Monday, March 1, 2010

"Why art thou thus attired, Andronicus?" or Do Clothes Make the Man?

On the subway on our way to see "Measure for Measure" at the Duke Theater, David was rereading "Catcher in the Rye" in honor of Salinger's recent death. Emerging in Times Square's hubbub, he noted how little people seem to care about presenting themselves in public. It's certainly true that a lot has changed since the porkpie hat, the Saturday tie, the bolero suit and heels, the bonnets and canes. But Shakespeare still has a lot to say about dressing up.

While Titus rather foolishly dresses up to look a lot like the Swedish chef (this was in a performance the next day at the American Globe Theater--upstairs in a church that bizarrely reeked of incense(it was Episcopal)) by the time Shakespeare got round to writing "Measure for Measure," he was taking clothes a lot more seriously.

The play is filled with "seemers." Isabella berates Angelo "Seeming! Seeming," and echoes of seams and schemes resound. Lucio describes Friar Ludowick (the Duke) of being "Honest in nothing but his clothes..." What can we take of Shakespeare's sartorial universe when we're back on the streets and riding the subways?

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