A group for those interested in reading William Rowley’s The Birth of Merlin! Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time through the weird and wonderful world of this fabulous play, you are welcome here to discuss (asynchronously) with friends.
Thank you so much for organising this, Nora. Getting other people’s takes definitely showed me things that I would not have picked up reading on my own.
My final thought is probably that I’m surprised at the 1622 date for this play. Its overall ‘feel’ for me is that it owes heaps to medieval morality plays, and if I’d read it without knowing I…[Read more]
I have nothing especially exciting in the way of final thoughts other than to say thanks, Nora, for organizing this. It was a lot of fun revisiting this play, and the rich variety of insights that everyone offered made it a really enlightening experience. Hope everyone is well. Keep me in the loop if you’ve got any other wacky plays you want to talk about.
Hi everybody — we did it! Thanks so much for joining in on this wacky adventure with me. It’s been such an anchor for me over the past six weeks, and I’ve learned so much from reading all of your insightful posts.
Before the reading group comes to an end, I wanted to create a space for any final thoughts: overarching themes, big questions, stuff…[Read more]
thank you, Nora, for taking us on this wacky play. It’s fascinating how utterly dissonant this play is. Often you hear of actors who aren’t in the same play, but these characters don’t all seem to be in the same play, or at least, it’s such a strange way to take part in British mythmaking. I wonder how it would play to an American audience which…[Read more]
This is a great read, Nora, thanks for arranging this, and Act Two really brings home the theatrical possibilities. The comedy holds up and it’s nice to see the sibling affection contained within it. Though of course, as has been mentioned, it was funny for me until the Prince got violent and then it was decidedly not funny. Nora started hinting…[Read more]
Thanks for these great comments. I’m coming in. on the last day of the project!
Already fascinated in Act One, by much of what has been mentioned, particularly the introductions of three seemingly important female characters so early. I too caught that Modestia gets a soliloquy in the first scene, and when reading it, I was compelled to speak it…[Read more]
Like most others here, I’m picking up this final act as a fantasy of purging the country of women. Donobert’s opportunity to bequeath his estate to two men, now his daughters have removed themselves from the picture. The installation of Uther as king and foretelling of his having a son without any mention, unless I missed it somewhere, of Igraine.…[Read more]
OK, I hate to be a pooper, but I have issues with this Act. Not with scene 5.1 (that’s a scene – wow!), but ultimately 5.2 is a bit of a squib. Of course my main complaint is, where’s my boy the Clown? How does he feel about Joan being taken away to pine away in some weird bower? Doesn’t he have any bon mots to share with us at the end? Nope, he…[Read more]
Like Peter, I was struck by the references to the devil as a hound and what seems like an obvious reference to Dog in The Witch of Edmonton. He’s not an actual dog here (Merlin references his human shape), but is he doggish?
There’s actually a ton of intertextual references to other witch/magic plays in this act. In addition to the Witch of…[Read more]
So yes, as both of you say, Pete and Nora, Act 5 seems very much a case of ‘lock/shut away or kill all the unruly women, maintain patrilinealism at all costs, and establish a quasi-androgenetic origin myth for “Britain”‘, because, of course, no one does remember Joan’s name. There is dissidence in Artesia’s laughter however as you also note.…[Read more]
Artesiaaaaaaa!!! I’ve mostly stepped away from acting, but that’s one role I’d kill to play someday.
Pete, your point about the consolidation of the male power even in the absence of the daughters in the romance plot made me remember the end of The Changeling (also written by Rowley), in which Alsemero ostentatiously declares to his…[Read more]
What a climax! I love 5.1.
The moment that stands out in my memory from the Read Not Dead reading was the final confrontation between the Devil and Merlin. I mentioned this in a previous thread, but those of you who know James Wallace will hopefully be able to imagine his voice as he channelled Inigo Montoya and Darth Vader in a low, slow, snarl…[Read more]
“The child has found his father. Do you not know me?”
It’s Act Five! We’re coming to the end of this wild and wacky adventure.
I have SO MANY thoughts about this act, but I noticed for the first time, as I re-read it for today, that literally all the women are gone by the end in one way or another. Picking up on Anna’s comment from the Act 4…[Read more]
Alas, some aspect of my system absolutely refuses to let me post a picture, so instead of a witty, thowaway visual I am forced to included a laboured attachment, that hopefully is still worth a laugh.
I am completely staggered in this play by how they chose to use a pair of nubile ingénues. I kept expecting them to turn up again and have some…[Read more]
Oh! And Pete, I love your point that magicians can be author-proxies. This is really interesting given that Rowley plays the Clown. If you’re right, he’s kind of fighting with himself. Shutting himself up.
Or if the play is a collaboration, maybe the Clown is Rowley and Merlin is Webster???
Pete, thanks for those fantastic suggestions about the Clown/Joan/Merlin relationship. Love the idea that it’s kind of a meta battle over what kind of play this is.
Anything that can help me like Acts 4 and 5 more is very gratefully received!
Yes, I think that’s getting at it, Dave! Identity is a very complex thing in this play (I think this speaks to some of what Ellie’s talking about in this thread and the Act 4 thread with the ambiguous beard / masculine patrilineal anxieties as well). And I think it’s significant that our “big baddie” (the Devil) is racialized whereas the Saxons…[Read more]
More beard reflections. I’m sorry – but Merlin’s beard is mentioned 4 or 5 times in 4.1., it’s clearly important! It becomes evident in this scene that his beard is too manly for his stature I think – the Gentlemen call him a “small gentleman” for instance, so there appears to be a mismatch between his height and his hair. It strikes me that there…[Read more]
Anna – just a right-click copy-and-paste worked for me!
David – love this: ‘In his Catalogue, Martin Wiggins points out that since the dragons are able to stop and start fighting on cue, they are probably performed by actors in costume.’ And there was me thinking they’d trained real dragons (young ones of course) – maybe they used those in court…[Read more]
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