A Very Modern Character

Before having read even a line of New Way To Pay Old Debts, I was immediately impressed by its title. At least to me, it seemed extremely modern and not unlike titles being created nowadays. Upon reading the play however, it struck me that the title was far from the only thing linking the play with our world at present. In fact, I’m pretty sure if you were to transport character, Giles Overreach, to the New York of today, he’d blend in a bit too seamlessly for comfort. In fact, his voracity for individual ruination would probably be welcomed in certain areas south of Fulton Street.

As a villain, he is scary because he is real; when he is out for you, he robs you blindly with calculation and without pretense. What drives this obsession of his? Perhaps, it is as he says simply the joy he gets from doing so…but even then, you can ask why? And I think for Overreach, it has to do with class and his natural born ‘disadvantage’. Since he himself could never ascend the social order on his own merits, he might as well have amassed a wealth at the cost of everyone else, at the chance that his daughter would one day be able to. Of course this doesn’t excuse any of his actions, but it does at least give some reason as to why he acted as he did; in our world today, with significantly less rigid social strata, such an explanation fails to apply, and yet the Giles still persist.

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One Response to A Very Modern Character

  1. One of the enduring preoccupations of the Renaissance in general is this desire for social advantage. Rich people today are richer and richer as the 1% grows at the expense of everyone else, and yet democratic citizens of the United States still faint at the opportunity to meet a person of royal status, as with the recent visit of the otherwise not very remarkable Prince Harry to Greenwich, CT. Sir Giles Overreach is also not satisfied with acquiring money; he takes real joy in degrading those who were once higher than he is on the social scale.

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