Love vs. Justice:
A Discussion of Philosophical Issues
Students will enjoy starting the class with an open discussion of the Met performance. What did they like? What didn’t they? Did anything surprise them? What would they like to see or hear again? What would they have done differently? This discussion will offer students an opportunity to review the notes on their My Highs & Lows sheets, as well as their thoughts
about the stagecraft in this Met production—in short, to see themselves as La Fanciulla del West experts.
On the reproducible “Love vs. Justice,” students will find a set of quotations from Act III of La Fanciulla del West, all revolving around the opera’s final moments: Johnson—and Minnie—go free. The quotations are arranged by philosophical position: some of the texts refer to justice, some to morality, one to redemption, and one to forgiveness. Students may enjoy discussing the distinctions among these rationales for civic behavior.
- Does Johnson really merit forgiveness? On what basis?
- How might he have redeemed himself?
- Has justice been done for all parties harmed by Johnson/Ramerrez and his gang? How do you know?
- Is Minnie asking for a favor in return for what she has done in the past? If so, does that change the meaning of her earlier behavior?
- Is Johnson a hero in the end? Is Minnie? How so?
- Is it fair to consider Jack Rance a kind of villain? Why or why not?
As a wrap-up activity, students may enjoy writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, commenting on the capture and release of the notorious Ramerrez and on the high-minded mercy—or cunning, or lust—of the recently departed proprietress of the Polka Saloon.