Honor! Shame! And Violence, Oh My! Modern Lessons from Shakespeare’s Canon

By Anna VecellioHonor Shame Violence 2:3:15

“Mine honor is my life; both grow in one.
Take honor from me, and my life is done.”

-William Shakespeare, Richard II

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve never heard of a Shakespeare play called Honor, Shame and Violence.” Well, you would be correct. However, Boston College Theatre Department’s latest production is not a singular Shakespeare play; it’s an “anthology”. Directed by Tina Packer, a guest professor brought to BC for the 2014-2015 season, Shakespeare: Honor, Shame, and Violence is a study of some of Shakespeare’s darkest plays. Combining scenes from Othello, Henry IV Part I, Coriolanus, and Romeo and Juliet, the play attempts to explore and catalogue how honor and shame directly dictate the course of violence in many of Shakespeare’s works, and perhaps more interestingly, how those same trends can be seen in modern American and world politics.

The show boasts moving performances from its entire cast. Most cast members play more than one character, and some play characters of the opposite gender. In every case, they do amazing work. In particular, Matthew Appleby’s interpretation of Othello strikes fear and horror across the stage, while Aryn Mello Pryor, as Othello’s wife Desdemona, elicits real remorse and grief.

The performances themselves are accented and enhanced by the commentary scripted by both Packer and her class of theater students. By drawing parallels between racism in Othello and the recent demonstrations for Eric Garner and Michael Brown, Henry IV and the American involvement with the Taliban, and Romeo and Juliet’s response to prejudice as a model for our society, Packer and her company create a distinct and unique link between the past and the now. They craft out of centuries-old material a modern lesson that may seem a stretch at first but makes more sense the longer you consider it.

The production ran Jan 21-15 in the Bonn Studio Theater. For information on forthcoming productions from the BC theatre department, please visit their events page.


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