The White Devil staged performances

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/ren/projects/elizabethan_jacobean_drama/webster/white_devil/stage_history/professional/

This page contains a list of the proffesional productions of the White Devil and links to Reviews, photos etc. It’s interesting to see how different directors have interpreted the play over the years and hopefully this could provide usueful for revision!

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The Echoing Green

With ‘The Echoing Green’ Blake has created one of his most pastoral images, a poem filled nature that passes from hope to eventual melancholy.

The poem split up into three stanzas, each containing ten lines. The three stanzas could be viewed as being representative of the first three seasons (Spring, Summer and Autumn). It follows an ABAB rhyme scheme, which lends it an playful and childlike rhythm. This rhythm is further complimented by regular pyrrhic (pairs of unstressed syllables), which lend it a poetic lightness.

The hopeful and optimistic language within the first stanza mirrors both the dawn of the day and the month of spring. Blake’s use of sound ‘merry bells ring’, ‘birds of the bush, Sing louder’, ‘bells’ cheerful sound’ brings the poem to life and mentally transports the reader to ‘The Echoing Green’. A feeling of safety is created through personification: ‘make happy the skies’ ‘merry bells ring’. By giving these objects positive personas Blake further lures the reader into ‘The Echoing Green’, stirring childlike feelings of nostalgia and comfort.

The second stanza begins with a description of ‘Old John’ The name ‘Old John’ further creates a widespread feeling of sentimentality  for the audience due to it genericity. His presence ‘sitting under the oak’ is a symbol of security, acting as guardian to the children to both physical danger and the danger of ‘experience’ and growing up. The fact that he is seeking shade under the oak also hints at the heat of the day, alluding to the month of summer.

Within the third stanza a feeling of melancholy sets in, the optimistic language in the first stanza now being replaced by a sense of ending ‘the sun does descend’. The stanza opens with the line ‘No more can be merry’. While literally talking about the end of the day, this could also be taken to represent the end of childhood, with the bliss of innocence passing into the stark and often horrifying reality of experience.

 

 

 

 

The Sick Rose

The Sick Rose is one of Blake’s most violently sexual poems, its short, intense lines dripping with both risque and sinister language.

The poem consists of two stanzas of four lines and follows a tight ABCB rhyme scheme, suggesting the sudden nature and speed of the act. Within the lines the syllables are drawn out, which combined with the almost Gothic language lends the poem a sinister ambiance.

in the opening line Blake pronounces ‘O rose, thou art sick!’. This proclamation could be interpreted as not only the physical, but also the mental ill state of an  abused lover. On the contrary it could be viewed as Blake’s cry to England (The English Rose) as it becomes ‘sick’ through the mechanisation of the land. ‘The invisible worm’ is clearly a phallic symbol, however the fact it is ‘invisible’ suggests that the violation may be occurring in the mind, further linking the mental abuse to the physical abuse suffered in an abusive relationship.

In the second stanza the sexual language becomes even more prominent. the phrase ‘crimson joy’ is sinister in its ambiguity, leading the reader to come to there own perverse interpretation of the line. the final two lines ‘And thy dark… life destroy’ hint that the nature of there relationship is slowly eating away at the girls mind; destroying, in essence, her soul.

King Lear during Act 3 Scene 2

It is during Act 3 Scene 2 we are presented with an almost apocalyptic scene as the storm reaches its peak. This chaos and violence parallels Lear’s confused mental state as he comes to terms with his current condition. At the beginning of the scene Lear is completely egotistical, claiming he is ‘a man / more sinned against than sinning’. For quite possibly the first time in his life he is experiencing what life is like for the powerless, and either refuses to believe or doesn’t realise that it is due to his own failings, both as a leader and a father.

Lear critiques the Justice system and the treatment of the down-trodden during his rant,  condemning ‘ingrateful man’. This is the first we see of Lear showing any sign of self condemnation, even if it is veiled. This marks a change in attitude by Lear, and is consistent with the gyre-like development of many characters within the play. Edgar, for example discovers the qualities that will eventually see him crowned king by lowering himself to the worst posistion in society; and Gloucester only begins to ‘see’ clearly once he is blinded. It takes for Lear to lose everything, his sanity included, to rediscover his own humility and empathy, and this is eventually marked by his concern for the fool ‘Come on my boy… Art cold?’.

Act 3 Scene 2 could be said to be the turning point in Lear’s character developement, and while he still continues to show much self pity and his mental state deteriorates further also, the more compassionate aspects of his character also begin to surface as the play goes on.

Directing Act I Scene IV

If I were to direct Act I Scene IV I would have the same actress portraying Cordelia play the Fool. This would serve to draw parallels between Cordelia and the Fool and even imply that the Fool is Cordelia in disguise. The fact that an actress would be playing both the female and male role would be ironic when contrasted with the norm during Shakespeare’s time for actors to portray female roles.

When Kent trips Oswald I would have Oswald fall onto all fours like a dog. This would serve to represent how Oswald serves mindlessly, unquestioningly following like a dog. This would then be juxtaposed by Kent standing tall and authoritative, showing how through his questioning of Lear and active role in ensuring his wellbeing he is the greater servant.

Upon his entrance I would direct the Fool to sit upon some structure (perhaps a table) at the back centre of the room to elevate him from the other characters. From here he would take on a Quasi judge role, his scathing yet perceptive comments and judgements being cast upon those below him as if from the bench. This would also serve to foreshadow Lear’s later judgement and sentencing of his daughters during the depths of his madness later in the play.

I would utilise lighting to great effect during the exchange between Lear and Goneril. As the balance of power to’s and fro’s during their argument I would have the lighting alternate to show their shadows growing and receding. During Lears last speech to Goneril, despite his anger rising I would have his shadow slowly diminish, representing his deteriorating  mental state and how he has ultimately lost this battle of wills with Goneril.

Comaparison between Iago and Edmund

Edmund and lago are two of Shakespeare’s most infamous and intriguing villains, masterfully using cunning and deception to manipulate those around them in order to achieve their goals.

Both characters appear to be good and decent to their respective plays other characters; Iago is oft referred to as ‘Honest Iago’, while Gloucester states that Edgar (his legitimate and elder son) is ‘no dearer’ to him than Edmund. It is this trust in them which they utilize so cleverly to turn those close to them against each other. Iago convinces Othello of a supposed illicit affair between Desdemona and Edmund sways his father into believing his other son, Edgar, is plotting against his life. The effectiveness behind their manipulation lies in the ability to convince Othello and Gloucester respectively that they alone can be trusted, using this to skew their perception of others and events.

As the audience we witness the characters asides, and its is through this we learn of their true nature and motives. Both characters feel like outsiders to the society they belong, however rather than shun it, both are willing to embrace it and manipulate their way to the top in a Machiavellian manner. Edmund can be viewed as a more sympathetic character, his anger stemming from the fact that as a bastard he will inherit nothing upon his fathers death. In the first lines of the play Gloucester jests about Edmund’s mother and his birth- ‘there was good sport at his making’, it is not to far a stretch to imagine that years of such humiliation have made him bitter. Iago meanwhile offers contradictory reasons for wanting to bring down Othello, initially for his promotion of Cassio instead of himself, but later offers reasons such as Othello allegedly sleeping with his wife (which he appears to know is untrue but mentions anyway) or simple jealously of Cassio’s ‘daily beauty’. His flippant and changing reasons give the impression that actually Iago is little more than a psychopath, hurting those close to him simply because he enjoys it.

In conclusion despite the close similarities in their actions and behavior, I would say that Edmund and Iago are actually fairly dissimilar; one driven by deep-set emotional upset and injustice, while the other reveling in evil just because he can.