Sunday, November 8, 2009

In Medias Res

I got in a small argument with my friends Simon and Raamla at a Toga party the other night over the exact meaning of In Medias Res. Simon lives in this great house in the Silverlake Hills with an unbelievable view and it was his roommate's birthday. I didn't wear a toga myself.
The last toga party I went to was my senior year at boarding school when we had the Labor Day weekend toga party in the new student center. Josh Klein and I borrowed some loafs of round decorative bread from the cafeteria and tied them on our heads. I'm sure there is photographic evidence of this in a shoe box in my dad's basement somewhere. 

That was a good party. I had a big crush on a girl named Muna, and although I don't think I danced with her or anything, it was nice to see her back from the summer in Saudi Arabia with a little sun-kissed tint in her hair. Thank heaven for the little things.

But anyway, I -- for some reason -- believed that flashbacks were a necessary part of the in medias res technique. It appears that I'm incorrect about this and I apologize profusely to Mr. Fornshell for my confusion and misrepresentation of his infallible instruction.

So Othello... 
Not to state the obvious, but this is some good stuff.
Even before the play starts, Othello has eloped with Desdemona. Roderigo and Iago seek to destroy Othello by going to tell Desdemona's father, Brabantio,  about the elopement. Everyone is racist against Othello and Brabantio is convinced that Othello used witchcraft and cast a spell over Desdemona. There's a great build up to the introduction of Othello, and then when we meet him he is so respectable and commanding that it undermines the villainy of Roderigo and Brabantio -- but not Iago.

I heard that when they were trying to get Ricardo Montalban to play Khan in Star Trek 2 they had a meeting with him and he said "Khan is not in this movie very much," and they thought he was going to say no or ask them to rewrite the part to be bigger, but he continued: "but when Khan is not on screen... they are all talking about KHAN!"

In the introduction to the edition I have, Burton Raffel points out that Iago has a greater stage presence than Othello in this play, appearing on stage 64% of the time, while Othello is on stage approximately 59% of the play. Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear, all appear on stage more than any other characters in the plays that bear their names.
I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with Iago's scheming, and how his greater presence on the page affects my reading of the play.

We love the mischief-maker, cause they want things and they actively seek them out. We all have moments in life when we're overlooked or bested and we want revenge. The Joker is the guy who makes The Dark Knight interesting, and even though we like to think that this appreciation of the villain and the anti-hero is some recent evolution in the complexity of an audience, it will likely become clear that Shakespeare understood this better 400 years ago than we do today.

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