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How common is it for historical plays to be portrayed in the wrong time period?
Sometimes
57%
 57%  [ 8 ]
All the time
28%
 28%  [ 4 ]
Almost never
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Other (Please explain in a post)
14%
 14%  [ 2 ]
Total Votes : 14

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Nathan Gilleland





Joined: 25 Apr 2008

Posts: 199

PostPosted: Mon 29 Dec, 2008 12:31 pm    Post subject: Historical Plays and their setting         Reply with quote

I was recently reading Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet", when it occurred to me, "When was the play originally set?" Every presentation that I've seen has placed it sometime in the 15th-16th century with rapiers and such.

However, in the first scene of the play, Old Capulet calls for his 'longsword'.

This motivated me to do an internet search.

This is what I found at http://www.pinkmonkey.com/booknotes/monkeynotes/romeo.asp :

Quote:
ROMEO and JULIET

Key Literary Elements

Setting

The play is set in the thirteenth or fourteenth century in Italy in Verona and Mantua. Much of the action takes place in Juliet's house. Two cities of Venice are also mentioned in the play. The Capulets and the Montagues, the main families of the play, are from noble lineage and wealth; they dress well, live in fancy surroundings, and are served by many attendants. The play's basic setting, therefore, is rich and elegant.


I'm interested to know if this is accurate, and if so, why is it portrayed out of its original intended setting?

I'd also like to invite people to list historical plays that are often portrayed out of their intended setting. (No flaming or ranting, please.)[/b]

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Dan P




Location: Massachusetts, USA
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Posts: 208

PostPosted: Mon 29 Dec, 2008 1:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Historical Plays and their setting         Reply with quote

Nathan Gilleland wrote:
I was recently reading Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet", when it occurred to me, "When was the play originally set?" Every presentation that I've seen has placed it sometime in the 15th-16th century with rapiers and such.

However, in the first scene of the play, Old Capulet calls for his 'longsword'.

I always thought the longsword line was a joke- that the head of the Capulets (an elderly man) was calling for a weapon that he was familiar with as a young fighter but had then dropped out of fashion with the new generation of street brawlers, thus emphasizing his age and how long the conflict between the two families had been running.

I believe that would set it in the late 14th or early 15th century, but that's just a guess.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Dec, 2008 2:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The original play being set in the wrong period or interpretations of the play done at a different time period than originally intended ?

Movies like the " Richard the Third " a while back that was set in a fictional early 20th Century setting with a mixture of weapons and armour ( tanks ) that would fit the 1920 period and the tanks more suitable for 1950.

The anachronisms can be deliberate for the sake of a stylistic choice or be because of sloppy research or ignorance or just not caring about period accuracy.

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Grayson C.




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Dec, 2008 3:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Romeo and Juliet is indeed set in the 14th-15th century.

However, the play gives very little reference to people being dresesd in renaissance clothing and fighting in rapiers, IIRC. The props of the play are up for interpretation by the producer. Shakespeare lived in the elizabethan era of england and had to use props that were available at the time period. Remember his goal was to put on a play, not to teach historal accuracy.

Frankly, I think that romeo and juliet is meant to be performed in the style of the era in which it is being played.
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JE Sarge
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PostPosted: Mon 29 Dec, 2008 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have noticed this but it's never really bothered me. The story is timeless and conveys the same.

Though many do not care for it, I really enjoyed the Bas Lehrman Romeo and Juilet remake in the mid-1990s tuned to modern times. One of my favorite parts is when Romeo's dad reaches for his longsword and it's a 12ga Ithica folder secured in a roof rack in the Limo. I also thought it was crafty to etch the weapons markings in the film to reflect the original intent os W.S. - ie, Dagger 9mm, Rapier M1911, etc... Big Grin

J.E. Sarge
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"But lack of documentation, especially for such early times, is not to be considered as evidence of non-existance." - Ewart Oakeshott
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Dec, 2008 3:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Even in Shakespeare's time, his productions didn't use appropriate costumes and weapons. For instance, in the Roman plays, the actors wore clothes and wielded swords contemporary to 1600.

Today we have what is known as "Concept Shakespeare", where unusual times and places are used to attract audiences that otherwise would stay away - or so think the producers.

I have seen or participated in Shakespeare plays using the following concepts:

Romeo and Juliet set between two rival families of circus performers - this one takes the prize for stupidity.
As You Like It set in Appalachia
Taming of the Shrew - as being filmed in the 1920's
Macbeth set in a Mad Max beyond Thunderdome world
Titus Andronicus where we were all old style Hollywood movie monsters. Surprisingly, this one worked really well.

I don't care for Concept Shakespeare myself - it distracts people from the plot and the poetry. I much prefer doing it in the time period Shakespeare set for the play, or with unobtrusive modern dress set against a black box background.
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Ed Toton




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Jan, 2009 7:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Historical Plays and their setting         Reply with quote

Dan P wrote:

I always thought the longsword line was a joke- that the head of the Capulets (an elderly man) was calling for a weapon that he was familiar with as a young fighter but had then dropped out of fashion with the new generation of street brawlers, thus emphasizing his age and how long the conflict between the two families had been running.

I believe that would set it in the late 14th or early 15th century, but that's just a guess.


This is the impression I've been under as well. I can't remember where I first heard it, but it makes sense.

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Gabriele A. Pini




Location: Olgiate Comasco, Como
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Jan, 2009 5:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sometimes the effect can be nice, or almost viewable, like the film Beowulf set in a steam-punk setting, but I think that the larger part of the errors are just this, errors for a sloppy research or the necessity of a poor budget.

The great Bard itself re-used costumes and sets of previous plays, and like him almost all the authors of play.

I am the only one to notice a small improvement of the film in the recent years? I saw recently a small part of the film "Spartacus" and then "The Gladiator"...
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Herbert Schmidt




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Jan, 2009 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And don't forget that Romeo and Juliet wasn't invented by Shakespeare either. The story is much older.

And besides, Cellini in his autobiography from 1558 - 1566 chooses to confront muggers with his "sword of two hands" rather than his rapier. So the call for a longsword might still have been correct in these times.

Herbert

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Allen W





Joined: 02 Mar 2004

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PostPosted: Sat 03 Jan, 2009 6:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I really liked Kurosawa's Throne of Blood which is just samurai Mac Beth.
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Greg Coffman




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Jan, 2009 8:14 am    Post subject: Re: Historical Plays and their setting         Reply with quote

Dan P wrote:
I always thought the longsword line was a joke- that the head of the Capulets (an elderly man) was calling for a weapon that he was familiar with as a young fighter but had then dropped out of fashion with the new generation of street brawlers, thus emphasizing his age and how long the conflict between the two families had been running.

Herbert Schmidt wrote:
And besides, Cellini in his autobiography from 1558 - 1566 chooses to confront muggers with his "sword of two hands" rather than his rapier. So the call for a longsword might still have been correct in these times.


Regardless of when the historical events were supposed to occur, the longsword and other two-handed swords were certainly still in use in Shakespeare's day. The Englishmen George Silver (writing in 1598) and Joseph Swetnam (writing in 1617) both write about longswords and two-handed swords. Likewise, Girard Thibault (writing in 1628) and Francesco Alfieri (writing in 1653) both consider two-handed swords. Longswords continued to exist for a while after the introduction of the rapier. While perhaps not the favored weapon by Shakespeare's day, the longsword seems to still have been fairly common.

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Carl Pryor




Location: London
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PostPosted: Tue 06 Jan, 2009 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that Shakespeare's Romeo and juliet was set in a vague 'near past', close enough to his present to be relevant, but old enough to invoke nostalgia. The basic story itself is no doubt far older, It would fit in any time period, with very few changes.

The long sword line, i also saw as a slight joke an the elder man going for an old weapon he was familiar with, even if it was dated. It also could be seen as a willingness to allow escalation, as a longsword was at heart a battlefield weapon, rather than the bravo's rapiers which were more for street brawls.

Out of interest I have Wagners book on Silver, and he suggests that the Montagues (romeo in particular) used 'swords' and the capulets and mercutio 'rapiers' (inverted commas as described as per Silvers definitions), from the fight scenes.

I admit a preference for plays with a definite time frame to be set in it, though adaptions to other times can work in some cases. Those with vague historical positions, like R+J, can be more flexible, so long as they stay in one time (no eighties hair cuts in the 1800's, and technology to be consistent and possible in the era)

I didnt like the version set in modern day with unaltered script, 'sword 9mms' irritated for some reason, as did the slightly psychedelic filming. '10 thing i hate about you' was a good if occasionally loose 'taming of the shrew'. Mac beth seems to work well in all periods as well.
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