SHAKESPEARE ALOUD

Two Gents Act 3, Scene 2 – a treehouse in Geneva

This may be my personal favorite thus far.  I’m in a tree house with my godson Colin, who is 10, and his friend Basil, who is 11.  We’re outside their house on the outskirts of Geneva, Switzerland.  Watching this, I’m amazed that I didn’t tone down the ‘reader voice’ and just talk to them.  I’ve really developed a very distasteful feeling about my readings of this play.  Too demonstrative and not just simple talking.  Regardless, with me declaming this odd scene to these two little guys, the amusement factor is very high.  I love the idea of Two Gents in a treehouse.

THE SCENE

More ice/water/fire images:

DUKE            This weak impress of love is as a figure

7            Trenched in ice, which with an hour’s heat

8            Dissolves to water and doth lose his form.

9            A little time will melt her frozen thoughts

10            And worthless Valentine shall be forgot.

 

Notice that the feminine ending in line 6, the first one here, sets up ‘Trenched in ice,’ which by the way is ‘trenched’ and not ‘trenchéd.’

In speaking Proteus’ name, the Duke appears to have a familiar or jovial and a formal or serious version – the triplet that Lucetta used two scenes ago and the formal iamb-and-a-half version.  The actor can use this as an opportunity to play a new tactic in the second exchange:

11             How now, Sir Proteus, is your countryman,

12             According to our proclamation, gone?

And

17            Proteus, the good conceit I hold of thee,

 

For this line, try speaking ‘perversely’ with the same meter as ‘persevers’

DUKE

28            Ay, and perversely she persevers so.

Notice how sticky the meter gets for Proteus here as he figures out how to handle this awkward situation:

39            And that, my lord, I shall be loath to do;

40            ‘Tis an ill office for a gentleman,

What follows is a wonderfully sly double antithesis, and shows the Duke’s powerful skills at manipulation:

DUKE

42            Where your good word cannot advantage him

43            Your slander never can endamage him.

Great example of an unsure feminine line:

PROTEUS

46            You have prevailed, my lord.  If I can do it

This speech here looks like all pretty regular verse, and benefits from it even if at first pass it may seem irregular.  The ‘Proteus’ here I think is a triplet.

DUKE

56            And, Proteus, we dare trust you in this kind,

57            Because we know, on Valentine’s report,

58            You are already Love’s firm votary

Let’s jump to the big example of music as metaphor in this scene – a memorable tangent that follows their discussion of writing Silvia a sonnet that has ‘the force of heaven-bred poesy:’

PROTEUS            For Orpheus’ lute was strung with poets’ sinews,

78            Whose golden touch could soften steel and stones,

79            Make tigers tame and huge leviathans

80            Forsake unsounded deeps to dance on sands.

81            After your dire-lamenting elegies,

82            Visit by night your lady’s chamber-window

83            With some sweet concert; to their instruments

84            Tune a deploring dump: the night’s dead silence

85            Will well become such sweet-complaining grievance.

86            This, or else nothing, will inherit her.

DUKE            This discipline shows thou hast been in love.

THURIO            And thy advice this night I’ll put in practise.

87            Therefore, sweet Proteus, my direction-giver,

88            Let us into the city presently

89            To sort some gentlemen well skill’d in music.

90            I have a sonnet that will serve the turn

91            To give the onset to thy good advice.

It’s pretty straight-forward.  Orpheus held great sway as the original rock star to the Elizabethan mind.  The stories of his being able to tame savage beasts and ‘soften stones’ was surely taken as fact by a segment of the population.  Music, if in line with ‘the heavenly spheres’ could lend the occasion god-like qualities.  Use of this example also echoes the Ovidian references of metamorphoses in this play, and some rough magic is clearly required in this instance to change Silvia love from banished Valentine to vain Turio.

The musical wisdom inherent in this passage also tells us something of the age.  The word ‘sonnet’ originally meant song, and though not all sonnets were composed to be sung, many were.  Additionally, the common store of songs in the psyche of the time were often assigned to different words – meters and qualities of the sonnet might suggest a tune (one recalls Julia earlier in this play to Lucetta: “Best sing it to the tune ‘Light o’ Love.’”  We’ve been coloring some of these love poems with music in this play, now we’ll finally get to hear a whole one read aloud – in the next scene.

BB

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