Act 2, Scene 16 – “Heroines assemble!”

Mandrag-page-001Notes on A Doublet and Hose in My Disposition

Heroines assemble! Portia and Nerissa are back, and heading into crossover territory as they join Rosalind and Viola for a girls’ night out.

The idea of Shakespeare’s plays being set in the same fictional world is one I hinted at once or twice last year, but now seemed the time to tackle it more explicitly and let some leading characters from different stories share the stage.

My thinking is that all the plays Shakespeare set in a fictionalised Italy or France are taking place in the same world, at roughly the same time, while the other plays inhabit their own separate bubbles. The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Two Gentlemen of Verona and Much Ado About Nothing have all so far been pulled into the mix, and I would definitely add All’s Well that Ends Well, Love’s Labours Lost, Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew and Othello to that list. Hamlet might be part of this world, but geography would keep him out of regular appearances. The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale I remain on the fence about – technically they should be included, but that would have serious ramifications for the other characters, since it means all these other plays would be taking place in a world where magic actually works. (I’m inclined to say that the appearance of a Greek god at the climax of As You Like It is a spot of pageantry orchestrated by Rosalind.)

And isn’t it good to see her again? Rosalind is both one of my favourite characters in Shakespeare and a bit part player in Zounds I really wanted to use again (having only appeared once so far). I don’t see As You Like It cartoons happening too often – it’s too funny as it is for a parody to be worthwhile. But making Rosalind part of Portia’s supporting cast is a good way to let her pop in and out from time to time, should I choose to do more post-Merchant cartoons.

Speaking of popping out, Viola’s buxom character design is a cheap gag but one that I couldn’t resist. It was inspired by a production of Twelfth Night I once saw where the leading actress, who was unable to fasten the man’s doublet she was wearing, chose to lampshade the fact, flicking her eyes from her chest to the fourth wall at key moments as if to say “How has nobody noticed these things?”. Which was funny, but also reminded the audience that Viola was living in constant fear of discovery. It’s become a bit of a running gag that the female characters in Zounds are really unconvincing when they drag up, but somehow manage to fool everyone anyway. (I like that Portia and Nerissa have chosen to turn up to this party in dresses, while Rosalind and Viola are still wearing their Ganymede and Cesario disguises.)

If they get together again, maybe Julia from Two Gents will join them. Cymbeline’s Imogen would unfortunately require access to a time machine.