QueenʼsMen Editions

About this text

  • Title: King Leir
  • Author: Peter Cockett

  • Copyright Queen's Men Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Peter Cockett
    Peer Reviewed

    King Leir

    King Leir, Scene 29

    1 Captain: David Kynaston
    2 Captain: Scott Maynard
    First Naked Woman: Matthew Krist
    Second Naked Woman: Derek Genova
    First Watchman: Scott Clarkson
    Second Watchman: Phil Borg
    Mumford: Alon Nashman

    Queen's Men Stage Directions (Sc. 29)

    185Read about the Queen's Men stage directions in Scene 28

    The Queen's Men plays contain many extended stage directions, which is remarkable in a period where stage directions are relatively sparse. The implication is that the Queen's Men were fond of stage spectacle, and so the SQM company rose to the challenge of turning the alarums and excursions indicated in the text into exciting sequences of action. Our shortage of actors really started to show in this sequence as the same performers dashed on and off stage, sometimes playing the same characters and sometimes doubling. The SQM video of the battle sequence was shot at our final performance at University Hall for which the company had to reverse the entire blocking due to the new entrances and exits at this venue. The fight scenes are therefore a little clunkier than they were at other venues, but they continued to capture the fun of the final sequence of the play.

    The text informs us that the English should appear "half-naked," that is, wearing only shirts and shifts, indicating their lack of preparedness due to the surprise attack. In the SQM productions the English soldiers came rushing on stage, tucking in shirts and throwing on doublets. The state of the English attire becomes a running joke and indicates the comic tone set for this climactic battle. Mumford later notes that he encountered "naked women" (TLN 2538) so we brought him onstage for the opening "Alarum" (TLN 2476). It helped to establish the idea of his interest in the half-naked women who were to reappear at the end of the scene.

    The English Watchmen appear "drunk, with each a pot" (TLN 2489) and the stage directions tell us that Mumford, once he had scared away the captains, "kicks down their pots" (TLN 2497). The SQM company saw the text as an invitation to create some slapstick comedy: the drunken watchmen tried to exit the stage but their halberds locked together, and Mumford skillfully kicked their pots out of their hands and caught them.

    The stage direction at the end of the scene calls for a repetition of the pattern of actors running on stage briefly before dashing off again. Building on this textual evidence the SQM company created a sequence that was increasingly farcical, fitting for the comic end of the Queen's Men's romance. In this sequence Mumford encountered the "half-naked" women for a second time. Alon Nashman (Mumford), executed a comic turn from warrior to flirt, bashing the heads of the two watchmen together (who remained onstage for the SQM production) then exiting the stage in pursuit of the two half naked "boys" who giggled a little provocatively as if impressed by his martial prowess.

    Read more about the Queen's Men stage directions

    Watch video of Scene 29 on the Performing the Queen's Men website. (The video footage is password protected. Click on "Cancel" in the pop-up window to obtain password.)

    Performing Mumford (Sc. 29)

    Read about performing Mumford in Scene 26

    This invented moment of action was consistent with Mumford's well-established interest in women, especially English women. This scene and the ones that follow offer the actor playing Mumford the opportunity to display prowess in swordplay and in slapstick comedy. The scene seems the perfect vehicle for Richard Tarlton, the company's leading clown actor and a master of fence. Nashman also picked up on Mumford's interest in women that is a repeated comic motif established earlier in the play and carried through into the climactic battle. Mumford is a real "Jack-the-lad", a playful knave, joking, fighting and chasing women. The stage directions with their invitations to slapstick comedy and the repeated verbal gags given to Mumford throughout the battle make his character here seem primarily comical.

    Read more about performing Mumford

    Watch video of Scene 29 on the Performing the Queen's Men website. (The video footage is password protected. Click on "Cancel" in the pop-up window to obtain password.)