ACT VI by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Like a lot of romance authors, or authors such as myself who have some of their books classified as romance, I’m a big Shakespeare fan. I know, I know – it’s one of life’s little paradoxes that the most maligned fictional genre out there, romance, should be populated by writers devoted to the most respected writer who ever lived.
It’s been said that if Jane Austen were alive today, she’d be labeled a writer of Chick Lit; OK, I’m the one who said that, but it’s true! And if Charlotte Bronte were alive today, she’d be leading the charge! Still, I submit to you that if Shakespeare were alive today, he might get tapped with the Chick Lit wand too, at least regarding his Comedies.
I learned the best of what I know about the Bard from my Shakespeare II professor in college.
(Shakespeare I was a total bust. It was taught by a Falstaffian souse with a bulbous nose who used to simply stand at the lectern and read from the plays for an hour three times a week…and he did not have a good voice. By the time I realized how soporific the class was doomed to be, I’d already signed up for Shakespeare II and was just too lazy – or too busy being a bit of a souse myself – to unsign up myself. And now, back to our story.)
Thankfully, the Shakespeare II professor was a different professor, a man who brought to life the language of Shakespeare in the way my snobbish soul had always dreamed it could be. He made me see the depiction of Shylock not as anti-Semitic, but rather, as an indictment of religious hypocrisy; when we finished The Tempest, he clapped us out of the course just as Shakespeare clapped the reader out of what many critics believe is the last play Shakespeare wrote alone; and he taught me that comedy ends in marriage while tragedy ends in death.
That’s right, just as romance in modern times must end in Happily Ever After, comedy ends in marriage!
And of those matrimonial endings to comedies, my Shakespeare II professor taught that there’s a good reason why there’s no Act VI in comedy. We leave our characters at the end of Act V when they’re still young and beautiful but we never get to see Act VI because that would be where reality sets in, where boredom and dissatisfaction rear their ugly heads, conflict arises about which direction the toilet paper should flow, and neither spouse particularly wants to spend time with the other’s family on too regular of a basis. But, in this, my Shakespeare II professor was wrong! Shakespeare was wrong too!
In my twenty-fourth year of marriage to the man I’ve been with for nearly thirty years, I am endlessly fascinated with Act VI.
My husband is a published writer too but he’s also a window washer. A few years back, he came home from a job and said the owner of the house suggested they go skiing together sometime. In case you don’t know much about what it’s like to work in a service profession, let me say that it’s really not typical for blue-collar workers to be invited to engage in social activities by their white-collar clients. I might have been more surprised but this was not the first time this had happened with my husband. Still, I had to respond, “Who has stuff like this happen to them?” And then it hit me: my husband was a bro-magnet. And, about two minutes later, I had the idea for a new book.
In the comedic romance The Bro-Magnet, I introduced readers to Johnny Smith, the ultimate man’s man, Best Man at no less than eight weddings, who secretly dreams of meeting The One. And in the recently released sequel, Isn’t It Bromantic?, I explore what happens to Johnny in Act VI, in his quest to become like Leo and The Little Lady, the couple from Book 1 who were happily married for over seventy years.
Sure, getting love is the focus of most romance books. But keeping love, how to keep it over time, and what happens after Happily Ever After – now, that’s a story. I hope you’ll think so too.
P.S. When I told my husband I mentioned him in an article I was working on today, he seemed concerned that I might have made him out to be the butt of one of my jokes. So when I further explained about “…twenty-fourth year of marriage…endlessly fascinated with Act VI,” he was so pleased, he said he figured maybe he should get me a good present for Valentine’s Day this year. I think we can all agree then that, if nothing else, this has been a profitable essay for me.
Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of 31 books for adults, teens and children. You can read more about her life and work at www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBaratzL.
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