Be Kind and Courteous – Track 3

When I was researching Be Kind and Courteous I wanted to explore how different artists and directors over time have interpreted the role of Tytania, Queen of the Fairies. I thought back to a visit I made in February 2020 to Tate Britain where I saw for the first time “Titania and Bottom” painted by Henry Fuseli c. 1790.

Titania and Bottom c.1790 Henry Fuseli 1741-1825
Tate Britain – Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

I remember being struck by the peculiarity of the diverse characters from this magical realm of the fairies. I liked the little sprite in the bottom left of the painting, who wears a crown of butterfly wings juxtaposed with growling gremlins with glowing orange eyes in the opposite corner. Each time I looked; I saw a new creature, (an Oil painting version of “Where’s Wally?” perhaps). I think that this painting could be a snap-shot of when Tytania would sing or recite “Be Kind and Courteous”. At this moment in the story, she has become smitten with Bottom, after falling victim to Oberon’s spell. As a result of this all-consuming adoration, she commands her fairies to gambol and frolic as they welcome and serve Bottom in this fantastical setting.

When I was creating the imagery for this blog post, I came across some bewitching short videos of a Drag Queen wearing a ‘royal’ mantle. My mind was then reminded of the actors who would interpret Shakespeare’s plays. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the performing artists would have been men or boys. This occurred because the stage had strong connections to the church, and it was thought that the acting profession encouraged immoral and promiscuous behaviour that was unsuitable to women. However, an all-male cast, did not perturb writers from creating female characters.

This meant that some of the actors would need to “dress as members of the opposite sex so the story didn’t suffer” (The fabulous history of drag – BBC Bitesize). Therefore, the art of drag in the UK can be connected back to the theatrical roots of the Elizabethan Era. At this point in history, the concept may have been born out of necessity, which is not necessarily in the same spirit of drag as we know it today. But I am sure it allowed men to express a different side of themselves and enjoy creating a different persona.

The first woman to play a female role did not occur until 8 December 1660. It is said that possibly Anne Marshall performed Desdemona in a production of Othello (around 56 years later than the first known performance of this work). Shakespeare and gender: the ‘woman’s part’ – The British Library (bl.uk)

At this point I would like to highlight a few keywords that I hope aid your understanding of the text:

Gambol is a verb used to describe animals or people who run or jump in a playful manner.
Apricocks was a different way to spell Apricots. A fruit
Dewberries are a species of blackberry, often found in North America or northern Europe.
A Night Taper is a long, thin candle that would burn slowly, to aid vision in the evening – similar to a night light.

I hope that you enjoy the post and if you have any interesting snippets to add I would love to hear them.

24 thoughts on “Be Kind and Courteous – Track 3

    1. Thank you Gill, I’m glad you enjoyed it I’m experimenting learning how to use a graphics program.
      I’ve just found out I’ve won an online singing competition today, yay a nice little boost.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you GP. I have started teaching during lockdown and because of that I’ve purchased a design program to create interesting homework plans and teaching resources and I’m experimenting with the graphics on my blog to see what works and what doesn’t. I’m praying I can get back to regularly performing though.

      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  1. What an interesting and informative post, Charlotte. I got to read the part of Bottom in a Shakespeare course I took in college. Shakespeare was such a commentator on social mores. There is Titania, having a romantic relationship with an “ass,” an allusion to bestiality, but also an allusion to what was considered completely inappropriate: a relationship between a commoner and a royal, A big no-no at the time!

  2. Another lovely post Charlotte.
    I’m so pleased ,you keep going and trying new things.your pupils must love you ..
    You have so much to give with everything you do..xxx

  3. Superb, thank you Charlotte!
    I know that technically it’s more cumbersome to manage, but I hope that within a few months, it will be possible to make your blogs on video and who knows, why not live afterwards. Very sincerely !!!

    Best regards Charlotte, as well as to Georges and your families. xx

  4. Interesting. Another similarity between England and France. Until Molière, whose wife was Madeleine Béjart, female characters were played by men for the same reasons. Catholic church vs. Church of England. But then Molière (1622-1673) was middle of the 17th century. Shakespeare died in 1616, right? Earlier. And as far as I know all the tragic authors such as Corneille or Racine had women play the female roles. Still, actors were excommunicated. Couldn’t be buried in church graveyards… Crazy times.
    Hope all is well?

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