Actors' Renaissance Season 2011

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Stuff that Happens
Stuff that happens before the play
  • Many years earlier, King Henry II utters a few words that result in the unfortunate murder of Thomas Becket. Bad karma for the King ensues.
  • Henry names his son Henry as joint King of England.
  • Skink murders Rosamond, Henry II’s mistress, at Queen Elinor’s behest.
  • Henry imprisons Elinor.
stuff that happens in the play
  • Elinor and Henry’s sons – Henry the Young King, Prince Richard (the Lionheart), and Prince John – petition to have their mother released from prison. Henry demands half of his father’s kingdom, John demands five earldoms (and more), and Richard asks permission to fight in the Holy Land.
  • The Earl of Gloucester freely speaks his mind to the royals and is sent to prison.
  • Gloucester asks Redcap, a stammering messenger, to tell his sister, Lady Marian Faukenbridge, of his imprisonment.
  • Prince Richard tells his friend Robin Hood (the Earl of Huntingdon) to visit Marian and let her know that her brother will not be imprisoned for long.
  • The forgetful Redcap meets Skink and, seizing upon the opportunity, Skink trades clothes with Redcap and assumes his identity.
  • Robin Hood and Richard visit Marian. Richard, desiring Marian’s love, is rebuffed. Marian will never be unfaithful to her husband, Lord Faukenbridge. Richard gracefully accepts his defeat.
  • Skink, disguised as Redcap, visits Gloucester in prison. Gloucester takes Skink’s coat and escapes, now disguised as Redcap.
  • Many more disguises, wondrous conversions, and peace in the kingdom ensue.
Dr. Ralph's Brief

1. When was the play first performed?

2. Where was the play first performed?
At the Rose by the Lord Admiral’s Men, the chief competitors to the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s company.

3. Who wrote it?
We don’t know.

4. How is this anonymous playwright like Shakespeare?
He likes the idea of disguise, of actors playing characters who themselves play parts (Rosalind, Henry V, Edmund, Petruchio, Viola).

5. How is this anonymous playwright unlike Shakespeare?
When it comes to disguise, one might argue that the playwright used too much of a good thing. No other play of the period has so much disguise in it. In fact, it may be that the play was also known as Disguises. Where Shakespeare’s plays might have two or three characters in disguise, all but two of the major characters in Look About You appear disguised, and Skink has eight different disguises. So, one thing to watch for in this Actors’ Renaissance Season production is how the company handles all this convention.

6. What do scholars think about this play? Perhaps because the play has not appeared on a professional stage for four centuries, scholars have had little to say about the play as a play. Interest has largely been in its handling of the Robin Hood material, and you can read a fine piece on that subject by Carole Levin in ASC’s online magazine, The Playhouse Insider. 

7. Is there any controversy surrounding the work?
Not really. Obviously the question of authorship sparks speculation, but ??????

8. What characters should I especially look for?
The play’s great master of disguise is Skink, and how can you not pay attention to a character named “Skink”? The play is most famous for having Robin Hood in it, but the Robin Hood in this play is a far cry from Errol Flynn or even Russell Crowe.

9. What scene should I especially look for?
If you like the play’s marathon disguising, then you’ll especially enjoy the scene with two different characters disguised as the same hermit. This play also shares with Gary Taylor’s reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Cardenio the distinction of an onstage game of bowls.

10. What is the language like?
The language is easy to understand. The verse is primarily iambic pentameter, mostly end-stopped (thoughts usually conclude at the end of a line) with intermittent rhyme.