Antonio’s Revenge: A One-Day Conference

The Playhouse Lab, the Oxford Marston, and The Malone Society

present

John Marston’s Antonio’s Revenge: a one-day conference

Workshop Theatre, University of Leeds
Saturday, 7 July 2018

This one-day conference will focus on Marston’s riveting revenge tragedy, an unfairly neglected jewel of late Elizabethan drama which resonates with Shakespeare’s Hamlet and other classic revenge tragedies of the period. In 1921 the Malone Society published facsimile editions of Antonio’s Revenge and its companion play, Antonio and Mellida, edited by W.W. Greg; these editions are now long out of print, but we are delighted to be co-sponsoring this event and renewing our support for Marston’s work.

The second part of a fascinating diptych preceded by the tragicomedy Antonio and Mellida, Antonio’s Revenge tells the story of the unfortunate lovers’ struggle in the Venetian court. Mellida’s father, the evil Piero, Duke of Venice, has murdered Antonio’s father, Andrugio, the Duke of the enemy Republic of Genoa. Andrugio’s ghost returns from beyond the grave to command his son to revenge his death. Mellida is imprisoned under a fabricated accusation of harlotry, and she dies of grief believing her lover is dead. Antonio, in disguise as a fool, prepares a masque that the Venetian court will never forget.

This conference will be a very rare opportunity to see this superb play on stage, using David Lindley’s newly edited text for the forthcoming Oxford University Press edition of The Complete Works of John Marston.

Programme

9:30 am – Registration + tea, coffee, and pastries

10:30 am – script-in-hand performance with The Playhouse Lab ensemble, including students and staff at Leeds

1 pm – buffet lunch

2 pm – Panel 1: Antonio’s Revenge in Performance. Speakers: Perry Mills (Edward’s Boys, King Edward VI School), Harry McCarthy (University of Exeter), and Lois Potter (University of Delaware).

3:30 pm – Tea and coffee

3:45 pm – Panel 2:  Antonio’s Revenge: Text, Context, and Afterlife. Speakers: David Lindley (University of Leeds), Janet Clare (University of Hull), and Richard Meek (University of Hull).

5:15 – wine and informal roundtable discussion

Registration: Full price: £15   Concessions: £10

The registration fee includes attendance to the performance and the academic sessions, as well as the two tea/coffee breaks, and a buffet lunch. (Please specify any dietary requirements in the box provided.)

For registration, please click here.

The Masque of Queens

This is a guest blog-post by Dr Daniel Smith of King’s College London, who was the recipient of a Malone Society Research Grant in 2016.

 

Staging The Masque of Queens

As part of a conference in Oxford dedicated to the pre-eminent non-royal woman patron and masque-dancer of early Stuart England, Lucy Harington Russell (1580–1627), Countess of Bedford, the Masque of Queens by Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones was staged at New College, Oxford on 11 August 2016. A grant of £800 from the Malone Society substantially covered the costs of this one-off performance, enabling us to record it for posterity and create an open-access teaching resource for academics wishing to bring the masque into their classrooms. The masque recording was completed in time to join King’s College London’s Shakespeare400 celebrations of 2016, and can be found here.

Our Masque of Queens was directed by Dr Emma Whipday (KCL/UCL), and featured professional dancers and musicians alongside a performance of the script by six actors, most of them MA students from King’s, in the stunning chapel of New College, its glorious reredos standing in for Inigo Jones’s imposing House of Fame, a principal architectural feature of the original 1609 performance. The executive producers were Dr Nadine Akkerman and Dr Daniel Smith, and the producer at New College was Rev. Dr Erica Longfellow, the college chaplain.

The performance was designed in part to show how a masque works on stage, but also to show its potential for modern-day adaptation. Whipday made some small cuts to the text, and fitted the performance’s tone the requirements of the setting and the cast. Out of term and with no advertising, the full complement of 200 free tickets were taken within 48 hours – this kind of popularity underscores the importance of having a video recording, and points to the potential success of future masque performances.

Despite the popularity of Renaissance drama today, early modern masques are hardly ever performed, since they require so many individual talents in the performers and such a range and depth of historical understanding by the directors and producers. Bringing masques back on to the stage is the best way to increase our understanding of these vividly visual and musical events. We are fortunate to have images attesting to the costume designs and sets of the Masque of Queens, as well as notes about the original make-up and Alfonso Ferrabosco’s score. The survival of such information is rare in this period and enabled us to base our performance firmly on historical evidence.

This recording enables future scholars to study two fascinating figures in seventeenth-century culture simultaneously. Ben Jonson’s outstandingly significant Workes enjoyed a quatercentenary in 2016, a year naturally dominated by events marking Shakespeare’s death. The Countess of Bedford pioneered a space on stage and in society for female creativity and political expression, but her contribution to the history of women’s stage-craft is little known beyond academic masque studies. Lady Bedford danced in more court masques than any non-royal figure and was intimately associated with this now-neglected genre. To comprehend the achievements of this pioneering woman we must understand the masque in relation to visual culture, materiality, and performance, and how these factors helped negotiate political authority and gender structures.

With The Masque of Queens performed in an ornate chapel in Oxford, and John Milton’s A Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle (aka Comus) drawing audiences at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in London, perhaps other directors, producers, scholars, and performers will take up the challenge of recreating the masque for twenty-first century audiences?

Blame Not Our Author

This is a guest post by Fran Hughes and Ben Martineau, directors of a performance of the academic play Blame Not Our Author at the University of Cambridge in January 2017. The Society would like to thank Fran and Ben for writing for us, and for bringing our edition to life in performance.

 

A Cambridge Student Production of Blame Not Our Author

This January marked the first re-performance in around four hundred years of ‘Blame Not Our Author,’ written circa 1630 for students in the Venerable English College in Rome. The play is set in a Euclidean world, populated by shapes and ruled over by Regulus, the Ruler.  A melancholic young square named Quadro dreams of becoming the perfect circle, whilst his dastardly friend, Rectangulum, decides to seek revenge on the entire shape-world, turning Quadro, Line and Circulus against their weary creator, the Compass. Geometric chaos ensues, as the characters in an overused textbook are finally given the chance to rebel against their lot in life.

Transcribed and published by the Malone Society in 1983, Blame Not Our Author has not knowingly been performed since it was penned in the English Jesuit College (now the Venerable English College) in Rome circa 1630.  Written for students some 400 years ago, it is packed with visual gags that are farcical, witty, and still eloquent to anyone familiar with school geometry lessons. On another level, it provides a rich insight into a world where publications on practical mathematics, geometry, and technical skills were proliferating in print culture, and reflects certain historical anxieties about the public use and abuse of mechanical knowledge.

Quadro and Rectangulum in Blame Not Our Author,
directed by Fran Hughes and Ben Martineau,
University of Cambridge,
January 2017.
Image Credit: Fran Hughes.

The focus of the play reflects the heavy emphasis on geometrical learning in the Jesuit-influenced curriculum at the college.  Alongside the classroom jokes, however, are darker references to the religious conflicts of the time.  When Quadro is bound in a circular contraption named the ‘Squarenigher’s Daughter’, the author was directly alluding to the torture instrument known as the ‘Scavenger’s Daughter’, said to have been used on Catholics during the Reformation.  Moreover, when the character of Line taunts the fact that ‘Bible the Minister’ has had her translate the Psalms ‘into better lines’, the author was mocking the verse of the Protestant Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter, written in ballad metre.  Despite these poignant historic references, the play is a comedy, and was probably performed for the annual Shrovetide festivities before the beginning of Lent.

The ‘Squarenighter’s Daughter’ in operation.
Image Credit: Benedict Flett.

Working with the Malone Society’s thorough transcription of the original manuscript and adapting it for re-performance allowed for an extremely dynamic relationship with the script.  As directors, the excitement of working with a neglected and relatively unknown play allowed for a degree of creativity not usually afforded to well known early modern plays, where audience members often arrive with many preconceptions about the text.  Rehearsing revealed many more hidden jokes and farcical elements within the play.  Rather than going for a strictly historical reconstruction, the actors wore contemporary dress with subtle allusions to their ‘shapes’, such as a chequed shirt for Quadro, and a walking-stick-come-compass for the elderly, academically-dressed Compass.  The black-and-white theme of the set evoked the palette of printed textbooks, whilst a planetarium-like mobile at the centre with suspended shapes allowed characters to enact some of the more abstract jokes, and also alluded to their shared desire to become heavenly, Platonic forms.

Image Credit: Benedict Flett.

The introductory notes provided in the Malone publication sparked lots of discussions during the rehearsals.  Knowing that different hands feature in the original manuscript helped to create a real sense that we were reviving a collaborative, historic, student project, and all members of the cast and crew were keen to pitch in with various interpretations.  The current custodian of the manuscript in the archives in Rome was in attendance, and we have had multiple expressions of interest concerning where the script can be read – it is thanks to the Malone Society that this project was even possible, and we are extremely thankful for the existence of their publication!

 

Fran Hughes and Ben Martineau – Directors
 

Select Bibliography

Gossett, S. ed., ‘Blame not our Author, from the MS. (Scrittura 35.1) at the Venerable English College, Rome’, Malone Society Collections 11 (1983), pp. 85-132.

Mazzio, C., ‘The Three-Dimensional Self: Geometry, Melancholy, Drama’, in D. Glimp, and M.R. Warren, eds., Arts of Calculation: Quantifying Thought in Early Modern Europe (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), pp. 35-65.

Symposium, Saturday 16 May

We’re holding a symposium!

Reverend Productions and The Malone Society present:

King Leir

A staged reading and symposium
Saturday 16 May, 10:30am-6:30pm
The Chapel, Somerville College, Woodstock Road, Oxford

The staged reading will commence at 11am. Speakers in the afternoon symposium will include Professor Tiffany Stern, Professor Katherine Duncan-Jones and Professor Sir Brian Vickers. Please see below for the full programme.

Tickets £20 (students: £15). Admission includes a sandwich lunch and afternoon tea.
Box Office:  http://www.reverendproductions.com/#!kingleir/crwp
Further information:  info@reverendproductions.com

Leir 7For the full programme, see our ‘Events’ section.

The Fair Maid of the Exchange: Malone Society Staged Reading and Symposium

This guest post comes from Dr Eoin Price, who recently gained his PhD from The Shakespeare Institute, where he currently works. He is preparing a book about the meaning of the terms ‘public’ and ‘private’ in Renaissance theatrical discourse and has work forthcoming in Literature Compass and The Map of Early Modern London [http://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/]. His reviews of Renaissance drama can be read at asidenotes.wordpress.com and Reviewing Shakespeare [http://bloggingshakespeare.com/reviewing-shakespeare/author/eoinprice/]

The Fair Maid of the Exchange

Are comedies meant to end happily? We’re often told this, but it’s easy to cite examples that don’t fit the bill. In Shakespearean comedy, we are left with unaccommodated figures like Shylock or Malvolio, while in Love’s Labour’s Lost death postpones the expected marriage. Jonson’s Volpone ends with punishment and the happy ending of Marston’s Antonio and Mellida turns out to be a ruse: in the tragic sequel, Antonio must avenge Mellida’s death. Renaissance dramatists devised a variety of ways to undercut the assumption that a comedy ends happily. To the long list of established comic undercutting must be added The Fair Maid of the Exchange, a curious play, of uncertain authorship, which was given a deserved outing in the form of a staged reading sponsored by the Malone Society and hosted by Somerville College, Oxford. A terrific cast, assembled at short notice by Edwina Christie and directed by Gerald Baker, used the full space of the Flora Anderson Hall to deliver a subtle and surprising production. As the illuminating post-show symposium discussion demonstrated, there were a number of points of interest: in the first session Martin Wiggins addressed the difficulties in attributing to the play a date, author, or playing company, Katherine Duncan-Jones discussed the play’s allusions to Shakespeare, Susan Anderson focused on the representation of disability, Tim Smith-Laing (who played the character known as ‘the Cripple’) talked about his experience acting in the play, and Baker commented on his experience directing it.

L-R: Martin Wiggins, Susan Anderson, Katherine Duncan-Jones, Gerald Baker, Tim Laing-Smith and Lucy Munro. Photo credit: Jackie Watson.
L-R: Martin Wiggins, Susan Anderson, Katherine Duncan-Jones, Gerald Baker, Tim Smith-Laing and Lucy Munro. Photo credit: Jackie Watson.

In the second session, Susan North offered an illustrated account of Jacobean embroidery and Rebecca Tomlin analysed the place of commerce in the play. In this post, however, I want to focus on the play’s oddly abrupt ending, which was so skilfully handled in the staged reading.

It’s first necessary to offer a brief and partial plot summary. In the play, two brothers, Antony (Peter van Dolen) and Ferdinand Golding (Ariel Levine) pursue the titular fair maid, the pleasingly alliteratively-named Phillis Flower (Edwina Christie). Phillis loves neither man but instead apparently unrequitedly loves the Cripple (Tim Smith-Laing) who, at the play’s outset, had bravely defended Philis and Ursula (Constance Greenfield) from an attack by the outlaws Bobbington and Scarlet (effectively doubled by the actors playing Antony and Ferdinand).

L-R: Constance Greenfield as Master Barnard, Jakub Boguszak as Master Bowlder, Tim Laing-Smith as Cripple and Sophie Duncan as Mall Berry. Photo credit: Jackie Watson.
L-R: Constance Greenfield as Master Barnard, Jakub Boguszak as Master Bowdler, Tim Smith-Laing as Cripple and Sophie Duncan as Mall Berry. Photo credit: Jackie Watson.

A third brother, Frank (Luke Rollason) also falls in love with Phillis but manages to hide his affection from his brothers. Calling upon a favour from the Cripple, he helps manipulate the situation to suit his own cause, winning the support of Master (Simon Tavener) and Mistress Flower (Lynn Randall) in the process. In the final scene, when the plot is revealed, Phillis must finally choose who she loves; after reflection, she chooses Frank.

Luke Rollason as Frank, Simon Tavener as Master Flower, and Edwina Currie as Phillis Flower. Photo credit: Jackie Watson
Luke Rollason as Frank, Simon Tavener as Master Flower, and Edwina Christie as Phillis Flower. Photo credit: Jackie Watson

On the one hand, this might be seen to be a fairly uncomplicated ending. Antony and Ferdinand have done nothing to suggest that they would be deserving husbands and the Cripple passes up on the opportunity to return Phillis’ love; Frank may be a somewhat underhanded and mischievous fellow, but he is also charismatic and clever. However, the production did a wonderful job of rendering such a reading problematic. The image of Phillis, surrounded by suitors, wavering before choosing Frank, was an evocative one. In the post-show discussion Tim Smith-Laing hinted at the difficulties in deciding how to play the Cripple’s reaction. Does he feign his disinterest in Phillis, or is he secretly in love with her? Is he happy about the arrangement? It’s difficult to tell, or for the actor to transmit that information, but the fact that the Cripple is a silent watcher for much of the final scene is instructive. Upon entering, he asks ‘‘Gentlemen sweet bloods, or brethren of familiarity,/I would speake with Phillis, shall I haue audience?’ (TLN 2587-8) He does not have audience; these are in fact, the last words he speaks in the play and the rest of the ending is played out around him. Some may feel glad about the prospective union of Phillis and Frank, but several spectators commented on feeling like the fair maid had made the wrong choice.

There may, then, already be misgivings among the audience before the final revelation, which causes a postponement to the festivities. Master Flower, the father of the bride-to-be, is unexpectedly arrested for (unknowingly, as it happens) possessing a stolen diamond. The play ends in infamy, as Flower says: ‘Words here are little worth, wife and friends all/Goe with me to my tryall, you shall see/A good conceit now brought to infamie’ (TLN 2690-2). In the day’s final discussion session, Caroline Barron suggested that this ending might offer a critique of the dark side of commerce; Flower is implicated in this seedy business even if not completely aware of his transgression. Again, the staging here drew out brilliantly the strangeness of the ending. The accusatory lines, spoken by Master Wood, were here delivered, to general surprise, by an audience member, Richard Proudfoot. The metatheatrical playfulness was certainly funny, but this staging also emphasised the jarring nature of the ending. The strangeness of his appearance may partly be to do with cuts made to the text, which slightly obscure the backstory of the diamond, but it was a smart and effective way to conclude this curious comedy. In the printed text, as well as in the performance, Wood emerges, like an inverse deus ex machina, not to solve a convoluted problem, but to cause one.

Upcoming Conference: The Hogge Hath Lost his Pearle

 Jointly with the English Faculty of Oxford, the Society is once again sponsoring a staged (and costumed) play-reading and mini-conference. This will take place in the splendidly re-furbished MBI Al Jaber auditorium in Corpus Christi, Oxford, which some members of the Society will remember as the Old Music Room, on Saturday 22nd September 2012. The play is Robert Tailor’s The Hogge hath lost his Pearle, which was published in a censored version in 1614 after a disastrous premiere at the Whitefriars the previous year. It was edited for the Society by D.F.McKenzie in 1967. The day’s programme will consist of a performance of the play in the morning, followed, after a light lunch, by two discussion sessions. The first will be led by Dr. Nicholas Shrimpton (Emeritus Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall), who will be playing the role of ‘Hogge’; the second by Dr. Lucy Munro (University of Keele), an expert on the children’s companies of the early Jacobean period.

For further details see the University of Oxford, Faculty of English page here.