Tales From Shakespeare
Interview With C6
sffworld conducted this interview with c6, known as Eden’s Gift to the Stage, shortly before he returned to his home for a holiday. He returns next season to re-join the Red Company as they take on the Tempest.
sffworld: Of the roles the Globe has thus far assigned to you, which is your favorite?
c6: Let me preface any selection I might make with the truism that I’ve enjoyed every role I’ve been allowed to play. Having said that, I will not avoid the question further. I indeed have a favorite role, from your Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Angelo appeals to me more than most.
sffworld: Yet you received your best reviews for Shylock in Merchant of Venice.
c6: A rather obvious bit of typecasting, wouldn’t you say: An alien playing a Jew, an outcast of the current society playing an outcast of the play’s society? You are aware, I’m certain, that all Jews had been expelled from England at the time Shakespeare was writing his play.
sffworld: Still, your performance received rave reviews.
c6: More’s the pity or more’s the author’s genius. The alien asks if he does not bleed as humans do and everyone hears something powerful, something patently true, to walk away from the performance believing the actor the cause of their insight when the actor could do no less than the script requires.
sffworld: Perhaps an exercise in false modesty on your part but let’s leave that and move on. You say that Angelo is your favorite role, why is that?
c6. I learned more playing that role than any other.
sffworld: Will you expand that thought, let our readers into what you garnered from the play? It’s about sexual mores, isn’t it?
c6. That’s the common interpretation. I find it more than that and less. For me, it’s an anti-comedy. Certainly there is a good deal of humor and the plots are resolved in comedic fashion., yet there is a tragedy permeating the play that never, ever lets up.
c6: Sex threatens society unless it be confined to the marriage bed. I found the idea tragic.
sffworld: Why is that?
c6: Because marriage, as I understand it, is an artificial condition created to control behavior. We Edenites bond for life. We need no state recognition of our bonding; it is simply reality as we know it. We cannot imagine attempting to break another’s bond nor can we imagine any bonded Edenite being tempted to step outside the bond. The problems of Measure for Measure cannot occur on Eden.
sffworld: That strikes me as inconsistent. You earlier stated that the tragedy of the play was the idea that sex threatens society unless confined to the marriage bed. Then, you turn around to declare that Edenites bond for life. Why is that not the same thing?
c6: Prior to the bonding, we Edenites engage in sexual activity much as you humans do. Experimentation, I suppose; filtering of candidates, maybe; a necessary step on the path to maturity.
sffworld: With no risk of sexually transmitted disease or unwanted pregnancy, I assume. Not the same as the world Shakespeare dealt with.
c6: Another assumption on your part; the risks are the same for us as for you. The difference is that when we bond, the experimentation goes away. The choice is made and we live with the choice we’ve made.
sffworld: Doesn’t that prompt the question of whether the bonding is sociological rather than biological as your earlier comments suggest it to be?
c6: Edenites accept the biological nature of the bond.
sffworld: I’m not at all certain that I would but be that as it may, let’s get back to what you learned from playing Angelo.
c6: It is best to begin at the beginning. Your readers are well aware of the differences between our peoples. You have four limbs; we have eight. You walk on two legs; we walk on four. You have two arms and hands for lifting and manipulating objects in your world; we have four each. We resemble your giraffes in body type except that the upper extension of our body begins with broad shoulders and arms. The torso rises from these shoulder to another, smaller set of shoulders and arms from which rise our neck and heads. Yet, we stand little taller than you humans averaging 193cm from front hoof to tip of the head. In the rear, we average 107cm from hoof to top of the rump.
sffworld: Everyone knows what Edenites look like.
c6: Yes, but how we look is essential to understanding what I am going to tell you.
sffworld: Very well, we recognize the physical differences between us; the bonding you referred to implies psychological differences as well.
c6: It would make sense that his would be so, wouldn’t it? Different worlds, different biologies, different cultures, all ought to produce different psychologies.
sffworld: Almost self-evident.
c6: And so the story goes. Do you remember my co-star in Measure for Measure, Tiffany Tittletits, a stage name I believe?
sffworld: Yes, she was well received in the role of Isabella.
c6: Yes, she was. I would not have expected that. I first met her in the women’s dressing room where I had gone to introduce myself. It was to be our first rehearsal together; I thought we should meet.
My impression summed to a self-indulgent adolescent. Dressed in nothing more than undergarments, she sprawled across a soft chair smoking a cigarette, her hair in rollers, her morning make-up blurred and smudged, evidently from donning and removing clothes, she was being fitted for her costumes. The rollers did nothing to improve a ruddy blonde texture; the running mascara dirtied cheeks I would later discover capable of ethereal sheen; turned her eyes into ominous pits. Rude tattoos floated on her abdomen just above the cut her bikini panties. All in all, I formed an impression of a typical teenager, the worst kind of typical.
When I entered the room, her attention towards me lasted no longer than it took for her to estimate my identity and my importance in her life, both of which seemed to be negligible as she looked away from me to the mistress of wardrobe to ask when she could get dressed.
As I have learned your culture, in retrospect, I can see that I should not have been taken aback by this apparition. As it was, I was insulted and – truth be told – hurt by her lack of interest in my presence. Mouthing appropriate social amenities, I fled the scene.
sffworld: Is she really that bitchy? I would not have thought so.
c6: She is really that unconcerned with appearances. It mattered not a whit to her that I was to play an important role in the play; all that mattered to her was that she was to play an important role.
sffworld: I take it that she is not as pretty as her pictures?
c6: In her underwear, she is female and nothing more.
sffworld: So, your first meeting was less than auspicious?
c6: Less than auspicious, yes.
sffworld: What did you do then?
c6: I went off to study my lines. I knew the general tenor of the play, the kind of person Angelo must be, and that Shakespeare wrote for him a soliloquy that I had not yet read. I also knew that I would perform these lines in contemplation of an Isabella I now found off putting. Surprisingly, I found myself eager to get to it, to discover what traps the Bard had lain for me. And they were significant, neatly snared by Isabella’s exiting prompt: “Save you honor,” she says as if some evil were about that my poor Angelo needs protection from. And there is; oh, there is!
“From thee; even from thy virtue!—“ Angelo begins, then stops, aghast at what he said.
“What’s this?” he asks. “What’s this?” and then admits to himself what this is.
“Is this her fault or mine? The tempter or the tempted, who sins most? Ha!
Not she:” he admits, ruthlessly honest with himself. “Nor does she tempt; but it is I
That, lying by the violet, in the sun,
Do, as the carrion does, not as the flower,
Corrupt with virtuous season. Can it be
That modesty may more betray our sense
Than woman’s lightness? Having waste ground enough
Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary
And pitch our evils there. O, fie, fie, fie!
What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo?
Dost thou desire her foully for those things
Which make her good? O, let her brother live;
Thieves for their robbery have authority
When judges steal themselves. What! Do I love her,
That I desire to hear her speak again
And feast upon her eyes? What is’t I dream on?
O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint,
With saints dost bait thy hook. Most dangerous
Is that temptation that doth goad us on
To sin in loving virtue: never could the strumpet
With all her double, vigor, art, and nature,
Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid
Subdues me quite, --Ever till now
When men were fond, I smil’d and wonder’d how.”
I had learned enough of humans to understand what the play demanded, how this examination of conscience should conclude with intent to sin; but, oh, I never saw that it could lead to my sin.
sffworld: Your sin?
c6: She arrived on stage at the appointed moment, not early, not coyly late, professionally on time. Dressed in denims and a tee shirt, her hair still rollered, her feet in sandals, face now clean of all makeup.
Still the teen, I thought, but began to wonder as she listened to the stage directions, the scene setting, the initial thoughts on position and movement. No smart remarks, no remarks at all. Attentive interest and professional understanding, more than I could say for myself now standing astonished at what I watched.
Mark, our director, had to nudge me to awareness to be certain that I understood his vision. I mumbled my comprehension even as I knew I lied; I’d heard not a word the poor man had said.
sffworld: What was it that took you so?
c6: The contrast from the apparent sloven to the consummate professional. I did not believe such transformations were possible.
sffworld: And then what happened?
c6: Mark placed me in the position I had not listened to, smiling tolerantly at my confusion. Isabella moved off stage prepared to make her entrance.
c6: Mark called for action, she entered, fully clothed in her novitiate’s robes though all the world could see her tee shirt, denims, and sandals. But watching, we saw the sway of the skirt, the flounce of the sleeves and looking at her face, we could see the purity of her innocence. Wherever Tiffany had gone: Isabella was on stage, talking to me, her first line as though I had recited my cue: what’s your will?
“I am a woeful suitor to your lord, please, your honor, hear me.” she said, the fright she proclaimed pouring from her posture as if I would beat her for suing my aide. And “please, your honor, hear me” as if the confident young judge that I must be could decide to do other than listen to her voice.
Yes, I know; I see it on your face. This, a first rehearsal, and already I have lost myself to her talent. Foolish; amateurish, and I - supposedly - one of the best my people have to offer. Not on that day. Nor the days that followed. Nor opening night.”
sffworld: Opening night?
***sffworld note: this answer did not erupt in prompt reply. c6 pondered these words a for a moment or so before he brought them forth. ***
c6: Opening night. Scenes begin to roll across the boards. Once again I accustom myself to the audience flush against our stage, eager faces searching mine, bored faces talking to friends, men scratching, women shifting, sneezing and coughing and giggles, outright laughter and jeering. The immediacy of their presence is a spur to achievement and a rein on ambition.
I pronounce Claudio’s sentence and a young man in the front row mutters a curse that easily finds my ears. His friend adds “typical alien, isn’t it?” as if that explains the words Shakespeare wrote so long ago. It sets to me wondering so that my performance is rote, automatic pilot for a time, and then Isabella makes her entrance and I know that something now is different.”
sffworld: How different?
c6: Now, I am living that scene. Isabella’s presence envelopes me, distracts me, sends me stuttering and grasping for the lines I must recite. Today, I think…wait, kind sir, wait.. I’ll return but this insight came to me during the scene or after, I cannot remember, but it is most applicable. When Mr. Shakespeare sat at his desk or his table to pen this scene, he must have had some vision of this Isabella in his mind so that he understood completely what poor Angelo was feeling, what any man might feel. Mr. Shakespeare must have felt the tension building, threatening but never yielding to explosion. How he must have yearned to play the scene himself, yielding instead to Burbage or some other of the King’s Men. But, I think it must have been Burbage for who could resist this scene?
Now, back to it. An alien on stage now presenting a human male’s reactions, the desire to take Isabella in my arms and more, the alien realizing that the taking in the arms could happen but more could never be. Biological differences, yes?
But the alien deserted the stage; only Angelo remained. And Angelo finds himself alone, staring at the front row of the audience who look at him as if to ask: what are you thinking? Are you going to spare her brother? Just what are you going to do?
It is to them, the young man and his friend who thought my behavior so typical…for an alien… that I make voice what I fear: “From thee; even from thy virtue!—“ Even more, moving closer to them, no more than a meter, that I kneel and look into his eyes:
“What’s this?” I ask but he does not answer. “What’s this?” I ask again, my arms sweeping the stage as if defining a world gone mad. “Is this her fault or mine?” He doesn’t have the answer.
“The tempter or the tempted, who sins most? Ha!“ The look on their faces and that on their neighbors says that the answer is not clear but they hope I can make it so.
”Not she:” shaking my head, denying any sin in her nature. “Nor does she tempt;” with emphasis on the ‘she’ so that all can understand I make no excuses for myself.
“but it is I..” my frame shuddering with revulsion at my words, my face searching the heavens for reason, excuse, perhaps absolution …. “that, lying by the violet, in the sun, do, as the carrion does, not as the flower, corrupt with virtuous season.”
Turning back to the young men, approaching again, kneeling again, I bring them into the play, asking them what any young man might know the answer: “Can it be that modesty may more betray our sense than woman’s lightness?” They make no reply nor do they sneer in young men’s arrogance. No, they seem to hope I will them whether it is so. I cannot so I stand to pace the stage, hurling over my shoulder the truth that temptation has me snared. ”Having waste ground enough shall we desire to raze the sanctuary and pitch our evils there? O, fie, fie, fie!” Yes, that is precisely what I intend to do: I, Angelo; I, the alien,. I, c6.
“What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo?” Still capable of shock at my own behavior, I look again to Heaven as if my soul had run there to hide. “Dost thou desire her foully for those things which make her good?” Another shudder racks my frame, tacit admission that this may be so. My actions will reap consequences, even as I had serenely told Escalus “when I, that censure him, do so offend let mine own judgment pattern out my death.” Yes, I said that and meant it and know that now I risk it be so. To avoid my own condemnation, I argue with myself: “ O, let her brother live; thieves for their robbery have authority when judges steal themselves. “ But the argument fails to convince me. I try another tack: “What! Do I love her, that I desire to hear her speak again and feast upon her eyes? What is’t I dream on?”
But love has not taken me this night and Shakespeare knew it well. “O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint, with saints dost bait thy hook. Most dangerous is that temptation that doth goad us on to sin in loving virtue: “
Do you remember that Edenites bond for life?
sffworld: Yes, I remember.
c6: I am so bonded and _“never could the strumpet with all her double, vigor, art, and nature,
once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid subdued me quite, “_
sffworld: You loved her?
c6: Not a bit; I lusted for her. And those young men in the front row looked at me with seeming understanding. It felt as if they had forgotten I am an alien; that they knew what I felt; understood it; sympathized with it. They were with me the rest of the play and cheered the loudest when the Duke married me off to Mariana.”
sffworld: You, too, received rave reviews for your performance.
c6: Except that it was not a performance. It was real; I lived it. As Shakespeare let me say: “--Ever till now when men were fond, I smil’d and wonder’d how.”