Comus, masques, and household drama

Comus, directed by Lucy Bailey at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, autumn 2016.

What was it like to watch a masque?  In one way the most artificial of art forms, it is also paradoxically one of the most real, since participants and audience members actually knew each other.

In Lucy Bailey’s clever adaptation of Comus for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Emma Curtis’s Lady Alice wants to pull out of performing at the last moment because, as her upper-class-twit brothers helpfully explain to their father, she has a thing about Daniel (Danny Lee Wynter), the stable boy, who is playing Comus.  Lord Bridgewater (here just plain Sir John Egerton, and played by Andrew Bridgmont) is having none of this, though: as the added ancillary material, based on Barbara Breasted’s 1971 article ‘Comus and the Castlehaven Scandal’, spells out,  Alice has to play her part because she needs to be marketed as virginal and marriageable.

It is not a common strategy to make an article in Milton Studies the basis for a frame narrative, but in this instance it is a very successful one, though Alice’s final feminist statement does bring a sledgehammer to crack a nut.  Breasted’s article has not been followed exactly, though: there have been several changes to names, with the elder brother becoming William rather than John, Castlehaven himself becoming ‘Uncle Gilbert’ rather than Mervyn, and his wife, Anne, being rechristened Grace.

The fact that the younger brother, to whom the story is explained, hilariously mishears ‘sodomised a servant’ as ‘sodomised a serpent’ (don’t try it) might distract attention from these changes, but it is perhaps suggestive that Gilbert and Grace are both Talbot names (they were the two eldest children of the sixth earl of Shrewsbury, and married the son and daughter of Bess of Hardwick) and William an obviously Cavendish one.

Talbots and Cavendishes seem to have been on the mind of someone connected with the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, since the hangings over the doors are copies of ones at Hardwick Hall, and there is of course an inherent Cavendish connection to Comus since the elder brother was in real life the husband of Elizabeth Brackley.  Whether the allusion to the Cavendishes and Talbots is intended or not, though, Bailey’s Comus vividly and engagingly brings home a sense of what household theatricals might have been like, and the way in which allegorical elements such as those in The Concealed Fancies might have been in tension with the personalities and attributes of the performers.

Lisa Hopkins

14.11.2016

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Second Caroline Colloquium

The Second Caroline Colloqium at Sheffield Hallam University

Friday 15 July

Charles Street 12.5.07

(see http://www.shu.ac.uk/visit/city.html )

10 Arrival and coffee

10.15–11.15 Pavel Drabek, University of Hull, ‘Philip Massinger and the Transnational Caroline Dramaturgy’

11.15-11.30 Coffee

11.30-12.30 Domenico Lovascio, University of Genoa, ‘Julius Caesar, translatio imperii and tyranny in Jasper Fisher’s Fuimus Troes

12.30-1.15 Lunch

1.15-3 Shirley Bell, Sheffield Hallam, ‘“Go to bed, sweetheart, I’ll come to thee”: Millicent’s Trio of Bawdy Ballads in Richard Brome’s The English Moor’; Louise Powell, Sheffield Hallam, ‘Twins in John Ford’s The Broken Heart’;  Kibrina Davey, Sheffield Hallam, ‘Like Father Like Son? Mimicking Shakespearean Love and Death in William Davenant’s Albovine 

3-3.15 Tea

3.15-4 Lisa Hopkins, Sheffield Hallam, ‘Elizabethan and Jacobean Revivals on the Caroline Stage’

 

There is no conference fee but for catering purposes it would be much appreciated if anyone intending to come would let Lisa Hopkins (L.M.Hopkins@shu.ac.uk) know in advance.

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Another successful Cavendish Colloquium

Lisa Hopkins writes:

Thanks to all who spoke at the Literary Cultures of the Cavendish Family on Friday 29th April, and thanks too to Sara Jayne Steen for letting us hear Jonathan Santore’s ‘To the Lady Arabella’, a setting of praise of Arbella by Henry Constable and Aemelia Lanyer which was presented to Sara Jayne as her retirement present from Plymouth State University.

Lisa Hopkins, Sara Jayne Steen, Shirley Bell, Andy Duxfield, Crosby Stevens and Jim Fitzmaurice.  Photo courtesy of Dan Cadman.

Lisa Hopkins, Sara Jayne Steen, Shirley Bell, Andy Duxfield, Crosby Stevens and Jim Fitzmaurice. Photo courtesy of Dan Cadman.

Lisa Hopkins, Dan Cadman, Sara Jayne Steen, Shirley Bell, Andy Duxfield, Crosby Stevens

Lisa Hopkins, Dan Cadman, Sara Jayne Steen, Shirley Bell, Andy Duxfield, Crosby Stevens

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Portrait of Margaret Cavendish

A portrait of Margaret Cavendish is included at the current Cob Gallery exhibition The Art of Thought  by celebrated Russian artist Sam Kaprielov.

For the exhibit, Kaprielov has installed a selection of a vast ongoing portrait series of philosophers.

The Art of Thought is comprised of 50 plus oil on canvas portraits depicting renowned thinkers and both known and unknown, represented by the mono coloured canvases.   https://www.artsy.net/show/cob-gallery-the-art-of-thought

Margaret Cavendish

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Cavendish Colloquium

The Literary Cultures of the Cavendish Family 3

A day colloquium at Sheffield Hallam University

Friday 29 April 2016

Owen 1026

(see http://www.shu.ac.uk/visit/city.html )

 

10 Arrival and coffee

10.15 Lisa Hopkins, Sheffield Hallam University, welcome and the Cavendish project

10.30-11.30 Kate Wilkinson, Sheffield Hallam,‘“I shall as willingly play the foole for your recreation as ever”: The Bacon Frank Manuscripts and Letters Relating to the Lady Arbella Stuart’’; Lisa Hopkins, ‘Representing Arbella Stuart’

11.30-11.45 Coffee

11.45-12.45 Dan Cadman, Sheffield Hallam, ‘“To perfume / Your closet chamber, or so any room”: The Cavendish sisters and closet drama’; Jim Fitzmaurice, University of Sheffield, ‘Lady Jantil’s House in Bell in Campo and English Garden Architecture’

12.45-1.45 Lunch

1.45-3.15 Andew Duxfield, University of Liverpool, ‘“The combat of eloquence”: Verbal Expression in Margaret Cavendish’s The Unnatural Tragedy’; Richard Wood, Sheffield Hallam, ‘William Cavendish and “Gilbert that Great Earl of Shrewsbury”’

3.15-3.30 Tea

3.30-4.30 Crosby Stevens, ‘A game or in and in or crambo: William Cavendish, Bolsover Castle and The New Inn

4.30 Close

 

There is no conference fee but for catering purposes it would be much appreciated if anyone intending to come would let Lisa Hopkins (L.M.Hopkins@shu.ac.uk) know in advance.

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