The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0055 Tuesday, 11 January 2000.
Date: Monday, 10 Jan 2000 16:54:44 -0500
Subject: Rat Plots
I think Roger Ebert coined the useful phrase "idiot plot" for a movie
that can exist (or be longer than five minutes) only because all or most
of the characters act like idiots. Many Shakespearean plays rely on a
corresponding absence of ordinary decent behavior among non-villainous
characters-not just the play Northrop Frye called "No Gentlemen in
1. Why didn't Troilus put his foot down and say that Cressida, as his
fiancee or at least his acknowledged mistress, was not a suitable
subject for a prisoner exchange?
2. The whole point of Timon of Athens is that no one in a corrupt Athens
who took Timon's generosity would help him out-but why wouldn't the
presumably grateful Christians of Venice, including the "many" whom
Antonio saved from Shylock, pass the hat before the bond came due?
3. As Isabella sensibly pointed out, why didn't Claudio just marry
Julietta when her pregnancy became evident? Where I come from (Brooklyn,
in the late 1950s), lots of guys got their nice Catholic girlfriends
pregnant. A week after the rabbit died, they were either newlyweds or
4. Which brings up the question of Kate Keepdown. If Lucio is sure that
he is the one who got her pregnant, then either he is so convinced of
his virility that he thinks none of her other customers could be
responsible, or she became a prostitute precisely because she was his
discarded mistress and unable to support herself and baby otherwise. So
she is an image of Julietta's case, just as Laertes is of Hamlet's.