16th-century portrait, Artist Unknown (ia Wikimedia Commons)

One of the most important poets and playwrights of early modern England was Christopher “Kit” Marlowe. In the emerging world of Elizabethan theatre in the late 1580’s, Marlowe’s pen was arguably the most affecting and “most admired, envied, and widely imitated playwright in London” (Kuriyama 81). But his mysterious life was cut short and his…

Roman mosaic, 2nd century CE, Palazzo Nuovo (Wikimedia Commons)

Say, pals, whaddya call a play not funny enough to be a comedy, not sad enough to be a tragedy? A history play! Just kidding. Mostly.* But really, you can put that old idea of tragicomedy in your pipe, because Beaumont and Fletcher fine-tuned a genre that deserves a better name. To get a sense…

Portrait of John Fletcher, Wikimedia Commons

As Brave Spirits Theatre prepares for our incest repertory of A King and No King with ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, we’d love for our audience to get acquainted with the playwrights behind these stories … Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher (A King and No King, printed 1619) Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher are the…

Brave Spirits Theatre; photo by Claire Kimball

From the Bible and Oedipus Rex to Game of Thrones and Taboo, incestuous relationships have appeared throughout human history, literature, and popular culture. Though we may quickly assume its moral implications today, the legal and religious definitions of incest have had a complicated past … In classical societies like ancient Greece, marriage and sexual intercourse…

Helen Mirren as Cleopatra in 1966

Woolly Mammoth’s recent production of Collective Rage: A Play in Five Boops made waves in the DC theatre community. In the play, as described by the company, “five different women named Betty collide at the intersection of anger, sex, and the ‘thea-tah.’ Award-winning playwright Jen Silverman’s absurdist romantic comedy is at once hysterical, inspired, and…

Searching for 'drunken Antony' and the 'Cleopatra...i'th' posture of a whore'

                                 The quick comedians Extemporally will stage us, and present Our Alexandrian revels. Antony Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness I’th’ posture of a whore. (Antony and Cleopatra, 5.2.212-217)1 Shakespearean scholars…

Alexandria: The City of Cleopatra

Much of Antony and Cleopatra takes place in the Egyptian capital of Alexandria and the city-state featured largely as a home base in Cleopatra’s life and reign. In the ancient world, Alexandria boasted famous landmarks and influential citizens as a seat of power and cultural renown. As the backdrop for Cleopatra’s Egypt in Shakespeare’s play,…

Enobarbus and the Mystery of the Broken Heart

When Enobarbus deserts Anthony, he leaves behind everything but his regret. ‘I have done ill,’ he says, ‘Of which I do accuse myself so sorely / That I will joy no more’ (4.6.17-19).1 When Anthony sends along his general’s treasure, increased by his own gifts, Enobarbus is stricken with grief and self-disdain: This blows my heart–…