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Brush up on your Shakespeare

Despite its age, Measure for Measure is still surprisingly relevant.

Daniel Petzold, Mahka Mthembu, and Christopher Salazar (from left) in Measure for Measure
Daniel Petzold, Mahka Mthembu, and Christopher Salazar (from left) in Measure for Measure

Watching Measure for Measure — performed as part of the Old Globe’s “Globe for All” program, which injects free productions into unconventional venues all over town — I got deja vu listening to Angelo, the autocratic deputy hell-bent on cleaning up licentious Vienna, excuse himself from the moral culpability of ordering Claudio’s execution:

  • “Be you content, fair maid.
  • “It is the law, not I condemn your brother.
  • “Were he my kinsman, brother, or my son,
  • “It should be thus with him. He must die to-morrow.”
  • Where have I heard that sentiment before?

Oh. Right. The Supreme Court.

Now, everybody heard all about that “mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached” quotation, which was, in all fairness, a borderline libelous misconstruction tailor-made to fit Twitter-length pseudo-journalism. Still, late-Justice Antonin Scalia often made headlines for his hard-ass approach to the humanitarian causes that come before the ad hoc political entity posing as the nation’s highest court. When Lawrence v. Texas struck down draconian sodomy laws in Texas, Scalia bemoaned (and with his brilliant intellect predicted) the inevitability of legal gay marriage on the grounds that because the Constitution doesn’t give gay people any special rights, why should he? He famously brushed off a Boston Globe reporter with a rude-ish gesture, and don’t get him started on abortion.

Ignoring his salty disposition, Justice Scalia arguably changed the image of the judge from the executor of wise discretion to the dispassionate arbiter of the law — a position that, by the end of Act II, Measure for Measure demonstrates is untenable. So great was Scalia’s influence, that by the time John Roberts sat down for his confirmation hearing in 2005, the future Chief Justice claimed his role would be like “an umpire.”

You know, one of those “life-and-death” umpires.

Despite the 400+ candles on its birthday cake, Measure for Measure is still surprisingly relevant. That big, glaring vacancy on the Supreme Court will be filled by someone who must at least pay lip service to the “umpire” conceit in order to pass the Senate hearings. Maybe if everyone just boned up on his Shakespeare we wouldn’t still be having this debate.

Place

Old Globe Theatre

1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego

Measure for Measure runs through November 20.

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Daniel Petzold, Mahka Mthembu, and Christopher Salazar (from left) in Measure for Measure
Daniel Petzold, Mahka Mthembu, and Christopher Salazar (from left) in Measure for Measure

Watching Measure for Measure — performed as part of the Old Globe’s “Globe for All” program, which injects free productions into unconventional venues all over town — I got deja vu listening to Angelo, the autocratic deputy hell-bent on cleaning up licentious Vienna, excuse himself from the moral culpability of ordering Claudio’s execution:

  • “Be you content, fair maid.
  • “It is the law, not I condemn your brother.
  • “Were he my kinsman, brother, or my son,
  • “It should be thus with him. He must die to-morrow.”
  • Where have I heard that sentiment before?

Oh. Right. The Supreme Court.

Now, everybody heard all about that “mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached” quotation, which was, in all fairness, a borderline libelous misconstruction tailor-made to fit Twitter-length pseudo-journalism. Still, late-Justice Antonin Scalia often made headlines for his hard-ass approach to the humanitarian causes that come before the ad hoc political entity posing as the nation’s highest court. When Lawrence v. Texas struck down draconian sodomy laws in Texas, Scalia bemoaned (and with his brilliant intellect predicted) the inevitability of legal gay marriage on the grounds that because the Constitution doesn’t give gay people any special rights, why should he? He famously brushed off a Boston Globe reporter with a rude-ish gesture, and don’t get him started on abortion.

Ignoring his salty disposition, Justice Scalia arguably changed the image of the judge from the executor of wise discretion to the dispassionate arbiter of the law — a position that, by the end of Act II, Measure for Measure demonstrates is untenable. So great was Scalia’s influence, that by the time John Roberts sat down for his confirmation hearing in 2005, the future Chief Justice claimed his role would be like “an umpire.”

You know, one of those “life-and-death” umpires.

Despite the 400+ candles on its birthday cake, Measure for Measure is still surprisingly relevant. That big, glaring vacancy on the Supreme Court will be filled by someone who must at least pay lip service to the “umpire” conceit in order to pass the Senate hearings. Maybe if everyone just boned up on his Shakespeare we wouldn’t still be having this debate.

Place

Old Globe Theatre

1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego

Measure for Measure runs through November 20.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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