Monday, January 30, 2006

I really shouldn't . . .

speculate on the plays based on the biography, but:

One of those moments of 'click' happened when I was watching el Woods t.v. programme, 'In Search of Shakespeare,' a week or so ago.

Mr (can't see the trees for the) Wood pointed out a couple of facts about the man who performed the marriage service, and the reason for the service happening so quickly.

What went 'doying' (bells to you lot) was the little detail he provided about Mr John Frith, the vicar, being know (Elizabeth's spies) as "skilled in cures" and having a reputation for knowing how to cure wounded hawks. He was also 'reported' for performing weddings out of season and without the necessary 'bands' being read three times in church. And he was a little 'old fashioned' in his ways (Catholic tendencies).

Well, Friar Lawrence or what?

Herbs, cures and bending the rules.

Now the unsaintly Greer (blessed be her knicker elastic) does lend a little support to the essentials (so it must be true), and I have since done a google and got some of the information confirmed.

Old Willie is desperate, he wants a quick marriage, needed a special licence and a vicar who would bend the rules. There's a local character with a bit of a reputation for being a medicine man and doing dodgy weddings - but keep it secret, the authorities don't like it.

If that ain't going to spring to mind in Shakespeare's head when he is writing Romeo and Juliet, I'm a Dutchman. But did he make use of it? This is the spec...

Did the old man keep Willie waiting?

You can just imagine the scene, Willie the Impatient, desperate for a wedding, (another day and he'd have to wait for over 6 weeks - and the baby was going to kick up a fuss about that), popping into the garden of the old priest, the only one likely to do the business for him, and faced with a very knowledgable old man, who knows exactly what is going on but is setting other prorites - collecting herbs for a wounded hawk.

Playwrites and actors do hitch their scripts and performances onto real life - but one really shouldn't speculate back. (I can still see it though - and what I wouldn't do to film it.)

What this does for me is give the scene in Romeo and Juliet a little extra zing: There is an emotional and personal tinge which 'person alises' what is frequently analysed to death. Yes the extra meanings and all that is important, but it is a play, not a script.

Which brings me to another of the questions which intrique me: What did Shakespeare's audience think of the man (Friar L.)?

I bet they all knew someone very like him. Every community needs someone who will shift the rules a little, especially in the Elizabethan world of marriage and baby making. If he is a religious man, is comfortable doing a bit of the 'old way' and can cure too . . will people forgive the little excesses, and occassional mistake?

And that brings me to what he says at the start of his role.

But i need to get down to printing off a version, and doing the dirty to it . . .

(To be continued.)

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