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per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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We just saw this last night... wow. An intense, thought-provoking, funny, disturbing, and moving play. I'm still processing it, and it showed up in my dreams last night, too.

The broad sketch of the plot is intriguing enough: what if Robert Cecil commissioned Shakespeare to write a play giving the "official version" of the Gunpowder Plot? And what if Shakespeare discovered that the "official version" was not only nonsense, but it was possible that Cecil had instigated the whole thing in an attempt at political unity and the final demise of Catholicism in England?

But you get more out of this- examinations of politics, families, religion, honor, loyalty, the stage, and Shakespeare's life and work. And the exploration of "equivocation" itself is worth the price of admission... the concept was advanced by Robert Southwell, Henry Garnet, Catholics in England as a response to the persecution they suffered under the Tudors and Stuarts, as an attempt to allow them to compromise neither their faiths nor their lives. As Garnet says in the play, it is "a way to tell the truth in difficult times"- answering in a misleading way, answering a different question than that which was asked, etc.

Is truth something you should stick to at all costs? What if you are in a situation where you are forsworn if you lie, but betray others if you tell the truth? If the question is dishonest, is there a way to answer it honestly? It is easy to ignore these questions in our world, especially if you have never been a defendant in court... but as a member of a minority religion, it's something that makes me think. Yes, I'm in a much better religious freedom situation, but still...

Equivocation is a powerful concept, and can of course be misused. The Catholic Church in Ireland has been accused of misusing it in cases of clerical child abuse, perverting the original intent of Southwell and Garnet- who used it to save others while sacrificing themselves. And in the hands of power, it is a dangerous thing indeed... Bill Cain, the playwright, was inspired to write this by a bland statement in the Tower of London that no-one was ever tortured there for their religion... an example of official equivocation if I've ever heard one.

An excellent play, and highly recommended.