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THE LOGIC OF SHAKESPEARE'S DILEMMA
Critical Analysis of a John C. Lyons Film
Shakespeare’s Dilemma, an independent film produced by John C. Lyons, is at first glance little more than a playful attempt at coaxing smirks and giggles from an audience enthralled at the prospect of old clothes next to computers.
Do not be deluded; Dilemma is far more. Will struggles, to be sure, with more than a simple PowerPoint presentation. His truer dilemma is a struggle of the mind, surrounded in his mentality by a host of self-made demons, apart from which his essence cannot help but reveal itself. So how do we progress from the opening—a homeless man bearing a decrepit typewriter—through Shakespeare in a modern office setting, and finally settle on a screaming vagrant in an alley? Has the vagrant managed through some miracle to actually pen what we behold? I think not. The premise is preposterous. If he possessed such capability, then assuredly he would not be homeless, unless by some perverse choice. So no, what we are seeing is actually a representation of his mind, manufactured through an unknowable combination of a Shakespeare fetish, his actual history of severance from his employer, and a subliminal psychosis which required no more than the experience of his own downfall as a trigger.
What of logic? What of continuity?
In his real world, pre termination, Speers was a middle management worker in a high tech firm. Never actually comfortable with technology, he was expected to help shape its future. It was an impossible task for him, and he struggled endlessly. His final project required that he provide an analysis of the integration of several disparate technologies, justifying his own department’s role in a questionable venture. This was really quite beyond his ability; he had hit his own ceiling.
It wasn’t fair, but it was life. Life sometimes thrusts us into roles we were never designed to play. Tough luck.
He did what he could, which was precious little of any use. Did he actually import those images into a presentation? Probably not. More likely it was garbage of some other type, but equally discrediting. Or maybe it was porn. Who knows how a psychotic arrives at his delusions?
What of the suicide attempt? Did he actually try to kill himself, or did he only have such thoughts? Was the attempt successful, and is this perhaps a view of the afterlife?
I think we can say that as a vagrant, Speers wanders around a bit with his typewriter, even fancies himself a famous writer. As a mentally ill vagrant, I think we can say that what we have seen in the office is nothing more than Speer’s mental ramblings, triggered by the appearance of Beth McBride, his cohorts, his disposition towards Shakespeare, and his unwillingness to take his medication.
Is there necessarily a completely logical flow to his delusion? Of course not. Otherwise, it would not be a delusion. Does it make sense?
So why should Speers shout, “Lady Macbeth” at the end? This is the critical moment when he takes leave of his senses, when, for whatever span of time it actually takes to think the bulk of the drama, he thinks it. Yes, it is actually the explanation for what we have seen, and it does put the beginning at the end, so to speak. But that is where any good explanation belongs.
I have now discussed the thing at some length, and shall be done with it. Views in opposition or support are equally disdained, and are encouraged. Adieu.