segunda-feira, julho 11, 2016

Debauchery in the City: "Measure For Measure" by William Shakespeare

What happens when a Duke is fed up with the debauchery in his city pretends to leave town, leaving in charge an uptight moron? Shakespeare in neutral happens.

Angelo, Angelo, the flesh is weak, I know. Sometimes we’re torn between whipping ourselves into a frenzy for thinking unclean thoughts, but I’d never would have whipped Isabella (or her brother) for trying to tempt me into ickiness.

Once a man with a seriously distorted Weltanschauung is convinced that sexual desire is absolutely evil, and he’d like to be the righteous man by shunning such liberties that he admits are possibly only in his head, but he also wants to get some action on the side, that's where and when Shakespeare's really is his usual self. Only Shakespeare could have written such a nicely self-debate about characters' urges.

I’ve never been very keen on this play’s ending, but I’m no Shakespeare. I find the ending troublesome and unacceptable, because I’ve trouble separating the Duke’s views from what I presumed to be Shakespeare’s, as though preserving Shakespeare’s moral and religious centre is more important than having him write exclusively good plays. On the other hand, the funny resolution seemed, in fact, something that the audience can laugh at, but which makes them bad people if they laugh at it, if you get my drift.

Imperfect and perverse though it may be, stays nevertheless truer to itself. The conclusion feels crazy, but the world of the play to that point has been intensely crazy to say the least.

NB: I still have to watch this play, either on the big screen or in the theatre to make up my mind about it. Or re-read it for good measure. As a farcical comedy it seemed a bit too much for my palate. A friend of mine would not hesitate to call it a WTF comedy…Maybe reading this in translation will give me a different flavour. If Shakespeare is read in a translation does that make the experience radically different - is Shakespeare in modern Portuguese, German, etc. more easily understood, i.e., less obscure and WTFuckable for the Portuguese and German readers than the English would be for an English reader? Is any attempt made to translate into outdated language to convey the same effect? Who gets the more 'authentic' reading - the modern English person reading a language 400 years old or the modern Portuguese or German reader reading it in 21st century Portuguese or German? At the end of the day, I suppose it's a case of the reader either wanting to just read the story or to be as well transported to 16th/17th century London whilst doing so. The same in film. For example, an American such as Gwyneth Paltrow perfected an English accent in the film, “Shakespeare in Love”. As did Ben Affleck who appeared in the same film. Why? Not only to capture the story but to greatly capture the story behind the story. I guess in the same way a Zen Buddhist - no matter their nationality - will chant the chant in its original form, be it Shinto or Sanskrit. I’ve definitely got to watch the play in Elizabethan English first to make sure I’m reading it right…At times I thought I was reading a play by a Frank Capra or a Howard Hawks…Screwball comedy comes to mind.

Namaste ;-)

NB2: All pictures taken from my Rowse.

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