Yesterday I wrote about how it’s ok – nay, expected – that you know the ending of a Shakespeare play, but you still go see it again and again, because it’s about how they tell the story to get there. The only caveat to this rule would be those movies where it’s all about “the twist” (an M Night Shyamalan production). I noted that Shakespeare doesn’t really do twists.
But what if he did? I started wondering, which plays could be presented such that you don’t see it coming until the big reveal at the end.
Twelfth Night is an obvious example. What if we leave out Viola at the beginning, and pick it up with Cesario? Then you’ve got a classic romantic comedy where Cesario’s lusting after Orsino, Olivia is lusting after Cesario, Orsino’s lusting after Olivia but kind of really confused about his feelings for Cesario, and so on. Enter this guy Sebastian, who mentions a shipwreck and searching for his lost “sibling” and we think, “Aha! Twins! This will be good!” But then we get to the big finale where we find out Cesario is actually Viola. Cue happy endings and wedding music.
But I think it’s cheating to just do the easy comedy. Could we do it with a tragedy? I was wondering – if we took out all Iago’s soliloquies and behind the scenes machinations, could we make a twist out of it? Basically tell the whole story from Othello’s perspective, rather than Iago’s. He has to deal with his new father in law’s fury. He has to deal with his right-hand man Cassio getting into drunken bar fights. All the while he puts growing faith in loyal Iago, who hates to say this, but who thinks that maybe Cassio might be fooling around with Othello’s wife.
I think this one would be much harder to splice together, but imagine the payoff at the end? Suddenly Emilia comes out of nowhere to unveil that it was her husband all along? Then the husband f%^&*(ng STABS HER?! And then, when they catch him, he’s all, “Yup, not going to explain myself. At all. You get nothing.” That would be legendary.
Now I’m sad that knowing the real ending, I could never get to see how that would actually pay off, even if they made a movie exactly like that tomorrow.
This has more potential than I thought. What other plays could we twist? The only rule is that you can’t add more original content. If Shakespeare didn’t answer the question, we can’t answer it. We can’t, for instance, learn that it was actually Gertrude that killed her husband (or Ophelia). You have to stay as close the original material as possible, just mess with how the audience gets to see it.