In her fourth blog post Penny discusses trying to learn the jig, decisions to be made in the confrontation scene [V.1] and her opinions on Claudio and Hero.
Transcript of Podcast
I have been trying to learn the jig. We learn it in stages, but when we get up there, I think ‘I have never done this in my life before and I don’t remember anything – nothing at all.’ Then it slowly comes back, and thankfully other people remember, so gradually I start remembering the steps too. I just hang on to the fact that last year I did get it, so we will see. Otherwise we have been ploughing forward with the text; doing a lot of close examination of the text and making sure we know it all. So this week has been very similar to last week in terms of the type of work we've been doing: we’re ploughing on through the play so the shape of thing is becoming clearer.
‘I pray thee, cease thy counsel’
Yesterday we tackled the big speech I have in Act five, scene one, which is the scene with Antonio, after the dreadful wedding. That's a big speech and it's great to go through. The danger is that you think you’ve reached the end of a thought, but the thoughts are really quite long and often they carry right on. Once I get the sequence of a character's thoughts right in a scene, then I can remember it. If the thoughts aren’t right, it is very, very difficult: I just get lost - I stop and I think ‘I don’t know what happens next.’ It's hard to explain how you find the thread of the thoughts; it is very detailed work. We also did an exercise with the meter, stressing it very obviously all the way through from the beginning:
I pray thee, cease thy counsel,
Which falls into mine ears as profitless
As water in a sieve. Give not me counsel […] [V.1.4-6...]
That threw up the odd occasion where I chose the wrong word to stress. Mostly, I am pleased to say, I think I got it pretty much right, but it is very interesting when you do get the wrong stress – you ask yourself 'Why did I choose that alternative?'
We did another exercise where we clicked our fingers at the end of each line of verse. I am less certain how useful this was for me personally, because I feel the danger is to pause at the end of each line. The last word in the line is usually (not all the time, but usually) the key word which you have to find a reason for saying, but I wouldn’t say you have to pause after it. In ‘I pray thee cease thou counsel’ it is ‘counsel’ that is important and it's repeated at teh end of the third line too: ‘that falls into my ears as profitless/ as water in a sieve give not me counsel.’ So it really is a key idea in Leonato's speech - repetition is a good clue for things like that.
I also noticed that ‘mine’ is repeated a lot:
Nor let no comforter delight mine ear
But such a one whose wrongs do suit with mine.
Bring me a father that so loved his child,
Whose joy of her is overwhelm'd like mine […] [V.1.6-9]
There are echoes of Leonato's beautiful lines in the wedding scene, spoken in response to Hero's supposed treachery:
Who smirch'd thus and mired with infamy,
I might have said 'No part of it is mine;
This shame derives itself from unknown loins'?
But mine and mine I loved and mine I praised
And mine that I was proud on, mine so much
That I myself was to myself not mine,
Valuing of her […] [IV.1.131-7]
Mine, mine, mine again. I think the word works: it shows how personal and close the relationship is between father and daughter. Even in disowning her, he repeats their connection. It is really, really personal and I suppose it is ‘me, me, me,’ but not in a selfish way: each repetition stresses how deeply he feels her betrayal. The words come from his soul.
Speaking from the heart
Verse form is often linked to the idea that a character is speaking from the heart. A lot of Leonato's lines are in verse and he is the sort of guy who is incredibly true to himself. You can see that right from the beginning of the play: there's his friendship with the Prince, his relationship with Beatrice (he wants to get her married, he wants her to be happy), he adores his daughter, and he has a good relationship with the constables – he's very straight with them – he's not patronising. We haven’t rehearsed that Act five, scene one, with the Watch yet… but the way I’m thinking about it at the moment is that Leonato is in a situation where he's got Don Pedro and Claudio at his side, along with Borachio (now known to be a villain), and the Constable and Verges (of the Watch) are there too. Leonato says of Don Pedro and Claudio:
Here stand a pair of honourable men,
A third has fled, that had a hand in it.
I thank you, Princes, for my daughter's death;
Record it with your high and worldly deeds.
’Twas bravely done, if you bethink you of it. [V.1.253-257]
‘Honourable’ is used with a twist – killing Hero was not honourably done so Leonato's courtesy ‘I thank you’ is rather pointed. Just a few minutes later, he says to the Watch ‘Go I discharge thee of thy prisoner, and I thank thee’ [V.1.305-6]. He sincerely thanks the Watch for their care and pains in front of the smarter folk. So you have the smart, high status people on one side and people of lower status on the other; there's a real contrast. I think Leonato is fundamentally a fair man and a true man. When he challenges Claudio in Act five, scene one, he doesn’t really challenge Don Pedro. Antonio does: Antonio goes for it and includes the Prince in his tirade, but Leonato doesn’t. He very much challenges Claudio because the deed that has been done by Claudio. We have been doing that part of the scene this morning so it is fresh in my mind; I was struck by the fact Leonato only stopped the Prince defending Claudio – he doesn't really include the Prince in his accusations.
Confrontation in the street [V.1]
I find the scene where Leonato and Antonio approach Don Pedro and Claudio really interesting because I have to get lots of things straight there which are not immediately obvious in the text. There are some tricky questions about who knows what exactly. The Friar has told me ‘this is the plan: you go and tell everyone Hero is dead, go and do a bit of obvious mourning, and they will all be really sorry.’ Therefore, in this confrontation (which I suppose is probably a chance meeting), Leonato decides that this is the moment that he's going to tell them she is dead… or do Antonio and I think that Don Pedro and Claudio already know about Hero? That's a possibility, as the Sexton seems to know about Hero's death and Don John's flight in Act four, scene one. We have to make a decision whether Don Pedro and Claudio know that Hero is ‘dead’ and whether I know that they know! All Shakespeare has given us in that scene is a throw away line – well, it's not exactly ‘throw away’... Leonato says:
I say thou hast belied mine innocent child.
Thy slander hath gone through and through her heart,
And she lies buried with her ancestors –
O, in a tomb where never scandal slept,
Save this of hers, framed by thy villainy! [V.1.67-71]
That isn’t, in the great course of Shakespeare, the way to tell somebody about an important death! It's quite an indirect mention, but I think that this will be the first Don Pedro and Claudio hear of it. If I was an audience member, I would want to see the look on Don Pedro and Claudio's faces when they hear the news – in effect, you’re seeing the upshot of the Friar's plan. I hope that is what Shakespeare intended, and I think that is what we are going to play. That was the first decision we had to make.
We also had to decide when Act five, scene one, takes place; on the same day as the wedding scene, or the next day, or the following week? I don’t think Don Pedro and Claudio would hang around for very long after the wedding disaster. They could be waiting on news about Don John, who's fled, but I don’t think everyone necessarily knows that he's gone. At the moment, it makes sense to stage it later on the same day when Don Pedro and Claudio have moved out of my house. After the prisoners have been brought out and the plot revealed, I tell the Don Pedro and Claudio to come and meet me ‘tomorrow at my house.’ That suggests that they have moved out… so perhaps we met in the street at the beginning [of V.1]. That would be awkward for them, but I’m raring to speak to them because I am so angry. I tell Antonio that I will be flesh and blood, and I am going to get upset about this. What's more, I am going to tell the prince. Unfortunately for the Prince and Claudio, they arrive at just this moment. They say good evening in a very polite way because that was what you had to do in that society – no matter what happened, be careful of your manners. Anyway, they say ‘good evening’ and I demand they stay and talk to me. We have a confrontation; from being very polite at the beginning, everyone crumbles into name-calling, with ‘boy’ and ‘old man.’
Sympathy for Claudio
I feel sorry for Claudio. Leonato doesn’t, but I do. Claudio honestly thinks that he has been completely reasonable. He is going to marry a beautiful girl, he is deliriously happy, and then he sees her with someone else. Hero has been dishonoured, and who would marry her in those circumstances? Claudio has seen it with his own eyes and so has the Prince. His honour is at stake and, as the Prince brokered the marriage in the first place, his royal honour has been tarnished too. You can’t judge Claudio too harshly. He's horrible in the church scene but he truly believes that is justified. When he's confronted by this old man in the street who calls him a villain, he's going to protest. His hand definitely goes to his sword – whether it is instinctive or a mistake that I misinterpret, I am not entirely certain, but his hand does go to his sword. I say ‘Look, don’t go for your sword, I am not frightened of you,’ and then Claudio makes his big mistake. He says ‘Oh, you’re an old man. I wouldn’t give you any cause to be frightened.’ Leonato just overwhelms him: ‘Don’t patronize me. Don’t talk to me like I’m an old fool; I’m not an old fool. I’m not taking cover under my age – because of what you’ve done to my daughter, I’m going to cast aside my age. I challenge you to see if I am a match for you.’
Poor Claudio has nowhere to go in the face of that response. I am an old man and he won’t fight me, but that's exactly what Leonato is pushing for. What can Claudio do? Does he say ‘Alright I’ll fight you’? That's instance death for Leonato because Claudio is a successful soldier who has undertaken courageous feats in battle – Leonato wouldn’t stand a chance. Leonato, however, thinks that right is absolutely on his side, and it's a bit like the oracle at Delphi in Winter's Tale: if you were right or innocent and you challenged somebody to a duel, then you would win regardless of physical strength. Despite how young and virile Claudio is, Leonato will win because right is on his side. But of course Claudio thinks he's right too, so either he's got to do a terrible thing and fight an old man who's going to lose, or stand and be further dishonoured. Leonato won’t be brushed off: I’m thinking, ‘You brush me off like that? You think you can brush me off like that? You killed my child. This is grown up stuff. You pick on a man, and I’ll give you what for.’ Antonio and Leonato have to back down when the Prince won’t listen, but I make Don Pedro and Claudio they know that they haven’t heard the last of this.
Relationship with Hero
Hero's lovely, not at all soppy. I think Mariah [Gale] is going to play it nice and feisty! It's a tricky part because she doesn’t say a lot to begin with, and she doesn’t leap in straightaway to defend herself in the wedding scene. When she does say to her father ‘I just didn’t do it’, he absolutely believes her, I’m sure of it. That's the moment that provokes the next scene for me [V.1, confrontation with Claudio and Don Pedro]. At the beginning of the wedding scene, Leonato cannot believe that Hero would be capable of such a thing. When the Prince says, ‘But I saw with my own eyes,’ Leonato is like any parent with a child that they think can do no wrong: one day the police are at the door saying, ‘Hello, hello, hello? Small problem here.’ Think about how many parents we see on television saying, ‘I just didn’t think he’d ever do it; I couldn’t believe she’d do that…’ You remember that, well, we’re all capable of all sorts of things. I suppose Leonato at that point has to say to himself, ‘The Prince wouldn’t lie. These people aren’t lying; they must have seen this or she must have done it.’ That's when he goes ballistic with her, because it's an enormous betrayal. He's given this girl everything. Yes, he's awful to her, but when she really, really denies the accusations, I think the bond between them is strong enough for him to put his faith in her. Especially when Benedick reminds everyone that Don John is a pretty dodgy guy who could easily be involved in some miserable scheme. Then the Friar backs up her defence when he remarks that Hero is not acting like a guilty person. I think all of that means that, by the end of the scene [IV.1], he believes her absolutely. Also, I have a need for Hero's forgiveness in that scene. This isn’t in the text; it's just what I feel. He's come to trust her, but the moments of doubt in the interim are traumatic for both of them. I feel that there has to be some sort of reconciliation because it's so hard. I’m not sure how we’ll do that yet.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.