Although I was only able to view the first two acts of the BBC version, I was nevertheless struck by aspects of the production which brought to light dramatic possibilities that hadn't occurred to me.

At several points, the malleability of Shakespeare's lines was demonstrated by the use of pause and emphasis. A wonderful example of this occurs toward the end of Act II, Scene II, where Isabella inquires, "At what hour tomorrow/Shall I attend your lordship?" According to the text, Angelo's reply is simply, "At any time 'for noon," yet the line is spoken, "At any time!...'for noon." This reading simultaneously communicates Angelo's anxiousness to see Isabella again and his attempt to mask his passion.

Another instance in which the potential of the text is realized comes midway through Act I, Scene II, where we find Pompey reassuring Mistress Overdone that she will not, in the light of recent reforms, lose her living, stating, "You that have worn your eyes almost out in the service, you will be considered." The laugh is gotten at his hesitation over the word "eyes," for just before he says it, he glances down towards her nether regions, hence, "You that have worn your...eyes...out in the service," and thus conveys a bawdy joke.

As I mentioned previously, this is the joy of Shakespeare, the twofold pleasure of reading and the hearing. Each part offers its own pleasure and the combination of both is thoroughly satisfying.

©1996 Patrick Galloway

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