Actors' Renaissance Season 2012

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Stuff that Happens
Stuff that happens before the play
  • The Kingdom of Calabria defeats the Kingdom of Sicily, displacing the royal family.
  • Prince Philaster, the rightful heir to Sicily, remains free because the people love him and will not allow his imprisonment.
  • Fearing Philaster’s power, the King of Calabria (and the usurped Sicily) plans to wed his daughter Arethusa to Pharamond, the Prince of Spain.
Stuff that happens during the play
  • The King publicly promises Arethusa and his kingdoms to Pharamond. Pharamond, in turn, promises to make the kingdoms great and praises his own abilities as a rule and a husband.
  • Philaster challenges the King in his choice of Pharamond as his son-in-law and heir, claiming that he should have this inheritance by rights.
  • In private, Princess Arethusa and Philaster reveal their love for each other but agree that they must keep in secret.
  • Prince Pharamond interrupts Arethusa and Philaster and accuses Philaster of disrespecting him.
  • After Philaster leaves, Pharamond sugests to Arethusa that they consummate their marriage before the wedding. Arethusa refuses and Pharamond states that he will find satisfaction elsewhere.
  • Philaster sends his page Bellario to serve ARethusa anddeliver their love messages.
  • Pharamond chooses Megra (one of Arethusa’s gentlewomen) as his mistress.
  • Arethusa exposes Pharamond’s dalliances with Megra to the King.
  • In revenge, Megra spreads a false rumor that Arethusa has been intimate by Bellario.
  • Deceived by the slanderous news, Philaster confronts Bellario and banishes him. Philaster then confronts Arethusa and denies his love for her.
  • Bellario, Arethusa, and Philaster meet in the woods.
  • Passions, wounded hearts, and revelations ensue.
Dr. Ralph's Brief

1. When was the play first performed?

2. Where was the play first performed?
At the Blackfriars and the Globe by the King’s Men.

3. Who wrote it?
Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. Francis Beaumont (1584-1616), the son of a prominent Leicestershire family, went to Oxford (at age 13) and later received legal training at the Inner Temple. He seems never to have practiced law but was active in London literary circles and, in 1607, he wrote The Knight of the Burning Pestle (which the ASC has produced three times). Like Beaumont, John Fletcher (1579-1625) came from a distinguished family (his father was chaplain to Queen Elizabeth) and he probably went to university. He collaborated with Shakespeare on Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen. Between 1607 and 1613, Beaumont and Fletcher teamed up to write some of the most popular plays of the day, all of them for Shakespeare’s company, the King’s Men. Their specialty was tragicomedy, plays whose romantic plots bring their heroes and heroines into great danger of dying but do not kill them. Beaumont married well and retired from the stage in 1613, but Fletcher continued as the King’s Men’s chief playwright until his death in 1625.

4. How are these playwrights like Shakespeare?
Their characters inhabit exotic worlds and explore gender and sexual politics through the convention of disguise in plays that center on romantic love.

5. How are these playwrights unlike Shakespeare? 
As in our production of their A King and No King, the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher usually work to make audiences temporarily uncomfortable, but happy in the end. Many of Shakespeare’s plays work in the opposite way.

6. What do scholars think about this play?
They think it a good example of a Beaumont and Fletcher collaboration and of “tragicomedy.”

7. Is there any controversy surrounding the work?
Th earliest publication of the play, probably in deference to King James’s politics, did not have the villain come from Spain.

8. What characters should I especially look for?
The bad guy, Prince Pharamond, and the bad girl, Megra, are deliciously predictable. The heroine, Arethusa, and the hero, Philaster, model for us the ideal courtly virtue for each gender, as Bellario, Arethusa’s page, does for both.

9. What scene should I especially look for?
For serious mischief in the forest, the hunting scene in Philaster, or Love Lies a-Bleeding outdoes anything in A Midsummer Night’s Dream – and explains the play’s title.

10. What is the language like?
Mostly verse, and, particularly in the parts of the play attributed to Beaumont, the verse has a regular ease that reminds us of Shakespeare without the complexity.