Saturday afternoon, we caught Off the Rails, a world premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The play, written by Randy Reinholz, and directed by Bill Rauch, OSF’s Artistic Director, is a reimagining of Measure for Measure set in the American Wild (mid)West of the 1880s, when Native American children were rounded up and moved from their families into government-funded boarding schools, in an effort to remove their heritage and make them “Americans.” The performance we saw, I believe, was the last preview performance before its opening on Sunday, July 30.
A couple of weeks back, Lisa and I caught Kingsmen Shakespeare Love’s Labor’s Lost on its final weekend, so I really didn’t get to properly give it a push (or rather give readers a push to go see it). Well, it’s happened again: this time we caught Independent Shakespeare Company’s always FREE production of Measure for Measure this past Thursday. And it closed last night.
I would have loved to write about it for Saturday’s blog (then at least people could still catch one of two remaining performances), but for some reason, I couldn’t wrap my head around the experience (seriously).
So, put another play in the books: Measure for Measure is done. And though it means that I’m now three-quarters of my journey through the Canon, I’m sorry to see it go. I could have have probably gone another week or more on this play, just with topics off the top of my head (rhyme and meter in a weird speech by the ever-lovin’ fruke, a re-examination of the Bed Trick–comparing and contrasting it to the one in All’s Well That Ends Well–and the possible homosexuality of the duke, to name just three). And I’ve certainly enjoyed my two months in Vienna.
This week’s podcast concludes our two month-long discussion of Measure for Measure with some directorial concepts and casts, a wrap-up and a look at its place within the Canon.
Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at Measure for Measure.
There are 2594 lines in in the play, which means the midpoint is at line 1297, or at Act Three, Scene One, line 191. According to Dr. Rodes’ theory, you could find at this midpoint (or within twenty lines either way) a speech that perfectly sums up a major theme of the play. The 20-line leeway was to help remove the differences in prose line lengths between individual editions. Of course, with over 40% of this play in prose, we may need to expand that leeway.
Measure for Measure
So here’s the numerical breakdown…
A couple of days back, I took a look at how Measure for Measure stands in terms of the Canon, talking a little about the concept of mercy in the play. I used the concordance over at OpenSource Shakespeare to find that “mercy” is used more in Measure for Measure than any other play in the Canon. That came as a surprise to me, as I really hadn’t noticed a preponderance of that word in my readings of the play. Instead, early on in my readings, I had noticed a couple of words that did seem emphasized, the related words of “substitute” and “deputed/deputy.”
As my reading of Measure for Measure comes to a close in the next week or so, I find myself trying to look at the bigger picture, of Measure for Measure’s place in the Canon. With this play, we come to the end of the string of problem plays that precede the great tragedies (next fall’s Timon of Athens’ categorization as a problem play, is debatable… many [as I may in the future, like I did to Troilus and Cressida in this past summer] see it as a tragedy). We come to an end of the comedies most definitely. And so I look back on those problem plays and comedies to find connections.
I’m currently writing a piece for submission to the New Orleans Review, for their special Shakespeare issue next year, focusing on my favorite subject (time) in my favorite piece (Romeo and Juliet). And it got me wondering about the ages of the major characters in Measure for Measure. In Romeo and Juliet, we know Juliet’s age to the week. In this play, however, we have very few clues.
Take the following questions and suppositions with about ten thousand grains of salt…
In Act One, Scene Two, of Measure for Measure, Claudio says that he’s being punished for breaking a law that has not been enforced for “nineteen zodiacs” (I.ii.167). Yet, in the very next scene, the duke says that it’s been just “fourteen years we have (the laws) let slip” (I.iii.21).
A mistake, I’m sure. But…
c’mon, you knew there was going to be a “but”