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Alice Ripley, Michael Skinner and Rick Foucheaux in
Shakespeare in Hollywood, Arena Stage;
PC: T. Scott Suchman


Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Hollywood by Walter Bilderback

Ken Ludwig’s Shakespeare in Hollywood is, as might be expected, full of Shakespearean quotations and allusions. In all, he uses 53 quotations or paraphrases (counting Puck’s “I go, I go” only once) from 10 plays. Ken Ludwig teaches from memory when he teaches Shakespeare, so this may also explain some of the paraphrases, such as Oberon’s “no more brain than a Christian” in place of Andrew Aguecheek’s “no more wit than a Christian,” which means the same thing. There are also, by my count, 5 occasions that parallel Shakespearean scenes (plus one other possible allusion).

Not surprisingly, the lion’s share of these quotes, paraphrases, and allusions come from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – 26 quotes or paraphrases and 3 allusions. Only 7 of these occur within the context of “rehearsals” or Olivia’s audition, however. Among the other quotes, most are clustered between the two scenes that relate most closely to the action of Shakespeare in Hollywood: 2.1, where most of the characters enter the wood, and 3.2 (the longest scene of the play), where the plot is wound up to its most complicated. All three allusions also come from these two scenes.

In second place, appropriately, is another romantic comedy, Twelfth Night, with 6 (perhaps 7), quotes or paraphrases. In addition to the quotes, Ludwig seems to have borrowed structurally from it in his portrayal of Will Hays. Hays plays the same killjoy role as Malvolio: his speech after he has fallen in love with his reflection echoes the pomposity and narcissism of Malvolio after he has been gulled into believing Olivia loves him, his punishment with the ass’s head is closer to Feste’s psychological torturing of the imprisoned Malvolio than what happens to Bottom (and is placed similarly within the play), and Hays is even given the same exit line as Malvolio, both being banished from the stage before the play’s ending.

Third place is a tie between two tragedies: Hamlet, perhaps the most quotable of the plays, and Antony and Cleopatra. Surprisingly, 4 of the quotes from Antony and Cleopatra come from the same scene (2.2) and character, Enobarbus.

Here’s a summary of the scenes, with number of quotes/paraphrases in parentheses

Midsummer 1.1 (5), 2.1 (8), 2.2 (3), 3.1, 3.2 (4), 4.1 (4), 5.1 (2)

Twelfth Night 1.1, 1.3, 1.5 (3), 2.3, 5.1

Hamlet 1.5 (1), 2.2 (1), 3.1 (2), 3.2

Antony and Cleopatra 1.3, 2.2 (4)

Much Ado 2.1, 4.1, 5.2

As You Like It 1.3, 2.7

Romeo and Juliet 2.2 (2)

Merchant of Venice 5.1 (2)

Tempest 4.1, 5.1

Macbeth 2.1, 5.1

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