From Spoon River Anthology, how ought I best portray Doctor Meyers and with which emotion? 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As with so many characters in Masters's work, how Doctor Meyers is portrayed is dependent on how he is viewed.  Masters places a great deal of importance on how individuals see themselves and their epitaphs are reflective of this myopic view of self.  Doctor Meyers embodies this.  His opening lines reflect a sense of self-importance.  When reading them, I think that one should emphasize these because his character does: "No other man did more for people than I."  These words reflect a magnitude of self that has to be emphasized.  There is a pride there which should be conveyed in the reading.  This continues when Doctor Meyers reads on about all who he helped and the fact that he almost has a God-complex: "And all the weak, the halt, the improvident/ And those who could not pay flocked to me."  Doctor Meyers is emphasizing his "good works."  When reading this aloud, I would focus on reading these lines as almost a "who's who" of people that Doctor Meyers helped in the town.  It is as if he wants credit for helping these individuals, and this is where the emphasis needs to be made when delivering it.

When Doctor Meyers talks about his life, there is a wistful understanding of how he was before he assisted Minerva, the town poetess.  He recalls his happiness and the contentment of his wife.  It might be good to include a melancholic tone here because these reflections represent the moments before his life fell apart.  When reciting how he was "good-hearted" and "healthy," a tone of melancholy might go far in bringing out the joy that was there at one point.  A movement from self-aggrandizement to a sense of nostalgic happiness might illuminate depth in both his narrative and a dramatic retelling of it.  With the "And then one night," I think that a darker tone can be used.  This darker tone of retelling would coincide with both what he did for Minerva and perhaps any other undercurrent present.  Masters's work enables the reader to perceive that these characters withhold something, keeping back something from full disclosure.  On one level, Dr. Meyers would hold back much here because it was from this moment that his life fell apart and the dream began to collapse.  However, perhaps he is also holding back for something more.  It might be an awareness that performing the abortion was against the law or that he might not have been fully confident that he was doing the right thing.  Doctor Meyers might have known the risks involved on many levels and bringing this out in a reading could bring depth to his character.  When reading this latter part of the sonnet, it might be good to bring out a darker side to what is on the page.  This could communicate the darker aspects of Doctor Meyers's life in both experience and/or motivations within it.

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