The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1510 Wednesday, 14 September 2005
Date: Tuesday, 13 Sep 2005 13:12:55 -0700
Subject: 16.1499 Performing Angelo
Comment: Re: SHK 16.1499 Performing Angelo
Seems to me Jack Heller is onto something:
None of the performances of MfM I've seen try to make Angelo a
comedic character, favoring a more tyrannical characterization.
I'm not sure why Angelo cannot be mocked and tyrannical
simultaneously. The awakening of his desires should hardly be a
discovery to the audience, so why shouldn't we laugh that he
knew so little of himself. Today, we call MfM a problem play,
but is the problem mainly for us, and not for the Jacobeans who
I think might have found the play as funny as any of its
contemporary city comedies.
I'm beginning to think we mistake to make Angelo a 'villain'. Doesn't
he function as somehow analogous to Bertram in "All's Well" --- an
Shakespeare in "Measure for Measure" lets his hero be vice-ridden (not
in the medieval sense)for most of the play. He is himself his own vice.
Then in the last act's great open-air trial pageant, Angelo first
tries to brazen it out, hiding his vice in plain sight. In the course
of many reversals (too many?) he turns from hidden sinner to open
penitent. As a prisoner he no more expects redemption than, when he was
a judge, he expected to feel temptation.
The reversals are comic in nature, but are they funny? (They need not
be funny, of course, but if they play to another tone, the comic spirit
must still be recoverable for the festive ending.) This I think is the
performance problem of the comedy, or the chief one: there's also the
question of whether the play's structure is overburdened with strands of
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