The Merchant of Venice

Right now, the first months of 2017, is the strangest time in politics and government that I have ever witnessed.  I know, I know.  I already did a Trump comparison of a Shakespeare play.  I promise this isn’t going to focus on a specific person in power…more the idea of power itself. 

The Merchant of Venice is a love story, a friendship story.  But it’s equally a tale of power, prejudice, commerce (both monetary and emotional), and negotiation.  The plot hinges on laws and how to interpret them.  Oppressed Shylock tries to use the law to his advantage and fails.  As many laws are up for reinterpretation or change here in the States under a new administration, I wondered how fair Venice’s laws were to its people.  What happens when the law doesn’t exactly protect or serve the citizens?  What are we supposed to do then (i.e. now)? 

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King John

True story – my kids adore Disney’s Robin Hood.  They like to play their own warped version of it, in which I always have to play the part of King John.  They basically run around the park and squeal about how they refuse to pay their taxes while I pretend to throw a fit and suck my thumb (while giving the world’s worst Peter Ustinov impression).  Most parents probably think I’m raising my kids to be some version of Libertarian.  Anyway, some of my online Shakespeare buddies really enjoy this show, so it was time to check it out.  And turns out, I really did as well.  But not for the sniveling king as much as the illegitimate nephew who keeps trying to advise him.  In this modern world, we should all take a page from the Bastard's book.

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Measure for Measure

Why This Play?:

I am chugging along on this project – this marks my 17th completed play in 6 months thus far.  Not quite the pace I originally hoped of 39 plays + poems done in a year (because, you know, life) so time to step it up!  I realized, just in the plays alone, remaining on my to-read list are 3 romances, 4 tragedies, 7 histories, and 9 comedies.  Well, on to a comedy then!  Measure for Measure won the selection as polled by my 2 Twitter followers.

And boy, did I discover something special with this play!  This is juicy and feels like cutting-edge satire even after 400 years.  We have characters who believe and live by their morality (Isabella), and we have characters who bend their morals to suit their actions (Claudio, Angelo…basically any character who offers an excuse as to why they engage in behavior that they know is not in accordance with the law).  The vast majority of us fall into the latter category in our daily lives.  Whether we break laws (speeding through traffic?) or go against our religious/moral ones (adultery?), what makes us still maintain that moral guidance even when we don’t exactly put it into practice?

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