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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The Merry Wives of Windsor

Why This Play?:

Two reasons.  1) After both the Henry IV plays, it was nice to round out the Falstaff saga.  Now I can dust my hands of the man!  2) My MOOC on Shakespeare was diving into this play last week, so it all aligned nicely. 

Merry Wives is a wholly underestimated work.  It doesn’t receive enough credit for the trope of “strong females” when Shakespeare’s heroines are discussed and analyzed in literary criticism and lectures.  This is also the play that is the most…well, normal, in its premise.  The one that’s most similar to the lives of Shakespeare’s actual audience in the London theatres (as opposed to royal viewers at court).  No royalty, no wars, no Italy, no murder, no magic.  Just married folks in a quiet English town, ready to throw down the nasty varlet who arrives to upheave their steady lives for his own gain.

Plenty of critics call it boring, but The Merry Wives of Windsor may just give the stamp of approval on being content with a simple life.  Does that really have to be so boring?

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