Monday, May 17, 2010

Sweet Revenge

Is there a way to resolve a dispute without revenge? Or does all resolution in Shakespeare have to conform strictly to either comedy or tragedy? Is the only way out of a vengeful finale to set the characters dancing sillily round a maypole?

In the Hudson Guild Theater's Hamlet and the Red Monkey Theater Group's Romeo and Juliet that we saw this weekend, the only way to solve a quarrel seems to be in death. Everyone is out for vengeance. Hamlet, Laertes, Romeo, Paris, Tybalt... and in the latter production, the choice of setting, the Wild West of the American 1870s, accentuates the bloodthirsty underpinnings of a play remembered mostly for being about love.

Yes, Shakespeare's plots might feel like rickety old scaffolding for marvelous language, but if Shakespeare is so adept at spanning the entirety of human emotions with his words, why are his stories so predictable?

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