The Fashion Is the Fashion 4: The Journey of Romeo and Juliet

I’ve seen four live productions of Romeo and Juliet, (5 if you include West Side Story). I’ve also watched four films (6 if you include West Side Story and Gnomio and Juliet) and one thing that I’ve noticed again and again, and again is that you can tell the whole story of the play with clothing. This is a story about families who are part of opposite factions whose children secretly meet, marry, die, and fuse the families into one, and their clothes can show each step of that journey.

The feud
Nearly every story about a conflict or war uses contrasting colors to show the different factions. Sometimes even real wars become famous for the clothes of the opposing armies. The Revolutionary War between the redcoats and the blue and gold Continentals, the American Civil War between the Rebel Grays and the Yankee Bluebellies. In almost every production I’ve ever seen, the feud in Romeo and Juliet is also demonstrated by the opposing factions wearing distinctive clothing.

Guelphs and Ghibellines - Wikipedia


Historically, warring factions in Itally during the period the original Romeo and Juliet is set, wore distinctive clothes and banners as well. . In this medieval drawing, you can see Italians in the Ghibelline faction, who were loyal to the Holy Roman Empire, fighting the Guelph faction (red cross), who supported the Pope. Powerful families were constantly fighting and taking sides in the Guelf vs. ghibelines conflict in Verona, which might have inspired the Capulet Montegue feud in Romeo and Juliet.


Even the servants of the nobles got roped into these conflicts, and they literally wore their loyalties on their sleeves. The servants wore a kind of uniform or livery to show what household they belonged to. The servants Gregory and Sampson owe their jobs to Lord Capulet, and are willing to fight to protect his honor. Perhaps Shakespeare started the play with these servants to make this distinction very obvious. Here’s a short overview on Italian Liveries from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/86582


In 1966, director Franco Zepherelli set a trend with his iconic use of color in his movie. He chose to make the Capulets wear warm tones while the Montegues wore blue and silver. Juliet (Olivia Hussey) wore a gorgeous red dress that made her look youthful, passionate, and lovely, while Tybalt (Michael York), wore red, orange, and black to emphasize his anger, and jealousy (which has been associated for centuries with the color orange). By contrast, the Montagues like Romeo (Leonard Whiting) wore blue, making him look peaceful and cool. These color choices not only clearly indicate who belongs to which contrasting factions, but also help telegraph the character’s personalities. Look at the way these costumes make the two lovers stand out even when they’re surrounded by people at the Capulet ball:

Dance scene from the iconic 1968 film of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
Gnomeo & Juliet - Wikipedia


Zepherilli’s color choices were most blatantly exploited in the kids film Gnomio and Juliet, where they did away with the names Capulet and Montegue altogether, and just called the two groups of gnomes the Reds and the Blues.

The Dance


To get Romeo and Juliet to meet and fall in love, Shakespeare gives them a dance scene for them to meet and fall in love. He further makes it clear that when they first meet, Romeo is in disguise. The original source Shakespeare used made the dance a carnival ball, (which even today is celebrated in Italy with masks). Most productions today have Romeo wearing a mask or some other costume so that he is not easily recognizable as a Montague. Masks are a big part of Italian culture, especially in Venice during Carnival:


In the 1996 movie, Baz Luhrman creates a bacchanal costume party, where nobody wears masks but the costumes help telegraph important character points. Mercutio is dressed in drag, which not only displays his vibrant personality but also conveniently distracts everyone from the fact that Romeo is at the Capulet party with no mask on.


Capulet is dressed like a Roman emperor, which emphasizes his role as the patriarch of the Capulet family. Juliet (Claire Danes) is dressed as an angel, to emphasize the celestial imagery Shakespeare uses to describe her. Finally, Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) is dressed as a crusader knight because of the dialogue in the play when he first meets Juliet:

Romeo. [To JULIET] If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:720
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Juliet. Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,725
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.
Romeo. Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Juliet. Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
Romeo. O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.730
Juliet. Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.
Romeo. Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.
Juliet. Then have my lips the sin that they have took.
Romeo. Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!735
Give me my sin again.
Juliet. You kiss by the book. Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene V, Lines 719-737.

Notice that Romeo calls Juliet a saint, and later an angel in the famous balcony scene, which explains her costume at the ball. Juliet refers to Romoe as a Pilgrim, which is a cheeky comment on his crusader knight costume. In the Crusades, crusader knights made pilgrimages to the holy land, with the hope that God (and presumably, his angels) would forgive their sins. Romeo’s name even means “Pilgrim.” Luhrman makes clever nods to Shakespeare’s text by dressing Romeo and Juliet in this way, and gives the dialogue a bit of a playful roleplay as the characters make jokes about each other’s costumes- Romeo hopes that he will go on a pilgrimage and that this angel will take his sin with a kiss.


In Gnomio and Juliet, the titular characters meet in a different kind of disguise. Rather than going to a dance with their family, they are both simultaneously trying to sneak into a garden and steal a flower, so they are both wearing black, ninja-inspired outfits. Their black clothing helps them meet and interact without fear of retribution from their parents (since they do not yet know that they are supposed to be enemies. The ninja clothes also establishes that for these two gnomes, love of adventure unites them. Alas though, it doesn’t last; Juliet finds out that Gnomio is a Blue, when they both accidentally fall in a pool, stripping their warpaint off and revealing who they are.

Trailer for “West Side Story,” (2021) directed by Steven Spielberg.


Sometimes the dance shows a fundamental difference between the lovers and the feuding factions. West Side Story is a 20th-century musical that re-imagines the feuding families as juvenile street gangs, who like their Veronese counterparts, wear contrasting colors. The Jets (who represent the Montagues) wear Blue and yellow, while the Sharks (Capulets), wear red and black. The gang members continue wearing these colors on the night of the high school dance, except for Tony and Maria (the Romeo and Juliet analogs). In most productions I’ve seen, (including the 2021 movie), these young lovers wear white throughout the majority of the play, to emphasize the purity of their feelings, and their rejection of violence. Thus, unlike Shakespeare’s version of the story, West Side Story makes the lovers unquestionably purer are more peaceful than Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and their clothing makes this clear.

Romeo (John Warren), meets Juliet (Alesia Lawson) in the 2010 Ashland University production of “Romeo and Juliet,” directed by Ric Goodwin.

The Merging of the family
(8:30-11:00)


Costume Designer Charlene in the 2006 AU production deliberately had the characters change clothes when they get married. Juliet was wearing the same iconic red dress as Olivia Hussey for the first two acts of the play but then changed into a pale blue gown that matches Romeo. The clothes re-enforce the idea that the marriage represents Romeo and Juliet abandoning their family’s conflicts, and simply showing their true colors.

Two sets of costumes for Juliet in the 2006 Ashland University Production. Pull the slider bar left to see how Juliet’s costume changes from the start of the show to the end.


Another way of getting everyone in the family to subconsciously unite in grief would be to costume everyone wearing black except Romeo and Juliet. At the end of the play, The Capulets are already mourning Juliet, (because she faked her death in Act IV), and the Montegues are already mourning Lady Montegue (who died offstage). Just by these circumstances, everyone could come onstage wearing black, uniting in their grief, which is further solidified when they see their children dead onstage.

Not all productions choose to costume the characters like warring factions, but nevertheless, any theatrical production’s costumes must telegraph something about the characters. In these production slides for a production I worked on in 2012, the costumes reflect the distinct personality of each character and show a class difference between the Montagues and the Capulets.


The 2013 Film: Costumes Done Badly


The 2013 movie is more concerned with showing off the beauty of the actor’s faces, and the literal jewels than the clothes:

Most of the actors and costumes are literally in the dark for most of the film, probably because the film was financed by the Swarofski Crystal company, who literally wanted the film to sparkle. Ultimately, like most jewelry, I thought the film was pretty to look at, but the costumes and cinematography had little utilitarian value. The costumes and visual didn’t tell the story efficiently, but mainly was designed to distract the audience with the beauty of the sets, costumes and the attractive young actors. The only thing I liked was a subtle choice to make Juliet’s mask reminiscent of Medusa, the monster in Greek Myth, who could turn people to stone with a look. I liked that the film was subtly implying that love, at first sight, can be lethal.

Chinese New Year post: China and Shakespeare

Happy Chinese New Year Everyone!

As I said in my “Is Shakespeare Being Cancelled?” post, there is a long tradition of using Shakespeare as the epitome of creative arts, especially in England. For centuries, British imperialists have justified their subjugation of other cultures by claiming that English culture is superior, and Shakespeare became an unknowing cog in the machinery of cultural imperialism.

Since it is pretty much impossible to de-throne Shakespeare, one response that other cultures have used is to elevate their own artists to Shakespearean status. People are already calling Lin-Manuel Miranda the American Shakespeare, and there have been many other Shakespeares around the globe (Feng). Thre’s nothing wrong with this; after all, every culture has its own cultural heroes and they help embody what

One other response to cultural imperialism is of course, to reject it, and since its inception, the Communist Party has sought to exclude, belittle, and suppress access to Western imperialist art. Shakespeare was banned during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, and even today the Communist Party is quicker to elevate artists likely to praise Chinese artists as being “Shakespearean,” than to praise Shakespeare directly. Just last year, President Xi Xinping officially declared that poet Tang Xianzu was “The Chinese Shakespeare.”

To be fair, Tang XIanzu was Shakespeare’s contemporary and there are some startling similarities between the themes and ideas expressed by the two poets:

China has produced some wonderful ballets, operas, and poetry so it makes sense that even though the government has suppressed Shakespeare in the past, the Chinese people have expressed a love of Shakespeare for over a century. As early as 1903, Chinese intellectuals started reading and translating Shakespeare and the first Chinese adaptation of Shakspeare was a rhymed ballad version of Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene written by Deng Yizhe in 1910 (Sun, 1932). Today productions of Shakespeare are very popular in China and Shakespeare has facilitated a fascinating cultural exchange between east and west.

In addition to Chinese students encountering Shakespeare in the classroom, and the popularity of theater productions of Shakespeare in China, there are some fascinating efforts for English and Chinese speaking audiences to use Shakespeare as a bridge to cultural understanding. Right now, plans are underway to build a replica of Shakespeare’s birthplace in the southern Chinese city of Fuzhou. Meanwhile in Stratford Upon Avon, the government of Fuzhou gave a statue of Tang Xianzu and statue to be featured prominently in the garden of the actual Shakespeare birthplace on Henley Street (Woodings).

Professor, Sir Stanley Wells, Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust with Wu Jianchun, Executive Vice Mayor of Fuzhou Municipal Government stand in front of a stature of Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu.

In addition, Royal Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Greg Doran, (former husband of the great RSC actor Antony Sher), has spearheaded a number of outreach projects designed to translate Shakespeare’s The Tempest into a format better suited for theater productions in China. The final show, which premiered in 2018, was not only a successful collaboration between east and western artist, but the production, with its themes of freedom and liberty, was likely to ruffle feathers in the Chinese government, according to (Yuan Yang).

Gallery of photos from the RSC’s translation of “The Tempest,” which premiered in Beijing at the National Center For the Performing Arts in 2018.

In Xi’s closely controlled China, The Tempest’s themes of liberty and identity clearly carry political ideas at odds with the ruling party — “thought is free”, the sprite Ariel sings. The implicit challenge to the status quo extended from the ideas to the production itself at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. It offered new freedoms to the Chinese actors from the centre’s in-house theatre ensemble. Under the guidance of director Tim Supple, this was the first time they had been invited to experiment with performance and alter the text.

Yuang Yang. “The Bard in Beijing: how Shakespeare is subverting China”

To sum up, every culture has been exposed to Shakespeare, and many have found ways to re-interpret him, appropriate him, and use him as a tool of cultural appropriation. This is neither good nor bad, it just is. It is. What is interesting is that China has taken Shakespeare from a tool of imperialism into a tool of both multiculturalism, and occasionally, as a subversion of their government. Studying the way other China and cultures have interpreted Shakespeare is a window into the values of those cultures and thus, helps to further build a global community.

Below is a scene from a Chinese opera version of Hamlet for your viewing pleasure!

WOrks Cited

Podcasts

https://www.folger.edu/shakespeare-unlimited/tang-xianzu-china#:~:text=ALEXA%20ALICE%20JOUBIN%3A%20There’s%20no,it’s%20not%20a%20recent%20phenomenon.

Journals:

Yanna Sun. Shakespeare Reception in China. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, Vol. 2, No. 9, pp. 1931-1938, September 2012 © 2012 ACADEMY PUBLISHER Manufactured in Finland.

Qi-Xin He: China’s Shakespeare.

Shakespeare QuarterlyVol. 37, No. 2 (Summer, 1986), pp. 149-159 (11 pages)Published By: Oxford University Press. Retreived online from jstor.com.

Web:

Laurie Chen: China’s replica of Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-upon-Avon coming in 2022. South China Morning Post. Originally published October 2nd, 2018. Retrieved online from: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2166635/work-start-soon-chinese-replica-shakespeares-birthplace-literary.

Simon Woodings: Tang Xianzu statue Unveiled at Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Stratford Upon Avon Herald. Originally published April 27th, 2017. Retrieved online from: https://www.stratford-herald.com/news/tang-xianzu-statue-unveiled-at-shakespeare-s-birthplace-9138327/

China’s Love Affair With Shakespeare Retreived 1/29/22 from https://www.barrons.com/articles/chinas-love-affair-with-shakespeare-51585137600

Yuan Yang. The Bard in Beijing: how Shakespeare is subverting China. Financial Times. October 5th, 2018. Retrieved online from https://www.ft.com/content/cd997246-c57b-11e8-bc21-54264d1c4647

Watch “New Outschool Course: Shakespearean Stage Combat” on YouTube

Class Experience

This 7 part class is geared towards students who have taken my class or some other combat class in the past. We will go in-depth into how to train for, rehearse, and perform a fight from a Shakespeare play. We'll cover fight safety, footwork, proper cuing, and selling the fight. I will also contextualize the fights in "Romeo and Juliet," (the play with more fights than any other in Shakespeare), to explain how the Elizabethans felt about violence, and what this play says about violence in our own time. 

The class will mostly be up-on- your feet demonstrations with me in front of the camera and the students mirroring my movements, but there will also be handouts, websites, and video presentations to help supplement what I say.

Class Structure:
Week of March 5th: Background on swords/ sword crafts
-We will learn about the history of swords from ancient military weapons, to the instrument of private dueling. We’ll also cover the culture of duelling that permeated 17th century Europe, as well as the text of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The class will conclude with me instructing the kids how to make a practice sword themselves!

Week of March 12: Proper Footwork/ Stances For Sword Combat-
We’ll cover proper stance and en guard positions
We’ll practice advances and retreats
We’ll show you how to do a lunge and the footwork involved.
We’ll incorporate advances and retreats with simple high-low parries and cuts.

Week of March 19th : Cuts, Swipes, and Thrusts
You’ll learn the lines of attack and defense
You’ll learn the proper way to hold a blade and deliver realistic-looking cuts.
Learn how to thrust (online and offline)

Week of March 26th: Parries and other defensive moves
We’ll cover the 6 basic parries to stop an attacker’s blade.
We’ll also cover ducking, avoidances, and

Week April 2nd: Fight Rehearsal 1
We’ll assign roles for the fight between Mercutio, Tybalt and Romeo in Act III I of "Romeo and Juliet." The students will then get a fight
script, and you can practice the fight at ½ speed. We will also explain the concept of Cue-Reaction-Action: A basic stage combat principle/process used to achieve a safe and dramatically effective sequence of events.
We will discuss the importance of eye contact and cuing to ensure that the combatants know what to expect at all times.

Week of April 9th: Fight practice 2
- We'll go through a warm-up fight drill
- We'll rehearse the fight at 3/4 speed to make sure you understand all the moves.
- We'll Incorporate acting into the fight- selling pain, anger, and fear. Use distance to show character relationships.

Week of April 16th: Final Fight performance
- We'll go through a warm-up fight drill again
- We'll rehearse the fight at 3/4 speed again to make sure you understand all the moves.
-We’ll pretend we’re doing this fight for an audience at ¾ speed. If need be, I’ll play one of the aggressors and you can do the fight pretending I’m in the room with you.
At the end of class, I’ll show you a similar fight from my production of Romeo and Juliet and we’ll discuss the differences between our fight and the one I showed the students. Finally, we will discuss the way Shakespeare portrays violence in the play and its relevance in our world.

Click here to register for this course:

https://outschool.com/classes/shakespearean-stage-combat-TyjzafsK?usid=MaRDyJ13&signup=true&utm_campaign=share_activity_link

Get $10 off my class "Shakespearean Stage Combat" with coupon code HTHES13UPF10 until Apr 24, 2022. Get started at https://outschool.com/classes/shakespearean-stage-combat-TyjzafsK and enter the coupon code at checkout.

Movie Review: Disney’s “Encanto”- “King Lear” with a happy ending. 



If you read my blog for an extended period of time, or if you listen to my podcasts, or if you’ve taken any of my classes online, then  I probably  told you the notion that I believe that you could find Shakespearean roots in just about every single work of Western and quite a few of Eastern literature. Shakespeare is ingrained in our culture and therefore a lot of his influence can be felt in almost every bit of media we take in.  One of my favorite ways to illustrate this, is by looking at Disney movies, trying to prove that every Disney story is at least a little bit inspired by a Shakespeare play as you’ve seen from my comedy series if Shakespeare wrote for Disney:

I had an enormous challenge on my hands when Disney came out with the new film Encanto. Previously I’ve found it very easy to deconstruct Disney film plots and spot their Shakespearean roots: Pocahontas is Romeo and Juliet by Disney’s own admission, Aladdin is basically the Tempest, Mulan is Twelfth Night, and the Lion King is Hamlet, as many people have pointed out.

Encanto was really really hard because it is such a fresh and original story. It is deeply rooted in Columbian culture, so trying to defend the notion that it has anything in common with the works of a 400 year old English male playwright is a tough claim. I don’t mean to suggest that this movie is a deliberate reinterpretation of Shakespeare. That would be insulting and limiting to the breadth of the story. My main purpose with this post is to show how universal and powerful these two stories are- to pay Encanto the compliment that, like Shakespeare, the story transcends cultural and historical boundaries and tells a story we can all relate to, and this is why I am making this bold claim, that Encanto resembles King Lear, albeit with a happy ending.

It was hard for me to realize that  Encanto resembles  Lear because the Lear character is not the focus of the movie; the focus of the movie is the Cordelia character Mirabelle if you’ve read King Lear or then you know that Cordelia is vital to the first 2 scenes of the play, and then goes offstage until Act 4 when where she is reunited with her father in prison, then cures his madness just long enough for her to be hanged. Her death is the darkest, grimmest, bleakest moment that  Shakespeare ever wrote. She is the heart of the play and Lear’s failure to listen to her forms the heart of the play’s message;  when an older generation clings to power and power or money or status or anything else besides their family, ultimately they suffer tremendously.

  In his first line of the play King Lear, the king says that he wants to give up his kingdom, conferring it to his daughters and their husbands, but what he is really trying to do is to get his daughters to say they love him and to give them the kingdom as a reward.

This deal also has more strings attached;   Lear basically says: “Now that I’ve given you my kingdom, you have to house me in your castle with a retinue of a 100 knights.” And the only child who really loves Lear and has his best interest in hearts is Cordelia, and Lear violently disclaims yet disclaims her and and renounces his permit his parental claims on her and yeah and since and since her and banishes her from the kingdom along with her husband the king of France.

So who is the king Lear figure in the Encanto? Abuela Alma! Think about it, she is a woman who is spending the whole play clinging and holding on to the power that the Magic Candle gives to her. she spends the whole movie trying to protect the Encanto, and when she mistakenly believes that Mirabelle is a threat, she pushes her away. Her other children Papa, Julietta, and Bruno she rules with an iron fist, and she flies into panics and rages whenever anything seems to threaten the safety of the candle. For example, when Bruno gets the magic prophecy that Mirabelle might destroy the house and destroy the Encanto,  Abuela refuses to let Mirabelle talk to anybody ever and generally acts in a cruel controlling way.

Look at this passage when Lear rejects his loving daughter Cordellia. Given what I’ve mentioned- the fists of rage, the clinging to supernatural powers, and the controlling demands for loyalty and obedience from his children, who does King Lear sound like?

Lear: 
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate and the night;
By all the operation of the orbs115
From whom we do exist and cease to be;
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee from this for ever. The barbarous Scythian,120
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighbour'd, pitied, and reliev'd,
As thou my sometime daughter. King Lear, Act I, Scene i.

As Ian McKellen explains in this interview, like Abuella, Lear clings to power, which he derives from supernatural forces, ignores people who care about him, and believes that his authority is absolute:

Power and violence in Encanto and King Lear

Marxist critics  believe that Lear’s power s is based on violence like most medieval kings and violence is actually connected to abuela as well. Let’s not forget that the candle was forged after the faceless Men with machetes attempted to murder abuela and her whole village. The candle is Abuela’s power, but it is also a constant reminder of the violence that she escaped. It is also therefore a symbol of her trauma. Perhaps these characters became so controlling  and distant and cold because of the trauma they endured. Lear is supposed to be a king of Britain back in the pre Christian era of the Anglo Saxos; he must have seen countless invasions:

The former king says himself that he’s fought in wars with his good biting falchion (a kind of sword). Whether they’ve seen falchions or machetes, these characters have seen violence and want to protect themselves against seeing the pain of it again, and ultimately it is their children that suffer because of it.

In King lear the kingdom is ripped apart between the 3 daughters and in Encanto, the house is literally ripped apart by the rift between the family and Abuela. Lear foolishly tries to bribe his daughters into flattering him; promising them the kingdom if they demonstrate how much they love him. Therefore Lear demands obedience and love and expects his family to fawn on him as if they were his subjects, not his family.

Lear’s favorite daughter Cordelia refuses to take the bribe and cannot put her love into words, so she says nothing. Lear is enraged and treats this small disobedience like an act of treason:

Act 1 Scene ii: Lear disowns Cordelia

Arguably Abuella makes the same mistake. She treats her children as her subjects too and exploits their gifts in order to keep the community happy. Her fear of losing her home is the reason she pushes them all to be indispensable to the community. Think of the psychological and physical pressure Louisa mentions in her song:

Much like Lear and Cordelia, Mirabelle and Abuela argue about how her clinging to the past is hurting her family and how the pressure she puts on them is literally ripping their home and family apart:

Perhaps the biggest connective motif between Encanto and King Lear is the the motif of sight and sightlessness. Both Lear and Lord Gloucester are blind to the danger that they’re in and blind to who their real friends and enemies are. Lear trusts his 2 elder daughters because they flatter him, he trusts his drunken Knights who only succeed in getting him forced out of the cold. Conversely, Lear ignores Cordelia. who really loves him, as well as  Kent, who is a loyal nobleman to the very end, and he ignores the Fool because he’s a fool.  If he had heeded any of their advice he would not have died alone and powerless. Therefore his sightlessness is a deadly weakness.

Gloucester, the other old man character in Lear has another problem with sightlessness and his is much more literally.  Gloucester’s bastard son Edmond deceives him into thinking that his  legitimate son Edgar is plotting to kill him. The old man sends Edgar away, makes Edmund his heir, and then Edmond betrays him and gets him arrested for treason.

In the play’s most savage scene, Gloucester is tortured and his eyes are literally pulled out of his head.  From this moment  Gloucester finally sees Edmond’s treachery, and he laments that he stumbled when he saw. Gloucester feels like he is finally able to see clearly now that he is blind not unlike  the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex.

of course  nothing this gruesome can be shown in a Disney movie but the image of sight is constantly referenced in Encanto visually, and also through the lyrics of the songs. Even the name of the character; Mirabelle comes from the Spanish word ‘mira’ which means to look, and the first thing one might notice about her is  her brightly painted green glasses, which constantly draw attention to her ability to see.

Disney Encanto Mirabel Madrigal Kids Glasses Cosplay Accessory Prop
Mirabelle, with a replica of her glasses.

Mirabelle, like Cordelia is able to see that her family is in pain, she sees that her family, the Encanto, and the house is a danger while Abuela is constantly deluding herself and everybody else in thinking that nothing is yet wrong. Through the course of the movie, Mirabelle is able to fix the various problems she sees. For instance, she sees that her sister Louisa is taking on too many responsibilities and refusing to admit that she is tired and feels weak. She realizes that her sister Isabella is tired of being the perfect golden child, that her  Uncle Bruno is not the monster that the family declare him to is be layer him to be, (however catchy their song about him is), and It is through her sight and her perceptiveness that Mirabelle is able to heal the wounds in her family, The last wounds that she heals, of course, are the cracks on her house, and her own Abuella’s wounds, the wounds that went deep through her and even deep through her house; she mends the problems that happened the instant that that candle came into being,

Notice how many times the words “look,” and “see” are mentioned in the lyrics. Mirabelle re-iterates how each person in her family is more than their gifts, more than just the roles Abuella put them in, and they respond by telling her to look at her own gifts and be proud of who she is. She heals them by seeing them as they are, and they heal her by seeing her too.

It was when I realized this that I understood that this movie is what would have happened if King Lear had only listened to the people who really cared about him, and did not succumb to idle flattery, if he did not let his pain and his trauma dictate the rest of his life. There’s a wonderful hopeful message here that family wounds can be healed if we take time to see and address them. If you read King Lear and then see the movie you can see both how these family wounds can be healed, and the tragic consequences if they are not.

I hope that this little post has helped you appreciate both works because they are both magnificent and they are both carefully constructed and they both tell a very simple lesson for all families. As families, we need to recognize our faults, forgive faults in others, and work together to mend the pain and suffering that we experience in our lives. Mirabell and Cordelia show that we can all be heroes if we see the truth, and speak what they feel not what they ought to say.

FMI

https://www.rsc.org.uk/shakespeare-learning-zone/king-lear/character/analysis#king-lear

Gloucester and His Sons, PBS Learning Media: Shakespare Uncovered: witf.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/shak15.ela.lit.gloucester/gloucester-and-his-sons-king-lears-subplot-shakespeare-uncovered/?student=true

James Earl Jones in King LEar at Shakespeare In the Park, 1974. In my opinion, this is the BEST version of “King Lear” on film.

New Outschool Course: “An Immersive Guide To Romeo and Juliet.”

course image: Immersive Guide To Romeo and Juliet

I’m very proud to announce that just in time for Valentines’ Day, I’m offering a course of classes about Shakespeare’s most popular play about love. The play will include fight choreography, dramatic readings, games, escape rooms, and an activity where the students create their own Shakespearean insults!

Course Description:

We’ll engage with the play with thoughtful discussion.

You’ll go on a virtual tour to the Globe Theater!

You’ll play detective and solve a Shakespearean murder!

Instead of just reading the play "Romeo and Juliet," this class will actively delve into the world of the play through a combination of lectures, dramatic readings, virtual field trips, online quizzes and activities, and finally, a digital escape room to test the student's knowledge of the play and its ideas. Each class is ala carte, meaning that once you take one class, you choose whether to stop at one class or continue onwards. Each class will delve into a different theme, literary device, and historical concept in the play:

Class Structure:

Class 1: Why Read Romeo and Juliet?
- The teacher will decode the Prologue of Romeo and Juliet and tell the basic story of the play
- We will explain dramatic irony through looking at the prologue,
- The teacher will explain why Shakespeare used poetry in the play, instead of just writing in common prose
- We will discuss why we still read Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet in particular.

Class 2: Foils and Fights 
- The learner will learn about the culture of dueling and sword fighting that was rampant in the 17th century.
- The teacher will explain and the learner will learn to recognize character foils in the play like Romeo and Friar Laurence
- We will cover the topic of antithesis- how opposite imagery permeates the play.
- We will discuss figurative language through insults and the students will have a contest to see who can craft the best Elizabethan insults!

Class 3: Acts 1& 2- The Language of Love and Hate
- We will recap how insults work- hyperbole and metaphor used to make someone seem the worst, the smallest, the ugliest, the dumbest, etc.
- We'll examine passages from Act II that show how these techniques apply to wooing and expressing love through metaphor, hyperbole, and allusions.
- The teacher will explain what a sonnet is and how Shakespeare uses them repeatedly in "Romeo and Juliet"
- We will discuss staging the famous Balcony Scene of Romeo and Juliet and ask if it's possible to do so in a virtual environment.

Class 3:  Act 3 fighting 💪 swordplay and plague imagery 
The teacher will explain the plot structure of Elizabethan tragedies and explain that Act III is the climax of the play. 
We will recap  the events that led to the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt
The teacher will unpack Mercutio’s famous curse "A plague on both your houses," which is a foreshadowing, and the climax of the action.
The class will end with a short, safe demonstration of stage fighting where the students may choose to enact Mercutio's fight with Tybalt and/ or Romeo's fight with Tybalt.

Class 4: Act 4 antithesis and dramatic irony 
We will talk about the imagery in Act IV, scene 1, which foreshadows the end of the play. I will also do a dramatic re-enactment of Juliet's soliloquy in Act IV, 
We'll go on a virtual field trip to an Elizabethan wedding.
The teacher will historical context of the black death and its relevance to the play and Shakespeare's life.

Class 5: The final curtain
We will discuss Act V of the play and how so many forces seemed to be out of Romeo and Juliet's control, pushing them apart. We will also discuss whether or not Friar Laurence should be punished for encouraging Romeo and Juliet to disobey their parents.

Class 6: Performance then and Now
The teacher will perform in character as William Shakespeare, and teach the students how to act like real Elizabethan actors. This will include a virtual tour of the Globe Theater, a virtual costume fitting, stage fighting lessons, and DIY Elizabethan crafts. The teacher will then engage the class by discussing different adaptations, sequels, and spin-offs of Romeo and Juliet, in order to illustrate how popular and long-lasting this story is. The students will watch and discuss clips from various movies, plays, and ballets based on Romeo and Juliet. The instructor will conclude by sharing his own experience acting in Romeo and Juliet three times as The Prince, Friar Laurence, and Peter.

Class 7: 
Final project- CSI ROMEO AND JULIET STYLE
The class will play the role of a detective trying to solve the mystery of Juliet's death in Act IV, (when she actually takes the sleeping potion). (S)he doesn't know what happened but must piece together clues hidden in a digital escape room, such as handwritten notes, blog posts, receipts from "The Apothecary," etc. The clues will not only test the student's knowledge of the play, but their understanding of metaphor, verse, Elizabethan history, and more! In the end, the Detective will be the one who tells Lord and Lady Capulet the true story of what happened to Juliet. To unlock the digital escape room, the students will decode messages hidden in the clues and enter them into a Google Form. 

First course runs from February 2nd to March 19th, 7PM EST. If you can’t make it to this section, I can schedule one for you.

Register here: https://outschool.com/classes/an-immersive-guide-to-romeo-and-juliet-M4EdgCM5#usMaRDyJ13

Making Of THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH – Behind The Scenes & Interview With Denzel Washington

If you’re as excited about this adaptation as I am, consider signing up for my “Macbeth” class this weekend on Outschool.com. I’ve got slots available for Saturday, January 22nd, at 1PM EST. For details, click here: