Non-Identical Casting



The great Jacobean playwright Ben Jonson dearly wanted to write his own Amphitryon play. But he thought there was one insuperable problem. Where, he asked, would he find two pairs of identical twins, who were brilliant actors, to play Jupiter and Amphitryon, and Mercury and Sosia? He was being strangely literal-minded. The point of the myth is that the magic of the gods turns human seeing awry, so that two deities walk among the story’s Theban characters, and divine magic ensures that the latter perceive the gods as possessing the bodily shape and identity of two people they know well, Amphitryon and Sosia.   This means that there is no need for the actors playing the gods to be in any way like the men whose identities they steal.   Indeed, all the great plays which retell the myth work from the opposite premise: the paired actors should look strikingly dissimilar. That heightens the bizarreness of the experience for all concerned.


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