Sunday, May 1, 2011

Oh Rose of May

On the ADK Shakes Facebook page, I recently posed two questions to our friends. What are your top five favorite plays by Shakespeare? and What would your top five greatest Shakespeare roles be? Perhaps it is not too surprising that the winner of both of these polls was Hamlet. I won't lie; he was in both of my top fives, too.

I've been thinking about Hamlet a bunch lately, and I suspect I'll be thinking about it all today. I am writing a paper for my Epic & Allegory class on Stephen Dedalus's "Hamlet Theory." Today is going to be my big Ulysses day, but let's face it, I will be thinking more about Hamlet. I just like it better. But with Hamlet so much on the brain and it being the first of May (how did that happen?), I wanted to share one of my favorite moments in the play. And I want to share both the modern type setting and then the First Folio setting:

O heat, dry up my brains! tears seven times salt,
Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye!
By heaven, thy madness shall be paid by weight,
Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May!
Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
O heavens! is't possible, a young maid's wits
Should be as mortal as an old man's life?
Nature is fine in love, and where 'tis fine,
It sends some precious instance of itself
After the thing it loves.

Oh heate drie vp my Braines, teares seuen times salt,
Burne out the Sence and Vertue of mine eye.
 By Heauen, thy madnesse shall be payed by waight, 
Till our Scale turnes the beame. Oh Rose of May, 
Deere Maid, kinde Sister, sweet Ophelia: 
Oh Heauens, is't possible, a yong Maids wits, 
Should be as mortall as an old mans life? 
Nature is fine in Loue, and where 'tis fine, 
It sends some precious instance of it selfe 
After the thing it loues. 
When we compile scripts for ADK Shakes production, we work primarily from the First Folio and not from modern editions. For one thing, I hate exclamation points. They bug me. When you use five of them in six lines, they seem to lose their punch. Exclamation points do appear in the First Folio, but not nearly so often as they do in modern texts. When I do see one, boy is it gutting. As an actor, I love using the punctuation as a guide, and the FF gives me more food for thought. We also preserve the capitalizations in our scripts. Sometimes the word "Love" is capitalized, sometimes not. I find it helpful to think about those choices and emphases. We do update the spelling (u vs. v, for example) to make it easier on our actors. And we will often make choices between Quarto and Folio settings where variations occur. Our scripts basically take an awfully long time to put together ... So: one more time with this passage. Here is what it would look like in an ADK Shakes format:
Oh heat dry up my Brains, tears seven times salt, 
Burn out the Sense and Virtue of mine eye. 
By Heaven, thy madness shall be paid by weight, 
Till our Scale turns the beam. Oh Rose of May, 
Dear Maid, kind Sister, sweet Ophelia:  
Oh Heavens, is't possible, a young Maid's wits, 
Should be as mortal as an old man's life? 
Nature is fine in Love, and where 'tis fine, 
It sends some precious instance of it self 
After the thing it loves.

I want to end with a shameless plug for two of our wonderful company members, Aaron White and Christine Demuth. Last summer, Aaron headlined as Romeo with us and Christine played Lady Macbeth. I wish I had some video to post of these performances, but I do have these photos, which absolutely do not do them justice:

Aaron White as Romeo, Laura Montes as Juliet
Christine Demuth as Lady Macbeth 
I am not a gusher. I have the most exacting, obnoxiously high standards when it comes to theatre, so it's a big deal when I tell you: These two actors are phenomenal, and have performed some of the most moving, genuine, incredible moments of theatre I have seen. Ever. And I have seen a lot of theatre. If you are anywhere in the vicinity of Williamsburg, VA this summer, you will not want to miss Aaron White as Hamlet and Christine Demuth as Ophelia at the Virginia Shakespeare Festival. They will be incredible. If you're not in the vicinity of Williamsburg, I promise you they will be worth the trip.

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