18 February 2011

The Subject of My Own Soul's Curse

Ah, King Richard III.  No other monarch has as compelling a reason to sue Shakespeare for libel.  Richard actually wasn't the horrible, murdering, hunchback that Shakespeare painted him as.  But, Elizabeth I's grandfather Henry Tudor (who would, of course, found the Tudor dynasty as Henry VII) had to have a good villain to take down.  And my, does he have a good villian.
One of my biggest regrets about not being born a man is that I will never play Richard III.

I bring this up because it's Friday.  And Friday means Shakespeare class!  Whoop.
(btw, Bill sent me this monologue.  I do like it, but I re-discovered Anne first.)

Quick detour.  I've generally come to accept that I'm not going to have many friends this semester.  I did manage to get to know another transfer student who backed up my own field research that the theatre dept is even more cliquey than any other group I have previously had contact with.  Which is saying a lot.  Stupid 12 year-old stuff like not sitting near me or ignoring me and saying "hi" to the person next to me stuff.  I'm trying not to stress about it, but it's hard to do an emotionally-charged monologue when you feel like the people you're doing it in front of are hoping you'll drop dead.

Back to the headline of this post.

So yesterday when I was getting ready for classes I couldn't decide on what monologue to do.  I couldn't decided!  Darn you, Shakespeare!  Why did you write so many good things??

Anyways, so after going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth I decided (literally at the last second) to go with one of Anne Neville's monologues from Richard III.

Alas! poor Anne.  Anne is one of those smallish but fascinating female roles in Shakespeare that I'm dying to play.

So, some context before the monologue.
Anne Neville is the daughter of Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, aka The Kingmaker.  Warwick backed the Lancastrians and his daughter was married to the Prince of Wales, after he had originally been all buddy-buddy with the Yorks.  Oh yeah, that War of the Roses thing... her husband Edward and his father Henry VI were killed by Richard of Gloucester.  At his funeral Richard shows up and tries to seduce her.  Anne is horrified and tells him to eff off.

"Your words say 'no,' but your corseted-body says 'yes!' " A rather un-horrified Victorian Lady Anne.
Despite his revolting appearce, ol' Dicky has a way with words and Anne eventually marries him.
Big oops.
Long story short, Richard manages to murder and imprison his way to the throne.  At the time of this monologue Anne is with her friend, Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of Richard's eldest brother Edward IV, trying to visit Elizabeth's young sons in the Tower of London (the ill-fated Princes in the Tower).  They're not successful (most likely because the boys have, unbeknown to them, have been murdered on the orders of Richard).  While they're there, a messenger shows up and tells Anne she needs to hurry up and go to the coronation of her husband.  Awkward turtle.  Anne says:
And I in all unwillingness will go.
I would to God that the inclusive verge
Of golden metal that must round my brow
Were red-hot steel, to sear me to the brain!
Anointed let me be with deadly venom,
And die, ere men can say, God save the queen!
To which Elizabeth responds:
Go, go, poor soul, I envy not thy glory
To feed my humour, wish thyself no harm. 
And Anne responds with the monologue I picked:
No! why? When he that is my husband now
Came to me, as I follow'd Henry's corse [body],
When scarce the blood was well wash'd from his hands
Which issued from my other angel husband
And that dead saint which then I weeping follow'd;
O, when, I say, I look'd on Richard's face,
This was my wish: 'Be thou,' quoth I, ' accursed,
For making me, so young, so old a widow!
And, when thou wed'st, let sorrow haunt thy bed;
And be thy wife—if any be so mad—
As miserable by the life of thee
As thou hast made me by my dear lord's death!'
Lo, ere I can repeat this curse again,
Even in so short a space, my woman's heart
Grossly grew captive to his honey words
And proved the subject of my own soul's curse,
Which ever since hath kept my eyes from rest;
For never yet one hour in his bed
Have I enjoy'd the golden dew of sleep,
But have been waked by his timorous dreams.
Besides, he hates me for my father Warwick;
And will, no doubt, shortly be rid of me.
And she's right.  He poisons her not too long after so he can marry his niece Elizabeth and strengthen his claim to the throne.

To be fair to the real Richard and Anne, I feel that I should mention that the actual story is vastly different.  Anne was never married to Edward, Prince of Wales, just engaged.  In fact, her father's original plan was that she marry Richard of Gloucester, but after the whole switching-sides-thing he engaged her to the Lancastrain Prince of Wales.  Edward was killed, fair and square, during the Battle of Tewkesbury.  Anne, who was in her early teens at the time, was bundled off to live with her sister and her brother-in-law, George, Duke of Clarence.  Clarence wanted to keep the Neville estate in one piece by keeping Anne from marrying.  Despite this, Richard meet and fell in love with her.  Accounts vary, but according to a popular one, Richard managed to "rescue" Anne from his brother by spiriting her off disguised as a maid, and the two were married.  And the whole poisoning thing?  After ten or so years of marriage Anne died at the age of 29, most likely from tuberculosis, and Richard "openly wept at her funeral" (according to my Shakespeare monologue book which I can't be bothered to cite properly right now).   
Pffffft.  Minor details...

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