Sunday, January 20, 2013
MacGregor: All's well that ends well
By Jeff MacGregor
The elaborate prank that may or may not be Manti Te'o's love life has a long and distinguished history in the annals of comedy. The romantic farce of mistaken or invented identity, of intentional deception and harmless misunderstanding goes back at least as far as the plays of Menander in ancient Greece. In the comedies of Plautus and Terence in old Rome -- or in "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum" on old Broadway -- all that's required for true love to flower is a clueless father and a scheming friend, a love-struck naïf and a puzzled lover, a wardrobe trunk filled with wigs and veils, and several not-entirely innocent accomplices. The slamming doors and the stock characters go back centuries.
Social media certainly update the premise of imposture and counterfeit identity, but love has always been a messy, risible business. It is the product of physics and chemistry and an active imagination after all, and is therefore susceptible to poetry and/or explosion.
Shakespeare wrung plenty of laughs from disguise and attraction and mistaken identity in "The Comedy of Errors," and "Twelfth Night" and "As You Like It," as do the later works of Carlo Goldoni and Molière and the screenwriting team from "Tootsie."