Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Journey to Richard II: Part 15

Richard II
Shakespeare & Co., Lenox, MA
July 2013
Much Ado About Nothing includes one of the most wrenching scenes in all of Shakespeare--and in a comedy! Of course, Shakespeare knew that darkness and light dance together in their unpredictable choreography throughout our lives. And so it is that there is humor in his grimmest tragedies  (the gravediggers in Hamlet), and gravity in the funniest comedies (near the end of Love's Labour's Lost comes news of a loved one's death).

There are actually two wedding scenes in Much Ado. In the first, the young groom, Claudio, destroys the service when he accuses his bride, Hero--in front of everyone, in the middle of the service--of having sex with another man just the night before. This is false, of course. The bitter "villain" of the story, Don John, has fooled Claudio, staging a scene for him late at night. Indignant, Claudio and his friends stalk out of the wedding (one of them has just called Hero "a common stale [prostitute]"). Hero faints. Even her father initially believes the lie. Not exactly a Bride's magazine ideal nuptial, is it?

The Friar suggests they make everyone think Hero has died (sound familiar, Romeo and Juliet fans?); they do; the truth comes out; Claudio repents--and agrees, as part of his penance, to marry Hero's "cousin," sight unseen. And so he does--finding out at the end of the ceremony that it's actually Hero he's just married--Hero, who's forgiven him. (By this time, the principal characters, Benedick and Beatrice, have also agreed to marry--so a double wedding's about to commence--though Benedick insists they all dance first. And that's how the play ends, with a dance of joy.)

Hero's supreme act of forgiveness always bothered my students--especially the girls, I think, one of whom cried out right in class one year as we were reading the script: Why would she forgive him?!  Indeed.  Why?  That, I think, will have to be the content for another post one of these days.

Anyway, the kids were curious about what an Elizabethan wedding service would be like, so I decided we would have one. We randomly picked the bride and groom (I got to officiate!); I gave them copies of the 1559 edition of The Book of Common Prayer; we read the wedding ritual and talked about it (Link to the BCP). Then one day in class we went out onto the school stage and enacted the ritual--and I reminded the kids, of course, that I had no legal authority to perform a marriage, so, don't worry, you're not actually married!

The 8th graders took it all very seriously--surprising me, I guess. And I actually found the whole experience quite moving. The picture below shows the "cast" of the ceremony one year--early-mid 90s? Someone will have to tell me what year it was. Obviously, we don't seem to have dressed up all that much, either ...

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