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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: March ::
Re: Endings: *MM* and *AYL*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0193.  Friday, 10 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Kurt Daw <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 95 09:17:13 EST
        Subj:   Re: *MM* Ending
 
(2)     From:   Naoki Sakaino <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Mar 95 00:21:06 +0900
        Subj:   MM ending
 
(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Mar 1995 13:39:35 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0191  Q: *AYL* Ending
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kurt Daw <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 95 09:17:13 EST
Subject:        Re: *MM* Ending
 
As a young graduate student in 1981, I stage-managed a production of *Measure
for Measure* at Southern Methodist University.  Director Jack Clay gave his
Isabella the option of ending the play each night according to her feelings at
the moment, instructing her only that her choice to 1.) accept, 2.) reject, or
3.) refuse to respond to the Duke must be unambiguous enough that we in the
booth could execute one of three different cue sequences based on her choice.
Consulting my old notes, I count that in twelve performances she chose to
accept him six times, reject him four, and stand mute (forcing the Lady or the
Tiger ending) twice.
 
Predictably, the audience response was very different depending on which ending
was chosen.  My recollection is that on nights where the Duke was
unquestioningly accepted the show seemed rather glib, with Isabella's response
having little connection (in the audience's mind at least) to her journey
through the play.  She chose to accept him so many times, not because it worked
best, but because we all generally felt that was the *right* ending and kept
trying to make it pay off, but it didn't.
 
Outright rejection proved more interesting, because it received greater
audience approval, but it highlighted the modernity of this pseudo-modern dress
production in ways that stayed in the background all other nights.  It seemed
to me at the time that what was being approved was not Shakespeare, but the
comment on Shakespeare.
 
The nights where Isabella did not choose were the *best* performances.
Audiences were a bit shaken by not knowing how it ended, a few members of the
audience openly expressing anger, but on the whole these audiences found the
play much more profound.  These were the only nights on which the *production*
(as opposed to the play) was clearly a critical success.
 
This is, of course, only anecdotal evidence and personal opinion about one
production, but it struck me at the time (and has stuck with me) that the
ambiguity of the text, however much it cries out for resolution, cannot be
resolved without seeming too quick and trivial.  I respect the historical
argument that the play couldn't have *just ended* in Shakespeare's time,
because the stage had to be cleared without benefit of blackout, curtain or
other device, but my experience tells me the firm options don't play very well.
 
For whatever it was worth...
Kurt Daw
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Naoki Sakaino <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Mar 95 00:21:06 +0900
Subject:        MM ending
 
The last scene of MM is in fact impressive: all of the major characters appears
almost entirely silent, which is contrasted by the excessive speech of Lucio.
One unforgettable example of Isabella's rejection is produced by Jonathan
Miller, which some of you could also recall.
 
According to Martin Ingram, _Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England,
1570-1640_ (Cambridge, 1987), the rate of accusation for prenupital fornication
drastically raised around the period of MM's first performance. One could also
associate the Duke with James I, as quite a few scholars have pointed out.
 
One more curious thing: William D'avenant made an adaptation in his "The Law
Against Lovers", in which the Duke (to our surprise!) arranges the marriage of
Isabella and Angelo, and all the surrounding characters feel gratitude to the
Duke.  In short, D'avenant fills the "gap" which the audience of comedies
should be required by the convention of the genre.  Is that, however, the way
Shakespeare really intended?  Or, (I'd like to know) the convention of the
genre (if any) really required the contemporary audience to fill the gap? Is
there any possibility that D'avenant's voice is too louder for us to listen to
the Bard's implication?
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Mar 1995 13:39:35 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0191  Q: *AYL* Ending
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0191  Q: *AYL* Ending
 
Dave Evett asks for comments on the contradictions in the play's last scene. My
comment is: so many men, so many minds. But, of course, Oliver's generosity to
his brother in 5.2.10-12 comes before the arrival of brother Jaques and the
glad news of Duke Frederick's abdication. It's easy to give up something that
is being withheld from you ANYWAY. It's not as if Oliver can go back and claim
his lands at this point in the action. Perhaps when Duke Senior offers him his
lands back, Oliver forgets all about shepherding.
 
Has anyone considered that Jaques de Boys has been suborned by Duke Frederick
to entrap Duke Senior and his men? That Frederick and his men are waiting at
forest's edge to arrest the gullible forest dwellers? Somehow I just don't
trust this Jaques de Boyes.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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