But I’ll set down the pegs that make this music… – OTHELLO, II i

othello poster

The third and final opening night of the 2018 Kentucky Shakespeare season is here at last. As is the third and final opening night mix.

There was a running gag between the actor playing Othello & myself that after Iago’s line, “The Moor – I know his trumpet” Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good” should play (I know, I know, it’s a flugelhorn), but it just didn’t fit the mix. We tried to get it to happen for his entrance to parley with the Percy gang as Blunt in 1 HENRY IV as well, but them’s the breaks.

Speaking of which, break legs, O cast, O crew – here it is:

(And no, don’t even try Spotify with some of these. What fun is that?)

The Playlist

  1. “Jealous Man” – Hoyt Axton: This seems like a clear enough statement of purpose;
  2. “Tush” – ZZ Top: I mean, it IS the first word of the play. How often this opportunity come?;
  3. “On the Street Where You Live” – Holly Cole Trio: This is her father’s house – I’ll call aloud;
  4. “What About Your Daughter” – J.B. Lenoir: Would YOU had had her;
  5. “More” – Tom Jones: I know, it’s spelled wrong, but still. And I think this expresses well Othello’s marital feelings for…
  6. “Badass With a Heart of Gold” – Jason Morphew: …Desdemona, the only real reason beyond its catchiness for this song to be here (it’s just not a common name in popular song);
  7. “Duke of Earl” – Gene Chandler: My wife is playing the Duke in this one (quite unlike my turn in Errors), so she gets to pick the Duke song;
  8. Blue Rondo à la Turk – Dave Brubeck Quartet: We must not think the Turk is so unskillful/ To leave that latest which concerns him first…;
  9. “Warriors” – Thin Lizzy: Again, this seems to speak for itself and yet fit the mix better than the “We’re Going to War” song from Duck Soup;
  10. “These Arms of Mine” – Otis Redding: For since these arms of mine had seven years pith…’
  11. “Raspberry Beret” – Hindu Love Gods: The modern military setting we’ve chosen makes for some fine soldierly headgear;
  12. “Green Eyes” – Gene Krupa Orchestra with Roy Eldridge & Anita O’Day: Also probably self-explanatory;
  13. Casio VL Tone demo: O my dear Cassio!/ My sweet Cassio! O Cassio, Cassio, Cassio!
  14. “Let’s Make Love Not War” – Charles Watts & the 103rd St. Rhythm Band: The profit’s yet to come ‘tween me and you;
  15. “Jealousy” – Liz Phair: I can’t believe you had a life before me/ I can’t believe they let you run around free/ Just putting your body wherever it seemed like a good idea/ What a good idea;
  16. “Hanky Panky” – Los Hitters: This may do something. (Tommy James is all well and good, but I have a soft spot for this version);
  17. “It’s Your Thing” – Isley Brothers: I credit the inclusion of this one to the weird little filthy exchange Iago & Emilia have in the middle of the loooong scene that is Act III Scene iii;
  18. “Hate & War” – The Clash: I have the will to survive/ I cheat if I can’t win/ If someone locks me out/ I kick my way back in;
  19. “Between the Sheets” – Foreplay feat. Chaka Khan & Nathan East: I chose this version because duh Chaka Khan, but also a fear of Too Much Isley – Now stop asking questions, Emilia, and go make the damn bed;
  20. “Down By the Willow Garden” – Everly Brothers: aka Edwina’s Lullaby from Raising Arizona. The presence of a willow in folk song or Shakespeare never means anyone any good;
  21. “A Little Warm Death” – Cassandra Wilson: This isn’t here at the end because of the Elizabethan slang for orgasm, or because of the complex sexual imagery of the play, especially in its final scene, but because anyone who’s ever done Shakespearean tragedy outdoors knows the true meaning of the phrase.

Now I’m going to go take a nap.

God keepe me from false Friends – RICHARD III, Act III Scene i

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Hello, again – it’s hot out there. It’s hot here, anyway. The summer still doth tend like crazy upon my state of Kentucky, where Kentucky Shakespeare’s summer season is here and the time is right, despite the undoubtedly educated opinion of Martha Reeves and both Vandellas, for Shakespeare in the park. There are some majestic (and blessedly shady) trees surrounding the stage, good friends to all of us in the cast.

Cypress and gingko, they are. The trees, not the cast. I like to touch at least one before each show. That’s trickier since the stage redesign has brought all three onto the stage – I have to sneak and do it before we start – but I manage. I’ve lobbied repeatedly for naming them Cordelia, Lavinia, and Rosalind (center, left, and right, respectively) which seems useful, but then I’d have to go into the whole Rosalind-with-a-long-i conversation and I want to put that off until unavoidable.

But doth the summer still tend upon my state, or doth it still tend upon my state? Titania is impressive, no question, and has every right to brag. But the word “still” in that line is tricky. It doesn’t mean “the summer continues to wait on my delicious royalness”. It means “the summer always/continuously  waits on my delicious royalness”. Which is a fine point, but. Still.*

David Crystal (insert my own Shakespeare nerd fanboy noises here) snags a phrase from comparative semantics (faux amis) and in several of his writings calls such words “false friends”. They look familiar, but they’re often misleading.

Here are a few you might encounter during the 2018 Kentucky Shakespeare summer season in particular:

JEALOUS

This one’s fairly important, one could say, in Othello, and turns up in Errors as well. It has little to do with envy, which is how we commonly use it – “Your vacation pics! I’m so jealous!” – and much to do with suspicion and/or vigilant watchfulness. In Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio finally levels with someone he & Kate have been messing with and says, “Come go along and see the truth hereof,/ For our first merriment hath made thee jealous.” Keep a particular eye out for this one. A jealous eye, even.

DISTRACTED, MATED

Two of the many euphemisms for mental instability our language has provided over the centuries. “Distracted” occurs several times in Errors and it does not mean “having a deficit of attention” but “insane”. “Ditto “mated”, which means something “amazed” or “overcome”, with sort of a sense of temporary insanity, though it retains the modern meaning of “found a romantic partner” as well. This gets played with in Errors, in fact: Luciana asks the twin who’s not her brother-in-law if he’s mad and he, in love with her almost at first sight, responds, “Not mad, but mated.” Later, as the Duke tries to get everyone’s loopy stories to match up, he says he thinks they “are all mated, or stark mad,” that is, “temporarily crazy, or perhaps just all the way there”. The jury is still out when we finish Act V. Those people are not right, none of them. Maybe Balthazar, tops.

COMPACT, FRAMED

In Shakespeare, “compact” (emphasis on the second syllable) means “made of” not “squeezed tightly together like the trash in the Death Star”. Theseus, in a once-famous speech toward the end of Midsummer that now gets cut most of the time, says “The lunatic, the lover, and the poet/ Are of imagination all compact” – which makes more sense when you know this definition. Think of the Mayflower Compact, if that helps.

Same goes for “framed” – the “made of” meaning hangs on now in the sense of a construction team framing a house. In Othello, Cassio is described (by Iago, so, grain of salt) as “framed to make women false”. I guess it’s a compliment?

FROM

This can mean “from” in all the same ways we use, but also has a nice concise one-word easy-to-fit-into-verse sense of “away from” or “far from” – “we are now from home” the emphasis is on being away, not on having come from there. If that makes sense. It’s tricky, but when the actors help, it’s pretty clear.

SO

Falstaff loves this one, and it’s all over Henry IV part 1. It roughly corresponds to our “there it is” or “so be it” or “que sera sera”, “it is what it is” or whatever other cliché we’re using to indicate a fraudulently resigned shrug these days. One of Falstaff’s many idle threats: “If Percy be alive, I’ll pierce him: if he do come in my way, so: if he do not, if I come in his (willingly) let him make a Carbonado of me.” (That’s a piece of meat slashed up for broiling. There’s also a nice play on “Percy” and “pierce”, which would have sounded a lot more like one another 400 years ago; alas, that joke is gone.)

TOWARD (FROWARD)

This one often means “in the making” or “afoot” in Shakespeare – “Do you hear aught, sir, of a battle toward?” is somewhere in Lear, I think. At other times it means “docile” or “willing/compliant” and is linked to “froward”, a word meaning the opposite (“stubborn”, “willful”) and one that we don’t use at all anymore. Think “to” and “fro” if that helps.

FEAR/DOUBT

This is particularly tricky to the ear – “fear” can also mean “fear for”. So when someone says “He was much feared by his physicians” they mean the doctors were worried, not afraid of him. Fear can also mean “doubt”, as in Gertrude’s “Fear me not” to Polonius as he mansplains her relationship to her son to her (he gets a shiv right after, so all is well…).

 

That should hold us over for now, yes? Usually context (and the inflection of friendly actors) makes this sort of clear, but it pays to have the ears ready.

Now that I think of it, perhaps we could name the trees Martha, Betty, and Rosaland? I don’t think the Vandellas would object.

 

*It doesn’t mean there’s seasonal moonshine machinery nearby either, but, yes, we are in Kentucky and yes, that’s still (sigh) a thing, though less an issue in these days of trendy home brewing.