If You Can't Read Him, Read a Parody

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"Nay, love's a bond of servitude;

A trap that sly deceptors lay for fools-"  -(MacDonald, 69)


Oh, come on now.  Who doesn't love them a little jaded monologue?  I know I do.  And who, at one point or another, hasn't wanted to read the part of Romeo and Juliet where Romeo discovers Juliet chews with her mouth open, or Juliet finds out Romeo has some nasty back hair.  Was young love accurately portrayed by Shakespeare?  Sure, if the love only had to make it for three days.  And we see from MacDonald's version of things, that three days was the staying power of this particular relationship.  We also get to see a parodying of the death-happy Juliet and the bloodthirsty Desdemona.  What could be better? 

MacDonald goes on to point out the scenes in each play that drive an audience member crazy.  We've all been in a similar position as Constance when she is disgruntled over the sloppiness of these "tragedies," even if this didn't occur when we were watching a Shakespearean play.  Maybe you were watching TV, and a character's boyfriend is sitting with another girl.  We know they're just talking about a paper, but from the angle our protagonist sees them, they seem to be getting ready to....er, cuddle.  Now, as the protagonist runs off, don't we all give a groan of disgust?  "Talk to him, already!" we yell at the screen, as the protagonist dissolves into tears.  This was the exclamation Constance gave when Othello took Iago's word about the handkerchief, and Romeo decided not to tell Tybalt that they were now cousins.  Sorry Will, but MacDonald has a point; those scenes are just irritating (11).    

If I were to recommend this book to someone, I would suggest that if they hadn't read either of the Shakespeare masterpieces portrayed in this play to at least scan a summary.  I hadn't ever read Othello (I know, bad English major, bad), and I appreciated the play so much more once I had an idea of what was being changed.  Obviously, this isn't necessary, but it does help one catch some of the "inside jokes" going on. 

I would have loved to see this play last a little longer.  My only complaint is that it felt rushed.  We saw that meeting between Constance and the Professor, and, much like in Romeo and Juliet, were expected to believe there was love on one side.  Though, in retrospect, that's an interesting theme to continue.  We have to believe in love at first sight; as in the first time we see two characters together, we have to believe there's love.  I could read Constance's iambic speeches forever, I loved when she answered a long monologue with "Oh.", and the battle cry of "Bullshit!" almost wrung a cheer from me as well.  Maybe that's why I wanted it to last longer.  But, since the reading had to be done for Monday, I think that particular wish makes me the Fool.


Melissa Schwenk said:

I have to agree that the book could have lasted a little longer. I really wanted to see what happened when Constance returned to reality with her new discoveries about herself. However, I guess leaving that up to reader/watcher of the play makes it better because it would be difficult to execute an ending where the guy, Claude, is leaving regardless of what she learns about herself. Aside from that, I don't think MacDonald really could have expanded anywhere else without making the play have unnecessary scenes or boring parts.

Josie Rush said:

yeah, it's like what we read in roberts...the denoument has to wrap up really quickly to avoid losing reader/audience interest, bcuz at that point the conflict is more or less resolved.

Dianna Griffin said:

Josie, I was really surprised when I read the "battle cry of 'Bullshit!'" I never expected to read anything that pertained to Shakespeare that would be so profane. However, I did enjoy it. I also wished that the play would have lasted longer. I had to read the ending twice just to get what exactly it was meaning. I do agree with Melissa as well. It would have been difficult to extend the play without making it repetitive and boring.

Josie Rush said:

Diana, I also had to read the ending twice. It was a bit abrupt. One minute Constance is talking to Juliet and Desdemona in the tomb, the next I'm reading an "About the Author" section. It was kind of discomfiting.

Jessica Orlowski said:

I don't know if I agree that the play could have lasted longer. I mean, sure, it ended abruptly, but like you said, Josie- the protagonist often induces a groan upon the audience when he or she runs off to do something idiotic. Well, I have a strong feeling that Constance would have run back to her office, told everyone what happened, and still be thought of as a "fool" in modern day Queens. Nothing would have changed...

Carissa Altier said:

Diana, I thought it was interesting when you said that you never read anything as profane as "Bullshit" in a Shakespeare play. I think the thing that makes Shakespeare so difficult to read today is the fact that modern audiences miss the majority of the jokes unless they have done a lot of background reading of different plays. Good ol' Will actually wrote to please the lower class just as much as he did the upper class. The language makes it difficult to catch, but he actually wrote a lot of dirty jokes. Some would shock you :) There are several books out there about Shakespeare's Bawdy, aka, his dirty jokes.

Here is a link for a book on Amazon to get you more in touch with Shakespeare's filthy side. Be ready to feel scandalous reading Shakespeare!


Josie Rush said:

Carissa, good suggestion. I've heard that Shakespeare liked to make dirty jokes, but I generally miss them in the plays. I think what Diana was referring to, though, was this outright vulgarity (as it is in our time, at least). You know, Shakespeare might make a dirty joke that people in his time would understand, but here MacDonald switched it up, including some dirty jokes *we* would easily catch as well.
Jess, you know, I don't think Constance would've run off and done something stupid. Well, at least not stupid in the same way as she was before. We were given evidence through her monologues that she learned some lessons, especially concerning the professor. One scene that I feel could've been included was her telling off her old crush, using this new certainty she'd gained from her experience. Just a guilty wish, of course, not necessary for the play at all, but I don't think this would've hurt the play. We all want to see the characters we've grown to like in a position of happiness, hence the denouement. However, like Dr. Jerz said, this was a traditional ending, and I understand it's purpose.

Jessica Orlowski said:

I see what you mean... Perhaps it was just the guilty wish in me that the resolution.. urm.. beyond the resolution would not be cliche. Then, another part of me wants that cliche ending to appear.

Josie Rush said:

I know what you mean. It's why cliches got the chance to be...well, cliches. There are certain things about them that just work. And sometimes when they don't appear, we feel betrayed, wondering where the happy ending is.
At the same time we've all sneered at the "love, marriage, and a baby carriage" ending to stories too, so I think it's a little of a lose/lose situation at times.
Do we have that soft spot for cliches just because they're comfortable?

Carissa Altizer said:

Hey guys, Dave, Aja, and I were all chatting about the cliche ending on Dave's blog. You should join in on the conversation. Dave has a fabulous idea to end it with Constance playing with her creepy shakespearean muppets at the end. ;)


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