Two Noble Kinsmen

Two Noble Kinsmen

Since not a lot of folks realize it, the Elizabethan and Jacobean London Theatre scene was closed by the plague. Not a new experience, theatre shut down by health risks. So the various theatres have continued to mount and stage plays, or recycle recorded versions.

A critically acclaimed version of Two Noble Kinsmen came up this week, on the Shakespeare Globe. Worth two hours of my time? According to critics?

I know I’ve read the play, and I know, by now, I’ve listened to it at least twice, commuting.

Two Noble Kinsmen

Watching the YouTube version from Shakespeare’s Globe was — I’m not sure. I read the play as a rewrite, adapted for stage, of Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale. Not that Shakespeare was above blatant theft, and watching that one version? I remembered reading Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, both of which strike me as black comedy versions of the original, and to put in more post-modern terms, Made for TV.

I watched, mostly listened, but I was enthralled by the actors at times, the camera work alone, the editing of the show? Pretty amazing way to capture action, speeches. But the show itself?

Both of Shakespeare’s plays like this, Troilus and Cressida and now, The Two Noble Kinsmen are from the same root source, Chaucer.

Two Noble Kinsmen

In Chaucer’s text, the way I read both those, and it’s been a few years, but the way I read both of the stories, in the original Middle English, the stories were sad. Tragic, as in classical tragedy, the fall of royal personages from on high. Seemed to me, Shakespeare’s Globe version of Kinsmen teased out campy, occasionally dank humor where I didn’t read it.

What’s that called? A tragicomedy? I don’t know, but I’ve seen several versions of Troilus that was not a box-office success because it is problematic. Watching Kinsmen, I couldn’t help but reflect, the two are so closely tied in nature. Same source, same handling of the material, and for me, seeing it on stage, albeit a really nicely edited version with some of the best camera work I’ve witnessed for a theatre-only version, seeing The Two Noble Kinsmen done mostly as comedy?

A live audience, not laugh tracks, and then, the interpretation, clearly Elizabethan costumes flavors with the nod towards the “Ancient Greece” setting? All worked in its favor.

It’s a couple of hours long, it’s funny, it’s sad. There’s dancing, slapstick, sword fights, all the staples. Love, romance, you know, the usual.

While I was first taught Shakespeare is literature, and studied it thusly, I’ve long-discovered that Shakespeare is best as live theatre, and the next best way to get that experience, even watching it on a small screen like I did?

Seeing a good performance, a good stage performance like that? Adds depth and meaning, and helps round out a person’s soul.

Two Noble Kinsmen

On the web, now.

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