Play On! is the official podcast of the Utah Shakespeare Festival. The excerpt transcribed below is from an interview of Dr. Travis Curtright and Mary Curtright about love (both in Shakespeare’s plays and the lives of those that perform his works), their production research process, and what they lovingly call “troupe life.”
(Continued from Part 1)
Emily: What do Shakespeare’s depictions of different types of love provide for the audience?
Dr. Travis Curtright: I think it can be helpful for audiences to think about Shakespeare’s various depictions of love in terms of classical love stories we already know: there’s the story of forbidden love, like the one featured in Romeo and Juliet. He loves her, she loves him, but they are star-crossed lovers prevented by fortune or their finger waving parents, or both, from being together. With forbidden love, the plot combines the suspense of how the lovers might get together with the passion of the lovers themselves, and here, Shakespeare extends that passion into Romeo and Juliet’s own sense that they would rather die than live apart.
There’s also the battle of the sexes story, a sort of “hate at first sight” story. The Taming of the Shrew is traditionally understood as a classic in this genre. When Petruchio claims that he will marry Kate, she replies “I will see thee hanged first,” yet she does marry him, and in many productions Petruchio and Kate grow and learn to love one another; neither really tames the other because they are both tamed by love. Now, other productions push back and make the taming plot into a question: does Kate really change her mind about Petruchio by the end or not? A third classic love story is that of the old flame. An old flame is a person with whom you’ve had an emotional past attachment, but it didn’t work so well. After a period of time, the old flame re-enters your life. We see the outline of this story in Much Ado About Nothing. In the first scene, we hear about a merry war between Beatrice and Benedict, which Beatrice later explains is the result of a love affair gone wrong. She says that she loaned Benedict her heart for a while, but he played for it with false dice. Shakespere though will give them both a second chance in one of his best, most jubilant romantic comedies.
There is the famous love at first sight story. Romeo and Juliet of course falls into this category, but Shakespeare wrote another play around the same time, a comedy called A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and there are lots of verbal echoes between these plays. The chorus in Romeo and Juliet says “from forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of starcrossed lovers take their life,” and Hermia from Midsummer claims “if then true lovers have ever been crossed, it stands as an edict in destiny.” In Midsummer, though, Shakespeare pokes fun at or slightly undermines this edict of love at first sight. When Demetrius falls for Hermia, his former lover, Helena, protests how “love looks not with the eyes, but the mind, and therefore is Cupid painted blind. Nor hath love’s mind of any judgement taste; wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste.” Helena, like Oberon, thinks of love as an invention of the imagination. Love is like poetry, Oberon suggests, because both love and poetry create imaginative visions that might not correspond with reality.
Be not afraid! The remainder of this podcast will be added soon.