Act 2, Scene 6 – “A muse of some height.”

player queen2-page-001Notes on The Player Queen Part Two: Them’s the Rules

Shakespeare and the Lady pick up where we left off last week, dealing with the all-male world of Elizabethan theatre. Last week’s post was an odd one, where I ended up talking around the content for the benefit of anyone who saw the notes before the cartoon. Now our protagonists are out in the open, I can speak a bit more freely.

Once I had the idea of the Lady performing a speech for her first act two appearance, the fact that female parts were always played by men immediately came to mind. I decided to keep pulling on this thread to get her response, and couldn’t resist drawing it when I realised what it would be – but then found it had further threads of its own…

Putting this exchange in the context of the previous cartoon was interesting, because the Lady is actually a pretty terrible actress. She’s really not the best qualified person to be leading this charge. Someone being denied the opportunity to do something they’d probably fail at anyway somehow feels even harsher than being denied the opportunity to succeed.

When I drew the first cartoon, I hadn’t picked a speech or even a play for her. “Lady Macbeth, but not” was as far as I’d got. One of the few historical facts I’m sticking to is that Macbeth was written for James I, so as soon as I make a Macbeth reference with these two, I can’t really use Elizabeth I again – and I’d like to keep her around for the time being. A Macbeth gag for Shakespeare would have to be both really funny and unworkable with any other play to justify losing her.

One of the things that was pointed out to me while working on these cartoons  is that I tend to draw Will and the Lady roughly the same height. It makes composing the scene a bit easier, but begs the question of whether she’s unusually tall, he’s unusually short, or a bit of both. Raleigh’s taller than both of them, but he’s a big, strapping macho man. And Elizabeth is taller than everyone. Anyone taller than Elizabeth finds themselves a head shorter very rapidly. Tall women do seem to be a thing in Shakespeare – Hermia and Hero are both insulted for being short, while Rosalind is very proud of being more than common tall. Clearly the influence of a muse of some height…

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