Monday, October 7, 22:26 CST

I will, as God is my witness, one day learn how to do real research and write something based upon it. Today is not that day.

I'm dead serious, though.

Monday, October 7, 11:18 CST

Measure for Measure

For my journal on Titus Andronicus, I turned in a dialog of sorts. A friend of mine commented to the effect that it was sort of Kevin Smith-esque, which is pretty high praise. Still, it makes sense. Kevin Smith is one of my cinematic heroes. Were I writing an actual screenplay, there's no doubt I'd be influenced by (read: "blatantly ripping off") his style. Not, most likely, the dick and fart jokes, but the style of language and argument that flows so easily and often randomly from the mouths of his characters. Maybe no one actually talks like that, but then, so what?

I was going to write another dialog, but I'm afraid I haven't got time. Still, that did get me thinking about Clerks, Mallrats and Dogma as compared to Measure for Measure. (Chasing Amy is, I think, too much of a tragedy to make a direct comparison. And we're not even going to think about bringing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back into this.)

While I'm not actually going to argue that Shakespeare was the Kevin Smith of Renaissance England, after reading Measure, I'm pretty sure I could make a case for it. There's no shortage of dick and fart jokes. More accurately, there's no shortage of dick, syphilis, prostitution, and illicit pregnancy jokes. If Lucio sold narcotics and jammed out to Morris Day and the Time, he'd practically be Jay. Much as contemporary Roman Catholics went a little nuts over Dogma, a play like Measure for Measure had to have Puritans frothing at the mouth (and calling boycotts, and trying to get the theatre shut down, and probably for all I know standing around with little hand-painted placards about God Not Being Mocked). George Carlin would be perfect for Angelo. In fact, you could map the cast of any given Kevin Smith film onto this play and find a near-perfect fit.

There are less superficial similarities. There's something about the dialog, beyond a steady stream of bawdy humor that would offend any modern fundamentalist quick enough to understand it, that'd fit right into a Smith film. Something about the structure, the back-and-forth of the conversations, the windy tangential discussions on this or that subject. There's nothing here as random as an argument about the moral responsibilities of civilian contractors on the Death Star, but there always seems to be plenty of digression in a Shakespeare comedy. The Duke, disguised as a Friar, going off about death and why it's so desirable, for example.

All that said, I'm not sure there's much point in trying to draw out the connection more than that. What I think I'm noticing are elements that are sort of universal to comedy - or universal to a sort of comedy, or something like that. It's entirely possible that Kevin Smith was hugely influenced by Shakespeare, but it's not exactly necessary to think that he was (he understated, vastly).

Speaking of comedy, what is it that makes this stuff funny, anyway? Granted that without the footnotes or a really skillful performance a modern audience is going to miss most of the jokes anyway, you can still tell Measure is a funny play. You can even tell where it's *supposed* to be funny and isn't, really, because of how much our attitudes and premises have changed. (Though I got a lot more of that from Taming of the Shrew.) What will an audience watching Mallrats in four hundred years think? What will they think of the people who laughed at this stuff? Will anything in Measure for Measure still be comprehensible by then?

p1k3 / 2002 / 10 / 7