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Over 60 . . . And Getting Younger: May 10, 2013

Quibbling with Shakespeare

Who am I to make or think of making changes in Shakespeare’s plays? I have just taken a course in Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies. If only the Great Bard would make minor adjustments, the tragedies could become comedies and vice versa -- a comedy is a play that ends happily, a tragedy ends on an unhappy situation.

In “Romeo and Juliet,” if Shakespeare had left out the poisonings in the final scene, Romeo and Juliet could have gone off happily into the sunset and live till their golden wedding anniversary. Such a nice couple, why kill them off so haphazardly? Everyone would leave the theater in a positive mood.

Next, how could anyone call “The Merchant of Venice” a comedy? If Shakespeare ended the play when Shylock is rebuffed by Portia in front of the judge in Venice -- he is told he can have his “pound of flesh” but no blood and it had better be “exactly” one pound, no more or less -- the tragedy would be Shylock’s fall from his position and his forced conversion to Christianity. Shakespeare does a whole bit with rings, which is clever, but it turns the ending into a comedy. “The Merchant of Venice” is definitely not a happy-ending play, but who can argue with the Bard of Avon?

“King Lear” is a happy ending that should find Lear and his daughter Cordelia happy together again, after he has sent her off in shame. They meet again on the battlefield and embrace.

Lear, who has been tortured by his daughters Regan and Goneril, finally makes peace with his favorite daughter, Cordelia. The play should end here as father and daughter hug and all is forgiven. Shakespeare kills off Cordelia in the last scene and everybody goes home crying. Actually in the 17th and 18th centuries one director ended the play “King Lear” when Lear and Cordelia clasp each other.

I truly believe that “Hamlet” ends fittingly even though almost everyone dies. “Macbeth,” the Scottish play, also has a proper ending, in my view.

Again, who am I to quibble with Shakespeare. His audiences love him, as do I!