The Battle of Love and Power
Compiled by Gabriel Chanan
October 31st and November 1st and 2nd 2019
What’s this play about?
Shakespeare wrote to entertain. But that was 400 years ago. Becoming ‘the greatest writer who ever lived’ hasn’t necessarily helped him get across to us today. It makes us nervous in case we don’t like him.
Tonight forget any such feelings if you have them. We bring you a daisy chain of five of his stories about things that matter to us now as much as they did then. (And if you’re someone who already knows and likes Shakespeare, we’ve got a few surprises for you too.) But what we’re calling ‘stories’ are not ‘Shakespeare lite’ – they’re authentic excerpts with immediate appeal.
Triggering us into each of the scenes is an argument between two actor friends, Don and Sal. Sal says Shakespeare’s all about love. Don says no, he’s all about violence and power. Each of the stories shows the relationship of love and power in a different way.
Other things happen between the stories. The handyman who comes to move the props joins in the discussion. And any one of the three of them might suddenly find themselves becoming a character in one of the scenes.
Sal and Don conjure up each story in turn by their argument, but if you want to know the trail, here’s a brief route-map:
- Sal and Don stumble into:
- KING LEAR, deciding to divide the kingdom between his three daughters.
- Discussing the scene afterwards, Don and Sal are interrupted by Handy, who has to bring in a bed for the next scene, and is almost dragged into the scene by:
- CHRISTOPHER SLY AND the LADY OF THE MANOR - A little known scene from The Taming of the Shrew
Don says this story shows that love is an illusion. Sal replies by telling him to look at
5a. HENRY VI, with its story of the secret passion between Suffolk and Margaret. This story is interrupted by
THE INTERVAL after which
5b. The excerpt from HENRY VI continues.
Sal and Don’s discussion of that is hijacked by Handy, asking awkward questions which lead to a strange intervention by:
- JOHN DRYDEN, the 18th century playwright. He offers them his ruthless revisions of Shakespeare. But they say they prefer the original, so he tips them into:
- MACBETH, where Lady Macbeth urges her husband to murder King Duncan but then falls prey to nightmares.
Don says this proves that love can be a bond of evil as much as good.
Sal has only started to reply when they - and Handy- are interrupted by:
- FALSTAFF (from Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor), who illustrates his travesty of love by his transparent attempts to deceive a string of women.
Finally Don and Sal come to a kind of agreement by bringing together:
- TWO SONNETS which link love and the seemingly endless power of Shakespeare’s writing to last beyond his death.