Friday Two Cents: The Play’s The Thing


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I apologize for the lateness of this Friday Two Cents; I came back home late from my well-earned vacation Friday night and needed some time to prepare my post. 

I returned from a marvelous adventure to Stratford, Ontario where I indulged in the famous Stratford Festival.  I did a few tours, forums, meet and greets, enjoyed the local atmosphere but I truly went for the plays.  I was fortunate to experience three magnificent plays with such sound and fury.  They were, in order of how I viewed them, The Three Musketeers, Shakespeare’s Othello and The Merchant of Venice. 

The Three Musketeers was a bright adventure with King Louis XIII Musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis.  These three are then joined by a headstrong young D’Artagnan, which came to Paris to join the Musketeers.  They have great adventures and in the end they win the day.

Othello is one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies equal to his Macbeth and Hamlet.  The Moorish Othello is a General of Venice because of his deeds to Venice.  He wins the love of Desdemona, who does not care about the social issues about marrying him.  Enter the villain of villains, Iago that spreads roamer, jealousy and doubt.  Iago’s performance by actor Graham Abbey is nothing if not spectacular. He sows the seeds of jealousy in Othello and in the end, well Shakespeare is not known for his Disney endings. 

The most moving show I saw was The Merchant of Venice.  This was the very first Shakespearian play I read and I have always enjoyed it.  The villain is Shylock yet have I never saw him as a villain but a victim, mind you in Elizabethan England he would have been.  It was made more poignant with the director’s setting of the play in Fascist Italy of the 1930s-40s.  The play was and is an absolute masterpiece.

Yet each play had one scene that moved me to such and extent that I must write about them and how I saw that they were all related. 

In The Three Musketeers, the Milady de Winter remarked that it took eight men to capture and execute her, the men involved all had a part to play in why she became the villain, the “foul temptress”.  The original judge that marked her with the Fleur-de-lis because she temped a priest to break his vow and run away with her and he stole from the church. She was thus punished with the branding.  Then when making a new life with Athos she hid the mark but once discovered he cast her away, sending her on the road to more unspeakable deeds to try to survive.  Then D’Artagnan tricks and uses her, which pushes her further.  She is then captured and executed for these crimes.  Punished because of the men’s failings and she must pay the price, not them.  She stands alone against the male world because she is a woman trying to survive punishment for men’s deeds.

In Othello, the villain Iago hates him and plots his down fall.  Why?  We do not even know why.  Shakespeare is telling us in this world there are people who do evil things just because.  He pits the world, including Othello’s own mind, against him with doubt and jealousy.  Othello murders his love, his wife in a pit of jealousy and he truly is alone; the world against him even after Iago’s plans is discovered.

Scott Wentworth’s portrayal of Shylock is haunting, which words fail to adequately describe.  The courtroom scene is beyond moving, full of meaning and emotion for the villain Shylock but I could not see him in such a role.  Within the play and the time period he might have been seen as such. However, all I could see was everyone against him, Shylock alone in a den of lions, I wonder if Shakespeare might have originally meant it this way?

I saw three different plays yet they all had the theme of one person against the world.  Do to circumstances beyond the control of these characters they are hated, reviled, envied and feared and they are made outcasts. 

I believe many people, including myself, have felt this way at many points in their lives.  The world pushes upon us and we cannot stand against the ‘slings and arrow of outrageous fortune’.  And yes, there are real villains out in the world such as Iago, or the Christians in Venice or the men against the Milady de Winter, who hates someone just because of who or what are.

I myself have had jealousy and hatred thrust upon me because I am a male teacher in a female dominated profession.  I sympathize with Milady de Winter, Othello and Shylock, to demand my pound of flesh when the law says that I am owed it.  Thankfully I have these lessons and examples to help me make decisions, for I am a student of human behavior and you are never to old to learn. 

I learned or more importantly I reaffirmed the lessons I have learned through experience.  I went on vacation to relax and enjoy the beauty of Stratford, which I did.  Yet among the loveliness of this small city, among the trees, river, swans and wonderful people I got more than simple entertainment out of the plays.  I believe Hamlet was right: ‘The Play’s The Thing’

A few Images of an enlightening Vacation.

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