“Baleful Weeds and Precious-juiced Flowers” A Talk by Louis Fantasia

Speaking on Plants and the Canon

Speaking on Plants and the Canon

If  you’ve been a member of the Roundtable for a while, then you know Louis Fantasia. He’s a widely acclaimed theater director, actor and author; not to mention an engaging lecturer on all aspects of the Canon. Last November, just before the election, he spoke to us on the subject of Rome and Politics in the plays. And on Saturday, March 16, at 10:00 am at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden’s Palm Room, Fantasia will deliver yet another of his juicy musings on the bard; this one entitled “Baleful Weeds and Precious-juiced Flowers” – a discussion of Elizabethans and their relationship with plants and flowers.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,

Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2.1.255-60)

Flowers and plants were important to Shakespeare and other Elizabethan and early modern English writers on three levels: plot, symbol, and signifier.  For example, in plays as diverse as A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM and ROMEO & JULIET the “juice” of plants form essential plot points, whether it is transforming lovers’ eyes or feigning death.  On the level of signifier, the most obvious examples are the White and Red roses of the History plays, denoting the houses of Lancaster and York.  But, in HENRY V, for example, a leek is used to signify a Welshman.  As symbol, the Elizabethan trope was that “the beauty of the rose was in its passing” – the first bloom of love or buds of youth would inevitably fade, leaving, in the words of Shakespeare Sonnet 73, “bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”

Louis Fantasia is currently Chair of the Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the New York Film Academy (Hollywood campus), and Director of Shakespeare at the Huntington, the teacher training institute of the Huntington Library, Art Galleries and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.  He has taught at the Juilliard School and the University of Southern California School of Theatre, the London Theatre School (Head of Acting and Director of Studies) and Schiller College-Europe University (Chair and Artistic Director of Theatre Programs).  From 1988 to 2002, he was Education Director of the Shakespeare Globe Centre’s Western Region and ran the Globe’s actor/director training programs in London.  In 2003, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg named the theatre collection at its library in the European Parliament in honor of Louis Fantasia, who holds both U.S. and European Union passports.  In 2007, he served as President of Deep Springs College. His second book, Tragedy in the Age of Oprah, will be published by Scarecrow Press in 2013.

Who: Southern California Hemerocallis & Amaryllis Society

What: “Baleful Weeds and Precious-juiced Flowers” with Director & Educator, Louis Fantasia.

Where: L.A. County Arboretum & Botanic Garden – Palm Room
301 North Baldwin Ave. Arcadia, CA 91007 
When: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.

Admission:  First-time guests are free.

Archeologists Unearth Pre-Globe Theater

The remains of the Curtain Theater have been stumbled upon during a regeneration project of office nearby the site of the Globe theater.

Archaeologists in London have discovered the remains of an early playhouse used by William Shakespeare’s company where Romeo and Juliet and Henry V were first performed.

For more information, see the link at the Independent UK.

Sassy About Shakespeare Controversy

There’s a hilarious article by Monty Python great Eric Idle on the Shakespeare controversy in the November issue of the New Yorker which you can read HERE.

Best line? “Mere lack of evidence, of course, is no reason to denounce a theory. Look at intelligent design.”

Doubters on the Defensive

Here’s a great article courtesy of South African paper, The Independent:


Mark Rylance is one of Britain’s most famous actors.

Mark Rylance, one of Britain’s most respected actors and the founding artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, has defended his role in a film that pours doubt on the identity of the Bard.

The actor, who has signed a “declaration of reasonable doubt” about Shakespeare’s identity, also responded to claims that those who doubt the playwright are motivated by envy.

Anonymous, directed by Roland Emmerich, partly espouses the “Oxfordian theory” that it was Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and not Shakespeare, who wrote some of literature’s greatest plays.

The film has reignited the debate between conspiracy theorists and those who defend Shakespeare’s legacy. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has set up an online campaign to combat the doubters, securing contributions from the Prince of Wales, actor Simon Callow and Gregory Doran, the chief associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

One defender, psychoanalyst Anouchka Grose, said: “Doubting Shakespeare’s authorship might be a way of dealing with envy and competition. If great people aren’t actually that great, then you don’t have to feel quite so measly in relation to them.”

Rylance said: “I was staggered. To make an analysis of why someone like me doubts that Shakespeare wrote the plays? Without meeting me, or asking me, or meeting anyone who doubts? Not even positing that it might be that we are curious about the truth? That we think this isn’t maybe true? They really are defensive. It’s a classic response that they attack us, our motivations.”

Rylance said he and fellow actor Sir Derek Jacobi, were part of a forthcoming “response” to the trust’s audio website, “60 Minutes with Shakespeare”, possibly in the form of a published letter. Both Rylance and Jacobi appear in Emmerich’s film, and have signed the declaration, run by The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition. Other high-profile signatories include actors Jeremy Irons and Michael York.

Rylance will discuss his views at the coalition’s annual conference at the Globe next month, where there will be a screening of the documentary Last Will and Testament. The film’s backers claim it is “the first major documentary on the authorship question for 22 years”.


Was Shakespeare a Fraud?

There’s a new article in The Daily Beast on the Shakespeare Authorship Question that everyone might want to have a look at. You can read it HERE.