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Williamstown Theatre Festival

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Shakespeare and Arthur Miller in CAROLINE IN JERSEY

Caroline in Jersey contains a lot of quotes from other plays, most notably Macbeth and Death of a Salesman. Here are some examples and their context within their respective plays. Listen for them in Caroline!


“You’re the witch. He’s Macbeth.”—The women in Macbeth are some of the most talked about characters in Shakespeare. Debates over whether the witches control Macbeth or fate or nothing at all abound. General theory is that Macbeth is a coward, a man who only when pushed by the women around him—the witches and his wife—accomplishes greatness. (Except his greatness is flawed by the murders he had to commit in order to obtain it).

“Screw your courage to the sticking place and we’ll not fail!” and “Unsex me here.”—both lines belonging to Lady Macbeth in Act I, scene vii and Act I, scene v respectively

“We fail?
But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we’ll not fail. When Duncan is asleep,
Whereto the rather shall his day’s hard journey
Soundly invite him, his two chamberlains
Will I with wine and wassail so convince
That memory, the warder of the brain,
Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason
A limbeck only. When in swinish sleep
Their drenched nature lies as in a death,
What cannot you and I perform upon
Th’unguarded Duncan?...”

“…Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here
And fill me from the crown to the toe topfull
Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood,
Stop up th’access and passage to remorse
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose nor keep peace between
Th’effect and it…”

“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”— Macbeth’s speech from Act V, scene v.

"She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing."

Twelfth Night

“Salt. White light. Twelfth Night—that’s the counter curse—remember? The play that’s all love and light—help me with the lines—the counter curse—“With a heigh –ho—Help me!—the wind and the rain—“

The last moment of Twelfth Night is Feste’s song,

“When that I was and a little tiny boy, With heigh, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man's estate,
With heigh, ho, etc. 'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain, etc.

But when I came, alas! to wive, With heigh, ho, etc.
By swaggering could I never thrive, For the rain, etc.

But when I came unto my beds,
With heigh, ho, etc. With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
For the rain, etc.

A great while ago the world begun,
With heigh, ho, etc. But that's all one, our play is done,
And we 'll strive to please you every day.”

As we all know, saying “Macbeth” in the theatre is not only bad luck, it curses the actor/production. Many counter curses exist. One is to go outside the theatre, spin counter-clockwise 3 times and spit over your left shoulder. Some people add swearing, knocking on the theatre door to be let back in, throwing salt, etc. Another way to counter the curse is to recite a line from another of Shakespeare's plays, often "Angels and ministers of grace defend us," (Hamlet Act I, scene iv), "If we shadows have offended," (Midsummer Night's Dream Act V, scene ii), or "Fair thoughts and happy hours attend on you" (The Merchant of Venice, Act III, scene iv).

“Make me a willow cabin!” and “And make the babbling gossip of the air/ Cry out”—Viola’s lines in Act I, scene v in which she woos Olivia on behalf of Orsino. Olivia asks what Viola would do as a wooer.

“Make me a willow cabin at your gate,
And call upon my soul within the house;
Write loyal cantons of contemned love,
And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
Holla your name to the reverberate hills,
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out, ‘Olivia!’ O, you should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth,
But you should pity me!”

Death of a Salesman

“How was Boston, Willie?”—a reference to Willy Loman, the protagonist of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is a salesman who does most of his business by traveling from New York to Boston. Throughout the play Boston is frequently referenced and in one pinnacle moment—seen through flashback—it is revealed that just prior to graduating high school Biff caught Willy in a hotel room in Boston with another woman. This event irreversibly changes the relationship of Biff and Willy and is arguably the start of Willy's demise.

“I ran down 17 flights of stairs with a pen in my hand—“ Biff, Act II. During the final climax of the confrontation between Biff and Willy, Biff references the pen he stole from Mr. Oliver’s office earlier that day in a moment of clarity about his true identity.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to want.” –a conversation between brothers Biff and Harry in Act I after discussing how Biff's unsettled lifestyle effects Willy, Happy asks Biff, "Is there any future for you?" Biff responds with "I tell ya, Hap, I don't know what the future is. I don't know--what I'm supposed to want."

King Lear

“Milk livered man”—Goneril in reference to her husband, offers herself to Edmund, Act IV, scene ii

“Milk-liver’d man!
That bear’st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs;
Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning
Thine honour from thy suffering; that not know’st
Fools do those villains pity who are punish’d
Ere they have done their mischief,—where’s thy drum?
France spreads his banners in our noiseless land,
With plumed helm thy state begins to threat,
Whilst thou, a moral fool, sit’st still and criest
‘Alack, why does he so?’”


“Good night sweet ladies.”—Ophelia’s lines from Act IV, scene iv

“I hope all will be well. We must be patient: but I
cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him
i' the cold ground. My brother shall know of it:
and so I thank you for your good counsel. Come, my
coach! Good night, ladies; good night, sweet ladies;
good night, good night.”

“And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”—Horatio’s lines after Hamlet dies Act V, scene ii

“Now cracks a noble heart.—Goodnight, sweet prince/And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!—“

compiled by Krista D’Agostino (Assistant Director) and Sarah Slight (Dramaturg).

[photo] Sam Hough for WTF ’09
[pictured] Melinda Lopez

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