Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Reoccurring Characters

Imagine all the characters of every play ever written showing up for a mass casting call for "Antony and Cleopatra." There are the fabulous heroines, the bold heroes, and dastardly villains seen and recognized through out the ages. As we near the bottom of the pile of headshots, we find a homely looking little fellow named simply "Messenger."

His resume goes as follows:

Medea - Messenger
Antigone - Messenger
Oedipus Rex - Messenger/Shepard
Macbeth - Messenger
Waiting for Godot - Boy

*Special Skills: Running Fast, Being the bearer of bad tidings, Stage Combat (being beaten)

He of course gets cast as the Messenger who tells Cleopatra that Antony has married Caesar's sister. Imagine his eye roll as he comes across this scene in the script. Imagine how he flinches as Cleopatra begins to fume:

What say you? Hence,
(Strikes him again)
Horrible villain! or I'll spurn thine eyes
Like balls before me; I'll unhair thy head:
(She hales him up and down)
Thou shalt be whipp'd with wire, and stew'd in brine,
Smarting in lingering pickle.

Gracious madam,
I that do bring the news made not the match.

She eventually draws a knife on him and he runs. I can just see the poor knave crying, knowing that he has done only what the queen asked of him.

This time, however, he gets a little of his own back. She sends a servant to bring him back to her and she apologizes:

Take no offence that I would not offend you:
To punish me for what you make me do.
Seems much unequal: he's married to Octavia.

O, that his fault should make a knave of thee,
That art not what thou'rt sure of! Get thee hence:
The merchandise which thou hast brought from Rome
Are all too dear for me: lie they upon thy hand,
And be undone by 'em!

In the larger sense, the messenger is an insignificant mechanism to advance the plot - but if you read it with this poor character being the eternal messenger of the ages, and knowing what is coming next, there is a small tragedy in and of itself in his story.

Happy Birthday: John Millington Synge and Augusto Boal

1 comment:

  1. Or there's the messenger in Love's Labor's Lost who doesn't even get to deliver his message, because the Princess anticipates it.

    On the plus side, being a messenger meant that your person was sacrosanct , so they tend to survive the carnage.