07 May 2009

Shakespeare and David Kelley?

QUICK NOTE: this article was written during my last semester of law school.

C.S. Lewis once lamented that the modern enlightenment authors were "very small beer and bored [him] cruelly." (1) During my last semester of law school, however, I had a vastly different experience regarding a very "enlightened" professor. Professor Samuel Pyeatt Menefee provided this writer with very fine port indeed - from William Shakespeare to Harper Lee - showing many a law student along the way how little we knew, while nonetheless thoroughly charging us with an inspired challenge for the well-read life. The venerable Menefee, with degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Cambridge, taught a very rigorous Law and Literature survey course that was very popular with the handful of students who fancied themselves soon-to-be-literati. Although I enjoyed the majority of the material assigned throughout this course, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice was, for me, a favorite. Inevitably, as one whose career path is leading toward the field of entertainment law, this author tends to view and interpret story lines through the lens of a camera. As such, it seemed interesting, if not appropriate, to compare the timeless work of the Bard with that of a successful, erudite and talented writer of today: David E. Kelley, creator of Ally McBeal and The Practice.

While perhaps of slight importance, it still may be of some interest to the reader to know that Mr. Kelley and Shakespeare share some common background information. While Shakespeare s believed to have been the son of a wealthy glove maker, Kelley is the son of a wealthy glove person as well - of sorts. (2) David E. Kelley is the son of hockey great and former Pittsburgh Penguins president, Jack Kelley. (3) While not determinative, growing up in homes with successful, well-healed fathers must certainly have had an impact on these two gentlemen. Kelley and Shakespeare both got their professional starts and first writing successes in their mid-twenties. Both Shakespeare and Kelley (married to the fetching actress Michelle Pfeiffer) sought after a modicum of privacy for their families - both with a set of twins. While the previous trivia obviously do not stretch one's credulity, they're offered merely as shared introductory background information.

Without question, two of the most prolific writers in Hollywood recently have been William Shakespeare and David E. Kelley. An agent in "the business" can scarcely throw his cell phone across town without hitting some of their work sitting on a studio head's or network exec's desk. As any writer can attest, there is a vast difference between being a working writer and being a paid working writer.

As such, it is axiomatic that the odds of Hollywood buying one's manuscript are stacked heavily against the average writer. It speaks volumes, then, that the works of David E. Kelley and William Shakespeare are today ubiquitous on the big and small screens. (4)
Indeed, one could argue that Kelley and Shakespeare, with their prolific writing abilities, set the standard as Hollywood's prototypical writer - nay uberwriter. (5) 

Notwithstanding the several-hundred year time-span that separates the Bard from Mr. Kelley, there are many similarities between the two writers apart from their background, viz., their prodigiousness, importance as writers, and commonalities in their work.

William Shakespeare's return to popularity is really quite remarkable, especially if considered in light of recent academic history. As David Gates of Newsweek eloquently expressed, it was believed that the “multiculturalists had supposedly frog-marched [the Bard] out of school curriculums.” (6) But, Shakespeare, of course, has not always been out favor on American campuses. It wasn’t, as historian Lawrence Levine evinces for us in his Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America - until the Academy appropriated the Bard that he became passé. Thenceforth, Shakespeare's greatest works became elitist protean projects to be dissected, deconstructed, and finally denounced because of their dead, white, patriarchal author. To challenge the canon became a cause celebre, with Shakespeare and his works fodder for the PC movement. While it still de rigueur in most circles academe to stomp on Shakespeare's work - if not his grave, cold these past 400 years at Trinity Church - there seems to be a brief respite from the PC tempest on some American college campuses.

Harold Bloom of Yale University (an institution not steeped in conservative thought) has gone so far as to say that Shakespeare is indeed "the center of the canon. (7) In fact, Bloom's book, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, has become an unlikely bestseller with well over a hundred thousand copies sold to date." Could the rise in popularity of Shakespeare and the ebb of the PC deluge have, in some small way, something to do with the recent string of Hollywood releases? Shakespeare's work is being adapted for the silver screen with amazing aplomb and alacrity. In the last few years alone, almost a third of the Bard's plays have been produced for film or are on current studio production schedules, including: Twelfth Night, Hamlet, (9) Othello, Richard Ill, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Titus Andronicus, Love's Labour's Lost, Macbeth, As You Like It, Henry V, and Much Ado About Nothing. In fact, it was Kenneth Branagh's film-version of Much Ado that really brought the Bard back into favor with Hollywood. Branagh today stands as the number one proponent (and beneficiary) of the Shakespearean adaptation. (10) Besides Much Ado, he will have produced, written, starred-in or directed at least eight projects. (11) Amazingly, Shakespeare had not been produced (at least successfully) since Zeffarelli's Romeo and Juliet almost thirty years ago. (12)

While some are given to hyperbole, calling this prodigious production schedule a recent phenomenon, in truth, the Bard, from the industry's humble beginning, has consistently been a rich source for many a producer to mine. One could argue that Shakespeare has been an indispensable lingua franca for the film industry from its infancy when filmmakers produced some fifty films based on Shakespeare's work (between 1908 – 1911), without having to pay a nickel’s worth of royalties. (13)

To the reader it is probably patently obvious the important role William Shakespeare plays in relation to Western Culture, let alone the United States, so just a quick few words. As Bloom stated supra, and as many would quickly agree, Shakespeare is the fulcrum of today's feckless canon. His writing, especially if viewed in light of recent popularity, is a wonderful atavistic body of literature returning decade after decade, evincing its import to the latest generation discovering his preternatural iambic pentameter, story-telling ability, and love of the English language. With over three dozen plays to his name, the Bard has displayed an oft-unappreciated ability to write the comedy as well as the tragedy.

Amazingly, his works have survived and are still performed on stage and adapted for the screen some 400 years after William Shakespeare put quill to parchment. Perhaps there was something about the environs and climes of 16th and 17th century London that inspired his writing. Shakespeare wrote at a time when the "middleclass" was still a few hundred years from its post-Industrial Age emergence. While there may have existed a small class of individuals not as wealthy as royalty nor as unfortunate as the poor, they were nonetheless, far richer - and smaller in number - than what one would today call middleclass. Shakespeare's milieu, by all accounts, was a bifurcation of rich and poor; his audience was one afternoon royalty and the next "drunken punters," or both. (15) As Australian director Baz Luhrmann posits, "Shakespeare was a relentless entertainer. When he played the Elizabethan stage, he was basically dealing with an audience . . . selling pigs and geese in the stalls. He played to everyone from the street sweeper to the Queen of England." (16)

Shakespeare, as David E. Kelley is wont to do, pulled from the events of his time, putting his unique worldview and indelible imprint on his characters whose words then resonated with the audience, reflecting the zeitgeist of the writer's time. Shakespeare's plays were so skillfully written, imbued with transcendent themes, that they impacted America's culture from its foundation. His works were "a staple of popular culture, as he was in his own era, with [his] plays being performed extensively in working-class theaters and even in makeshift circumstances in Western frontier towns and mining camps. (17) Shakespeare, co-opted this century by certain ersatz intellectuals, has always reached the common man with universal truths. The editorial staff at Cineaste has said "there's no question that the cinema serves as today's Globe Theatre for moviegoers." (18) Pace to the editors of Cineaste, but if there was ever a forum for Shakespeare today, with its drunken minions selling pigs in the aisles, it is none other than The Jerry Springer Show. The appropriate analogue, all joking aside, seems not to be film, but rather television. Over the last two decades there has been a noticeable movement afoot in the American polis (and its well-to-do enclaves) where certain film-going (i.e., the art house with its pandemic sub-titles) has become extremely elitist - or at least bourgeois - with lecture series and cocktails accompanying showings by certain avant-garde filmmakers. Nonetheless, there is little question regarding the impact that the collective works of Shakespeare have had, and continue to have, on the medium of film.

Likewise, there is little doubt regarding the impact that David E. Kelley is having in the television industry - today's Globe Theatre. Although no one would readily confuse Kelley's television writing with the great works of the canon, he is nonetheless the bard of television. While most would not be willing to label Kelley a Shakespearean scion, when one compares the two writers, however, he's far and away the closest television has yet produced, with intriguing similarities evident in their work, influence, and business acumen. David E. Kelley got his first big break, as a writer, on L.A. Law due to his ability to write gripping dialogue and his uncanny instinct to draw plot from the day's headlines. (19)

Kelley is a graduate of Princeton University and Boston University law school. Schooling finished, Kelley then went on to practice as a litigator for three years before he found the law less appealing than the first screenplay he was working on. His break into the business came through Executive Producer Steven Bochco of LA Law/Hill Street Blues fame; Kelley's nascent ability caught Bochco's keen eye. (20) After quickly becoming head-writer for L.A. Law (the show that is rumored to have single-handedly caused the greatest increase in law school applications than any other event in modern US history), Kelley then moved-on to pitch, create, produce, and write several highly successful television series: Doogie Howser, M.D., Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, Ally McBeal, The Practice, and Boston Legal. Remarkably, Kelley's work is seen on three different networks.

While the typical Hollywood producer is lauded and perceived to be successful with only one hit show, Kelley has the Midas touch on every show with which he has been associated. (21) Shakespeare's greatness is self-evident after a multi-century ride atop the Western Canon. And while time will tell regarding the staying power of David E. Kelley, he already is among the most praised and awarded writer/producers in television history. Kelley's success to-date is due in large part to his amazing ability, like Shakespeare, to write both the comedic and dramatic piece. Kelley virtually multitasks each week as he writes two days for Ally McBeal (dramedy) and two days for The Practice (drama) - both hour-long shows.

While most shows have a team of writers (each making over $5,000 per week), Kelley is virtually a one-man show, writing over 40 episodes each television season (not counting other shows he's producing or writing for, plus screenplays). In spite of this prolific output, the quality of the show is insouciantly maintained each week. (22) Camryn Manheim, an actress with a theater background and one who has won both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award because of Kelley, has said that "a lot of plays aren't written as well as David Kelley's scripts are .... It's not hard for me to appreciate what a genius he is." (23) His actors are not the only ones that acknowledge his talent. Kelley, in his early forties, remarkably has also received TV Guide's imprimatur, being chosen as "one of the 45 figures in television history" to have made an impact. (24)

Kelley's impact on television is both immediate and still to be felt. He recently pulled-off an industry coup of winning Golden Globes for comedy and drama in the same year - a fait accompli unequaled in television history. Robert Thompson, head of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University says that Kelley, "[w]ithout question ... is the most interesting, most accomplished, most subtle and most literary writer that this medium has ever produced.” (25) Contemporaries, critics, actors and even network presidents acknowledge the talent of Kelley: "One of the most gifted writers today" - Peter Roth, Fox Entertainment President; "He's the Michael Jordan of TV"- Sandy Grushow, President Fox TV; "Brilliant and prolific" - Jamie Tarses, ABC Entertainment President. (26) "He's a pure writer, a savant. Most writers take two weeks to write a first draft, David takes two days" - Ed Redlich, writer. (27) "He's extraordinary, he should be getting into the [Emmy] Hall of Fame much earlier than any of us did because ... he writes comedy with his left and drama with his right hand" - Carl Reiner, comedian. (28)

Kelley's impact is still to be felt. In a business where reaching 100 episodes is time to celebrate (when syndication deals are their most plum and where networks and production companies make back the money they "front-loaded" to underwrite the series in it's inchoate state), Kelley already has three series in syndication, with two very hot shows guaranteed to soon join them. Kelley says that TV, unlike plays or a movie, is similar to a marathon; that to live in television perpetuity, one must first get to the magical 100th episode. (29) The revenue streams off of his shows, not to mention his royalties as a writer, are bound to keep Kelley around as an influential player for decades. Because of his success, Fox (the network that airs Ally McBeal) has recently awarded Kelley a multiyear agreement with his company to produce shows for Fox on a newly constructed studio lot in Southern California (twenty-two sprawling acres called Raleigh Manhattan Beach Studios). (30) This turnkey operation will bring Kelley Productions another $30 million, plus unprecedented network freedom and support.

It is Kelley's role as a producer that again parallels Shakespeare, this time as businessman. At the turn of the 17th Century, the Bard garnered an equity position with the Lord Chamberlain's Men, a distinguished company of players whose business affairs he managed. (31) David E. Kelley and Shakespeare have both benefited from their strong business acumen. They both have displayed the ability to shrewdly establish ownership positions (not merely intellectual property rights) in the production and presentation of their works -- arguably the surest way to maintain the integrity of one's work product. For Kelley, the best way to protect the quality of his shows would be, above all, to write, retaining his signature mark on his shows that audiences recognize. Kelley admits, "[w]hen you throw out all the titles, I'm a writer .... What I do the most is write; what I enjoy the most is writing. "32 Whenever Kelley has turned one of his shows over to other writers, the resulting thud has been a moribund series plummeting in the ratings. His voice is so unique and has such élan that the audience knows something is missing. While Kelley was at LA Law for five seasons, the show garnered four Emmy Awards; when Kelley left, the series floundered (to-date, Kelley's shows have received some 15 Emmy Awards. (33) When Kelley left two of his other shows, Chicago Hope and Picket Fences, the results were not quite as drastic, but felt nonetheless. Kelley, like Shakespeare, is a shrewd businessman whose quality writing has allowed him unparalleled business security and success.

Aside from the similarities these two gentlemen share in their personal background, professional awards, and business acumen, there are also some interesting similarities in their work, specifically when comparing Ally McBeal to The Merchant of Venice.

The first thing to strike the casual observer in looking at Kelley's television show and Shakespeare's play is that both have wonderfully colorful ensemble casts, each with approximately nine principal players. Indeed, many of these characters come from disparate backgrounds and have interesting quirky personality defects. Upon further inspection of the two works' general reception, both are rather polemical. Ally is a show that many either love or hate (usually because of its too fantastically bizarre comedic special effects: tongues stretch several feet for a quick lick on an ear lobe; eyes "bug-out"; when couples break-up, the dumpee is summarily picked-up by a trash truck and throw into the back; and babies have been known to dance their way into a few scene stealing moments). The show has stirred-up controversy not only because of its topical nature (religion, relationships, sexism, feminism), but also because of its double entendres, "adult" humor, and hemlines.

Likewise, as Editor John Andrews says in his introduction to the Merchant of Venice, "Merchant is a drama that has frequently occasioned controversy." (34) It has drawn criticism primarily because of Shakespeare's presentation of anti-Semitism, especially highlighted by Shylock's forced conversion at the close of the infamous trial scene. In an age of politically correct sensibilities, such a scene rubs obsequious PC lemmings not only the wrong way, but straight over the nearest thought-police cliff. Nonetheless, the two authors deal in straightforward fashion such topics as those mentioned supra. But how do they deal with the American "hot potato" of the 20th Century: racism?

Race relations in Merchant are dealt with in a manner representative of the author's time: prejudices are mentioned, acknowledged, and accepted. Classifying Judaism as a race, the barbs traded between Shylock and his gentile counterparts are in fact tame compared to what one might overhear in one of the boroughs of New York City between its callused citizenry (insert here your own favorite stereotype). When the Prince of Morocco fails in his attempt to win Portia as his wife, she, in the parlance of today's urban slang, "kicks him to the curb" with a pejorative statement about her not wanting any of "his complexion" to win her hand. (35) Nonetheless, as a prince he is allowed to accept the posthumous challenge of Portia's father and its attendant strictures and consequences. (36) While Shakespeare deals with racism head-on; Kelley in his Ally, conversely, doesn't even acknowledge its existence. Indeed, such a stand has raised many-an-eyebrow, and incurred the delicious wrath of a few social critics. National Public Radio commentator Callie Crosslie:

"It's just not authentic ... I find it offensive when he chooses not to deal with race on [Ally McBealj. It's like the ... white elephant in the middle of the room that no one talks about. It's insulting. " (37)

Kelley's show, a view that many support, chooses not to make race an issue. While Venice is the setting for Merchant, with its systemic prejudices, Boston, arguably this country's hotbed for racial tension, is the backdrop for Ally. And yet neither Ally, Greg (Ally's black boyfriend) nor Renee (Ally's black roommate), have ever discussed race as an issue or a problem. (38) Kelley has said that:

We are a consciously colorblind show. In the history of the show, we have never addressed race. The reason is simple. In my naive dream, I wish that the world could be like this. Since Ally lives in a fanciful and whimsical world, there are not going to be any racial differences or tensions. All people are one under the sun. (39)

While Ally's world for the most part is colorblind, Ally's firm did have a client whose skin had accidentally been turned "orange" and was subsequently discriminated against by her employer because of her horrifying hue. In its final adjudication, the court found that the plaintiff’s "orangeness" did not qualify as a protected class, thus the discrimination against her client was not invidious. This suit was one of the few that Ally's firm has actually lost.

While Merchant and Ally have dealt with racism on very different terms, they both have handled interfaith dating as well. In Merchant, Shylock, as any orthodox parent would be, is crushed to learn that his beloved daughter Jessica has eloped, marrying the gentile Lorenzo. Shakespeare portrays Jessica as never even considering how her faith might play a role in her happiness - which seems especially impolitic in that she's to marry someone of another faith. Jessica's impertinent actions illustrate how blind she is to all but the love between herself and her betrothed. She disdains the faith of her father, saying after he has left for the evening, "[f]arewell, and if my Fortune be not cross'd, I have a Father, you a Daughter, lost." (40) Jessica casually references her willingness to adopt a faith antithetical to her father's (cross'd, i.e., the Cross of Christ). While Jessica enters imprudently into inter-faith dating and marriage, Ally turns out to be quite thoughtful and comparatively intellectually honest in her approach to Judaism.

After rejecting a series of suitors because they are not physically appealing, Ally is rebuked by a friend for being "snobbish." After some pensive moments, she decides to date a Rabbi whose previous amorous advances she had initially rebuffed. Ally's approach is also much more enlightened than Portia's. While Portia dutifully entertains the Moroccan Prince (who probably was Muslim), her heart is dead set against him as a suitor, a fact seemingly confirmed when Portia pleads with Bassanio for him to take his time before attempting to choose the correct casket: "I pray you tarry, pause a Day or two, Before you hazard, for in choosing wrong I lose your Company: therefore forbear a while." (41) In comparison, it's not that Ally is not equally desperate to marry, in fact in one episode she muses: "I want to change the world; I just want to get married first. " (42)

Ally and Portia have more in common, however, than just the way they deal with their beauty, multiple suitors, and mutual anguish over their love lives. (43) They both have had incredibly interesting cases of first impression in the courtroom - both dealing with a pound of flesh.

Portia dresses as a man in order gain access to the court where the Duke of Venice is presiding. (44) She appears in court in order to aid her husband's friend, Antonio, who has put up security for Bassanio so he may gain Portia's hand in marriage. As part of the loan of 3,000 ducats, Shylock asks not for usury, but instead for "an equal Pound of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken In what part of your Body pleaseth me." Antonio, the guarantor of the loan, replies, "Content in faith, 111 seal to such a Bond, And say there is much Kindness in the Jew." (45) This issue before the court would have been a challenging and vexing conundrum for any legal counsel, but nonetheless, with abounding aplomb, Portia volunteers to come to Antonio's defense. (Was she perhaps studying evenings at Padua University Law School?) She, of course, saves the day, using the law to "catch" Shylock as he perseverates on his revenge. Ultimately, she procures half of Shylock's fortune for the disinherited Jessica and Lorenzo (All's well that ends ... contrived?).

Ally, on the other hand (foreshadowing here), was hired by a client to defend him on murder charges. His alleged crime? Chopping off his wife's hand, murdering her. In this episode, the client is madly (obviously) in love with his soon-to-depart wife. When she dies, the client, in an insane moment, decides he must keep something of hers; something personal that meant a great deal to him. Ally, in her closing argument to the jury, evokes a nostalgia for first love - for that once-in-a-lifetime Shakespearean type of love - and actually convinces the jury that each of them could have acted in similar manner had they been blessed with this type of spousal devotion. It should be noted here that the murder charge was pretty weak to begin with. The question to be decided was whether the wife was actually dead when her limb was dismembered. Does anyone actually chop-off their wife's hand for the sole purpose of murder? Mayhem, yes. Murder, probably not.

1. C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy.
2. All biographical information regarding Shakespeare is from The Merchant of Venice: The Everyman Shakespeare, William Shakespeare, John Andrews's Editor Introduction.
3. Rob Owen, Kelley's Kingdom, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5 February 1999.
4. NOTE: It would be interesting to calculate the current market value of the film rights to Shakespeare's plays that have been adapted - some would argue abused - liberally due to their public domain status.
5. NOTE: The amazing fact of Shakespeare's work antedating Kelley by some 400 years is not lost on this writer.
6. David Gates, Shakespeare: Dead White Male of the Year, Newsweek, 30 December 1996.
7. Ibid.
8. Jay Tolson, The Return of the Bard: As the World Goes Virtual, We Crave His Earthy Genius, Science & Ideas, 1 February 1999.
9. NOTE: A personal friend from graduate school is the cousin of Chris Devore who wrote the screenplay adaptation for this recent Mel Gibson project. Mr. Devore, was also nominated for an Oscar for his extraordinary screenplay, The Elephant Mall, back in the early '80s.
10. NOTE: Branaugh, in fact, recently received an Oscar nomination for his beautifully shot, four-hour adaptation of Hamlet ... without changing a single word of the play. Easy work if you can get it, I guess.
11. Hark! Branaugh is Bringing More Bard to the Screen, Hollywood Reporter, 2 October 1998.
12. Editorial, Cineaste, 22 December 1998.
13. Cineaste, 22 December 1998.
14. NOTE: The author here adroitly circumvents any discussion surrounding the "true" identity of Shakespeare (or authorship of his works) to those erudite pedants who are much better equipped to debate such minutia.
15. Maclean's, "Souping Up the Bard: Shakespeare is Hollywood's Latest Hot Ticket." Brian D. Johnson, 11 November 1996.
16. Ibid. NOTE: Baz Luhrmann directed the recent Romeo + Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.
17. Cineaste, 22 December 1998.
18. Ibid.
19. A Change in the Script, Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, 5 February 1999.
20. Kelley's Kingdom, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
21. Lynette Rice, Michael Jordon oj TV Dancing Big Time, Baby, Hollywood Reporter, 11 September 1998.
22. A Change in the Script. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. NOTE: Kelley admits that it was his "procrastinate and publish" habit of waiting until the last minute to write his term papers in college that helped develop his ability to produce under pressure (plus a need for external motivation).
23 Ibid.
24 Don Aucoin, Kelley Scrawls His Way to Top: Prolific Writer-Creator Keeps Producing Hits, San Diego Tribune, 18 April 1999.
25 David Bianculli, Kelley's King of All TV Writers: Awards Galore are Further Proof that Scripter is Best Ever, New York Daily News, 26 January 1999.
26. Lynette Rice, Michael Jordon of TV Dancing Big Time, Baby, Hollywood Reporter, 11 September 1998.
27. Benjamin Svetkey, Kelley's Heroes: He's Hot, He's Sexy, He Used to be a Lawyer, Entertainment Weekly, 25 September 1998.
28. Dusty Sauders, Writer Kelley Scripts Formula for Hits, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 19 January 1999.
29. Kelley's Kingdom, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
30. Kelley's Heroes, Entertainment Weekly.
31. John Andrews, Merchant of Venice: The Every Man Shakespeare, 1991.
32. Robert Bianco, David E. Kelley Has Hockey Dreams, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 17 March 1995.
33. McBeal Makes Sense David Kelley Has Golden Touch, The Calgary Sun, 13 June 1998.
34. The Merchant of Venice: The Everyman Shakespeare, William Shakespeare, John Andrews's Editor Introduction
35. Merchant of Venice, Act IT, vii, 80.
36. NOTE: Shakespeare seemingly "projects" his own racism onto the Prince in his soliloquy in the form of self-loathing. He has Morochus ask Portia not to dislike him due to his complexion. The Bard then has the Prince say he would change his hue for Portia's thoughts.
37. Greg Braxton, Colorblind or Just Blind?, Variety, 15 February 1999.
38. Ibid.
39. Ibid.
40. Merchant, Act II, v, 55.
41. Merchant, Act Ill, ii, 1-4.
42 Benjamin Svetkey, Everything you Love or hate About Ally McBeal, Entertainment Weekly, 30 January 1998.
43 NOTE: This paper purposely (perhaps at its peril) leaves out a rather lengthy discussion on Ally and Portia in light of modem feminism. In fact, Calista Flockhart (the actor who plays Ally) was recently on the cover of Time; the magazine suggests that perhaps Ally is the "New Face of Feminism."
44 NOTE: Cross-dressing and gender/sex role reversals are used in both Merchant and Ally to mislead others. Jessica, Portia, and Nerissa all dress as men to advance their plans. Ally has had some crossdressing, but for more pragmatic purposes (dance partners); however, Ally has feigned lesbianism, actually kissing two of her co-workers, to evade potential suitors.
45. Merchant, 1, iii, 150-154.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice read. i like your style, even if the topic is a bit stale-dated.