Friday, January 09, 2009

TITUS ANDRONICUS: 9.25--Anyone who loves Elizabethan revenge tragedies such as "The Spanish Tragedy" and "The Revenger's Tragedy" itself will love this one. Yes, it's every bit as gory as you've heard--but it's also a masterfully constructed revenge tragedy of the type the Elizabethans did so well. It has been conjectured that this drama is not by Shakespeare at all but by some lesser playwright, but the build-up of tension and the expertly paced conglomeration of human misery is extremely Shakespearean--as is also the language and sensibility. Yes, it's clearly an early work with rough edges--but it's wonderfully entertaining as well. This is a fine production too but, really, the director only needs to let this drama speak for itself. For the squeamish I should note that the action includes 2 beheadings, 1 murder, 3 chopped off hands, a ripped-out tongue, a father who kills his own son, 5 revenge killings, 1 mercy killing and a man who is buried in the earth and left to starve. No doubt this extensive representation of gory deeds resonated much more closely with an Elizabethan audience, used as they were to public executions and amputations.

HAMLET: 9.5--The revenge tragedy par excellence or, rather, the revenge tragedy taken on to a higher plane and sublimated into true psychological drama. I'd give it 10 except for the fact that I have never been 100% happy with Derek Jacobi's interpretation which includes too much shouting and grimacing for my liking. Gielgud had the voice and Olivier the young athleticism to do the role of Hamlet justice. Therefore, the ideal Hamlet might be a composite of these two.

ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL: 8.5--Very good. Parolles provides the farce and Bertram and Helena the central drama.. Some commentators have regretted the sudden change in Bertram's behaviour at the end of the play when he unexpectedly declares his love for Helena--but anyone who thinks of the play primarily as a text and structure, will see that the conversion was necessary in order to preserve dramatic unity.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it true that the Queen eats her own sons in a pie (unknowingly) at the end of Titus?

12:28 AM  
Blogger John Wallen said...

Yes, I forgot that bit--but it's quite true.

12:43 AM  
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