24
Nov
09

The Court as Neo-Noir

Iconic images of film noir. I’ve been fortunate enough to take “Performance of Noir” with Paul Edwards this quarter, and it’s been very influential to how I approach the court world of As You Like It. As described in Shakespeare’s text and as a modern city, the court shares noir’s fixation with the urban decay (the court’s structure is said to be foul and “unnatural”) and duplicity (Touchstone the fool’s favorite quips are contradictions), with rich style (“fashion” is one of the most frequently used words in reference to the court) and moral bankruptcy (the betrayals of “unnatural brothers” Duke Frederick and Oliver).
While our court will also incorporate modern technologies and the irony of being so “connected,” the classic silhouettes (with male and female well-defined, rules to be bent by Rosalind-as-Ganymede later on) and stark tone (number of murder attempts and death threats at the top of this comedy: 4, all by immediate family members) of the neo-noir feels right for this court as the shadow to Arden’s sunlight.
By contrast, Arden is rooted in the Elizabethan love of the pastoral, an idealization of country life as pure, sweet, moral, and beautiful. Yet Shakespeare is a realist: rather than simply equating the fictional Arden to Eden, he discusses the hardships faced in poverty, enduring bitter cold and hunting their own food. Still, the exiled Duke Senior argues, the winter wind is an honest counselor preferable to man’s falsehood at court, and the country, however harsh in winter, is where we find all of the play’s music, perhaps as “the season’s difference” turns to the delights of springtime love… An autumn forest in the sun.

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