Stratford in the Summer

Pericles

 

This summer I plan to see a couple of plays in Stratford Ontario. Every summer this small sleepy town, also known as the home of Justin Bieber, has a Shakespeare festival that involves three different theatres and close to a dozen different productions. Shakespeare shares the spotlight with Broadway musicals and Restoration plays.

My first play is The Adventures of Pericles by William Shakespeare. Stratford decided to change the name of the play from the original Pericles, Prince of Tyre. As with almost every Shakespearian play, Bill stole the plot from somewhere else. In this case he took it from Confessio Amantis (1393) by John Gower, an English poet and contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer.

The play is set in Classical Greece. However, when staged in 1607, I doubt the company wore costumes from Ancient times. Stratford decided the perfect costumes for the play should set the story in Victorian England. I’ve seen stranger things done to the works of the bard.

That is not the only question about this play. How much did Shakespeare actually write? The play wasn’t included in the first Portfolio. Some scholars in the past have denied the Bard of Avon had any hand in it. Today, the general consensus is that he wrote about half.

The play’s likely co-author was George Wilkins. Who was he? Wilkins was an inn-keeper in Cow-Cross, London, an area that was “notorious as a haunt of whores and thieves”. Most biographical information about him derives from his regular appearance in criminal court records for thievery and acts of violence. Many of the charges against him involved violence against women.

Strangely enough, this work proved to be one of Shakespeare’s most popular during his lifetime.

The other play I plan to see is a comedy, ‘She stoops to Conquer’ by Oliver Goldsmith. As in most restoration comedies it involves love, marriage, and class. In this case the heroine pretends to be a servant when meeting the man her father wants to betroth her too.

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