Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Event Analysis 2

     On Friday September 28, I attended John Webster's play, The Duchess of Malfi. The play was put on by the American Shakespeare Center, a traveling troupe from Virginia. The play was extremely enjoyable, and I thought that all of the actors were incredibly talented. One aspect of the evening I enjoyed in addition to the play itself was the pre-show, and intermission. During this time, the actors from the play played music and sang, to both entertain and interact with the audience. It made for a very fun atmosphere that it was evident both the actors and audience members thoroughly enjoyed. The play itself was unlike any I had ever seen. Before beginning, the actors explained to the audience that they perform all of their plays in the true spirit of Shakespearean times, using minimal props and costumes, and no high-tech stage lighting or even sound equipment. The actors very much interacted with the audience, and when reciting their lines, spoke directly to them rather than simply performing for them.
     The Duchess of Malfi tells the story of a young Duchess, who after just having lost her husband, wishes to marry her steward--much to her brothers' dismay. When the Duchess covertly marries her steward, Antonio, and eventually bears three of his children, her brothers seek vengeance. Despite their attempts to escape the wrath of the Duchess' brothers, the Duchess, the steward, and her children are eventually killed. In following with the traditional form of a tragedy, the remaining characters also suffer gruesome deaths.
     The parallel I found with this play and Edgar Allan Poe's, The Cask of Amontillado, was that both stories revolve largely around revenge. Montresor seeks revenge on Fortunato, just as the Duchess' brothers seek revenge for her defiance. There is also similarity in the way that the so-called "justice" enacted by the characters in the stories, is very primitive. There is no evidence of a trial, or even just cause for the punishments the victims receive. For example, in Poe's short story, all we know of is "the thousand injuries of Fortunato," a vague description that does not give the reader much reason to believe that Fortunato has committed grave transgressions. Likewise, in The Duchess of Malfi, it is hard for us to consider the Duchess' covert marriage and pregnancies worthy of her murder at the hand of her own brothers.
     The similarities I find with The Duchess of Malfi and Barbabra Hamby's, Ode to American English, along with John Ciardi's, Suburban, is the effectiveness each has in their original, raw, and "no reservations" way of presenting their messages. In The Duchess of Malfi, the actors were extremely passionate and accurately expressed every emotion their character felt. Their motions and facial expressions were also very effective in character development. The play was also racy at times, rampant with sexuality and violence. This to me relates to how both Hamby and Ciardi use descriptive, albeit somewhat crude, language and references to illustrate their messages. For example, Hamby's use of terms like, "junk mail-voice mail vernacular" to illustrate her mockery, yet appreciation for American English, and Ciardi's reference to his son's "fishing" trip, as a humorous way of assuring his neighbor his dog could not possibly be responsible for the mess in her yard.
     The thing I gained most from this week's event was an overall greater appreciation for theatrical arts, and the incredible talent of the actors who take part in plays like The Duchess of Malfi. I am typically more inclined to attend concerts or sporting events over plays or drama productions. However, after seeing this play on Friday, I think that I will definitely choose to attend more plays in the future as I found the experience completely new in a very positive way.

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