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30 Days of Bill

Day #1: Your Favorite Play - King Lear
Day #2: Your favorite character - Edmund
Day #3: Your Favorite Hero - Orlando
Day #4: Your Favorite Heroine - Rosalind

Day #5: Your favorite villain

I think everyone can guess my answer to this one, (Edmund) so I will instead take this opportunity to climb on one of my favorite soap boxes: villains in the comedies and romances.

Now, I understand that comedies are meant to be light and funny, really I do, and some times the villains can be an object of fun. Does anyone else remember seeing Much Ado About Nothing when it was in movie theatres? Remember the credits when they do a close up of each of the actors as they ride towards the camera? I certainly do, because the "Grr! I'm a Villain!" expression on Keanu Reeves made the entire audience hoot with laughter. Yes, we actually hooted. But it was okay. Keanu was certainly not the best Don John but they did give him some teeth. He was still shown hatching an evil plan rather that just being an ineffectual boobie who throws some futile wrench into the plot.

Sadly, the same courtesy is seldom extended to Caliban in The Tempest.

Caliban is a monster. He is the child of a witch (with a W) raised by the magician Prospero after Prospero kills the witch and takes control of the island's magic. Although Prospero treats Caliban well, he attempts to rape Prospero's daughter and Prospero resolves the situation by making Caliban his slave. When Caliban gains a modicum of freedom, his first act is to enlist Stephano and Trinculo, a fool and a drunk, as allies and set off to kill Prospero.

Many critics believe that Caliban's name is a malapropism of cannibal and that he is an amalgamation of Natives encountered by explorers in the New World, which may explain the tendancy of modern directors to treat Caliban with kid gloves and highlight his role as a noble savage rather than his actions as a potenital rapist. Regardless of the reasons, there is a trend in theatre to highlight Caliban as a mistreated soul who is deserving of sympathy from the audience.

But the problem is that this removes any sense of urgency and danger from the play.

In my opinion, the Tempest only works if Prospero is surrounded by a sea of enemies and his only ally is a 16 year old girl who is not Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sympathy for villains is all well and good, my favorite character is the villain of his play, but the villian cannot overbalance the theme of the play without the entire play sinking into melodrama.

On a semi-related note - does anyone even remember Caliban in Prospero's Books? The only things I remember about that movie is all the naked people but, in my defense, I was on a date at the time.

Day #6: Your favorite villainess
Day #7: Your favorite clown
Day #8: Your favorite comedy
Day #9: Your favorite tragedy
Day #10: Your favorite history
Day #11: Your least favorite play
Day #12: Your favorite scene
Day #13: Your favorite romantic scene
Day #14: Your favorite fight scene
Day #15: The first play you read
Day #16: Your first play you saw
Day #17: Your favorite speech
Day #18: Your favorite dialogue
Day #19: Your favorite movie version of a play
Day #20: Your favorite movie adaptation of a play
Day #21: An overrated play
Day #22: An underrated play
Day #23: A role you've never played but would love to play
Day #24: An actor or actress you would love to see in a particular role
Day #25: Sooner or later, everyone has to choose: Hal or Falstaff?
Day #26: Your favorite couple
Day #27: Your favorite couplet
Day #28: Your favorite joke
Day #29: Your favorite sonnet
Day #30: Your favorite single line


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 29th, 2011 06:40 am (UTC)
I'm not enough of a Shakespeare fan to ever hope to compare to you on this, but I have watched a ton of movies and read a lot of books and you're absolutely right. The best movie villian of all time is Hannibal Lechter.

He is scary beyond measure and yet there is a weird spark of humanity in him. That's what I think you're looking for in a portrayal of Caliban. What you don't want is the sheriff from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves where the villian is SO MUCH more engaging than the hero that you're ready to root for him. (yes it was a crap movie but the Alan Rickman was brilliant)

When I write my serial killer novel I'll remember this point.
Apr. 30th, 2011 02:34 am (UTC)
That is exactly it. The villian is too charismatic, wins over the audience completely, the story falls to one side and if they are too sypathetic and too noble, the story falls to the other side when it should be able to walk a line.
May. 1st, 2011 04:03 am (UTC)
Have you seen the new version of the Tempest with Helen Mirren? I haven't seen it yet and was wondering if that Caliban was any good. Djimon Hounsou plays him so I have some hope for the character.

*Cannot take Keanu seriously as Don John...but then again I've never liked the whole Hero/Claudio plot line of Much Ado. Hero is so USELESS! And Claudio is an idiot. Beatrice and Benedict are the only interesting parts of that play. Well and Dogberry. Gotta love Dogberry.*
May. 3rd, 2011 06:49 am (UTC)
See, I love Keanu. Even when he's really BAD.... ;-)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )