Irony, Desires and the Suspension of Reality
This week, I attended a play called “The Duchess of Malfi”, performed by the American Shakespeare Center. This analysis will relate the play to “Ode to American English”, by Barbara Hamby, “Suburban”, by John Ciardi, and “The Cask of Amontillado”, by Edgar Allan Poe. The play that I attended happens to relate perfectly to the readings mentioned above. Each one of these stories touched me in a different way, and made me think back to different experiences in my life that relate to the Jesuit education. Irony, desires and the suspension of reality are the general themes of the stories and poems mentioned above.
In “The Cask of Amontillado”, by Edgar Allan Poe, one of the major themes is the suspension of reality. The narrator, Montresor, puts on a masquerade at the carnival. Montresor is on a mission to get revenge on his acquaintance, Fortunato, because Fortunato humiliated him. Montresor has a plan that involves tricking Fortunato into drinking fake Amontillado (sherry). When Montresor puts on the masquerade, he is abandoning social convention and that leaves him vulnerable to crime. The masquerade allows Montresor to suspend reality and get the revenge that he is seeking. This relates to the play, “The Duchess of Malfi”, because one of the main characters, Bosola, puts on a mask and costume at the end of the play to allow himself to kill the Duchess. By putting on the mask and costume, Bosola is suspending his reality and performing a task that he deems in the back of his mind to be wrong. The mask makes him vulnerable and more open to perform the task of killing the Duchess. Putting on a masquerade is not what the Jesuit education is all about. The Jesuit education stresses the importance of being open to yourself, your friends and the community at large. Hiding is not the answer. Both this part of the play, and the story by Edgar Allan Poe, go against the norms of the Jesuit education. Relating to a personal experience of my own, I sometimes put a ‘mask’ on to suspend reality. I don’t relate to these two stories exactly though, because I would never kill another human being, especially a friend of mine. My experiences with hiding and putting a mask on relate to technology. Every time I want to suspend reality, I always turn to technology to take me to another place. I am not, in my opinion, abandoning social convention because I feel like many people today do the same thing. I can remember a time where my parents were having an argument a few years back that really caused me sadness and concern over their relationship. I turned to my XBOX and my computer to drown out the sadness and suspend my reality. Technology today allows anyone to forget about the world for a short matter of time. But, as shown in the two stories above, everyone has to enter back into reality sometime and you have to face what you were hiding from.
In “Ode to American English”, by Barbara Hamby, one of the major themes is desire. The narrator takes the whole poem to basically list out everything she misses or desires from America. The narrator is sitting in Paris, yearning for the culture that is stereotypical American. This relates to the play because in the play, the Duchesses brothers, Ferdinand and the Cardinal, desire all the riches in the land. They also desire that their sister, the Duchess, never marry again because then they can retain the power over the land. These two stories do not necessarily desire the same thing, but the theme of desire is a major theme in both. Hamby’s poem is craving for all the non-vital things that she left behind in America and in the play, the desire for material wealth and power triumphs over the Duchesses real desires and dreams to get re-married and have a family. Relating to the Jesuit education, these two stories end up not relating. I feel like the Jesuit education strives for people to not be hungry for material goods and power. I also feel like the Jesuit education is not about yearning for the non-vital items in life. The Jesuit education is about giving. Giving back to the community and to the world. I know that, in this life, I desire personal wealth. But from what the Jesuit education has taught me in the past 3 years I have been here at Loyola, personal wealth is not everything. It is a great thing to be able to attain, but giving back to the community is much more important. I would rather donate most of my wealth to causes that actually need it, rather than for my own personal satisfaction. The Jesuit education has taught me not to be selfish and give back to the people in this world that really need it.
Finally, in “Suburban”, by John Ciardi, one of the major themes is irony. The poem centers on an intolerant neighbor named Mrs. Friar, and the narrator/ her neighbor, Mr. Ciardi. Mrs. Friar calls Mr. Ciardi because she finds dog poop in her flowers. Mr. Ciardi comes over to remove the dog poop anyway, even though he knows it wasn’t his dog because his dog is in Vermont with his son. This poem is ironic because the narrator ends up picking the dog poop anyway, even though he knows it wasn’t his dog that did it. The suburban lifestyle is also a major theme. Relating to the play, they both have irony as a major theme. In the play, it is ironic that Bosola ends up killing the Duchess, because deep down in his heart he knows it is wrong. Why would he kill if he knew it was wrong? It is also ironic that one of the Duchesses brothers, Ferdinand, would want his sister dead after her marriage to Antonio, yet at the end is depressed that his sister is gone. I also seem to find that my life is a bit ironic. I have a lot of friends that always say that are or aren’t going to do something, but in the end they always do the opposite. For example, one of my high school friends would also talk about how smoking is so bad for your lungs and so bad for your overall health. She would also always go on about how people who smoke smell and get yellow teeth. Towards the end of high school, I found out that all this time she smoked. She smoked behind my back, because she knew it would upset everyone. I would have been less upset if she was honest about it in the first place, instead of coming up with stories about how bad it is for you. She taught me the hard truth about irony.
The cast and crew of “The Duchess of Malfi” did a great job. The performance was solid and the play was great. I had never heard of this play before that night, but I really enjoyed the storyline. The cast made it seem more modern and that helped make it enjoyable. The cast also performed modern songs during the intermission, which made is also seem like a concert, which was really cool! I would definitely see them live again!