I've just had a series of four days off--Wolsey dies at the end of Act III, and Bonacieux in Three Musketeers drops out of sight before intermission, and both shows have been concentrating on the later acts. So no rehearsal calls, no costume fittings, and as I'm one of the few guys in Musketeers who doesn't fight, no combat rehearsals either. I've taken advantage of the time to rest, try to make sure to get enough sleep, work on my lines and continue my research. I've been reading Wikipedia entries on the lives and genealogies of the various lords in Henry, as well as Holinshed's Chronicles to get a sense of how Shakespeare used his sources. I've found that when I go back to the historical source material-- whether it's Holinshed, whose 1587 second edition Shakespeare used, or North's 1579 edition of Plutarch's Lives, on which he relied heavily for the Roman plays-- I am constantly struck by how closely, even slavishly, Will adheres to his source. Queen Katherine's trial speech, for example, probably shares about 70% of its vocabulary with Holinshed's account; Shakespeare appears to have done little more than tweak the prose to make it scan as verse, and allow the drama of the true history, at least as he received it, to speak for itself. (I'd encountered the same phenomenon before, especially in Enobarbus' description of Cleopatra on the Nile, taken almost verbatim from Plutarch.) And picking my way through the thickets of the English peerage after the end of the Wars of the Roses! Everybody seems to be his or her own cousin five or six times over, such was the intensity of the intermarriages among a handful of noble families. Little tidbits keep cropping up: that Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was uncle to two of Henry's luckless queens, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and saw them both beheaded in his lifetime; that his son Henry, Earl of Surrey, was a great-great-great-great-grandson of Harry Hotspur, and the man who first published poetry in blank verse in England; that the Duke of Buckingham executed in this play, apart from being the son of the Duke of Buckingham executed in Richard III (and a prime suspect in the murders of the Princes in the Tower), was also a direct descendant of Edward III, with a claim to the crown arguably stronger than Henry Tudor's; that the Duke of Suffolk, instrumental in Wolsey's fall, probably owed his life to Wolsey's intercession on his behalf after Suffolk's secret marriage to the King's sister fifteen years before... well, it goes on and on.
I finally get back to the play this evening, when we're to run through the first half of the show for the first time. I've been cramming the lines hard for the past few days, and I feel pretty confident that I'll be able to do the whole act pretty reliably off book-- just don't want to disgrace myself in front of a roomful of very good, well-prepared actors. We'll see how it goes.
On a lighter note: One of the things I had promised myself was that, when I got some days off, I would get out into the open, both to get some exercise and to reacquaint myself with parts of Boulder that I haven't seen in decades. So Sunday evening, after spending several hours glued to the tube watching Tiger Woods' late charge in the US Open, I decided to take a walk through the cemetery a few blocks away, which eventually turned into a fairly strenuous hike up into the open space above the city, towards the Flatirons, the impressive sandstone slabs that are emblematic of Boulder. I was just wandering where my whim took me, with no particular plan. Heading back down, I passed through the grounds of the historic Boulder Chautauqua, still high above the city. There were an unusual number of picnickers, I thought, and a steady stream of people coming up from town, so I stopped someone and asked what was happening there this evening. She told me that the Indigo Girls were playing a concert at 8:00-- it was already past 7:45. The next thing I knew, along came a man trying to sell a single ticket at face value-- fifty-seven dollars. I told him I had nowhere near that kind of cash on me, and suggested he keep looking for someone who could give him the value it deserved. But a few minutes later I saw him again, having failed to unload it, turned out my wallet and offered him the $23 it contained, and he accepted. (I wish I'd been thinking-- the generous thing would have been to offer him a couple of Shakespeare tickets in trade.) So I got in cheap to see one of my favorite music acts, playing one of their favorite venues, and it was terrific. The seats turned out to be in the second row, about forty feet from the performers, and I know I'll remember it as a high point of the summer to hear Amy and Emily sing "Hammer and a Nail," "Galileo" and "Closer to Fine," big favorites of mine. It seemed to be just one more example of the serendipity that has attended this whole experience.