Thursday, July 20, 2017

Timon of Athens - Stratford Festival

William Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens has never been a favorite of mine. Even seeing it performed quite well recently at the Stratford Festival did little to enhance its appeal.

Timon is the story of a man who puts on lavish parties and is overly generous in his gift-giving (receiving a gift he will automatically reciprocate and give a gift to the gift-giver) until one day he discovers he’s broke and in debt.

Timon sends his servants out to his so-called friends who have benefited from his generosity to appeal to them for financial assistance. One by one the friends deny him, each one giving an excuse why they cannot lend him money.

Eventually Timon goes somewhat depressed and mad. Much of the second half of the play he rails against mankind to anyone who comes across him at his cave in the woods.
Timon’s problem was his over-generosity. His friends were only friends as long as he gave them things. He did not give to the poor but rather to those who did not truly need his generosity. There is no talk of Christian charity since Shakespeare placed the play in ancient Athens.

Timon of Athens seems to be a weak combination of Titus Andronicus (both have a dinner scene of revenge) and Coriolanus (both have a banished general who turns on his banishers). There do not seem to be very many memorable lines from Timon, but it does generate thoughtful contemplation on the subjects of money, friendship and mental illness.

The Stratford Festival theatre production of Timon was very good. The pomp dinner scene was splendid followed by a lascivious dance. It is practically decadent.
Joseph Ziegler was good as Timon, a very demanding role for a man of 64.
Ben Carlson as the insulting philosopher Apemantus reminded me of his role as the Fool in Twelfth Night a few years ago.  
Timon of Athens is a timeless tale and a sad story with a tragic end.

Stephen Gaspar's books are available on Amazon

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Roman Era Mystery

These Forty Days

With Lent upon us my thoughts turn to my Roman detective story The Case of the Empty Tomb which I wrote over a dozen years ago.

I fashioned it after the hard-boiled detective stories of Hammett and Chandler.

The story revolves around Tribune Claudius Maximus who is ordered to investigate the rumors circulating around  Jerusalem of a recently crucified Jew who has been seen alive.

If this sounds familiar, you might be thinking of a film released in 2016 called Risen. Here's the premise: In 33 AD, a Roman Tribune in Judea is tasked to find the missing body of an executed Jew rumored to have risen from the dead. (I took this from IMDb)

When I first saw the trailer for this movie I was stunned at how similar it was to my story. I was so stunned that I could not bring myself to go see it.

I secretly was hoping that someone somewhere would see how much the movie resembled my story, but no one did.

But this is the Lenten Season when we could all turn our thoughts to Christ. If anyone is looking to a good detective story about Christ, I would recommend The Case of the Empty Tomb.

Stephen Gaspar's books can be found on Amazon

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Raymond Chandler and Shakespeare

The Big Sleep

I first read The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (Knopf 1939) when I was a teenager, and to be truthful, I didn't like it. I much preferred the whitewashed movie version with Humphrey Bogart (Warner Bros. 1946).

I still like the movie but being much older I can appreciate Chandler's writing.

I was just re-reading The Big Sleep and was struck by a passage from the last chapter when the protagonist, Marlowe speaks of old Gen. Sternwood lying on his deathbed.

'What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell.'

These lines reminded me of Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 2, when Macbeth is speaking how the murdered Duncan is past caring.

'Duncan is in his grave.
After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.
Treason has done his worst; nor steel nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing
Can touch him further.'
 Raymond Chandler obviously knew his Shakespeare. In Farewell, My Lovely, Chandler's iconic detective, Philip Marlowe (Christopher Marlowe was Shakespeare's greatest contemporary rival)  makes a reference to 'Shakespeare's  Second Murderer in that scene in King Richard III.'
It seems that both Macbeth and Philip Marlowe believe that death is the end of one's life where we do not have to account for anything we have done in this world, and we are safe from any type of consequence. Both of them are quite wrong, of course, and there will be judgement  - The Big Judgement.