Shakespeare Never Dies (except that one time, when he actually died)

29 May

I started rehearsal for A Midsummer Night’s Dream last night and am really excited about it.  The cast and director are great, the show is fun, and I think it’ll be a lovely experience. But that is neither here nor there.  I am writing to remind you that Shakespeare shows up in the unlikeliest of places.  There are the obvious examples- for example Ten Things I Hate About You as a retelling of Taming of the Shrew, or say, Hamlet 2.  But last night during the read through I was struck by a subtler and more nuanced parallel: the referencing of love-weapons as a metaphor for sex and romance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the recently released Role Models. Now I am fully aware that the parallel is likely coincidental and more the result of me watching Role Models too many times than Shakespeare’s influence on Paul Rudd and David Wain as they worked on their screenplay.  But indulge me.

In Act II, scene i of Midsummer, Oberon the fairy king tells his servant puck about a time he saw cupid pierce a young virgin with his arrow or “love shaft” as he so charmingly calls it:

Oberon:

That very time I saw, but thou couldst not, 
Flying between the cold moon and the earth 
Cupid all arm’d; a certain aim he took(160) 
At a fair vestal throned by the west, 
And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow, 
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts; 
But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft 
Quench’d in the chaste beams of the watery moon;(165) 
And the imperial votaress passed on, 
In maiden meditation, fancy-free. 

Now, a cursory and incomplete search of google books leaves me wanting for more analysis about this passage. I’m surprised there’s not more dramatic analysis talking about the sexual undertones here.  Most deconstructions of this speech start talking about Queen Elizabeth, which I don’t really care about.  But come on. Love shaft???  Maybe it’s too sexual to even point out.  Now to Role Models.

In this scene, Wheeler is hanging out with his court-mandated mentee, Ronnie.  They’ve had a hard time connecting so far, but here KISS’ reference to a “love gun” starts to break the ice between the two of them:

Ronnie notices Wheeler’s KISS pinball machine.
Ronnie: Who are these clowns?
Wheeler: KISS? You don’t know who KISS is?
Ronnie: No. Never heard of them. They look like idiots to me.
Wheeler: No, no, no- dude. These are four of the smartest guys who ever lived. They’re these Jewish guys that grew up in New York, and they put on guitars and make-up to get girls, and all of their songs are about fucking!
Ronnie: I’m listening.                                                                                                                                Wheeler: [Kiss’s “Love Gun” plays on the stereo] You see, Ronnie, his dick is the gun! 

There we go.  Role Model‘s Wheeler, in the last eight words of this scene, provides an eloquent and concise explanation of the use of phallic weapons as a metaphor for male sexuality, which can help modern viewers better understand and the enjoy the works of William Shakespeare.  I knew there was a reason I watched it three times.

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