Hyde and Personal Law

(Warning: Below, I make reference in a quote to a word improper in some society. If you are part of a society, you may not want to read past the ninth paragraph.)

Cath and I just saw John Patrick Shanley’s THE DREAMER EXAMINES HIS PILLOW as done by Interact Theatre. I saw the play decades ago when I was in NY – don’t remember liking it much then.

Liked it more now.

Shanley (who also wrote the wonderful DOUBT) is a deep thinker, and allows himself to roam in the esoteric with this somewhat ethereal play.

I was mostly struck with the themes in act one (each act is rife with its own themes, in addition to the arching themes of the play; a grad students dream!) of identity rooted in moral action. Mostly because this week my book club tackles THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Jekyll, as you may recall, experimented to separate his more evil self from his respectable self, mostly so he could indulge his darker desires without guilt. You see, in his reasoning, since Jekyll didn’t do those things (it was Hyde! It was Hyde!) then Jekyll would be released from the moral responsibility.

Tommy in Shanley’s play makes a similar argument, claiming that the person who did those awful things (like steal from his mother) wasn’t really him – he isn’t the kind of guy that would do that. Rather, it was done by another him, a part of him that he isn’t responsible for.

The character Donna isn’t buying that, claiming that Tommy needs to learn his identity. There’re the things we want to do – they don’t define us, she argues. Even the things we do don’t define us.

But we all have a personal law that tells us whether to do those things or not, and that personal law is who we are.

Tommy is not excused because he IS the kind of guy that would do those things; and not realizing who he is isn’t a valid defense.

Or as our law would summarize, ignorance of the law is no excuse. (This is the defense in drunk driving and other drug related cases – it wasn’t me, it was the alcohol! Donna would say that is was me that chose the alcohol, and thus it was me that recklessly endangered.)

To paraphrase Bill Cosby: “People say they drink to release their “real” selves. But what if the real you is an a-hole?”

St. Paul talks about this – the struggle between what he wants to do and what he does (the delightfully confusing Romans 7:7-25); and it seems as if he is talking about dual identity.

So who is the real me? And am I really responsible for that Hyde guy?

Looking forward to this week’s book discussion.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

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