Tag Archives: Shakespeare

The Canterbury Tales

Somehow, I managed to avoid having to read The Canterbury Tales in high school and at university.  So I decided to inflict that punishment on myself independently.

125381146First, a little background info might be in order, since few non-English majors would ever read something like this for fun.

Chaucer was born of fairly middle-class parents, but some good luck for his father and himself saw him rise to a more prestigious place in 14th century society. He could speak English, French, and Latin. At the time he wrote the Canterbury Tales, no one was writing in English. The clergy spoke Latin, and the court (society around the king) spoke French. English was the language spoken in daily life in London, and people were just beginning to think of writing it down.

Chaucer drew heavily from Boccaccio’s Decameron, a series of tales told by a group of young people hiding in the Italian countryside to escape the plague. And he borrowed very heavily from a lot of sources. I don’t think many people realize how similar many English classics of the 14-16th centuries are to other texts.  If there were copyright laws during that time, Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Chaucer (among others), would have been guilty of 100+ counts.  At the time, most stories were told orally. They were the same stories, told over and over, but the storyteller was judged not on his originality, but on his style in telling (and embellishing) the familiar tale. The copy of the Canterbury Tales that I have is a Norton Critical Edition with many of the sources included in the back of the book.  Sections are lifted word for word in a few places, and the plot of each one of the tales has a direct relationship with the sources.

So…the Canterbury Tales begins with a prologue, explaining that the narrator is among a group of pilgrims, about to set out on a voyage to Canterbury.  Canterbury was/is the head of the church in England–though at this time, it was the Catholic, not Anglican church.  Canterbury is also of extreme importance because Thomas Beckett, former archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in the church itself. He became a martyr and was canonized ‘St Thomas of Canterbury’.  Pilgrimages to Canterbury were very popular, quite common. Chaucer uses this journey to tell all of his stories, in the guise of many different levels of society, from the poorest to the richest, from the clergy, scholars, even women (gasp!). Each story is told in the style that each of these stations would give–the most educated tell subtle and well-crafted tales, the bawdier members tend to make quite a few vagina-related puns and tell more raucous and less moral tales.

The two most famous tales are the Knight’s Tale and the tale of the Wife of Bath. The Knight’s Tale features a very familiar plot to anyone who’s read Shakespeare. Two virtuous knights fall in love with the same woman, who is of course chaste and beautiful and untouchable, as all good women were supposed to be. Shakespeare borrowed the plot for The Two Noble Kinsmen. The Heath Ledger movie has very little to do with the first of the Canterbury Tales, but it did introduce the world to naked Paul Bettany as Chaucer himself.

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Where the Knight’s Tale is chivalrous and adheres to quintessentially medieval ideas about men, women, honor, and romance, the Wife of Bath embraces everything scandalous. She gleefully tells her shocked audience (before starting her tale) that she has been married 5 times. She talks about how she has controlled her husbands, marrying them for money, until she became rich. Then she could marry for love.  You’ll find a similar plot in the seminal classic ‘Material Girl’ by Madonna.

DVDcov_Madonna___Material_Girl_by_melliekinsThe Wife of Bath is pretty much the only female character in the Canterbury Tales that is a realistic portrait of a woman.  Some are bawdy and classless, others the silent and beautiful paragons that no woman has ever actually been. The Wife of Bath defends her own history (her 5 marriages) by challenging men to prove her own interpretation of the scripture wrong. She has her own opinions, and she won’t be bullied out of them.

On the other hand, she’s a pretty terrible person. She admits freely that she took advantage of her first 3 husbands, using her ‘charms’ to make them pay (monetarily and in other ways). She conforms to a lot of the bad stereotypes attributed to women by men, and she’s unapologetic about those flaws.

The wife of Bath aside, The Canterbury Tales is not a fun read for women. Almost every tale is replete with misogyny, often resulting in violence and/or rape. And there’s a big chunk of virulent anti-Semitism that really adds to the ambiance and makes you want to burn your house down.

When I first started reading it, the Canterbury Tales was sort of fun. The Middle English was like a puzzle. If you thought about it, if you read it aloud, it was like a game.  Here’s an example. Read it aloud.

How greet a sorwe suffreth now Arcite!

The deeth he feleth thurgh his herte smyte;

He wepeth, wayleth, cryeth pitously;

To sleen him-self he wayteth prively.

He seyde, ‘Allas that day that I was born!

Now is my prison worse than biforn;

Now is me shape eternally to dwelle

Noght in purgatorie, but in helle.

Readable, right? It’s actually really good for your brain to read something like that–a similar effect to learning a new language.

But as I kept reading, the rampant sexism and really truly awful antisemitism just got more and more and more tiresome and upsetting. By the time I finished, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m glad I didn’t have to study this in school, or to write an essay on it. Because all I got out of the experience was anger.  A lot of people debate whether Chaucer was a feminist or misogynist. The Wife of Bath is an independent strong woman…but she’s also a gold-digger and a manipulator. And the rest of the women are either whores or angels.  I’m inclined to think Chaucer a realist. And the reality of the time is women were given very little leeway, and many had to conform to the stereotypes to survive.  Is the Wife of Bath a bad person for taking advantage of her first 3 husbands? Maybe.  But on the other hand, she was first married when she was 12.  Can you blame her?

I would not recommend reading this unless you’re really interested in the time period, and can deal with some truly bullshit stuff that went down in the Medieval era.

 

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Obligatory 2nd anniversary post

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Yesterday was my 2nd anniversary of starting this blog. In the last two years, this blog has racked up over 40,000 views, which is approximately 38,000 more than I ever thought it would.  Last year, I confessed my addiction to the Stats page, watching my view count tick up, and especially my need to fill in all the countries on the map.  I made a lot of progress on that last goal this year. My number one goal last February was to get an elusive view from Mongolia.  I did not get a view from Mongolia; I got 17! Life = complete!  I also got a host of views from new countries this past year: Bolivia, Paraguay, Mali, Senegal, Sudan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Madagascar, Liberia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Yemen. Plus a host of small countries/territories/islands that happened to find my blog one or 2 times: Grenada, the Seychelles (love your flag, Seychelles!), Palestine, French Polynesia, Martinique, Syria, New Caledonia, the Maldives, Faroe Islands, St. Lucia, El Salvador, Macao, Haiti, Andorra, Guadeloupe, Malawi…the list goes on.

Of course, I’m still hoping for a real dictatorship/censorship state to get through.  Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Cuba…join the party! I promise to corrupt you with my western ways!

My most popular posts, by far, are the informative posts about British vs American stereotypes, education systems,

In this year’s edition of weirdest search terms that led to my blog,

images‘Martin Freeman Naked’ is still the overwhelming winner.

Followed by these strange and terrifying combinations of search terms:

‘van buren facial hair’

‘stove kettle’

‘truck drivers heavy breakfast’

‘kristin scott thomas ice queen’

‘alec guinness brown face’

‘men alone in the house images’ —this one scares me

‘thranduil erotic’ —also scary

‘i have a list of paraphrased quotes in my book, can i use a bibliography?’

That last one might be my favorite, b/c this person has no idea how to use a search engine.  But the most terrifying one I’ve seen in a while is this one:

‘harry potter feet fetish’

Nope, nope, nope. Not even going to think about it. Wait, I just found a worse one:

‘soldier vomit’

Words cannot adequately describe how much I am frowning right now. Moving on…

This blog is mostly just fun for me, and a way to organize my thoughts about British cultural exports. It will never be the sort of blog that rakes in sponsors, or makes anyone any money.  Which, I think, is preferable.  I plan to continue offering up my thoughts on movies, tv, and books from Blighty, throwing them out into a totally ambivalent world.  I will be here to comment on Lady Mary’s 37 suitors, Sherlock’s confusing plot twists, and (of course) everything Harry Potter, including the new movies and the play coming to London.  And books.  tons and tons of books. I will continue to make this face

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when new Doctor Who episodes air, and will respond to any additional comments

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about the authorship of Shakespeare plays as follows…in fact, consider this my official response to anyone who believes the Oxfordian theory:

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To another good year wasting my time on the interwebz!

Edward Rutherfurd’s London: a novel

be00b51a11d5543c09f732bc009e87f6The most important thing to note about this book is that it is really long. It was over 1200 pages on my iPad version.  It’s a long book.

And wouldn’t it have to be? To begin to encapsulate the several millenia of history centered in and around the 1 square mile that is ‘the City’.

Neither a historical nonfiction, nor a straight novel, this book is something of a hybrid.  Rutherfurd has used this same format to tackle the histories of New York, Paris, Russia, Salisbury/Stonehenge, and Ireland.  This particular book came out in 1997, so I’m coming to the party a little late on this one.  What can I say? I was still in high school in 1997.

Starting with the earliest Celtic civilizations in the area now known as London, Rutherfurd takes the reader through the important epochs of the city, all the way up through the late 20th century. Each chapter follows the lives of a few families, traceable by their distinctive qualities–red hair or webbed fingers–as they adapt to the changing shape of London society. All of the families are fictional, but real people are intermingled with their stories.  Kings and conquerors, as you’d expect, but also Chaucer, Dick Whittington, Shakespeare, Marlowe, etc.

This book is described as a novel, but I think it’s really more of a hybrid between nonfiction and fiction.  Though it is structured as a novel, there are many instances where the narrator breaks ‘the fourth wall’ and describes things in a way that you don’t find in a novel.  Narrators in novels don’t say ‘like most families of the era, the Bulls wore xxx and lived in yyy.’  Or ‘John would have been quite shocked to learn his family brewery was managed by a woman, 3 generations back’. At first, I found these moments very jarring.  I couldn’t get too settled in with the characters, because I was always being pulled back to look at these overarching truths about the historical period I’ve been dropped in.

And though the families are occasionally discernible by their webbed fingers or long noses, I found it very difficult to keep track of who was related to whom.  Even if they shared the same name, there were a lot of marriages between the families he was mentioning, so I found it quite confusing to discern who was who.

That being said, I think it’s a good way to learn about the everyday lives of historical populations.  A nonfiction book about the history of London would probably tell me about Londinium, about Boudica’s siege, William’s Conquest, the Great fire, etc.  All important.  It wouldn’t tell me about the clothing or habits of everyday citizens from different classes.  It wouldn’t tell me where they lived or how they might have felt about the Puritan Roundheads or the Royalist Cavaliers.  It helps humanize an era when you see how people truly lived, not just the major battles and royals.

But things are sort of uneven in this book.  No historian is equally well-versed in every era, and even if (s)he was, (s)he would still have favorites.  I’m not sure if it’s lack of expertise or lack of interest, but Rutherfurd didn’t give much attention (in the form of pages) to the era before the Romans, or the late 1200s, or the era of the Great Fire (only 26 pages!), or the mid 19th century.  That last one disappointed me, because I’m most interested in the 19th century.  Other eras got very long chapters.  The chapter dealing with the English Civil War was almost 100 pages.  So you don’t get a fully rounded view of the entire city’s history, but you get snippets in every so often.  Some notable events are omitted completely–no mention of Boudica, though she razed the city to the ground.  Henry VIII gets his share, but there’s almost nothing of the previous Henry’s–quite important in their own right.

I learned a lot of fun tidbits from this book.  The word sheriff comes from the word shire (county) + reeve (tax collectors). The Domesday Book, revolutionary and historical as it was, would often be inaccurate because those monks taking down the count of Englishmen did not generally speak English.  William the Conqueror, upon his death, was too ‘corpulent’ to be squeezed into his coffin.  Richard the Lionhearted was a pretty terrible king.  Blackfriars got its name because the Dominican monks living there wore black robes. Charing Cross’s name is a really interesting story.  King Edward’s wife had died in the north. He wanted her body brought to Westminster to be laid in the Abbey. It took 12 days and nights to make the journey, and at every night’s stop, the king had a cross erected.  Charing Cross was the very last stop, from the old English word for that street.

I really enjoyed learning these tidbits, but I don’t know that I’ll remember most of them in another week.  It added to my enjoyment of the book, but the constant ebb and flow between fiction and expository narration was off-putting. I would probably recommend the book only if you are very interested in London history.

The whole book is centered around the River.  And there’s good reason.  The Thames is why London exists. This particular spot on the Thames has been picked for a civilization many times, by different groups of people, because it is an ideal location. The first place from the channel that you could cross the river easily at high or low tide.

Before the Romans, the Celts used the river as part of their worship.  The Romans recognized the spot (now known as London Bridge), as the perfect area to cross the Thames.  It became a shipping hub and, accordingly, people moved there. There was just the one bridge for many years, sometimes destroyed and rebuilt. It was just the perfect place in all of SE England, to build a town. Henry II commissioned a new stone bridge during his reign. It held homes and shops, and a chapel dedicated to Thomas Beckett. It probably looked like the Ponte Vecchio in Italy (though with a more medieval British feel)

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There used to be heads on pikes, and around 200 buildings on the bridge by the Tudor era. Famous heads on pikes included William Wallace and Sir Thomas More. On the north side, there was the respectable City area, with Westminster still being built further upriver. On the South side was Southwark, where men went to visit prostitutes, watch bear-baiting and dog fighting and boxing, and to see Shakespeare’s plays performed.  Southwark wasn’t held to the same laws as the City, so all sorts of rabble-rousing went on there. Later, there were many bridges across the Thames, and the real London Bridge made its way to Arizona for a strange tourist attraction.  All of the English civilization is centered in London, and all of London exists because of the River and the spot easiest to cross.  I like the idea that this city was absolutely always meant to be there, and independent societies repeatedly came to the conclusion that this spot was the only spot for them.  Even as it grows ever larger, in all directions, London’s heart is on two hills–one at Westminster, one in the City–with the river alongside them all the way.

 

 

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Mysterious Affair at StylesMy second Agatha Christie.  I had a yen to read her again, because the books are quick and easy, like junk food.  Being written in the ’20s means they have a bit more sophistication than your average Stephen King novel, but in truth they are the same level of book.  Enjoyable, quick, but not life-changing.

This book was no exception.  It was engaging, unpretentious, and a pleasure to read.  That being said, I must start out my review by pointing out that Mr. Hastings, the narrator of this story, is the dumbest character I have ever had to read about.  What a clueless bland bag of flour.  And this guy apparently appears in 8 other Poirot stories?  I could barely deal with him once.  Agatha, I know you’re dead, and have no reason to change your books now, but I need to give you some advice.  You do not need to make a dunce accompany Poirot in order for us to see that he is intelligent. I know Watson isn’t as brilliant as Holmes, but he’s (in the books anyway) of average, if not slightly above average, intelligence).  Hastings, on the other hand, is one step above lake algae.

Hastings is like the fat friend who makes the other girls look thinner and prettier. I am not exaggerating; I think he has an IQ below 80.  Not only is he dumb compared to Poirot, he is dumb compared to every other character in the book. If Hastings is supposed to represent the ‘reader’ as we bumble along through the mystery, then Christie thought her readers were utter imbeciles.  I recently found a website titled ‘Shut the Fuck Up, Hastings!’ so I know I’m not alone in my irritation. But I’ve now said my piece, and can move on.

This book was Christie’s first published novel, and is also the first glance her readers got of Poirot, the odd Belgian detective who would feature in some of her biggest hits, like Murder on the Orient Express.  Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, and DI Japp (apparently) all make many appearances in later novels.  Christie admitted that she based this trio on the Holmes-Watson-Lestrade relationship, and it shows.  Poirot is no Holmes, though.  He’s a short, older foppy gentleman with slight OCD and a paunchy belly. No girl is going to have a crush on Poirot, that’s for sure.

The book opens with the dimwitted Hastings home from WWI and visiting friends at Styles.  There’s his old friend John Cavendish, and his aloof and beautiful wife Mary.  The matriarch, Emily Inglethorp and her (new) second husband, Alfred. The younger brother Lawrence, the ‘ward’ Cynthia, and the secretary Evelyn. The poison expert, Dr. Bauerstein.

Within a few days, the matriarch of the household has been poisoned, and everyone suspects her new second husband.  This being a murder mystery, the action obviously does not end there. Poirot gets involved to help determine who committed the murder and how.  Was she murdered via the coffee? Her nightly cocoa?  The sleeping powders?  Who burned her newly-written will?

I thought it was a good mystery, and though not as smart as Poirot, I’m nowhere near as dumb as Hastings.  So I saw some of the twists coming beforehand, but didn’t anticipate the denouement.  I think that’s about the perfect experience for a murder mystery.  You feel smart enough since you saw some of the clues and drew correct conclusions, but you’re still surprised in the end.

I found this book, despite the lovely mystery, to be lacking in characterization.  I could see glimmerings of the truth about Mary Cavendish (who looked like Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary in my imagination) and Cynthia. I could picture the moody Lawrence or the no-nonsense Evelyn.  I could see a love story brewing here and there, but it was like looking through the haze. Hastings was stupid and dull, but as the narrator we see most of the action through his eyes.  It’s a bit like swimming through jello, trying to glean any information from his incompetent retelling. As such, I felt a bit impatient for the plot to zoom along, since characters alone were not sufficient to make this book worthwhile.

So I didn’t love it–characters are really important.  But I still enjoyed it, because Christie is really good at this murder mystery stuff.  I think next time, I just need to go for one of the stories without Hastings in it.

My previous foray into the works of Christie was soured by a lot of antisemitism.  I’m pleased that this book had…less.  A few unsavory mentions of so and so being ‘a Jew’, as if it were an insult.  A really and truly unfortunate tale of one of the people dressing up in blackface, using burned corks to color her hair dark, in order to put on what must have been an incredibly appalling skit. It’s a thin line when you read old fiction.  Shakespeare has a lot of mentions about jewish people, about black people (more than you would think anyway, given that it was the 16th century in England) and they can make a reasonable 21st century person feel a bit uncomfortable.  On the other hand, Shakespeare wrote Othello and The Merchant of Venice.  Christie’s tidbits of casual and horrifying racism/antisemitism are far more disturbing in their thoughtless inclusion where they are not needed.  They come from a place of undeniable privilege and ignorance, and betray a nonchalance that makes me a little sick.  A Telegraph article about Christie’s antisemitism had this quote: The stereotyping made me squirm. But would I erase it? Never: to see antisemitism so endemic in the works of a highly-respected and best-selling author is to understand a period of history – and its horrific consequences.

Like taking medicine, it’s important to look back and to be horrified. That’s the only way to avoid doing horrifying things again.  And judging by the comments from incensed Christie fans claiming there’s nothing antisemitic about her works, I’m guessing this sentiment is warranted.

But that article also compares Christie’s casual antisemitism to Mark Twain’s very purposeful discussion of the black experience in America during a time of slavery and abject destitution.  They are not the same.  Christie is not interested in examining these prejudices, any more than Jane Austen was interested in the plight of the lady’s maid. Her prejudices are just there, making it obvious that she thought them nothing to be ashamed of.  So my feelings of guilt at reading and enjoying Christie’s books continue.  But she seemed so nice in that Doctor Who episode…and there’s that picture of her surfing!  Disappointing.

agathachristiesurfing

 

Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

muchadoaboutnothingintlposterOn this blog, I don’t get to talk much about my love for Joss Whedon.  He’s not British, and he generally hires Americans to play Brits in his shows (Spike, Wesley).  But, finally, I get a chance to write about a Joss project.  Okay, this adaptation of the Shakespeare play is made with American actors and was filmed in America, but Joss kept the original Shakespearean dialect.  And a Shakespeare remake without the writing is…well, let me use an SAT analogy.  Shakespeare : all other dialogue  as  bacon : veggie bacon.  And I say that as a vegetarian.

The film came out with limited release a few weeks ago, and I have been patiently waiting for it to arrive somewhere within 100 miles of me.  I went to see it at an independent theater in a small town near me. A good portion of the crowd looked like they were alive when the original play was performed in the late 16th century, but they were lively, entertained, and very emotive during the show.  A lot of them seemed unfamiliar with the plot, judging by their gasps of shock at certain parts. This surprised me, but if you need an easy breakdown of the story, look no further.

Don Pedro, a prince, goes to stay at the home of his friend Leonato, the governor of ‘Messina’ at his castle (in this case, Whedon’s actual home was used for filming over a paltry 1-2 weeks).  Leonato brings his friends, Claudio and Benedick, and his villainous brother Don John. As in all Shakespearean Dramatis Personae, there are a number of servants and each nobleman/woman has an entourage.

They are greeted and welcomed by Leonato, his daughter Hero, and his niece Beatrice.

muchado_02Joss-whedon

Beatrice and Benedick go way back, and ‘there is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her; they never meet but there is a skirmish of wit between them’.

Claudio and Hero fall swiftly in love and are soon betrothed.  Everyone plans to trick Beatrice and Benedick into loving each other through several rounds of deception.  It all goes awry with Don John’s help, as one should probably expect when bringing a villainous brother along to a party.  But, since it is a Shakespearean comedy, we know it ends with a wedding. I won’t give anything more away.

Whedon did a few things to change the play to make the movie.  Obvious changes are making the setting thoroughly modern, with cell phones and guns instead of messengers and swords.  Every Shakespeare company has done an anachronistic retelling of one of the plays, so this isn’t new, but I think it’s remarkable how well and how easily it’s believable.  I also think the black and white helps to deal with the cognitive dissonance; like we’re in another world that lacks color, has princes, values chastity, and where everyone speaks in iambic pentameter.

The actors all do an amazing job. Ah-mazing.  Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof, who I loved together in Angel, are perfect for this pair.  Their wit and banter is fast, but spot on.  They both make the Shakespearean dialogue so easy to understand, so emotive.  Every time I see Shakespeare performed, I remember that this is its true home.  Why on earth do we start out reading it, rather than watching it?

Seriously, they are spectacular.  They are comedic, both in wit and physical comedy, and they handle the serious and difficult middle section of the play with real emotion and anger and resolve.  A++

Fran Kranz, from Dollhouse and Cabin in the Woods, makes a very good Claudio.  He is naively loving at first, and then turns on a dime into a truly scary being. Leonato, played by Clark Gregg (the Avengers), is similar.  A loving father one minute, a vengeful, despicable patriarch the next.

The other actors had less to work with; less rounded dramatic characters.  But there were notables.  Hero is a notoriously boring character, a stand-in for pure female virtue with almost zero personality, but Jillian Morgese does what she can to make her believable and real and she is certainly pitiable.  Nathan Fillian makes a brief but pitch perfect appearance as Dogberry, the single dumbest constable to ever grace the night watch.

1ADOMUCH-ADO-Tom-Lenk-and-Nathan-Fillion-CREDIT-Elsa-Guillet-Chapuis-2MBHe spends all of scenes smirking and making funny slips of the tongue.  He is clearly giving an homage to David Caruso (and his sunglasses) in CSI: Miami.  It’s very funny; a woman in my theater was laughing so loudly I’m afraid I missed half his lines.  Bonus: his second in command is Tom Lenk, of Buffy fame.

I’m not an expert on acting, so I don’t have anything technical or brilliant to say about what they did or how they did it. I try not to comment most of the time because I just don’t have the vocabulary to describe good acting. Still, everyone can tell when the acting is bad, even with the easiest material in the world.  This was difficult material in a short time span on a small budget, and they all did a wonderful job.  It makes it obvious to me how much people love to work for Joss, and I envy them a bit in being around and involved in such a pure creative process.  With such excellent results!

I really enjoyed the movie.  I just have one bone to pick.  Joss does one thing to alter the movie from the play that irks me.  The movie begins with a (wordless) scene of Benedick leaving Beatrice’s bed after a one-night stand. She pretends to be asleep; he hesitates, but leaves without a word or note.  This is presumed to be the start of hostilities between them.  Now, the play implies a history and maybe a brief infatuation, but no sex.  Beatrice is a virtuous woman, and therefore a ‘maid’.  At first, I thought it was just an effort to modernize the text.  After all, I don’t know a lot of virtuous maids in the 21st century.  Times have changed, etc., etc.

But this logic only works until the middle of the movie, when Hero’s virginity is called into question.  The horrendous, painful, awful response of absolutely everyone (her father included) to the mere idea that she may not be ‘chaste’ completely contradicts what Joss added with B & B.  After all, if Beatrice is not chaste, is she worthless to men? Should she die, as Leonato suggests his own daughter do?  Beatrice is horrified by what is being done to her cousin, but she does not in any way acknowledge that she is actually guilty of the sin Hero is accused of.  And she can’t, because Shakespeare didn’t write that.  It creates a schism in my head when I think on it too long, and it bothered me more and more.  It’s so uncomfortable and awful to think of women being treated this way; but it still happens in so many places.  The UN estimates that there are 5000 honor killings per year.  This play, and this movie, are absolutely talking about the same issues, and maybe Joss could have used the movie to make a bit of a statement about it. At least to shine a mirror on it.  To add that frivolous one-night stand in there is…it makes no sense to me.  It changes who Beatrice’s character is, from a virtuous woman to (by her society’s rules) to a non-virtuous one.  It doesn’t mesh with who she is, and it bothers me a lot.

That being said, I enjoyed the movie immensely.  Shakespearean comedies make you feel so much emotion.  It’s sometimes hard to see and experience the horrors of the middle and then celebrate the joys of the end.  It’s hard to forgive some of the characters their wrongs, even though you’re meant to.  I can’t forgive Claudio, or the Prince, or Leonato for what they did.  I can’t celebrate their happiness at the end.  But Beatrice and Benedick are lovely throughout, and Joss’ adaptation makes them as lovely and charming and funny as I’ve ever seen them.