The plots of Shakespeare's romantic comedies are so alike it's sometimes difficult to tell the plays apart. A pair of twins is separated; a woman dons male garb; characters escape to the woods and fall in love. A few acts later, families are reunited, lovers are married and everyone lives happily ever after.
Even the titles seem interchangeable: "All's Well That Ends Well," "As You Like It." The satiric Reduced Shakespeare Company - whose spoof, "The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)," was recently produced at Fell's Point Corner Theatre - has suggested an all-inclusive title such as: "The Comedy of Two Well-Measured Gentlemen Lost in the Merry Wives of Venice on a Midsummer's Twelfth Night in Winter."
"The characters within the plays are so distinct and unique and so carefully limned, it's astonishing to realize they are in so many ways generic, but that makes sense because the situations are all based on the same dramatic conventions of Roman comedies," says Norrie Epstein, the Baltimore-based author of "The Friendly Shakespeare." "That's why one character could wander into another play and no one would know the difference. Also, it could be because everybody in love is always a little bit alike."
Can you tell the comedies apart? To find out, take our little quiz. The answers (which may be found on Page 7f) are drawn from the following 10 comedies, three of which are currently on view at area theaters: "All's Well That Ends Well," "As You Like It" (at Center Stage through Dec. 20), "The Comedy of Errors," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Love's Labor's Lost," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Much Ado About Nothing" (at Washington's Folger Library through Dec. 20), "The Taming of the Shrew," "Twelfth Night" (at Washington's Shakespeare Theatre through Jan. 2) and "The Two Gentlemen of Verona."
We put thee to the test:
1. Which comedy ends with the most weddings; how many weddings are there?
2. Which ends with a wedding with a pregnant bride? Who is she?
3. Which comedies end with no weddings?
4. Which comedies feature separated twins; what are the twins' names?
5. Give the masculine names of the following cross-dressing heroines and name their plays: a. Viola; b. Rosalind; c. Julia. (Clue: One of these comedies was also the source for a Rodgers and Hart musical.)
6. Which comedies take place partly in woods?
7. Which comedy includes an off-stage lion; which includes an on-stage lion?
8. Which comedy has Shakespeare's only on-stage dog? What's the dog's name?
9. Which comedy has a lead character borrowed from one of Shakespeare's history plays? Who is the character?
10. Name the play associated with each of these items: a. laundry basket; b. the flower love-in-idleness; and c. crossed garters.
11. Which comedy is the source of the Cole Porter musical "Kiss Me, Kate"; in what city is that musical set?
12. Which of the 10 comedies listed above is not an answer to any of these questions?
Answers to Page 2 quiz
1. "As You Like It"; four weddings.
2. "All's Well That Ends Well"; Helena.
3. "The Comedy of Errors" and "Love's Labor's Lost." (The ladies in "Love's Labor's" promise to give their answers in a year.)
4. "Twelfth Night" (Viola and Sebastian) and "The Comedy of Errors" (twin brothers, both named Antipholus, and their twin servants, both named Dromio).
5. a. Cesario ("Twelfth Night"); b. Ganymede ("As You Like It"); c. Sebastian ("The Two Gentlemen of Verona," source of the musical "The Boys From Syracuse").
6. "As You Like It," "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Two Gentlemen of Verona." ("Love's Labor's Lost" deserves consideration since it takes place partly in a pavilion in a park.)
7. "As You Like It" has an off-stage lion; in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Snug, the joiner, plays a lion in the play-within-the-play.
8. "The Two Gentlemen of Verona"; Crab.
9. "The Merry Wives of Windsor"; Falstaff.
10. a. "The Merry Wives of Windsor"; b. "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; c. "Twelfth Night."
11. "The Taming of the Shrew"; Baltimore.
12. "Much Ado About Nothing."
Pub Date: 12/13/98