“The Changeling” is the name of an unhelpfully large number of things. Those things include a 17th century tragedy by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, a couple of contemporaries of William Shakespeare who, because they are not William Shakespeare, have never been heard of by anyone outside of a Renaissance Drama college classroom.
These things do not include a halfway decent screen adaptation of said play.
If you weren’t there with me in that Renaissance Drama class...
Beatrice wants Alsemero. Alsemero wants Beatrice. Beatrice is betrothed to Alonzo. De Flores also wants Beatrice. Beatrice convinces De Flores to murder Alonzo for her in the hopes of marrying Alsemero instead, without having to put Alsemero through a duel with Alonzo (since that’s what people normally do in such plays). De Flores does it, then instead of skipping town as Beatrice was hoping, he blackmails her into bed with him by threatening to confess for the both of them.
Beatrice gets to marry Alsemero but sends her servant in her place on the wedding night, afraid Alsemero will notice she’s not a virgin (but not afraid that he’ll notice she’s someone else, because again, that’s how it works in plays like this). She gets jealous when her servant doesn’t come back quickly enough, and De Flores tries to kill the servant too, to make Beatrice happy.
Beatrice and De Flores end up developing a twisted kind of codependence, but when they get found out, they kill each other over what they’ve done before Beatrice and Alsemero can ever come to any kind of understanding.
Okay, Thomas Middleton (who’s widely acknowledged as the mind behind the main plotline) didn’t have the most charming agenda with this, or with everything else he ever wrote. There’s a theme throughout his work of original sin (read: natural human sexuality) bringing about ruin and tragedy.
If you don’t know that, however, he’s accidentally created a hell of a thrilling tragedy of errors. It’s a conniving, twisting power play amongst all of its main characters. It kept me up at night reading it and imagining the perfect performance.
The Imaginary Remake:
First of all, let’s bring in some major league talent, in front of the camera and behind. I’m voting for Kenneth Branagh to direct.
Keep the original language (it’s got the snap-crackle-pop to it that Shakespeare fans will love) but give it a little trimming to enhance the already quick pace.
Now let’s have some fun with these characters. De Flores is an actor’s dream. He’s definitely a bad guy, what with blackmailing someone to have sex with him and all, but he’s the sad, never-learned-how-to-play-well-with-others, Phantom of the Opera type bad guy.
Beatrice is nice and complicated too. She starts out in the thoroughly sympathetic position of a woman betrothed against her will, trying to find her way around an unfair system. Then she handles this by being completely dishonest with everyone including the man she thinks she loves and jumps very easily to the idea of murder by manipulation of a guy she knows has a crush on her.
Think of her as a younger, starry-eyed Cersei Lannister.
Alonzo, who’s the relatively forgettable first kill of the play, absolutely must be played by James Marsden and made into something special.
What I’m saying is that someone needs to have fun with this. Someone needs to do an interpretation, rather than a recitation.
Agree? Disagree? Comments are always welcome! Or keep up with my fictional musings by joining me on Facebook, on Twitter, or by signing up for email updates in the panel on the right!