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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: Cressida
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1822  Friday, 20 July 2001

From:           Harry Teplitz <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Jul 2001 14:49:33 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: Cressida

Hi,

A quick response to Mike Jensen's alternate take on Ashland's Troilus &
Cressida:

> The show very clearly takes the view that Cressida
> really is a whore. This is made explicit by the staged
> parallels of Helen's gown in the beginning and Cressida's at the end.

I didn't see that.  First of all, I'm not even sure the show took the
position that *Helen* is a whore.  Helen is shown to be very sensual,
yes, but does that make her a whore?  As far as I recall she is seen in
a monogamous relationship with Paris.  Menelaes never gets our sympathy
and those who know the story are reminded that Helen's attachment to
Paris is sanctioned by a Goddess.  In fact, the production very clearly
tells us that Helen is not committing a great crime since the opening
image is used to underscore the scathing sarcasm of "Helen with Paris
sleeps -- and that's the quarrel!".

As far as Cressida goes, I don't see where she is staged as a whore.  It
is fairly clear that she is willing (though not eager) to abandon
Troilus for Diomedes.  After the harrowing arrival at the Greek camp, we
can't blame her for choosing a protector.  The parallel between Helen
and Cressida is that they both find a way to live with (even enjoy)
their captivity.  To accuse them of being whores, we would have to see
evidence that there is a "virtuous" alternative for them, other than
death.  And so isn't it the rest of the world that overreacts?

> Achilles speech to his lads, telling
> them how to kill Hector, was addressed to the audience.

I believe the Myrmidons were standing at the top the aisle ramps.  They
may have been hard to see, though, which I agree would be a mistake.
However, my wife understood the scene and had never heard of the
Myrmidons before.

> And why did Pandarus bequeath us his diseases at
> that point?

The bequest is still the end of Pander's arc.  Moving it earlier frees
up the rest of the play to focus on the events of the Illiad.  Leaving
Pander as the final speech would not have worked in this show, once the
decision was made to let Thyrsites be the Prologue.

> Of course many problems in a play can disappear when you cut 25% of the
> text, as was done here.

One might argue that Hamlet also works better with 25% of the lines cut,
as must usually be done...

> I'm glad I saw it, but I'm even more glad I have seen better.

I did not mean to imply the production was perfect.  For example, I
thought that the Cassandra scenes were largely fumbled.  The audience
(when I saw it) was unsure if she was supposed to be funny or tragic.

> BTW, I've seen three of this years four Shakespeares, and was under
> whelmed by them all. None were actually bad. Merely fair. I'll see
> *Merry Wives* in early August. I hope that will be better.

I saw all four Shakespeares, as well as the Life is a Dream.  I found
Troilus & Cressida to be the best of the season.  I liked Merchant a
lot; it was extremely competent which isn't easy.   Life is a Dream was
very exciting, and had many fun Shakespearean echoes.  Tempest seem
actively bad to me -- shallow, overly explained, and dull.  I also did
not like Merry Wives; it was enthusiastic, but the concept didn't work
for me and the comedic playing was off.

In any event,  I appreciate Mike taking the time to share his opinions
in detail.  Since I enjoyed the show so much, I'm glad for the
opportunity to discuss it.

Cheers,
        -- Harry Teplitz

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