Literature can serve as an escape from the Real World, and also as a cautionary tale, as the boundaries from which the writer creates his / her story is limitless. The truth within the fictional world(s) can be idealistic or harsh, depending on the character’s perspective and the reader’s sensibilities – one person’s tyrant is another person’s savior. Paradise (for the most part) is subjective and open to interpretation. Some will love it, others will hate it, and (inevitably) everyone will complain about it.
I intended to write about something else for this week’s entry (though it was another quasi-rambling thematic essay about… stuff), but the recent goings-on in the Real World have prompted musings on the importance of interpretation and its power to invoke / provoke a response. For those reading this months or years from now, the apparent controversy over the current production of Julius Caesar as part of the Shakespeare in the Park series was the catalyst. Shakespearean plays have been interpreted and adapted in countless ways over the centuries in film, television and (of course) in live theatre. In the 2017 Shakespeare in the Park production, the titular character cast looks similar to the current (American) President, and there have been protests about it mostly from the (far) right wing.
Spoiler Alert for those who may not have ever read or seen Julius Caesar, (though it seems silly to include a spoiler alert for a 400+ year old play): Caesar is assassinated by a group of Roman senators to prevent him from becoming a tyrant. Chaos ensues afterwards.
The choice to put a contemporary interpretation to a historical tragedy (as Caesar was a real person and the events in the play are more or less what really happened) might have been questionable, given the political atmosphere and the knee-jerk reactions in this instantaneous social media driven world, but it was a valid one, and perhaps done to provoke a response. Then again, the play has existed for centuries and presumably there have been other interpretations / adaptations that have used contemporary political figures as its filter. Yet (to my knowledge) there had not been protests about those productions.
The Arts in general have had the ability to invoke a myriad of emotions through its storytelling, giving the audience a glimpse into the perspective of its protagonist (or antagonist, again depending on one’s perspective). The filter through which the protagonist views his / her world and the people within aids in the overall expansion of a world view and can introduce different, sometimes radical ideas to those who may not have had direct access.
It also sparks the potential for change (hopefully for the better), through discussion and debate; though lately protests and threats seems to be the route taken by the right wing, which is their right to do (as freedom of speech is still a basic right for every American). Whether what they’re saying holds any merit is questionable, but should not be ignored or dismissed.
Storytelling is an art (and a craft) that has the power to create controversy as well as change, giving the reader a window into another world, or a different perspective on an existing universe.
It’s up to the reader to interpret its meaning.