sábado, 31 de enero de 2015


One day, I discovered a fine story that shares more than one similarity with the Fourth Story of Andersen's Snow Queen, and that may have served as inspiration for the Bard of Odense.
For those who don't remember or don't know the tale, let me give you a quick summary:


4. The Prince and Princess 

In the kingdom there lived a very clever Princess. The Princess decided she should get married, but she wanted to find someone who wouldn’t just stand around and be boring, or be intimidated by the grand castle. She wanted someone who was clever and cheerful. Many people came for her hand but they all became frightened and tongue-tied when they entered the castle. 

Then a young man came with long hair, intelligent eyes and poor clothes. He strode in to the palace and wasn’t at all shy. He was bright and interested in learning the Princess’ wisdom. They liked each other right away and he became the Prince. 

...into the palace that night...

Shadows along the wall swished past and  it was the dreams of the Prince and Princess. They came to the bedroom and the Prince and Princess were each in a bed that looked like a lily.

...the leaves to peek at the Prince, and seeing his red neck...
...the dreams swept through the room, he woke and turned his head...

The Princess woke and asked what was the matter.

...how kind human beings were!  In the morning the Prince and Princess gave lovely clothes to wear and asked to stay with them. They gave a muff and boots and a coach of gold with coachmen and horsemen. Then they waved goodbye...

...asked her about the Prince and Princess. “They’re traveling in foreign lands,” said the robber girl.

 another fascinating female character: a princess who is so clever that “she has read all the newspapers in the whole world, and has forgotten them again.” This princess decides to get married, but explicitly states that her prince will be someone intelligent and articulate, a man “who knew how to give an answer when he was spoken to--not one who looked only as if he were a great personage, for that is so tiresome.” She ends up choosing a suitor who had no intention of marrying her, but merely entered the castle in order to hear the princess’ wisdom. She chooses a husband who admires her brain, someone who, unlike the actual suitors, did not seek to win her but merely to hear her and enjoy her intellect.

 Here, the princess "has read all the newspapers in the world and has forgotten what was written in them", suggesting that the world has not yet penetrated, both for good and for bad. She is still somewhat innocent and also somewhat ignorant. Her husband, the prince, came to her a commoner with boots that squeak, but became prince because he was not intimidated by her stature. 

"a princess of surpassing cleverness and beauty":

The princess is a supplementary character who only appears in one of the chapters of the Snow Queen story - but she is nonetheless an admirable and inspirational female character, whose story hints at a much longer and grander untold narrative.
"In this kingdom in which we are now sitting, lives a Princess, who is so immoderately clever; but then she has read all the newspapers that are in the world, read and forgotten them again, so clever is she. Lately she was sitting on her throne, when she began to sing, and the theme of her song was "Why should I not marry?" "Well there is something in that, she said, and so she determined to get married; but she must have a husband who knew how to answer when spoken to, not one who could only stand there and look grand, for that is too stupid."

What a fantastic introduction to a character! And what a refreshing change from the fairytale standard of princesses being first and foremost beautiful! The Princess decides on her own that she wants to get married, and she then goes on to specify what kind of a husband she is looking for - one who is intelligent, unabashed by royalty, unafraid of her power and one who "feels at home' with her.

Andersen then goes on to describe the meeting of the princess and her husband-to-be:

"He was merry and well behaved, but had not come at all to pay court to the Princess, but only to hear how clever she was. He had every reason to be satisfied with her, and she no less so with him."

Again, what a refreshing subversion of the princess trope! The princess' chosen husband is bright-eyed and merry; a poorly dressed "little person" - a wanderer with creaking boots and a knapsack on his back. No dragonslayer he - but one who can match the princess' intellect, rather than impress her with feats of arms.

As well as being clever, the Princess is later shown to be generous and sympathetic, willing to help Gerda into her new golden carriage herself without formality.Though her part is small in the overall story, and she and the Prince go away to "live in foreign places", one feels sure that such a great character must be the heroine of her own legend.

The story that may have inspired Andersen is also the fourth story out of seven: the fourth story in Persian nested narrative (a frame novel with seven stories in it) called the Haft Paykar or Seven Beauties, in which a young and dashing shah asks each of his seven equally young and lovely wives, each from a different nation, for a story each day of a winter week. On Tuesday, the fourth day, the Russian beauty tells a story very similar to the Fourth Story of the Snow Queen:

The princess in this tale was tall and fair, rosy-cheeked, with ice blue eyes and raven hair, fluent in more than three foreign languages, an excellent artist and musician, and a learned lady as well. She is even knew much about the occult sciences like alchemy and astrology:
A heart-beguiler, witching by her glance, of roseate cheeks, and cypress-slender form.
Face lovelier than the moon in beauty bright, in sweetness lips more sweet than sugar is.
All strength of heart she took from those who sued; sugar and taper near her were put out.
Sugar, before her small and sugary mouth, in heart was more contracted than her waist.
The black musk afflicted at her curling locks; on thorns the rose and basil at her face.
High-statured like the cypress in the grove; like lamp and taper radiant of face.
The freshness of her face more fresh than Spring; than picture lovelier her lovely tints.
The drowsy jonquil languorous for her; the grace of eglantine her humble slave.
All men the dust beneath her servants’ feet; the rose prepared to serve her slaves as slave.
Besides her beauty and her smiling grace, she had the ornament of learning too.
Knowledge of every order she had gained; and had perused a leaf on every art;
Had read the world’s famed books on magic lore, on sorcery and other secret things.
Over her face she’d drawn a veil of locks; and was averse to all command to wed.
For she who in her time’s unmatched, unique, how can it fit that she be mated, paired?
When that the rumour spread throughout the world that from the heavens a fairy had appeared,
And that the moon and sun had born a child, with the beauty of Venus and wisdom of Mercury;
An eager longing for her rose in each; each one with deprecation urged his suit.

One backed his claim with gold and one with strength; she on the instant hid her gold from view.
 Beleaguered by countless shallow, vain, and status-seeking suitors, she moved from her grand palace to a fortress topped with scarlet towers on a high and steep mesa. This was the Iron Keep: the most inexpicable stronghold, which never had fallen, in the whole realm.
She a Slavonian princess in that fort—of princesses naught like it had been dreamt.
She’d closed the road to those who took the road; she’d foiled the wish of those whose wish was law.
The accomplished princess was on every theme most fertile in device and quick in thought.
She knew the constitutions of the stars, their temperaments together she’d compared.
She’d fully mastered all the temperaments; she’d taken in her hand the fragrant wine.
So that the treatment of all dry and moist, how water is made hot and fire made cold,
How men behave towards their fellow-men, how to community community,
All that may help and further culture too, all that may add adornment to mankind,—
Of all this she had gathered knowledge true,—she, who in form was woman, man in mind.
As she became content within those walls, she cast all thought of mankind from her heart.
And she added to the fortress garrison a whole regiment of a thousand artificial clockwork guards, android elite soldiers she had invented herself. Then, she announced throughout the kingdom that the young man who succeeded in entering the fort and defeating her in a battle of wits would be chosen as her consort. She painted the most realistic self-portraits she could on her proclamations, written on silk cloth, in which she stated that the suitors should be dashing, brave, sensitive, and clever as well:
"Whoever in the world may wish for me, with such a castle as is my abode,
Let him, not speaking from afar, come in, moth-like no simple gazer at the light.
A brave man may gain access to such fort; no coward can have any business here.
Whoever wishes for the beauteous one, must have not only one but thousand lives;
Must boldly set his mind upon the road, and four conditions (strictly) must observe.
The first condition of this wedlock (then) is (that he have) fair fame and beauty (too).
The second, that by knowledge he has gained, he loosen on this road the talismans.
The third condition is that having loosed from their connections all the talismans,
He show where is the portal of this fort, that he become my mate by door, not roof.

If he the fourth condition would fulfil, I'll question him upon some learned themes.
If he should answer me in fitting mode, (then) I will wed him as good faith requires.
That honoured man shall be my husband (then), for that which I have promised must be done.
And whosoe’er in these conditions fails, false to the terms, his blood be on his head!
Who holds this admonition in esteem,—he has the alchemy of happiness.
But he who cannot penetrate my words,—though he be great, he shortly shall be small."
Hundreds of suitors tried, but they either gave up before the steel warriors or before the confrontation with the princess on her throne, in her scarlet gown and ruby crown. And thus, they were sent away, looking back in disappointment.

One day, a dashing young officer in an armour of scarlet steel like freshly-shed blood, his clothes completely bloodstained (drenched on more than one battlefield), with nowhere to go after the wars, found one of the proclamations at a marketplace and decided to try his luck at the Iron Keep, and win the fairy-like royal maiden. His heart had been taken by storm, and he was himself as clever as he was brave and handsome, having never found his equal, whom he wanted for a bride. Thus he was night and day with anguished heart; nor night was night to him, nor day was day.
  But, in spite of the storm of flames in his chest and the hardships of the quest, he steeled his resolve: he was a military man and a war hero, who never had surrendered or fled on the battlefield. The Iron Keep would yield to him as well! Once there, keeping calm, he defeated the regiment of artificial warriors with his brains rather than brawn: he made simple strokes at the warriors and their swords shattered, thus disarming them. Then, seeing that the doors of the keep were firmly shut and made of  hard iron, our young hero looked for a hidden trapdoor on the ground, and at least he found one and a tunnel after it, thus entering the fort. There, servants were waiting for him to wash him clean and clear, but he wished rather to see the princess dressed in his blood-stained doublet and scarlet armour. The servants let him have his way.
And thus, he was led into the throne room, where the princess would sit, dressed in ruby red and wearing her late father's ruby crown, surrounded by her guards, court, and council. Now, the young officer was to face a far harder test than the previous: the battle of wits from which there was no turning back.

But the princess wasn't there. In her stead, the wise old regent of her childhood sat upon the throne, explaining that Her Highness had hidden behind a curtain in the great hall and that, from her hiding-place, she would propose four riddles: the four rounds of the epic battle of wits.
Precious baroque pearls, shining like stars, were strewn across the throne-room floor. The silhouette of the princess, tall and slender, could be seen from behind the curtain. She took the twin pearls from her earrings and had a servant send them to the suitor. The officer replied by weighing the pearls in his hands, and then he understood. He picked three pearls from the floor and added them to the two he had received. Thus, the valet returned to his liege lady with five pearls. 
In the meantime, the princess had a mortar and pestle brought from the fort kitchen to her. After weighing the five precious pearls in her little scales, she quickly ground them into powder with the pestle, displaying strength and speed uncommon in any lady, adding a spoonful of sugar into the mortar as well. Then, she had the valet send the mortar to the suitor.
Surprisingly, the young officer asked for a cupful of milk, which a cupbearer soon brought in a ruby-set chalice. Into this cup, the suitor mixed the pearl powder laced with icing sugar. The cupbearer then gave the chalice to his liege lady, who put it to her lips and drank heartily. The whole room was in silence: the only sound that could be heard was that of the drink coursing down her throat.
Still, dregs of pearl powder and icing sugar mixed with milk lay at the bottom of the cup: these the princess spared and weighed in her little scales, realizing that their weight had not diminished. Then, she took off a ruby ring from her left index finger, giving it to the cupbearer with instructions to give it to the suitor. The young officer received the jewel and, picking a pearl the size of the ruby on the ring, he put the ring on his right ring finger and gave the servant the pearl he had taken.
Upon seeing the pearl she had received, the princess took her necklace off and strung off all the pearls, until she found one the shape, colour, and size of the one the suitor had given her... and then, she threaded the twin pearls on the same string. This string was given to the officer, and he couldn't find a single difference between the two pearls. He could not find a third pearl to match these two, so he took a little blue glass bead from his helmet and threaded it in between the twin pearls.
Upon receiving the string with this change upon it, the princess kept silent and sweetly smiled. She fixed the blue bead on her bracelet, placing her left hand on her chest, and both pearls on her earrings. And then, her voice echoed calm and lovely through the great hall of the Iron Keep:
"Rise, my council, arrange the affair, for I have played with fortune now enough.
Behold, how my fortune favours me, when I choose a lover such as this.
Now have I found a match in one whose match no other person is in his own land.
I who have wisdom and approve the wise, in wisdom am inferior to him."
Then, she unveiled the whole mystery of the moves made during the battle of wits:
"When first I set my wits to work, the two pearls I unloosened from my ears.
Under the symbol of those lustrous pearls I said: 'Life’s but two days, these wisely use.'
He, who three others added to the two, said, Though ’twere five, ’twould also quickly pass.
Then I, who added sugar to the five, and ground in one the sugar and the pearls,
Meant that this life, polluted by desire, is like the pearls and sugar ground in one.
By incantation and by alchemy, who can each from the other set apart?
He, who poured milk upon the mixture then, so that one melted and the other stayed,
Meant that the sugar mixed up with the pearls would from them with a drop of milk divide.
I, who drank up the sugar from his cup, was but a suckling when compared with him.
My sending him a ring was meant to show that in his wedding me I acquiesced.
The pearl bestowed by him occultly showed that, like the pearl, his match could not be found.
I from my necklace added then a pearl to point out that I was myself his match.
Examining, he saw not in the world a third one that resembled those two pearls.
Thereafter, he obtained a blue glass-bead; and added it against the evil eye.
I, who disposed the bead upon myself, thus showed myself devoted to his will.
His blue glass bead, as seal upon my heart, is on my treasury the treasure-seal.
For solving thus the five close mysteries I honour and acknowledge him as king.
The wedding feast, held in the same hall where the battle of wits had taken place, knew no equal. Sweets decorated the banquet tables, the scent of aloe filled the air... Two of joyous heart were, that evening, joined together.
When the prince saw his captivating bride, saw that a heavenly fairy was his mate,
Sometimes he kissed her cheek, at times her lips; at times her breasts tasted, sometimes her lips.
Their reign was good and full of culture, and their family large and harmonious:
He lived with her, enjoying his desires. He dressed in red, a symbol of her cheeks.
For he had taken on redness of clothes as omen of success.
Since by that red he had escaped from black death, he ever with red gems adorned himself.
Since then in red his fortune had been cast, the name was given to him of “King in Red”.
And his queen and their children also took part in this story's...



LORENA ÁLVAREZ (so kawaii!):

This version goes along with the following easy and detailed retelling by Mairi Mackinnon:

You see, our princess recently decided to get married. She advertised in the newspapers and all the fine gentlemen came calling, but she didn't care for any of them --- until a brown-haired boy came along with shiny black boots that squeaked. 
He told the princess he only wanted to talk to her because he'd heard she was so wise.
Of course, that impressed her more than anything, so now he is a prince.
If they see, the guards and the footmen will never let near the prince and princess...
...to the palace grounds... to the kitchens...
That evening, ...a little door at the foot of a tower. ...up the winding stair. At the top was a magnificent bedroom with two beds shaped like red and white lilies. In the white lily bed, the princess slept soundly.
The prince opened his eyes.
The prince sat up sharply and the princess woke in a panic, but when they heard the story, they were truly sorry. The next day, they dressed in velvet and furs, and sent on way in a gilded coach,
....and in the princess's kingdom there were spring flowers in the hedges.

This version is oh so cute!! Mind that the lily beds are lovely, the bedchamber is Art Nouveau style, and their faces are so kawaii (squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!)
The clever princess is blond and her prince is auburn-haired once more.
There's also an illustration of the spring flowers in the kingdom's hedges. I will post it soon below this kawaii bedchamber scene.


Swedish, Salamandra HB:

Du förstår, vår prinsessa bestämde sig nyligen för att gifta sig. Hon talade om det i tidningarna, och många fina herrar kom på besök. Hon tyckte inte om någon av dem, men så kom en brunhårig pojke med skinande svarta stövlar som knarrade.
Han sa till prinsessan att han bara ville prata med henne eftersom han hade hört att hon var så klok. Det gjorde förstås större intryck på henne än något annat så nu är han en prins.
...att komma in i slottet...
Om vakterna eller betjänterna får syn på kommer aldrig i närheten av prinsen och prinsessan...
...till slottet... in i köket...
Den kvällen ...till en liten dörr vid foten av ett torn, ... upp för en svindlande trappa. Högst upp fanns ett praktfullt sovrum med två sängar formade som röda och vita liljor. I den vita liljesängen sov prinsessan djupt.
...den andra sängen...
Prinsen öppnade ögonen.
Prinsen satte sig hastigt upp, och prinsessan vaknade förskräckt, men när de fick höra berättelsen tyckte de synd om.
Nästa dag gav de kläder av siden och päls och lät åka i en gyllene vagn.
...och i prinsessornas rike hade blommor slagit ut bland häckarna.

Spanish, Gemma Alonso de la Sierra:

Verás, nuestra princesa se casó hace muy poco. Puso un anuncio buscando marido, pero luego rechazó a todos quienes se presentaron, hasta que llegó un muchacho de pelo castaño y botines negros que chirriaban al andar.
Le dijo a la princesa que sólo quería conversar porque había oído hablar de lo inteligente que era. Obviamente, la princesa se sintió tan halagada que lo eligió.
...entrar en el palacio...
Si ven los guardias o los criados  ... no dejarán ver ni al príncipe ni a la princesa.
...a las cocinas de palacio...
Esa noche, ...una puerta que había a los pies de una torre y... las escaleras. Arriba... una habitación magnífica con dos camas enormes con forma de lirio, uno rojo y otro blanco. La princesa dormía profundamente sobre el lirio blanco.
la otra cama. ...el muchacho que dormía en ella...
El príncipe entreabrió los ojos.
El príncipe se incorporó y la princesa se despertó muy sorprendida, pero cuando oyeron toda la historia sintieron mucha pena. Al día siguiente, vistieron con terciopelo y pieles y dieron un carruaje de oro para que siguiera su búsqueda.
... y en el reino de la princesa, los arbustos ya habían florecido.



(This version goes along with the following retelling by Nicola Baxter, whose Swedish translation was the first version of the story I ever read):

A princess who vas very clever. She advertised for a husband, and before long the castle was packed with young men lining up to see her. Unfortunately, when they came into her presence, all of them were too overcome to say a word. So she sent them away.
A boy who was not afraid of anyone came along, and delighted the princess by talking with her about all the things that interested her.
...to the castle... up the back stairs past swift shadows of horses and knights. 
...the princess's room. There, sleeping soundly, was a young man.
... the prince and princess. They felt sorry for (Gerta), and did what they could to help her. They gave her some new boots and a golden carriage with footmen to take her on her way.

Their attire is medieval, the princess is blond, 
and there's a tongue-tied suitor we can see from behind.

The beds are, for once, normal beds instead of lily-shaped,
 their canopies decorated with the kingdom's coat of arms 
(though topped with lily-shaped ornaments!), 
and still the princess and the young man (here, dark-haired, like in many other versions), 
sleep in separate beds, his with warm-coloured tartan covers and hers with cool-coloured.
Nicola Baxter chose a medieval castle as setting, and Shuttleworth went precisely from this premise (look at the chandelier and the beds!)



And, to celebrate it, I wish to share with you the fates of some interesting people who were born on the last day of the first month like me:

Pehr Löfling (31/01/1729): Swedish Enlightened botanist and ichthyologist

Franz Schubert (31/01/1797): Austrian Romantic composer

Concepción Arenal (31/01/1820): Spanish writer and feminist

Justin Timberlake (31/01/1981): US pop star

And, finally, the mistress of this blog:

Sandra Dermark (31/01/1992): Spanish university student and amateur writer

domingo, 25 de enero de 2015


Víctor Ros, Episode 2, "El anillo Rosacruz" ("The Rosicrucian Ring").
Ministerio de la Guerra (Spanish Ministry of War), 1895.
On the wall of a general's office within the Ministry, this picture was on display:

If this picture hangs in an office within the SPANISH MINISTRY OF WAR,
it means Gustavus Adolphus is held by them in high esteem.

I instantly recognized the picture as Gustav II Adolfs död i slaget vid Lützen (The Death of Gustavus Adolphus at the Battle of Lützen), painted by Swedish officer/artist Carl Wahlbom in 1855.
Though this is most likely to be a replicate: the original can be seen at the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm.

martes, 20 de enero de 2015


In every high-school fictional universe, there must be The Play.
In the Game of Wands prequels, specifically Winter Roses, The Play, done as a conscience-catching number for most of Hogwarts (Tywin Lannister and Robert Baratheon being the foremostly intended targets), is the highlight of the Oberyn arc (it was mentioned at the start of the arc and staged in the second chapter/episode from the end, "The Night of the Tempest").
The script chosen, greenlighted by a reluctant Tywin Lannister after some coaxing from both Olenna Tyrell and the author (the de facto headmaster disapproved, at first, of a Muggle story)...
was the Oberyn Martell retelling of the Othello story, with elements from both versions by William Shakespeare and Giuseppe Verdi.
Notably, Bianca's character was present in person and had a larger presence than in Shakespeare's play (but a ghost in the Verdi opera) unlike Desdemona's lord father, a ghost character mentioned by the cast in slightly negative terms (as a disguised "take that" to Tywin Lannister)
Costumes were hand-sewn taking inspiration from various nations and decades of the seventeenth century. Ripe cactus pears were put under the costumes at certain points, where the characters would be injured, to simulate blood.
The writer of the script had cast himself in the male lead role, referred to as "the Dornishman" or more frequently "the Dark One" (instead of "the Moor") and his first love in the female lead role.
All of the cast were scouted for their intellectual and artistic prowess. The youngest member of the cast, a first-year Renly Baratheon, was discovered by chance and (according to Oberyn) he had the talent to pursue a career in the performing arts.
A slightly shy Rhaegar, cast as Lieutenant Cassio, was endowed with real liquid courage during the "kegger scene" to keep his performance up, and thus, slightly intoxicated for real (nothing to worry about)!
The cathartic tragedy was put on stage as this, with a minimalistic cast (not to mention the cactus pears, the firewhisky, or the tweaking of the original script):

  • Othello: Oberyn Martell (post-Durmstrang gap year, 22 years old, in Spanish Tercio uniform)
  • Desdemona: Cersei Lannister (Slytherin, 16 years old, in French court lady's gowns and in French 1680s uniform)
  • Iago: Jaime Lannister (Gryffindor, 16 years old, in Swedish Green Brigade uniform, which includes a kilt)
  • Emilia: Elia Martell (Ravenclaw, 18 years old, in Swedish camp-follower frock)
  • Cassio: Rhaegar Targaryen (Ravenclaw, 17 years old, in French 1680s uniform)
  • Bianca: Lyanna Stark (Gryffindor, 16 years old, in maidservant frock)
  • Roderigo: Renly Baratheon (Slytherin, 7 years old but in a potion-induced age-up to 11, in French 1680s uniform)
  • The Former Governor (composite of Montano and Ludovico): Jon Connington (Gryffindor, 16 years old, in French Richelieu-era uniform)
  • Directed and produced by: Ellaria Sand
  • Script adapted by: Oberyn Martell
The play was followed by a short extra number performed by Rhaegar and Lyanna, of their favourite fairytale "Ice and Snow", with the following cast (they still wore the costumes they had worn in Othello):
  • Elliot: Rhaegar Targaryen
  • Freedert: Lyanna Stark
After both plays, which were vividly and formidably performed, a series of both expected and unexpected consequences followed the events on stage and those offstage:
  • Since Tywin Lannister declined Oberyn's offers of love more fiercely, the Dornishman realized his first love would go nowhere, put an end to all of his new relationships, including his engagement to Cersei, and left the Hogwarts campus (having left a letter of apology and a sunflower for Cersei, and the same letter and flower species for Jaime), kissing his younger sister goodbye, giving her the handkerchief, and wishing her the best of luck. Both Oberyn and Elia wept intensely at their farewell.
  • Elia broke up with Jaime, having become aware of her intellectual equality with Rhaegar, who became her official fiancé (like the case of the Princess in the Snow Queen Fourth Story (PRINCE & PRINCESS- A handsome couple, newly married and very happy):
  1. The Princess (Prinsessen), who desires a prince-consort as intelligent as she, and who finds herself at home in her palace. She has got warm, rich clothing, servants, and a golden coach.
  2. The Prince (prinsen), formerly a poor young man, who comes to the palace and passes the test set by the princess to become prince (the new prince of the land).
  • The Lannister siblings reconciled and consoled each other with one another. 
  • Renly, aside from discovering his gift for the performing arts, realized that he was terribly missing Oberyn, which led to a prelude to the awakening of his orientation.
  • And, most importantly... Rhaegar and Lyanna became closer to each other.
The episodes of the Oberyn arc:
  • The Dornish are Coming
  • Rarities
  • My Fair Warrior, Part I
  • My Fair Warrior, Part II
  • The Night of the Tempest (play staged)
  • A World of Sighs

And here's my review of the play itself:

Ever seen The Ember Island Players? Well, it's this episode of Avatar Airbender/Aang, Season Three, where the plot is retold in-universe as a play staged at a resort theatre (for instance, the Ty Lee in the play was obese and über-active). So it's both a play episode (originally, not a school play, for once) and a recap episode. A wonderful episode because of its combined premise (play+recap) and metafictional plotline. So I highly recommend it.
Well, Oberyn and Ellaria made Shakespeare's tragedy look like the Ember Island Players were staging Othello. Or like Springtime for Othello. It also reminded me of legendary show-within-the-show Springtime for Hitler. And I am being serious at that.
There were many similarities with the legendary episode: including, among other features: things happening on both sides of the fourth wall in-universe (on stage and among the spectators). And the play cranking up everyone's performance up to thirteen. And the play taking up a whole episode.
Well, Othello done as a school play is as original an idea as "for once, leading characters don't get to act in the play" in The EIP (though the Dornish arc makes, just for fanservice, shipping, and a little excitement, no use of the latter). Think of that: Othello done as a school play. In Fictionland, as the School Play article on TV Tropes proclaims, the most common dramas to be staged, both written by the Bard of Avon, are Romeo & Juliet for teenagers and MSND for primary school children. Othello is considered too controversial (steamy, and allegedly racist) to be performed by teens in the average fiction series. I loved the daring premise of having this for a school play. So I loved the fact that they did one of my favourite Shakespeares for a change.
At the start of Rarities, Varys with that thespian background of his gave LF (and spectators not acquainted with Othello) a quick summary of the play, which was retold with kawaii chibis of the cast in their costumes. You get a good laugh at LF's part in the account, constantly asking if Catelyn was there (she wasn't) and asking for the ending, which the eunuch didn't want to spoil, leaving the summary unfinished (Varys: Why don't you watch it yourself and see? I give no spoilers, and leave it up to you)...
I love the fact that Oberyn identified himself with the leading character, called (in his version) the Dark One and the Dornishman (instead of the Moor). The first we saw of him, in the dream/flashback that opens the arc, stealing a kiss from a child Cersei... and Jaime asking later in the same episode: "Has any stranger (non-Lannister) ever kissed you?" to which no reply came. Throughout the arc, Oberyn was flirting with Cersei in real life and as Othello to his Desdemona. And she displayed a little interest in him, much to Jaime's chagrin.

Speaking of Jaime's chagrin, add the fact that he has to play the villain. IN A KILT. While Oberyn, Rhaegar, and even Renly get to wear breeches.  To add insult to injury, it's ironic how the dyslectic Lannister heir got the part with the most lines to read and remember... Also that Jaime's dyslexia gets a bit exasperating when it comes to pronouncing and reading "lieutenant": when told how the word is pronounced, he tries to look at it on the script time after time to look for the ostensibly missing F, seeing one between the E and the U. Just consider how many times Iago says "lieutenant" in the play and you get the idea. At least, he could channel all of that disappointment into a vibrant performance, rendered more vibrant by his sarcasm and negative feelings (towards Rhaegar, but also towards "that bloody Dornishman..."). The Lannister gradually fused with the part of Iago, leading even to wearing that kilt without blushing, yet feel a little awkward in the whole "Now are you my lieutenant" mock wedding scene. And good chemistry with Elia. Sparks really fly, especially when he kills her character. We start to realize what he really feels towards Elia.
The relationship between Cersei and Oberyn grew into a crush comparable to hers on Rhaegar, so she was a little of a ditherer. We see how she gradually comes to dance the tango with the Dornishman. And still, upon realizing how different they are, to try to win Rhaegar once more (after his departure). 
Lyanna and Rhaegar also developed their relationship a little further by playing lovers/fiancés (Bianca was originally Cassio's paramour, but the Oberyn script made her the lieutenant's intended bride!), and their surging feelings started to surface (especially Lya's suspicions of Rhaegar belonging to another as a hazard). I loved another plot point introduced: the Other Rhaegar, his repressed self that surfaces under the influence. The strange accent (Leipzig Saxon in the German version, Värmland in the Swedish) and the hot-blooded hyperactivity. BADASS. And also a way to let those dad issues appear once more (the notorious Targaryen curse, trauma, the obsession Rhaegar has with his own sanity...). Add the fact that this started when he was given liquid courage to improve his performance (more on that later). 
In short, the few things we need to know about this play are:
So we start the review (of the play within the show only, act by act):

The setting of the first half of Act One is a wooden outdoor platform on the shore of Lake Hogwarts: the rest of the play will be performed in the courtyard.
The curtain opens over a thunderstorm with sudden flashes of lightning, which light up the setting, the docks before the fort, à la Delacroix. These flashes showcase, in turn, Rhaegar (as Cassio) looking hopeful, Cersei (as Desdemona) head bent in prayer, Jaime (as Iago) looking shifty and holding his fluttering kilt. Elia (as Emilia) and Renly (as Roderigo) stand behind the kilted ensign.
There is a chorus of prayers and there is this storm, and then Jaime wishing that the flagship should find a watery grave, then, suddenly, the flagship appears and approaches the waterfront among the high waves, as Rhaegar sees it come through a spyglass and gives commands to the men to find ropes and throw them towards the flagship, which is pulled on land by the volunteer students playing the privates (in French eighteenth-century uniforms). Then, the storm calms down and a beautiful sunset appears, as the last flash of lightning shines on a landing Oberyn (as Othello), who solemnly proclaims:
"Rejoice, everyone! The foe is put to rout! Ours is the glory!"
And everyone cheers on both sides of the fourth wall-in universe, save for Jaime and Renly, who stand leaning against the walls of Hogwarts as the great general rushes forth to embrace and kiss his spouse passionately as he's saluted by his second in command.
So Jaime and Renly are having a conversation, during which the former explains to the latter that he would better not drown himself (only fools do so) and that he will grant his wish of getting the-one-that-got-away Desdemona, who will not lust after "the black beast" forever... moreover, he only pretends to love the Dornishman and actually hates him fiercely. The reason why?
And here's when Jaime lets go of all that negativity which the part of Iago helps him so well to channel:
"That frilly little upstart (pointing at Rhaegar, who is talking to the female cast), whom they call 'Lieutenant' (air-quoting)... who knows as much of tactics as a blue septa, has usurped my rank, while I have risked life and limb upon many a battlefield (stripping his sleeves to show scars and/or muscle), fighting the good old honest way on the frontline itself! That's how His Dorniship has decided... and I stay at his service as a sergeant major! (Pause) But, as sure as your name is Roderigo, if I were the Dornishman, I would rather have others than Iago by my side!" Then everything crowned with the not-scary-at all evil laugh the Lannister scion can muster.
A great motive rant courtesy of Jaime Lannister. The words in italics are the stressed ones. The evil laugh, while not ominous at all, sounded more like Lock from Go Princess Precure... like a cheerful tenor parody of the typical evil laugh. It helped deconstruct Jaime's Iago while thankfully playing with the evil laugh trope.
The rest of the play takes place in the Hogwarts courtyard, where everyone relocates, led by Oberyn and Cersei holding hands, Rhaegar following them, then Lyanna, Elia, and finally Jaime with Renly by his side. As soon as everyone is gathered in the courtyard, a colourful yet ominous burst of fireworks appears in the night sky, and the Toccata and Fugue starts to play to the rhythm of the fireworks.
There is a dance on stage, a minuet, Oberyn with Cersei, Jaime with Elia, and Rhaegar with Lyanna, though soon the music switches to a waltz (Blue Danube, what else?), and two of the couples switch as Rhaegar leads Cersei to dance, while holding and kissing her hand. Renly stands aside, leaning against a wall and looking at the minuetting, then waltzing couples, as he fidgets with his fingers and whispers to himself.
All while the fireworks form the shape of flitting fairies, butterflies, dragonflies, and other lithe, slender flickering things. And then, they gradually decrease until one little last spark is left, then fades away.
The next scene will obviously be the kegger. It backfired, to a certain degree. Yet what made it ostensibly SNAFU (the firewhisky incident) actually bettered the performance. 
So we have, obviously, Jaime encouraging Rhaegar to have a drink while the lieutenant is on duty. Which, as you know, sets the plot of the Tragedy of Othello in motion.
Now here's the snag: both Rhaegar and his character Cassio are lightweights (can't hold their liquor).
So the words "No thanks. I'm already light-headed after a single sip" were also true beyond the fourth wall.
Moreover, Renly is told that Cersei <3 Rhaegar, since he is so clever and so dashing. And he is told that now the lieutenant's tragic flaw will be revealed, and all Renly has to do is provoke him to vengeance.
Now Jaime sings "I was the Kaiser's Assistant", followed by "Good Ship Venus", as drinking songs to entice Rhaegar to get over the threshold. The songs are very well performed... (At least, in the German version. In the Swedish one, the song was a modified version of Evert Taube's lyrics for the polka that plays throughout the first half of the scene).
Add the fact that Rhaegar was to be given liquid courage to improve his performance. Lyanna's character Bianca was here some barmaid or tavern wench, who served the officers at the local inn. And she was due to lace Rhaegar's cup of mock liquor/apple juice with real firewhisky. Of course, Jaime saw her pouring, by mistake, too much of the real thing into that tankard... and he knew the whole play would be screwed up.
So Rhaegar wasn't at all aware that he was drinking more firewhisky than Lyanna should have given him (uh-uh!), not even when he noticed the taste of his cup or he felt the liquor searing his throat.
And then, suddenly, his cheeks blush brightly, he gets all fired up (like, hyperactive) and starts speaking with a strange accent. MEET THE OTHER RHAEGAR TARGARYEN.
And don't forget him, for this repressed personality will pop up more often than you expect!
Both versions manage to cram in a few in-jokes:
In the German version, the Other Rhaegar says he is from "Leeiptzsch" (sic!) In the Swedish one, he's studied at Lund. Both seats of learning (a nod to the original life Cassio being an intellectual, a Florentine, or both?). 
There is a scene in the German dub when Rhaegar leaps on the table and says: "Come, we'll dance on the table, until it breaks!" and laughs hysterically at the end. And THIS sounds like an evil laugh.
Then, the Other Rhaegar says he is not intoxicated, can tell left from right (waving the wrong hands), can speak well and walk in a straight line (how ironic), and then he grabs Lyanna by the skirt, and then he grabs Elia ibidem, and... now he tries to lift the kilt Jaime is wearing...
"I'm not a lady!", the sergeant major says. And what follows is a reenactment of the drag queen scene in Crocod... You get the picture. Rhaegar Targaryen, intoxicated, pulling a Croc on Jaime Lannister in a kilt. And you get Jaime squealing like a piglet:
And whacking Rhaegar in the middle of the chest.
Which Renly and Lyanna laugh at. And the following exchange ensues:
LYANNA/RENLY: He-he-he-he...
OTHER!RHAEGAR: What's so funny...
RENLY: Lieutenant... you are... (Lyanna prompts him) drunk.
OTHER!RHAEGAR: I'm not drunk!!! Shut the seven hells up!!!!!!!!!
CUE WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE. While the Other Rhaegar is now berserk and cutting down everyone and everything in his path with a four-foot-rapier. And shouting that he's not drunk and everyone should shut up.
And Jaime rallying the volunteers, including Dayne and Connington, to subdue the drunken lieutenant, as the Lone Ran... William Tell overture is playing in the background. Again, there's Jaime Lannister going "Lieuteeeeeenant!!!" and finally getting a nice hold of his obviously weaker opponent, but not before Rhaegar has leapt off the stage to lunge at someone (Tywin or Robert being a likely target), a fight has broken out straight before the spectators, and the lieutenant is carried back onto stage unconscious.
(LF clings to Cat, and Lysa clings to LF, among the spectators.)
Then, Oberyn and Cersei both appear, looking slightly rumpled and dressed in nightgowns (his is crimson and hers is mint green). And obviously startled, as startled as the spectators of the play. And, of course, seeing Rhaegar unconscious, Oberyn turns to Jaime:
"Honest Iago, my dear friend, could you give an explanation?"
The way Jaime's Iago washes his hands is priceless. The story told is flipped at first, with Jaime trying to stop Rhaegar from ethyl excess in vain. The tone in which the last words are spoken is memetic:
"I'd rather sprain both my feet than come to you!"
In the meantime, Rhaegar is coming to, looking obviously pale and ill at ease, due to more than mere general malaise. And his commanding officer turns to him as he awakes:
OBERYN: Lieutenant Cassio? How come you lost your reason?
RHAEGAR (coming to, half-conscious, looking around himself): Uh-uh, not guilty!
OBERYN (sternly, taking Rhaegar's epaulets and cravat off): Though I love you, you'll never more be an officer of mine.
Rhaegar awakens fully from his state of unconsciousness, shocked by his character's demotion to noncom. Given the fact that he was intoxicated in real life, this is more than just acting.  Then, Lyanna slaps him in the face and turns her back on him, giving him a cold glare, as she puts the chairs and tables in their usual places. Which is even more painful.
We saw that a sugar rush turns Rhaegar (and Aerys) extremely hyperactive, but not what ethanol can do to his fragile Targaryen system, until now. This other personality's appearance. Now it's come to an end, and he's ill at ease, and psychologically crushed, but the show must go on! 
While Jaime is tending to Rhaegar on the stage floor, Oberyn and Cersei have a little moment of romance on a ledge above. And yes, she puts his cavalier hat on. The poses they enjoy are slightly sexy (embraces, hands between legs, head-resting...). The clouds part to reveal a starry night sky with a waning crescent moon. The conversation itself is rather commonplace for an Othello retelling, but all of the cooing and romancing poses make it look like something far more daring:
OBERYN: How wonderful the stars are, and how wonderful is the power of love!
CERSEI: At last, after the war, we are finally together!
OBERYN: You are the only one who loves me for who I am, not for what I am.
CERSEI: I love you too for the misfortunes you've gone through...
OBERYN: And I love you too for caring for my sorrows.
CERSEI: Kiss me once more!
OBERYN (kisses her on the lips): I would never tire of kissing you.
CERSEI (kisses him on the lips): Neither would I.
(They kiss each other's lips at unison, passionately)
A truly heartwarming coda for this chapter, and great acting from all the characters so far: the casting could not be more perfect... This act segues into the next as both newlyweds leave stage...