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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: September ::
Performing Angelo
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1532  Thursday, 15 September 2005

[1] 	From: 	Abigail Quart <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 14 Sep 2005 12:04:47 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1499 Performing Angelo

[2] 	From: 	Robert Projansky <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 14 Sep 2005 15:57:55 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: Performing Angelo


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Abigail Quart <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 14 Sep 2005 12:04:47 -0400
Subject: 16.1499 Performing Angelo
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1499 Performing Angelo

Any character who addresses his penis onstage is a "comedic" character.

MfM II ii: What's this, what's this? Is this her fault or mine?

What I keep wondering is if Elizabethan propmasters had some sort of 
device by which the swelling under Angelo's robes could be made readily 
apparent to the audience. We know Angelo is hiding something from 
Isabella because he has turned away from her, as evidenced by her twice 
asking him to turn back, and his strangled utterances bidding her to go 
and come back another time.

Our "problem" with Measure for Measure is that we take the pompous 
pontificating of its characters seriously. The flaw is identical in 
Angelo, Isabella, and the Duke. They all three believe they are above 
human emotion, especially passion. They all three believe their ish 
don't stink. It's helpful to remember the musical nature of 
Shakespeare's plotting: each play sets up variations on a theme.

I've never had a problem with Measure because I was introduced to it by 
Professor Martha England of Queens College, CUNY, who insisted we 
remember that the above three characters were very young, otherwise 
their mistakes would not be forgivable. All three are of an age to be 
planning weddings and beginning families, and all three have opted out.

The "problem" of Measure begins when Angelo and the Duke are cast too 
old for the audience to feel comfortable in forgiveness. And yes, the 
Duke has much to be forgiven for. He is a Ruler Who Refuses to Rule. He 
is in need of a serious slapping upside the head. In fact, Measure would 
be a tragedy instead of a comedy if the Duke didn't run into Isabella at 
the prison. It's quite amazing. He's dressed as a monk. She's dressed as 
a nun. He's walking out of the cells, she's walking toward them...they 
pass. As near as I can tell from the dialog in that scene, the Duke 
almost leaves the stage entirely(because Isabella has the chance to 
complete her dialog with the Provost) and then doubles right back to 
speak to the Provost again, himself.  It's like lightning strikes him 
but it takes a second for him to process it.  BUT AFTER THE DUKE SEES 
THE NUNLET, ALL HIS PLANS CHANGE. He just refuses to admit why.

If Isabella has been similarly struck by lightning upon seeing that 
young monk...

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Robert Projansky <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 14 Sep 2005 15:57:55 -0700
Subject: 	Re: Performing Angelo

Re Jack Heller's thoughts on a comic Angelo:

I agree that the seduction scene may well have been written as comedy. 
It's all about sex and mostly about misunderstanding, basic comedy 
material. When Angelo first starts, Isabel doesn't get it. First he 
tiptoes, then he strides toward the explicit and she, in her maidenly 
way still doesn't get it. He gets frustrated (more basic comedy stuff) 
-- "your sense pursues not mine". As she cluelessly responds with her 
innocent pleas she further incites him:

Th' impression of keene whips, I'ld weare as Rubies,
And strip my selfe to death, as to a bed,

How about Natalie Portman saying these Freudian fireworks downstage 
while, say, Alan Rickman's jaw drops behind her? I think that could be 
pretty funny.

But --you will attempt that comedy at your peril. At every M4M I've ever 
seen, when Angelo starts in on Isabel all the women in the audience 
first squirm, then scowl, then seethe. Then it gets worse for them: the 
solution has Mariana, who, though scorned, still wants Angelo, agreeing 
to let him do her (in silence) as a stand-in for the woman he really 
wants, which further hugely irritates your female audience, who would 
rather have Angelo end up with the axe instead of that pathetic Mariana. 
To compensate for playing the seduction scene for laughs I think you 
would have to really make Angelo squirm before he is forgiven.

Sorry to make this so long, but Jack Heller's post reminded me of more 
of M4M I think is funny:

I've always thought Isabel's visit to her doomed brother Claudio is a 
comic scene, although I've never been able to convince anyone else. She 
comes to say there's no hope, and Oh, by the way, the sainted deputy is 
actually a devil: he'll let you live if he can bed me. Although Claudio 
at first clucks sympathetically with her refusal even to imagine such a 
thing, soon he's trying to sell her on the idea. Although it's always 
played solemn as stone, I believe it was written to be funny, that 
"Death is a fearful thing" is a comic pivot line something like 
Benedick's "Man is a giddy thing" -- a lame general abstraction about 
nature to justify one's own less-than-perfect self, and, of course, 
human weakness is the stuff of comedy.

Has anyone seen this scene played for laughs? (And as long as I'm 
casting this show, how about Richard E. Grant as Claudio?)

Bob Projansky

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