Welcome back to another year of Shakespearean March Madness, a no-holds-barred, anything-goes contest for supreme domination of the Complete Works. What matters more, brain or brawn? Guile and cunning or rallying armies? Might or magic? You get to decide -- and at the end of the month, we will crown the 2012 Champion.
On this, the last (and bonus) day of February, I'd like to take a few minutes to introduce you to this year's competitors. Thanks to everyone who made nominations -- your input has definitely changed the line-up from 2011. I think we're in for some exciting matches!
1. Aaron (Titus Andronicus)
Also Known As: the Moor
Weapon of Choice: scimitar, psychological warfare
Bio: A man of the south who somehow ended up in Scythia, Aaron keeps company with Tamora, Queen of the Goths. His list of evil deeds is long, and he proudly boasts of it. There seems to be literally nothing he won't stoop to perform, including stabbing nursemaids and convincing his lover's sons to commit rape, dismemberment, and murder.
Quote: "Even now I curse the day—and yet, I think,
Few come within the compass of my curse,—
Wherein I did not some notorious ill,
As kill a man, or else devise his death,
Ravish a maid, or plot the way to do it,
Accuse some innocent and forswear myself,
Set deadly enmity between two friends,
Make poor men's cattle break their necks;
Set fire on barns and hay-stacks in the night,
And bid the owners quench them with their tears.
Oft have I digg'd up dead men from their graves,
And set them upright at their dear friends' doors,
Even when their sorrows almost were forgot;
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters,
'Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.'
Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more."
2. Beatrice (Much Ado about Nothing)
Also Known As: "this harpy" (epithet courtesy of Benedick)
Weapon of Choice: wit
Bio: A witty and warm-spirited lady of Messina, Beatrice's clever wordplay and merriness cover hidden depths. Benedick accuses her of being "possessed with a fury," and when Claudio dishonors her cousin Hero, Beatrice demonstrates a capacity for boundless rage. Beatrice's words are sharp enough -- "She speaks poniards, and every word stabs" -- but proper provocation might turn her into a real contender.
Quote: "Is he not approved in the height a villain, that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they come to take hands; and then, with public accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour, --O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place."
3. Cassius (Julius Caesar)
(Sponsored by Alexi Sargeant)
Also Known As:
Weapon of Choice: cunning language, Roman legions
Bio: A political discontent with "a lean and hungry look", Caius Cassius Longinus unsettles even the great Julius Caesar. Cassius's actions lead to the most famous assassination of all time and up-end the Roman Republic. A capable general in his own right, with a canny awareness of the political scene, Cassius might have won the war against Antony and Octavian if not for his colleague Brutus's missteps. This man, bold, nigh-fearless, and secure in his convictions, is not an opponent to take lightly.
Quote: "For my part, I have walk'd about the streets,
Submitting me unto the perilous night,
And, thus unbraced, Casca, as you see,
Have bared my bosom to the thunder-stone;
And when the cross blue lightning seem'd to open
The breast of heaven, I did present myself
Even in the aim and very flash of it."
4. Cordelia (King Lear)
(Sponsored by Alexi Sargeant)
Also Known As: the third daughter, Queen of France
Weapon of Choice: honesty, virtue, French armies
Bio: Best known for her failure to flatter her father, Cordelia may not be much of a diplomat, but that doesn't stop her from taking the field against her own sisters, leading the armies of France to battle. Courageous in her convictions, Cordelia will go to any length to rescue her father from the usurpation of her sisters.
Quote: "Our preparation stands
In expectation of them. O dear father,
It is thy business that I go about.
Therefore great France
My mourning and important tears hath pitied.
No blown ambition doth our arms incite,
But love, dear love, and our ag'd father's right."
5. Coriolanus (Coriolanus)
Also Known As: Caius Martius, "thou Mars"
Weapon of Choice: Roman legions
Bio: Coriolanus begins his career as a celebrated hero-general of the Roman armies, but he can't play the political game as well as he can manage the battlefield. When the fickle city turn against him, his quest turns to one of vengeance that puts all of Rome in fear. He allies with his former enemy, Aufidius of the Volscians, and the Roman senate thereafter speaks of his unstoppable power and military prowess, fearing his retribution as they would a god's.
Quote: "All the contagion of the south light on you,
You shames of Rome! you herd of—Boils and plagues
Plaster you o'er, that you may be abhorr'd
Further than seen and one infect another
Against the wind a mile! You souls of geese,
That bear the shapes of men, how have you run
From slaves that apes would beat! Pluto and hell!
All hurt behind; backs red, and faces pale
With flight and agued fear! Mend and charge home,
Or, by the fires of heaven, I'll leave the foe
And make my wars on you"
6. Doll Tearsheet (Henry IV, Part 2)
Also Known As: Mistress Dorothy
Weapon of Choice: knife
Bio: A wench of the Boar's Head, Doll has been through more than her fair share of barfights and has had to chase off unwelcome customers. Scrappy and uncowed by the soldiers and mercenaries who frequent Mistress Quickly's establishment (or by the local sheriff), Doll can curse, cavort, and cudgel with the best of them.
Quote: "Away, you cut-purse rascal! you filthy bung, away! By wine, I'll thrust my knife in your mouldy chaps, an you play saucy cuttle with me. Away, you bottle-ale rascal! you basket-hilt stale juggler, you!"
7. Duke of Cornwall (King Lear)
(Sponsored by Jason Dempsey)
Weapon of Choice: dagger, sword
Bio: An ambitious man, Cornwall acts quickly to support his wife Regan's bid for power. A swift, no-nonsense decision maker, Cornwall throws Kent in the stocks for insulting him, then later puts out the Duke of Gloucester's eyes as retribution for taking King Lear's side. Merciless, bloodthirsty, and power-hungry, Cornwall has no shame in bloodying his own hands to further his goals.
Quote: "Out, vile jelly!
Where is thy lustre now?"
8. Duke of York (Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3)
(Sponsored by Alexi Sargeant)
Also Known As: Richard Plantagenet, earlier the Duke of Gloucester
Weapon of Choice: sword, armies, the House of York
Bio: The man at the center of the Wars of the Roses, the Duke of York challenges Henry VI for the throne. After serving in France and trying desperately to hold onto England's possessions there, and then serving as Protector of the Realm during Henry's bouts of madness, York decides he can manage affairs better than the weak king. His conflict with the Lancasters defined decades of English history, and though he never wore the crown he craved, his actions set the stage for his sons to establish a new (if short-lived) dynasty.
Quote: "From Ireland thus comes York to claim his right,
And pluck the crown from feeble Henry's head:
Ring, bells, aloud; burn, bonfires, clear and bright,
To entertain great England's lawful king.
Ah! sancta majestas, who would not buy thee dear?
Let them obey that know not how to rule;
This hand was made to handle naught but gold.
I cannot give due action to my words,
Except a sword or sceptre balance it:
A sceptre shall it have, have I a soul,
On which I'll toss the flower-de-luce of France."
9. Guiderius (Cymbeline)
(Sponsored by Jennifer Jones)
Also Known As: Polydore
Weapon of Choice:
Bio: The son of Cymbeline and thus a rightful prince of England, Guiderius was stolen as an infant by a banished courtier, and has been raised, along with his brother, in secrecy, under the name Polydore. A mountain man with a royal heart, Guiderius is responsible for killing and beheading the evil Cloten. Rough around the edges, Guiderius matches his noble spirit with powerful physical might, a quick temper, and an utter lack of pity for his enemies. Even when facing execution for killing Cloten, he stands bold and resolute, proudly proclaiming his deed as right and just.
Quote: "To who? to thee? What art thou? Have not I
An arm as big as thine? a heart as big?
Thy words, I grant, are bigger, for I wear not
My dagger in my mouth. Say what thou art,
Why I should yield to thee?"
10. Henry V (Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2; Henry V)
Also Known As: Prince Hal
Weapon of Choice: broadsword, inspirational speeches
Bio: The royal rebel, Henry begins as a dissolute prince whose "reformation, glitt'ring o'er" his faults turns him into one of England's most celebrated monarchs. He becomes a valiant warrior at a young age, assisting his father in throwing down rebellions. He also knows how to use language to stir the hearts of other men, inspiring acts of valor even in the face of despair. He leads his army to victory at the famous Battle of Agincourt, using tactical skill and sheer willpower to overcome formidable odds. Last year, Henry made it to the finals. How will he fare in 2012?
Quote: "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood [...]
On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. [...]
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'"
(Sponsored by Colin O'Grady)
Also Known As: Harry Percy
Weapon of Choice: broadsword
Bio: Son to the Earl of Northumberland, Hotspur's battle prowess is such that it makes King Henry IV wish that "it could be proved that some night-tripping fairy had exchanged in cradle-clothes our children where they lay." He defeats many noble Scots in battle and takes them prisoner, then later thumbs his nose at the Welsh prince Glendower. Hotspur is bellicose by nature, never at ease, ever-restless, and with the skill on the battlefield to support his warlike desires. The foil to Prince Hal, Hotspur demonstrates intense focus, military acumen, and a fiery hunger for victory.
Quote: "I thank him, that he cuts me from my tale,
For I profess not talking; only this—
Let each man do his best: and here draw I
A sword, whose temper I intend to stain
With the best blood that I can meet withal
In the adventure of this perilous day.
Now, Esperance! Percy! and set on.
Sound all the lofty instruments of war,
And by that music let us all embrace;
For, heaven to earth, some of us never shall
A second time do such a courtesy."
12. Iago (Othello)
Also Known As: ancient Iago, honest Iago
Weapon of Choice: rumors, dagger
Bio: His nature forged by jealousy and malevolence, for Iago, nothing will do but the complete annihilation of those he sees responsible for his frustrations. He demonstrates no remorse for his deeds, and no care for any innocents swept up in his plots. Iago crafts his words to make Othello believe his wife has betrayed him and to spur Cassio into engaging in a drunken brawl. When his wife exposes his crimes, he murders her without a flinch. Last year, Iago made it to the Elite 8 -- Will he advance farther this year?
Quote: "Divinity of hell!
When devils will the blackest sins put on,
They do suggest at first with heavenly shows,
As I do now: for whiles this honest fool
Plies Desdemona to repair his fortunes
And she for him pleads strongly to the Moor,
I'll pour this pestilence into his ear,
That she repeals him for her body's lust;
And by how much she strives to do him good,
She shall undo her credit with the Moor.
So will I turn her virtue into pitch,
And out of her own goodness make the net
That shall enmesh them all."
13. Jack Cade (Henry VI, Part 2)
Also Known As: John Mortimer
Weapon of Choice: violent mobs
Bio: Set up by the Yorkists to make trouble for the Lancasters, Jack Cade swiftly sparks revolts in England that threaten to unseat civil order entirely. On a platform of anti-intellectualism and alcoholism, Cade promises the poor of England power over their elite rulers. The fury he incites leads to multiple stabbings, beheadings, and beatings throughout Kent. What's more, Cade has endurance; his sponsor the Duke of York says of him, "I seen this stubborn Cade oppose himself against a troop of kerns, and fought so long, till that his thighs with darts were almost like a sharp-quill'd porpentine." This black horse could prove a powerful spoiler for many of our heavyweights.
Quote: "The proudest peer in the realm shall not wear a head on his shoulders, unless he pay me tribute; there shall not a maid be married, but she shall pay to me her maidenhead ere they have it: men shall hold of me in capite; and we charge and command that their wives be as free as heart can wish or tongue can tell."
14. Jack Falstaff (Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2; The Merry Wives of Windsor)
Also Known As: Sir John
Weapon of Choice: sack and sherry
Bio: A notable coward who nonetheless makes it safe through several wars, Falstaff's tactics are more of avoidance and petty crime than of might or valor. He commits literal highway robbery only to be re-robbed by Prince Hall, avoids battle whenever possible, fills the ranks of his army with degenerates and diseased men, fakes his own death then tries to claim credit for the slaying of Hostpur -- and yet he always comes through in the end, with a certain cunning instinct for self-preservation. Can Falstaff buy, bribe, and bully his way through Shakespearean March Madness?
Quote: "Well, 'tis no matter; honour pricks me on. Yea, but how if honour prick me off when I come on? how then? Can honour set to a leg? no: or an arm? no: or take away the grief of a wound? no. Honour hath no skill in surgery, then? no. What is honour? a word. What is in that word honour? what is that honour? air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? he that died o' Wednesday. Doth he feel it? no. Doth he hear it? no. 'Tis insensible, then. Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? no. Why? detraction will not suffer it. Therefore I'll none of it. Honour is a mere scutcheon: and so ends my catechism."
15. Katharina Minola (The Taming of the Shrew)
Also Known As: Kate, "plain Kate, bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst"
Weapon of Choice: household objects, an open palm
Bio: Constantly overlooked in favor of her younger sister, Kate has had a lot of time to build up a lot of rage. She's not afraid to strike those who displease her, whether her sister or her suitor, and she once broke a lute over a man's head, causing the hapless would-be instructor to suggest that she might make a good soldier. Feisty and fearless, Kate is undaunted by the world's disdain and will come out with fists flying.
Quote: "I' faith, sir, you shall never need to fear;
Iwis it is not halfway to her heart;
But if it were, doubt not her care should be
To comb your noddle with a three-legg'd stool,
And paint your face, and use you like a fool."
16. Lady Macbeth (Macbeth)
Also Known As: Queen of Scotland
Weapon of Choice: drug-laced possets, possible demonic intervention
Bio: Married to a Scottish thane, Lady Macbeth has high ambitions. She engineers the assassination of King Duncan after inviting evil spirits to remove all womanly tenderness from her body. When Macbeth fails to leave the murder weapons, Lady Macbeth takes them back herself so that she can "smear the sleepy grooms with blood" to implicate them. Lady Macbeth suppresses compassion, gentleness, femininity, and weakness, all in the name of working her and her husband's way to the crown. Lady M was another Elite 8 contender last year; will her ruthless cunning advance her further in 2012?
Quote: "When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both:
They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this."
17. Macbeth (Macbeth)
Also Known As: the Thane of Glamis, the Thane of Cawdor, King of Scotland
Weapon of Choice: daggers, broadsword
Bio: Initially one of King Duncan's trusted thanes and a hero of battle, Macbeth, consumed by a prophecy that he will be king, murders Duncan in his sleep. Macbeth then goes on to engage in wholesale slaughter of anyone and everyone that might be a threat to his reign, including his friend Banquo and the wife and children of the mistrusted Macduff. He thus earns a reputation as "bloody, luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin that has a name." Ambitious and bloodthirsty, Macbeth continues fighting even when the odds and fates turn against him. Like his wife, Macbeth made it to the Elite 8 in 2011; will he murder his way to the top this year?
Quote: "I will to-morrow,
And betimes I will, to the weird sisters:
More shall they speak; for now I am bent to know,
By the worst means, the worst. For mine own good,
All causes shall give way: I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er:
Strange things I have in head, that will to hand;
Which must be acted ere they may be scann'd."
18. Marcus Antonius (Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra)
Also Known As: Antony, Antonio
Weapon of Choice: Roman army, Egyptian navy, rhetoric
Bio: Protege to murdered Caesar, Mark Antony describes himself as "a plain blunt man," though Cassius calls him "a shrewd contriver." Cassius, fearing his power, wants him dead along with Caesar. Following Caesar's death, Antony first stirs the common people against Brutus and Cassius and then defeats their powers at Philippi. Though he later worries that his love for Cleopatra may have unmanned him, with one of his officers stating that "those his goodly eyes, that o'er the files and musters of the war have glow'd like plated Mars, now bend, now turn," Antony nonetheless takes on Octavius's forces with the courage of a true Roman.
Quote: "I will be treble-sinew'd, hearted, breathed,
And fight maliciously: for when mine hours
Were nice and lucky, men did ransom lives
Of me for jests; but now I'll set my teeth,
And send to darkness all that stop me."
19. Oberon (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Also Known As: King of the Fairies, King of Shadows
Weapon of Choice: magic, charmed flowers
Bio: King of the Fairies, Oberon possesses mystical powers in abundance. When he argues with his queen, their conflict affects the weather, upending the seasons and destroying crops. He controls the mischievous Puck and directs his actions, and his actions against Titania demonstrate that once his ire is raised, no deception is too low for his revenge.
Quote: "What thou seest when thou dost wake,
Do it for thy true-love take,
Love and languish for his sake:
Be it ounce, or cat, or bear,
Pard, or boar with bristled hair,
In thy eye that shall appear
When thou wakest, it is thy dear:
Wake when some vile thing is near."
20. Othello (Othello)
Also Known As: The Moor of Venice
Weapon of Choice: sword, pillow
Bio: An accomplished and capable general, Othello wins the trust of the Duke of Venice so wholly that the Duke sends him against the Ottomans to defend the island of Cyprus. Othello feels secure in the good opinion of the Duke and his advisers, having earned a powerful and noble reputation for himself. Othello's weakness is in a jealous temper, which causes him to lash out violently; when this thread is plucked, Othello becomes hot, intemperate, and murderous.
Quote: "Her father loved me; oft invited me;
Still question'd me the story of my life,
From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes,
That I have passed.
I ran it through, even from my boyish days,
To the very moment that he bade me tell it;
Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field
Of hair-breadth scapes i' the imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels' history:
Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
It was my hint to speak, — such was the process."
21. Paulina (The Winter's Tale)
(Sponsored by Alexi Sargeant)
Weapon of Choice: sterling willpower, eloquent words
Bio: A noble lady and attendant to Queen Hermione, Paulina is nonetheless tough as nails and fearless for her own safety. When King Leontes goes mad with jealousy, she risks her own life to try and save her queen and the queen's infant daughter. She defies threats of torture and presses her case when everyone else in the court shrinks back from challenging their king. With an iron will and a rapier tongue, Paulina demonstrates that bravery and valor don't only occur on the battlefield.
Quote: "It is an heretic that makes the fire,
Not she which burns in't. I'll not call you tyrant;
But this most cruel usage of your queen,
Not able to produce more accusation
Than your own weak-hinged fancy, something savours
Of tyranny and will ignoble make you,
Yea, scandalous to the world."
22. Philip the Bastard (King John)
(Sponsored by Alexi Sargeant and Tim)
Also Known As: Philip Faulconbridge, Richard Plantagenet
Weapon of Choice:
Bio: The illegitimate son of Richard Lionheart, Philip the Bastard marries a quick wit with a strong arm. When he learns of his misbegotten royal heritage, he immediately takes up with his uncle John against the French-supported claim of Arthur and Constance. The Bastard demonstrates both political cunning and military prowess, beheading the Duke of Austria in revenge for his father's death and leading the English armies against Philip of France, making a far stronger showing than King John himself. A rare non-villainous illegitimate son, the Bastard also serves as a roundabout moral compass for the play, musing that England does more damage to herself with internal strife than any foreign enemy ever does to her.
Quote: "Ha, majesty! how high thy glory towers,
When the rich blood of kings is set on fire!
O, now doth Death line his dead chaps with steel;
The swords of soldiers are his teeth, his fangs;
And now he feasts, mousing the flesh of men,
In undetermined differences of kings.
Why stand these royal fronts amazed thus?
Cry, 'havoc!' kings; back to the stained field,
You equal potents, fiery kindled spirits!
Then let confusion of one part confirm
The other's peace: till then, blows, blood and death!"
23. Prospero (The Tempest)
Also Known As: the former Duke of Milan, Master to Ariel and Caliban
Weapon of Choice: magic (learned from books)
Bio: Exiled by his own brother, Prospero has had thirteen years on an island to hone his magical talents, and now he commands great and terrible elemental powers. With the help of the spirit Ariel, he can summon great storms, bewitch minds, and inflict pain; he also employs elves, goblins, and other spirits to do lesser tasks for him. His tempest creates "wild waters" and a sky that "would pour down stinking pitch, but that the sea, mounting to the welkin's cheek, dashes the fire out" -- but his control is great enough to bring the ships only to danger, not to destruction, as he wills. Prospero's magic got him to the Elite 8 last year, against considerable odds -- will his luck hold in 2012?
Quote: "Go charge my goblins that they grind their joints
With dry convulsions, shorten up their sinews
With aged cramps, and more pinch-spotted make them
Than pard or cat o' mountain. [...]
Let them be hunted soundly. At this hour
Lie at my mercy all mine enemies:
Shortly shall all my labours end, and thou
Shalt have the air at freedom: for a little
Follow, and do me service."
24. Queen Margaret (Henry VI, Parts 1-3; Richard III)
Also Known As: Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England, "she-wolf of France," "tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide"
Weapon of Choice: English armies, womanly wiles, curses
Bio: Married young to King Henry VI, Queen Margaret quickly despairs of her husband's weakness and grasps the reins of power for herself. When the Wars of the Roses start, Margaret herself leads the Lancastrian armies to victory. Her fury grows when Henry VI disinherits their son to appease the Yorkists, and she wages war without his consent. She taunts the fallen Duke of York with a handkerchief dipped in his own son's blood and gives him a paper crown before helping Clifford stab him to death. When the Yorkists gain the throne, Margaret lingers on, cursing them with misery and destruction -- all prophetic invectives which come to pass. Margaret is a force of nature, fierce in defending her interests, brimming with bitterness, willing to throw off her woman's role and assume power for herself. Can last year's reigning champion defend her crown?
Quote: "I prithee, grieve, to make me merry, York.
What, hath thy fiery heart so parch'd thine entrails
That not a tear can fall for Rutland's death?
Why art thou patient, man? thou shouldst be mad;
And I, to make thee mad, do mock thee thus.
Stamp, rave, and fret, that I may sing and dance."
25. Richard II (Richard II)
(Sponsored by the good folk at Pursued by a Bear)
Weapon of Choice: monologues, English armies
Bio: Often dismissed as a weak king, there's more to Richard II than meets the eye. Crowned at a young age, Richard demonstrated courage and determination in his youth and grew into an absolutist monarch. Analytical by nature and keenly intelligent, Richard stands solidly for his beliefs, and he makes his usurper dance a merry dance before he can claim the throne. Securely cloaked in the Divine Right of Kings, Richard believes that his power and his actions are ordained by God.
Quote: "Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm off from an anointed king;
The breath of worldly men cannot depose
The deputy elected by the Lord:
For every man that Bolingbroke hath press'd
To lift shrewd steel against our golden crown,
God for his Richard hath in heavenly pay
A glorious angel: then, if angels fight,
Weak men must fall, for heaven still guards the right."
26. Richard III (Henry VI, Parts 2-3; Richard III)
Also Known As: Duke of Gloucester, Dick Crookback, misshapen Dick, "Thou elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog"
Weapon of Choice: sword, daggers, barrels of wine
Bio: Born misshapen and deformed, Richard declares that "since I cannot prove a lover... I am determined to prove a villain." He shows himself vicious and brutal in war, cunning and malicious in peace, stirring up rumors so that his enemies turn on each other, and not hesitating to betray those who have supported him in the past. Though he assists his brother to victory in the Wars of the Roses, Richard always keeps his eye on the prize for himself. He hires murderers to kill his brother Clarence, usurps the throne of his nephew, young King Edward V, then has Edward and his brother killed, murders the relatives of Queen Elizabeth, poisons his wife so he can marry another, and executes his erstwhile friend Buckingham. Last year, Richard made it to the Final Four but lost to his eternal rival, Queen Margaret. Will his fortunes be better this year?
Quote: "Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile,
And cry 'Content' to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face to all occasions.
I'll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall;
I'll slay more gazers than the basilisk;
I'll play the orator as well as Nestor,
Deceive more slily than Ulysses could,
And, like a Sinon, take another Troy.
I can add colours to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school.
Can I do this, and cannot get a crown?
Tut, were it farther off, I'll pluck it down."
27. Shylock (The Merchant of Venice)
Also Known As: the Jew of Venice
Weapon of Choice: law, bonds
Bio: Proud and clever, Shylock strikes back at a world which holds him in disdain and disregard. Uncowed by the prejudices leveled against him, Shylock stands firm, taking revenge for wrongs done to him and defiantly scorning all appeals. His methods may be cruel, but so too have his conditions been. Will Shylock take a pound of flesh from his opponents in Shakespearean March Madness?
Quote: "What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?
You have among you many a purchased slave,
Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,
You use in abject and in slavish parts,
Because you bought them: shall I say to you,
Let them be free, marry them to your heirs?
Why sweat they under burthens? let their beds
Be made as soft as yours and let their palates
Be season'd with such viands? You will answer
'The slaves are ours:' so do I answer you:
The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,
Is dearly bought; 'tis mine and I will have it.
If you deny me, fie upon your law!
There is no force in the decrees of Venice.
I stand for judgment: answer; shall I have it?"
28. Tamora (Titus Andronicus)
Also Known As: Queen of the Goths, Empress of Rome
Weapon of Choice: her sons
Bio: Taken prisoner after a war with Rome, Tamora seeks vengeance on Titus Andronicus for her eldest son's death and for her humiliation in the streets. Once she becomes Saturninus's Empress, she uses her power to orchestrate the rape and mutilation of Titus's daughter and the deaths of his sons, then taunts him for his losses. She callously ignores Lavinia's begging, instructing her sons, "Away with her, and use her as you will, the worse to her, the better loved of me." When she gives birth to a mixed-race child with Aaron, she orders the babe killed rather than have it expose her infidelity. Pitiless and merciless, Tamora gives no quarter because she never received any.
Quote: "I'll find a day to massacre them all
And raze their faction and their family,
The cruel father and his traitorous sons,
To whom I sued for my dear son's life,
And make them know what 'tis to let a queen
Kneel in the streets and beg for grace in vain."
29. The Bear (The Winter's Tale)
(Sponsored by Lauren Rogers)
Weapon of Choice: being a bear
Bio: Most famous for exiting, the infamous bear of The Winter's Tale acts in accordance with nature, making a snack out of hapless Antigonus.
Quote: (The bear being unable to speak for himself, we offer the testimony of the Clown) "And then for the land-service, to see how the bear tore out his shoulder-bone; how he cried to me for help and said his name was Antigonus, a nobleman. But to make an end of the ship, to see how the sea flap-dragoned it: but, first, how the poor souls roared, and the sea mocked them; and how the poor gentleman roared and the bear mocked him, both roaring louder than the sea or weather."
30. Titus Andronicus (Titus Andronicus)
Weapon of Choice: the Roman gladius, kitchen utensils, baked goods
Bio: Titus initially wins victory over the Goths, losing 21 sons in the bargain. He stabs another son for the crime of defiance. He cuts off his own hand because he thinks it will save two other sons from execution. He slays Tamora's two sons and bakes them into a pie, then holds a dinner party where he feeds them to their mother, then kills his own daughter and stabs Tamora to death. Titus's ruthlessness, callous disregard for human life, and murderous fury took him to the Final Four last year -- Will he make it to the top in 2012?
Quote: "Hark, villains! I will grind your bones to dust
And with your blood and it I'll make a paste,
And of the paste a coffin I will rear
And make two pasties of your shameful heads,
And bid that strumpet, your unhallow'd dam,
Like to the earth swallow her own increase.
This is the feast that I have bid her to,
And this the banquet she shall surfeit on;
For worse than Philomel you used my daughter,
And worse than Progne I will be revenged:
And now prepare your throats."
31. Sir Toby Belch (Twelfth Night)
(Sponsored by Ben Ratkowski)
Weapon of Choice: sword, sack, trickery
Bio: A drunkard knight who's past his prime, Sir Toby nonetheless retains a fearsome temper and a talent for inciting discord. He revels all night in defiance of the steward Malvolio, then sets up Malvolio's humiliation; when he hears Malvolio disparage him, he can barely contain his anger. He later sets Cesario and Sir Andrew to fight each other, and ultimately takes the worst of it in a fight with Sebastian. A brash, crafty wildcard, Sir Toby may have tricks enough up his sleeve to advance in the bracket.
Quote: "O, for a stone-bow, to hit him in the eye! [...] And does not Toby take you a blow o' the lips then?"
32. Tybalt Capulet (Romeo and Juliet)
Also Known As: King of Cats
Weapon of Choice: rapier and dagger (trained in the Spanish style)
Bio: Choleric and hot-tempered, Tybalt defies the Prince and his uncle Capulet to pursue his feud with the Montagues. Mercutio describes his fighting prowess in great detail, noting his advanced technique and lightning-fast ability. Tybalt defeats Mercutio in a duel, provoked by Mercutio's taunting and Romeo's apparent cowardice. Tybalt hates peace as he hates hell, and he fights with nigh-unparalleled skill.
Quote: "This, by his voice, should be a Montague.
Fetch me my rapier, boy. What dares the slave
Come hither, cover'd with an antic face,
To fleer and scorn at our solemnity?
Now, by the stock and honour of my kin,
To strike him dead, I hold it not a sin."
And, the bracket itself (mostly randomly-generated, though I did tinker to avoid any first-round repeat matches) -- Click to expand:
So, those are our 2012 Shakespearean March Madness competitors. Who are your picks for the Final Four? Who do you think will reign supreme as Shakespeare's ultimate fighting champion? One of last year's favorites, or a Cinderella story? Let me know, here or on Twitter!