Saturday, December 20, 2008

TROILUS AND CRESSIDA: 9.75--A so-called "problem play"--but wherein lies the problem? Yes, there is a continuous juxtaposition made between the story of Troilus and Cressida and the fate of Troy--but what of it? The one mirrors the other: Troilus' failure to keep Cressida from the clutches and hot beds of the Greeks reflects Priam and Hector's inability to prevent the fall of Troy. An earthy humour is mixed in with both stories. Ajax is the butt of Ulysses' wit and apparently in Shakespeare's time "Ajax" was pronounced "A-jacks" (which was another name for a toilet!). Some will insist the play is problematic because the hero, Troilus, doesn't die. But is Troilus the hero? Hector would seem to be the noblest of the Greeks and Trojans--and he does die at the hands of a treacherous Achilles. All the characters, except perhaps Hector, have an earthy quality that seems to mock at their fabled greatness. An example of Ben Jonson's strictures on Shakespeare for his inhistoricity occurs during the council of war at Troy. Hector upbraids his brothers for moralising too much and informs them that Aristotle had stated the opinion that young men should not study moral philosophy. Needless to say, the fall of Troy took place around a thousand years before Aristotle lived! Nevertheless, this is a fine production, well-acted and directed. It emerges not as a problem play, but as one of the better examples of Shakespeare's genius. Charles Grey deserves a special mention in the part of Pandarus.

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE: 8--A good solid mark for a good solid play and production. Of course, it is racist by our contemporary standards, and for this reason it is far more of a "problem" play than "Troilus and Cressida" ever was. Shylock, the money-lender, is a Jew and Shakespeare weighs him down with all the so-called defects of his race. Finally, after being completely humiliated by the laws of Venice, he has his wealth confiscated and is forced to become a Christian. Warren Mitchell (of "Till Death Us Do Part" fame) makes a fine Shylock and John Nettles ( "Bergerac"), a surprisingly good Bassanio.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: 7--Never one of my favourites with its fairies, woods and phantasmogorical themes. Helen Mirren is more at home playing TItania, Queen of the Fairies, than she ever was as Rosalind in "As You Like It" (no doubt due to her having been given the authority of a Queen in this play). All in all, this is an average performance of a lesser play.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen Mirren is hot!

6:00 AM  
Anonymous hector said...

I did this play for A-Level and I think it's very good.

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Carmen said...

Helen Mirren is hot!

11:02 AM  

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