, a democrat, an anarchist. As the man says, “The devil himself can cite scripture for his purpose.” Now I know he was also an astrologer.

Simon Callow as Sir Edmund Tilney. BBC Archives

Meanwhile I play Sir Edmund Tilney, my costume cannot be revealed before we open otherwise I’d have posted a picture. Meanwhile, Simon Callow looks quite a bit like me, don’t you agree? Tilney was the Master of the Revels, in the employ of the Lord Chamberlain, a chap who seemed to find pleasure in closing theatres. (This is dramatic license. The historical Tilney was a great supporter of theatre and especially of Shakespeare). In the play he is an early prototype of the more censorious characters who later inhabited the Lord Chamberlain’s offices and redacted all kinds of literature right up to and including, Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the early 1960s, until Pluto entered Virgo and finally disrupted that kind of thing.

Ah, the Elizabethan age when women onstage were played by boys and men wore beards. When the eating of fish three times weekly was mandated in law. When a farthing (a quarter of a penny) could buy a pot of ale, and when illiterate people could compute in base duodecimal (twelve pennies to a shilling), and planted their vegetables by phases of the Moon.

8 replies on “Shakespeare in Jersey”

Mio caro Colino, Fascinating stuff. I doubt that I’ll read it – I own so many u read books, yet cannot resist buying more.

I loved the movie *Shakespeare in Love**,* and found the closing minutes moving. In my case, to tears. I love the fact that, earlier, young John Webster is seen playing with a rat – killing it? (‘Webster was much possessed with death / And saw the skull beneath the skin …’)

It’s a long time since I saw 21 people on stage, am or pro; the Warehouse production of *Ivanov* a few years back.

Censorship: you will probably know the censor’s requirements, printed as appendix to the Methuen ed’n, before Orton’s *Loot * cd be performed.

My love to Mrs McPhillamy, And of course to you, Terry

On Sat, 30 Sep 2017 at 11:00 am, McPhillamyActorBlog wrote:

> Colin McPhillamy posted: “Shakespeare in Love is a charming tale of a > young man and a young woman’s fancy in the context of the > language-theatrical explosion that was London in the 1590s. Box > Office: 973-408-5600 In some respects the > script reads like” >

How I wish I could see this and enjoy you in your not to be seen yet costume! Opening “The Humans ” next week at Gablestage. A challenge of it’s own. Miss you….Beth

Colin!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would love to see that production. I used to have the movie play on a continous reel during a dark period after my father passed when I would stay up all night and sleep all day. didn’t want to see ‘people’ at all. Obviously one of my favorite films. You will be a splendid Mr. Tilney!!! Can’t wait to see the costume! xo

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