Well, So Much for That

Boy Arrested Over Spilled Milk

We were up for watching The Duchess of Malfi this afternoon; but all I can say is, we tried.

The first video we tried featured terrible acoustics and background music that drowned out the actors–not that we could have understood them, in that echo chamber.

The second video looked great, super sets, nice, clear sound, and so we settled in to enjoy it. They had it cut up into 15-minute clips. We were prepared to tolerate that. But one of the clips was a long commercial narrated by someone who had at best only a nodding acquaintance with English; and then the next clip was from an entirely different production than the one we’d been watching, in black and white instead of color, with different actors whose faces kept dissolving into pixels as they spoke. By the time we got back to where we wanted to be, it became apparent that parts of the play were simply missing.

We’ll never get that hour back. Patty was highly cheesed off. I was perplexed.

Thing is, we saw just enough of the play to want to see it all. The scene wherein the duchess proposes marriage to a lowly clerk, because she and he are both trapped in a deadly dangerous political environment, was very gripping. But whoever posted this production did his utmost to destroy its continuity.

*Sigh* I was wondering why so many Jacobean playwrights set their stories in Renaissance Italy. “Here’s where all these spectacular crimes and cruelties take place! It’s those Mediterranean johnnies!” Was that a way of avoiding royal displeasure at home in England? Was it meant to suggest that the same sort of crimes occur here at home, because people are nasty sinners wherever you go?

I do wish we could have watched this play!

Oh! Almost forgot: we also encountered a production in modern dress with a lot of miming and handstands (!?) and no dialogue. For some reason I’d blotted it from my mind…

Let’s See If We Can Stand This Play

The Real Duchess of Amalfi | The Duchess of Malfi | Royal Shakespeare  Company

We’re going to take a break from nooze today and watch The Duchess of Malfi, first staged in either 1613 or 1614, a loosely-based historical drama by John Webster. Neither Patty nor I have ever seen it before. It was supposed to be covered in a course I took in Jacobean drama back in college, but the course was superficial and we never actually read the play. It has a great reputation, and is mentioned in works by Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Ngaio Marsh, and other great English mystery writers.

This play has a reputation for wallowing in gore, treachery, and shockingly bad behavior on the part of Renaissance Italian nobility. When they went bad, they went all the way. Our reader, Phoebe, who is an expert in such things, has praised it. So it’ll be her fault if we get too grossed out to watch the whole thing. But it might be good to be reminded that the human race survived the Renaissance… somehow.

Sometimes it strikes me as miraculous that we’re still here in spite of all our sins. We can chalk that up to God’s grace. Without it, we wouldn’t last two weeks. Without it, how could we ever hope for something better?