“Guest Critic: Shakespeare should not be fun”


Editor’s note: We have foregone our usual print of the News, in favor of presenting to you this guest column, left on the desks of the Troubadour with instructions to “Print immediately or face beheading.” To you, we extend our apologies.

I consider myself a gentleman and a scholar. I attend the theatrics. I read the classics. I am no stranger to the bard, nor he to me. I consider Hamlet a close friend, Macbeth a troubled brother. The announcement that the city of Steubenville would bring the immortal poetry of Shakespeare to the stage was enthralling and quickening to my spirits.

However, over the past two weeks, I have come to learn, alongside the Danish Prince, that one may indeed smile, and smile, and be a villain.

I attended last weekend’s performance of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” in high spirits, delighted that the hapless rabble about me would finally be exposed to some semblance of culture. Instead, what I beheld over the next two hours and 10 minutes was an embarrassment to a rich, 400-year-old tradition of the English language.

Fun. Humor. Enjoyment. These have no place in the sacred histrionic temple. Franciscan University’s production of “Two Gentlemen” was naught but a self-indulgent bastardization of art and poetry.

The suffering of spirit I endured while beholding some 20-odd bawdy, gaudy, sickeningly amateur actors stumble thoughtlessly over any semblance of strict meter or rhyme manifested in what I can only describe as acute acid reflux.

I trembled in my tweed as all about me the huddled masses honked and chortled like dribbling medieval peasants. Onstage, Proteus strutted about like a great peacock; Julia mooned and juned in the manner of a prepubescent girl who has contracted the vile “Bieber Fever.” A man in a funny little hat with a funny little dog elicited more raw emotion in the crowd than they could ever muster up at the death of Ophelia.

And, in the midst of this chaotic pig-slop of arm-waving and over-pronounced consonants, the audience dared cry out such scholarly observations as “You’re a bad person!” How enlightening! Thank you, madam! I did, indeed, require such commentary! How else would I have known?

It would have seemed proper, at this point, for the director of the production to drag the offending hecklers off in disgrace of their insolence. Rather, such petty piercings of the Fourth Wall were welcomed — encouraged, even! The actors gloated in the interactions, drank deep the lukewarm brew of undeserved glory, sprayed it back in our faces like inebriated Shamus.

And was this weekend’s local production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” any respite? Think again! Music! Dancing! Fairy Pranks! The mere Trifles of a Child! A man dressed as a woman? Think you this is the height of comedy? Think you this is a lark? In what way will this linger in your soul, draw you on to think of your own mortality? Out, out, brief candle of the untrained mind!

So appalled am I that grown men would titter at the braying of a man-ass, I am of half a mind to pronounce that these two pieces of theater would not and could not have been written by William Shakespeare. Pin it on Marlowe! Thrust it on Webster! But do not dare try to persuade me that the same man who penned “The Tragedie of King Lear” could have twice put down in ink such mindless drivel.

Such an idea would, to quote one of the offending pieces, be intended to make an ass of me. And I, good reader, would not be made an ass of, no matter how many odious flowers I did sniff. A petty plot device, indeed.

With a general feeling of self-importance,

King Victoria.