Top 7 Lesser-Known Shakespeare Couples

Romeo and Juliet get a lot of love (pun intended) every February. As do Beatrice and Benedick. And Viola and Orsino. And Rosalind and Orlando. And the young lovers of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Even Antony and Cleopatra turn up on Shakespearean valentines everywhere.

But there are plenty of lesser-known couples in Shakespeare–many of whom actually wind up together, and ALIVE, at the end of the play! According to arbitrary rigorous criteria of cuteness, we’ve listed our top seven “happy ending” Shakespearean couples below whom we wish were more famous.

7. Valentine and Sylvia, The Two Gentlemen of Verona

“What light is light, if Silvia be not seen?

What joy is joy, if Silvia be not by?”

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Michael Navarra and Emily Jordan as Valentine and Sylvia in the 2010 SF Shakes production.

If you ignore the last five minutes of the play, when Valentine considers giving Sylvia to his best friend because, you know, bros before [girls], these two are painfully adorable together.

6. Imogen and Posthumus, Cymbeline 

“I shall here abide the hourly shot

Of angry eyes, not comforted to live,

But that there is this jewel in the world

That I may see again.”

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Craig Marker and Emily Jordan as Posthumus and Imogen in the 2011 SF Shakes production.

Imogen, the daughter of a king, is willing to give up her hopes for the crown to marry her beloved Posthumus behind her father’s back. Sure, there’s that section of the play when Posthumus is tricked into believing that Imogen has been unfaithful, and tries to have her killed while railing on women as a whole, but…everything turns out well and they’re reunited in the end so that’s okay, right?

5. Anne Page and Fenton, The Merry Wives of Windsor

“‘Tis the very riches of thyself that now I aim at.”

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2010 Shakespeare’s Globe production. Source: crouchinggiraffe.blogspot.com

A good counterpoint to Romeo and Juliet, these two crafty young people secretly get married against parental wishes and actually live to tell the tale!

4. Portia and Bassanio, The Merchant of Venice

“One half of me is yours, the other half yours,

Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours,

And so all yours.”

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2004 film version. Source: redemptiosehnsucht.blogspot.com

Sure, Bassanio originally woos Portia for money, and he’s really not the brightest crayon in the box. But when Portia begs him not to undergo the test for her hand in marriage (and risk losing the test), it’s just adorable.

3. Pericles and Thaisa, Pericles

“To me he seems like diamond to glass.”

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Michael Storm and (yes, again) Emily Jordan as Pericles and Thaisa in 2008 SF Shakes production.

These two have a relationship that survives decades, not to mention Thaisa supposedly dying and being pushed out to sea in a casket in the middle of a crazy storm, for goodness’ sake. Now THAT’S true love.

2. Perdita and Florizel, The Winter’s Tale

“I cannot be mine own, nor any thing to any, if I be not thine.”

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Rosie Mallett and Davern Wright as Perdita and Florizel in 2016 SF Shakes production.

Florizel’s dedication to Perdita, even after his furious father disowns him as a prince in punishment, is wonderful. It’s also a rare thing for a Shakespeare play to show a nobleman remaining truthful to a lower-class woman (whereas noble women remain true to penniless men all the time). The fact that Perdita’s secretly a princess ultimately makes The Winter’s Tale part of this trend, but Florizel doesn’t know she’s a princess when he gives up everything to run away with her.

1. Miranda and Ferdinand, The Tempest

“I would not wish any companion in the world but you.”

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Julia Motyka and Daveed Diggs as Miranda and Ferdinand (with Julian Lopez-Morillas as Prospero) in the 2006 SF Shakes production.

How often in Shakespeare plays are two young lovers set up by a parent, only to acutally fall in love? Hardly ever, that’s how often. And seriously…these two are just the cutest. They win by a landslide.

What do you think? Did we leave out any lesser known, happy-ending lovers that you’d like to see on this list?

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The Stranger’s Case, and Mountainish Inhumanity

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Last night, we hosted the Kickoff Event of our “35 Famous Speeches in 35 Famous Places” Series at the Presidio Officer’s Club. The event included a look back at the three successful speeches we’ve performed so far, a brief history of the past 35 years of San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, and a sneak peek at upcoming events. It also included our fourth speech in the series.

Speech #4 was a group reading of a speech from Sir Thomas More, written by Shakespeare as part of a never-completed collaboration with his contemporary playwrights.

The speech is a passionate piece of rhetoric encouraging empathy  for immigrants, and our choice of the Presidio as the particular “famous place” for this speech was intentional.

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(Photo credit: history.com)

 

The Presidio is one of our valued artistic partners, and this location has an involved and illustrious history in San Francisco. Sadly, that history also includes acting as headquarters for the Western Defense Command, the military outfit that ordered and oversaw the forced removal of 120,000 citizens of Japanese Americans and people of Japanese ancestry during World War II (the Presidio is creating an in-depth historical exhibition about this period, if you’d like to learn more).

Last night, on the site of that dark moment in our nation’s cultural history, dozens of people stood together and read aloud Shakespeare’s speech, in which Thomas More speaks to a mob of citizens demanding that immigrants be removed from London.

While we loved the match between the content of the speech and the location of its performance, we are especially pleased that yesterday’s event coincided with the nationwide Day Without Immigrants protest. As an artistic organization whose top values are access, diversity, and inclusion, we support the welcoming of immigrants in our community–and we marvel that Shakespeare could so beautifully express that support many hundreds of years ago. We are proud to have called this Sanctuary City home for 35 years, and we are so excited to take part in the The Ghostlight Project and other similar efforts to welcome immigrants.

May we all learn from the text below (the excerpt from Shakespeare’s speech that we read last night), and take it to heart.

 

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Behind the Scenes for “35 Speeches”

It’s finally time…our 35 Famous Speeches in 35 Famous Places series starts tomorrow! But why did we choose this particular project, for this particular year? And what does it look like to manage such an ambitious series? SF Shakes’ Artistic Director, Rebecca Ennals, fills you in.

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1)   What can audiences expect to see in these performances? 

I hope that first, they’ll recognize some familiar words – words like “Friends, Romans, Countrymen,” or “To be or not to be” – and that will make them turn around and look for the actors. Then they’ll see and hear actors activating a space with language appropriate to the venue. For example, we wanted to kick off the series with Hamlet’s first soliloquy, and we wanted it to be somewhere iconic and spectacular, so we decided to do it with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop. Among its many themes, Hamlet deals with the sensitive and tragic topic of suicide. When we started to think about that further, we realized that the particular soliloquy we’ve chosen for this location finds Hamlet at his most suicidal, and the Golden Gate Bridge is not just a symbol of opportunity but a place where many have chosen to end their lives. Hamlet is at a critical place in this speech, a bridge between his life as an innocent college student who understood his place in the world and a young man who has to make a choice about pursuing revenge. We’re interested in those symbolisms and how they play against the text differently than they would on a traditional theatre set.

As with any outdoor, free, live performance, we’ll be at the mercy of the weather and the passersby – the kids who may interact with the performers, the dogs being walked, the occasional person who wants to talk back. We love how these elements can change and challenge the performance of the text, and we feel that’s very Shakespearean – his actors didn’t perform in a quiet, perfect, sanitized space.

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These performances are brief, transient little moments – but we find they have a second life in the digital world. For the first time on Saturday, we’ll be streaming our Hamlet speech with Facebook Live– that will bring a whole new dimension to the audience engagement.

 2)   Why did SF Shakes choose this project as a way to celebrate its 35th Anniversary? 

We really loved performing our 30 Days of Free Shakespeare in the Parklet five years ago. It reminded us why we love to perform live, outdoors, and in non-traditional venues, and how the audience is an incredibly important part of the performance – they’re really our scene partners. I also learned from that series how to identify a good SF Shakes actor: not someone who will just barrel ahead and ignore everything around them, but who will listen and react and shift to fit the moment.

So we wanted to do that again, but we wanted to do it on a scale that wasn’t as exhausting. It was my entire life for two months in 2012, and I wasn’t the Artistic Director yet, so now I have a whole team and we’re spreading it out over 7 months.

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Becky Kemper Goodheart and B. Chico Purdiman play Beatrice and Benedick during a 2012 Free Shakespeare in the Parklet performance. 

3)      How will this series differ from past Free Shakespeare in the Parklet performances, and how will it be similar? 

We will try to keep a similar spirit, but this time we’re getting a lot more permission! Last time we pretty much apologized to locations afterwards rather than asking permission in advance, and that backfired occasionally. We’re also expanding beyond traditional “actor speaks the speech” interpretations and bringing in dance, movement, and visual art… we’re also going to try to do about 25% of the speeches in two languages, which is ambitious but the diversity of our acting company makes it possible.

We’re also going to find more opportunities for the audience to participate. On Thursday, Feb 16, after our kick-off event at the Presidio, we’ll invite the audience to do a community reading with us of a great speech in Sir Thomas More about immigration. It’s not as famous as it should be, but you may have seen Sir Ian McKellan’s performance on YouTube. It’s so timely, related to everything going on with the Executive Order banning immigrants and refugees, and it seems fitting to speak those words on the grounds of the Presidio, where Japanese-Americans were ordered to report for deportation to the camps in 1942.

 4) What’s it like trying to find 35 different locations?

san-francisco-2030794_1280 Oy. It’s easy and it’s hard. There are so many great places in SF but not all of them work for this kind of thing. We have a huge spreadsheet going and we’re going to ask our audience for some of their favorite places as well. We feel strongly that there should be a synergy between the place and the speech and that’s a matter of gut instinct.

5) Why haven’t you announced all of the speeches yet?

A lot of it is about getting permission for the right place on the right day, then finding the right performers – it’s a lot of logistics – so we’re taking it month by month. I like it, though, because this way we can stay flexible and respond to what’s happening in the world, the way we have with the Sir Thomas More speech. Nothing is too set in stone too far in advance, the way it is when you’re planning a full production. But with Free Shakespeare in the Parklet, I planned things just a few days ahead – that was a little crazy, so I’m hoping to find a happy medium!

 6) How does the project relate to the SF Shakes mission?

Our mission is all about access, so it’s really important that every performance be free to the public and as accessible as possible to everyone. We are doing some indoors at museums, but only on the free days. We’re also all about the relevance of the words and themes of Shakespeare – we find that no matter what the news of the day is, Shakespeare wrote something about it. It’s uncanny. We’re reminded that human beings have been grappling with this stuff for centuries, and sometimes we’re able to be our better angels and sometimes we’re in hell and all the devils are here. We want to comment and make you think and make you consider history, but we also want to make you laugh and remember that we’re all human underneath. That’s what Shakespeare does so well.

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Camp Fan of the Month: Cynthia Francis

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Cynthia Francis loves our Bay Area Shakespeare Camps. In fact, she loves them so much that she joined our Board of Directors to help them keep reaching more children every summer! A mother of three daughters (twins, now 22 years old, and a younger daughter, age 19), Cynthia sent all three to our camps as they were growing up. We asked her to reflect on the ways that SF Shakes summer camps have impacted her family.

What drew you to our camps in particular?

I had watched Free Shakespeare in the Park off and on for years, so SF Shakes was already on my radar. I didn’t discover the camps until my youngest daughter became really interested in theatre and musicals, when she was 6 or 7.

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Cynthia Francis, SF Shakes Camp Fan and Board Member

She attended camp the first summer, and then raved about it so much that all three of my daughters went to at least one session every summer after that. When you’re raising three kids in San Francisco, and it’s summer but both parents are working, it’s a miracle to find something that’s interesting and stimulating for all of them but is also affordable!

As a parent, what do you think makes Bay Area Shakespeare Camps special?

One of the things I love about the Shakespeare camps is that there’s a place for everybody. Two of my daughters have always been really into acting, but there was also a place for my kid who didn’t really want to be visible on stage. She loved being involved with all aspects of camp (swordplay, making costumes, all of that), but she wasn’t interested in playing Juliet. She wanted about three lines (which she always delivered beautifully)! She was more introverted, very into math and science, but she loved the structure and precision of Shakespeare’s language. She was welcomed at this camp about performing Shakespeare, and she had a wonderful time each summer. The camp isn’t geared just to just one kind of kid, to young actors, the way some theatre camps are. SF Shakes gives kids exposure to theatre and theatre tech, and allows children to find themselves through new interests in topics they might know nothing about.

How did the camp experience impact your children?

My youngest, who started our family’s relationship with camp, is still a self-proclaimed Shakespeare nerd. She went all the way through SF Shakes camps, from Shakespeare Players through Advanced Shakespeare Workshop in high school. Then she became a summer intern for SF Shakes, working front of house and understudying the Witches in the Free Shakespeare in the Park Macbeth, and was in SF Shakes’ first Green Show production. Then the next year she became an acting intern and performed all summer in the SF Shakes Taming of the Shrew. Things have really come full circle now, because she’s taught SF Shakes camps, first as intern and now as a paid teacher. She’s graduating from the Pacific Conservatory for Performing Arts and is now auditioning for Shakespeare repertory companies all over the country.

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Cynthia’s youngest daughter, Ella (far left), as an intern in the SF Shakes Green Show “Witchipedia.”

Her introverted older sister went on do speech and debate in high school, and we credit Shakespeare camps with so much about her understanding and love of language. She kept going to camp until she was in high school. She went on to study at California Polytechnic State University–she’s not an actress but she definitely appreciates theatre and the arts. Her more outgoing twin enjoyed performing Shakespeare (made it to second place in the ESU Shakespeare Competition, and became an SF Shakes Intern), but she also loves modern theatre and film. She got her degree in acting from the UCLA theatre and film school.

That’s what I mean about camps welcoming everybody. Performing Shakespeare was always my youngest daughter’s thing, and that’s great. But it’s equally great that my introverted daughter developed this love of language and then went on to study science…that’s amazing to me!

What surprised you most about camps?

There were plenty of kids, friends of the family, whom I “corralled” into going to this camp, and none of them were scared of Shakespeare the way that adults can be. As a parent, sometimes we can have our biases blind us. I think it’s easy as an adult to hear Shakespeare’s name, and remember sitting in your high school English class studying language that you maybe didn’t understand. Maybe in high school you were introduced to Shakespeare by a teacher who brought it to life, but many adults I talk to…their eyes glaze over and they say, “that was almost as hard as Moby Dick.” But kids aren’t scared of it yet – in fact, it becomes a source of confidence and power for them, learning to understand and love something that many adults find intimidating!

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Why would you recommend Bay Area Shakespeare Camps to other parents?

When my girls were growing up, I encouraged them to play soccer, even though I was pretty sure they weren’t dreaming of being professional athletes. It was a good experience, they learned a sport, and they made some friends. When I tell people about SF Shakes camps I often hear, “Well, my child’s not an actor.” But with Shakespeare, you never know what they’ll learn or get out of the experience. Give it a chance.

How did your daughters’ camp experience inspire you to join the SF Shakes Board of Directors?

For years I saw the value that SF Shakes brought to my own family through my daughters’ experiences, and I wanted to help the company expand and become better funded…I wanted to “expand the goodness”! There’s so much value in this program, and I would have sent my older daughters to camp earlier if I’d known about it earlier. So I got on this Board to help spread the word.

Thank you, Cynthia, for your dedication to SF Shakes and our Bay Area Shakespeare Camps! We’re honored to have played such a huge role in the life of your family.

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*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.