Saturday, September 25, 2010

On Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida

Troilus and CressidaWhy have they stopped making silent film adaptations of Shakespeare's plays? Surely it was a terrific idea... And it's what Shakespeare would have wanted -- as Troilus put it*: "Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart." Who needs words? Allow me, please, to remake Shakespeare's splendid Troilus and Cressida in silent movie fashion. I wouldn't need any "mere words" and I wouldn't need but thirty seconds and this is how it would go:

A parade, with all the noble combatants of the Trojan War marching along, the Trojans in one column, the Greeks in another. The scene is "Noble", "Resplendent," "Honorable" -- read the Illiad, in other words. From there, however, the imagination of Shakespeare and his times takes over. Next in the parade comes Patrocolus, doing shoddy but apparently hilarious impressions of the warriors in front of him. Then comes Cressida, running away from Troilus (She's not really huffing it mind you -- more like a light jog. What a slut!). Then Pandarus comes, cheering the couple on and making lude gestures all the while. And then...well, I may have to throw the rest in there somewhere or other -- where is Helen in all this, for example? and Cassandra, the Trojan "prophetess"? and Paris? surely he can't march with the men... But certainly the finishing touch, the man to bring up the rear, as they say, would be Thersites, "a deformed and scurrilous Grecian,"** who is marching along with an awful smile, shouting victoriously (albeit silently) things like "all the argument is a cuckold and a whore" and "Lechery, lechery! Still, wars and lechery: nothing else holds fashion."

Certainly it was a gutsy move to use the Trojan War, often called the founding event of Western civilization and covered by no less than three epic poems, several ancient plays, and plenty of modern derivative works besides, as a backdrop for a sort of comedy, a trivial love story, a kind of political "problem play" that makes definite statements on the eternal folly of war. But the man who ventures the most risks will, if successful, reap the most rewards, and certainly some more audacious than I have come to call Mr. Shakespeare one of the most talented avant garde theatre artists of our time.

* "as Troilus put it..." in an entirely different context -- just one more reason not to trust words or the people that bandy them about!

** "a deformed and scurrilous Grecian," as described in the Dramatis Personae added by the eighteenth-century editor Nicholas Rowe.

No comments:

Post a Comment