The Bard, And A New Look At An Old Puzzle
Much of the work here has been of an evidentiary nature, trying to sort through facts as they’re known to piece the puzzle together and find the truth of Robert’s murder. But we’re always looking for fresh eyes and new perspectives on the case.
Friend and Shakespeare scholar Mark recently combed through the Wone archives to see if there was something we were missing. His first response: that “truth” is often more slippery than we might like. (Witness the body of work by documentarian Errol Morris – a man whose films draw solely from fact but often lead to messy questions of what truth those facts draw.)
The events of Aug. 2nd have often been called a tragedy. We asked Mark to look anew at that night as a dramaturge might to try and discover what the dramatic truth of Robert’s murder may be.
As he emphasizes, we do this not to reduce Robert’s murder to mere theater, but rather to see if there’s a different way to peer into the closed box this case presents and learn something new. If anyone knows about tragedy, it’s the Bard.
After reading about the murder of Robert Wone and following the postings and exchanges, it occurred to me that we might think of the murder, coverage, and trial as if it were a stage play. This is not to trivialize Mr. Wone’s death or its repercussions, but to think about it in another context. And good drama, at its best, asks us to think about the world around us in new ways.
The play would have to be a mystery. The murder, the investigation, the bringing of charges and the scheduling of a trial together constitute the first act. We know the characters, the setting, and the crime, perhaps recounted to us in flashback via a disinterested party, such as a journalist. We do not know all the details or who is responsible. That information will be revealed in the second act. We are now waiting through what seems like an interminable intermission.
As many people do during the intermission of a play that has captured their attention, we stand in groups in the lobby and speculate as to what will happen next. We go over the events of the first act, each from our own point of view. Some come up with careful reconstructions of the events that strive to account for all the possibilities and lead to a coherent ending. Some focus on the characters, analyzing their motives and passing judgments. Others prefer to sit back and let the drama unwind on its own. Still others, let’s say the reviewers who should be paying close attention, are, it seems, wandering around the lobby pretending that the play isn’t actually happening or that other things are more important.
This play is unconventional, however. Among the people in the lobby, a group is recording and sorting the comments. They have collected and summarized the facts of the case as well as people’s opinions. Their material is available to the audience, but also to the characters of the play. This creates an unusual tension. When the play restarts, we will not know if this material has affected the outcome. On the one hand, all the knowledge collected has already been available to the characters. On the other, the opinions and hypotheses have not.
The play as it stands so far, looks like a tragedy. A young, talented husband and friend has been murdered. His death was swift and sudden and seems to have occurred through no fault of his own. Three men are implicated by their presence at the site of his death and their inability to explain satisfactorily the circumstances of the murder.
The second act will turn the play into a courtroom drama. The charge, however, is not murder, but obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and tampering with evidence and so the stakes for the defendants are not as high (a curious choice on the playwright’s part.) Despite this, we have murder in mind and expect the prosecution carefully to present a case that will not only convict the three men of the three charges against them, but also will reveal what really happened. The defense will mount a tenacious counter-argument, trying to poke holes in the prosecution’s case, pointing out instances of supposition and circumstantial evidence. At the same time, the lawyers will present the three defendants as sympathetic, perhaps caught up in circumstances beyond their control and thus innocent of the charges against them. We in the audience watch carefully, but in the back of our minds we wonder if our comments have affected what happened. To what extent have we become characters or even playwrights?
In any good courtroom drama, however, there must be a twist. At the last moment a witness will come forward, a new piece of evidence will be introduced, or one of the defendants will change his story. Perhaps a juror will have a stroke of insight that completely redefines the case. Some of us will be startled. Those of us who saw it coming will feel satisfied.
Justice may not even be served by the surprise. The charges may be dropped; the defendants may get off scot-free, despite their obvious guilt. Possibly, through some bizarre machinations Mr. Wone’s death will be shown to be accidental or the unfortunate consequence of another event. Or even more surprising, Mr. Wone will somehow be revealed as the author, in whole or part, of his own demise.
Whatever the twist is, it will lead to a truth; otherwise the play would be a failure. We in the audience will have the satisfaction of knowing what really happened. At the same time, some of us will recall that our opinions and ideas about the murder may have played a part in the resolution and wonder what that tells us about the truth.
–posted by Doug