“I love your mask, not you.”

•April 12, 2007 • 2 Comments

I think – with, perhaps, the exception of the Colonel in A Bold Stroke for a Wife – that the title of this blog entry pretty much encapsulates the entire course. For Doricourt to fall in love with a random woman just because she has a pretty mask is just sad – whatever mask she was wearing, she was as much of a blockhead as Doricourt had first thought his poor Letitia. How he could have been overjoyed to find that his mystery woman was really the air-headed drama queen Letitia I still cannot quite make clear. It just seems to be a classic case of a girl with a mask and a great body – “Yay,” says Doricourt, “boobs!” and when the mask comes off he finds he has to honour his agreement to more than just her breasts. It’s frightening, really. This mask reminds me of the one in the movie Eyes Wide Shut. That is, Doricourt’s reaction reminds me of it. And yet I suppose Cowley wanted to be patriotic – Doricourt’s final speech “And cursed be the hour, should it ever arrive, in which British ladies shall sacrifice to foreign graces the grace of modesty.” The speech is quite out of place – so it’s obviously patriotic – and the already loose argument that Cowley laid out for this ending has been subverted by a number of things.

First off, the treatment of women is simply sad. Alain says in his blog that the only one who is free from men, sort of, is Mrs. Racket. The philosophy of Racket et. Oogle is based on winding around their husbands. A large proportion of the speeches made are aimed at how to handle men, and in the end Mrs. Racket plays as much a man as any of the others becase she partakes in the duping of Doricourt. And of course the character of angel Lady Frances is pathetic and all that. Unless both couples like everything that the other one likes, and does so equally, chances are they’re not going to spend every waking minute together. I mean I’m suuuuure one human being could be fascinating to spend a whole lifetime studying, but George is not much different than Pinchwife. After all he killed her bird just because he was jealous of it! Where is Mr. Horner to teach them all a lesson?! Instead we get the stupid, bungling character of Courtall, who is too sure of himself and therefore fails an attempt which Mr. Horner would have made plenty of China for.

In the end, I haven’t much to say on this play. I laughed a few times (I can’t remember where) and it didn’t bore me to death, but I really can’t say that I liked it so very much. In The Rover, I enjoyed Wilmore, who made the play; Mr. Horner was a fun dude; Oroonoko was much more interesting when he had a go at the stage with Wilmore; no one in this not-so-belle play gave me such pleasure. I think the stock characters have hit me again. But I’m gonna hit them back when I do the exam.

School for Scandal

•April 10, 2007 • Leave a Comment

School for Scandal was quite the play. Recently, i.e. with this play and the previous one, society has really been criticised. Perhaps the playwrites were not aware that they were being rather harsh on the society of the time, but I’m sure they weren’t blind to their own work. The thing that I enjoyed most about this play was Charles. I can’t say that I’m enthralled by his presence on stage (in my mind), but I like him quite a bit. A character that’s aimable and honest is a hard thing to come by in the Restoration plays. Oroonoko isn’t aimable, but he’s an honest coward – person! I mean. Wilmore is aimiable, but I’ll be damned if he’s honest. In fact, Charles is the only honest character that I can think of in this entire course. I wonder if that’s a commentary on the time… Probably is. This character’s kindness is quickly shown to be unappreciated by and large, and Mr. Surface’s “nobility” has made a fool of everyone.

The play also portrays marriage rather accurately: when it came down to it in the end, money was what spoke. The marriage of Charles and Maria is fictional, but the marriage between Peter and Teazle is less so. To actually make a happy life with his wife, he has to pay her 800 l. a year. Without that, he could not have ended the play with the amusing line “And my you live as happily together as Lady Teazle and I – intend to do” (5.3.277-278).

Mr. Goldsmith brings up an interesting problem, however: “It is only sufficient to raise the characters a little; to deck out the hero with a riband, or give the heroine a title; then to put an insipid dialogue, without character or humor, into their mouths, give them mighty good hearts, very fine clothes, furnish a new set of scenes, make a pathetic scene or two, with a sprinkling of tender melancholy conversation through the whole, and there is no doubt but all the ladies will cry and all the gentlemen applaud.” I think that Goldsmith could have taken it a step further if he’d been a Communist. Although I disagree with his argument – that only high-positioned tragic characters can be posited as tragic figures – I do agree that the overall formulaic nature of the plays serve to take laughter rather than give it. They don’t really give much social commentary either. The fact that Charles is generous and wins and that his brother is not generous and looses is not really commentary at all. It’s simply throwing out an idea that’s been in the world for a long, long time, and is suitably ignored by most. These plays make no real attempt to focus on the true foibles of humanity, and therefore they can’t give too much in the way of ingenious thought. I do believe that we’ve been comparing them to the romantic comedy genre quite a bit? Nuff’ said…

Night of Existentialism + The Beggars Opera

•April 10, 2007 • Leave a Comment

So, a few pages of posting in April because I’m a horrible, horrible person. Well, at least it’s not every play, mmm?

 I should first say how much I enjoyed my night at the Existentialist play. I always enjoy watching Dr. Goud act on stage – I’ve gone to plays simply because he was in them (and I swear it wasn’t also because I got extra marks for it….!) – and the rest of the professors were great! It was hilarious to watch Dr. Jones try to seduce and dominate poor Dr. Bell. And I got to sit up in the balcony and see some more things that happened behind the scenes (like Heather pressing the buzzer and Dr. whatchamacall’im… erm… Moore! take pictures and what not). Oh, I also got to blunder into a few professors trying to change out of their costumes. That was definitely the highlight of the evening.

I love post-modernist theatre, actually, because it leaves itself so much room for interpretation. Although this one made a stable argument in the end – Hell is other people – the actual lack of substance around the edges of such a play leaves room to put yourself into it. Of course, this is very disturbing because these plays are often aimed at pointing out millions of human quirks and foibles. That’s probably why they’re usually comedies, because if they weren’t they’d incite mass suicide (gee, I sound like a such a fun person to be around!). I like plays that force you to look at the world around you, though, since I tend to be lazy.

And grunge. Grunge is good! The gritty, dirty picture of the world always leaves such a pleasant aftertaste in one’s mouth (this is sarcasm). But, I suppose, it’s better to know about it than blunder around like a mindless machine. So it makes me wonder what people like Mr. Gay were thinkingwhen they wrote up slutty characters for women, yelled at them for it, and then thought men the most gracious people as they stabbed each other in the back. “Woot, look at this nice and wonderful gentleman who’s putting a knife between my back ribs and into my heart. Good thing it’s not a hussy, or I’d be really made at the situation!” But what can I say? He was writing a play for the public, as Samuel Johnson points out, so what could he do? It was the style of the time to ridicule and downgrade women. Once you get past the constant repetitions of “hussy” and “slut,” the story is somewhat amusing: to watch the lower class take on the aspect of the higher classes and copy them – as happened during that time – was quite fun to read.

I like the way that Gay points out the actual dangers that the lower classes faced. You’ve got social anarchy when a high-class woman stoops to fall (yeah… right), but the lower classes face death and destruction themselves. The highwaymen really are not all that different from Statesmen and Lawyers, as Gay points out, and that’s as true back then as it is today, if not moreso (probably not moreso…). But where the statesmen can escape their punishment (because they are the only ones who meet and dole punishments), the poor are much more susceptible to a long fall and a short stop or transportation.

The Beaux’s Stratagem

•March 22, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Yikes, I’m behind! All of these damned end-term projects and papers. And ya know if you’d just sit down and work, things would be a lot better, but nooooo… So here’s a few of my thoughts on last week’s play – I’ve begun this weeks play, and I should mention that, although the Colonel seems to be an excellent fellow, he still says that he’s in love with her, her money, and his honour… more on that when I finish the play…

I enjoyed this play almost as much as some of the first plays we’ve read. Aimwell and Archer constantly had me in the giggles. The way that they are based so much on economy is so disturbing, but I couldn’t not laugh at the lengths that they would go to secure a wealthy living. Once they fall in love, though, things turn out better… and this is a problem that works itself out rather nicely in this play. Once they fall in love, the money issue almost dissapears, and they’re willing to put their lives in quite a bit of danger to keep the women from being harmed or robbed. This changes the fundamentals of society just a tiny bit, I think, because it subverts the whole notion of “money first, love after!” and brings the lovers ’round to what they’re supposed to be doing – i.e. loving each other! I mean, if they’d really loved money, all they’d needed to do was to wait for their brother to die off in some all-too-convenient freak accident… perhaps this nice insight into love comes from the author’s own experience? Love is better than money, anyway (although I do love to play cynic’s advocate and sing “Angie” every now and again).

Cherry saddened me. She had such a strange devotion to her father, and yet it was a devotion that was believable. Many abused people have such an attachment to the very thing or person that is abusing them, and when it comes to actually leaving it behind, they simply can’t do it. I think Cherry’s dissapearing from the play, along with her dear ol’ dad, was just what would have happened. The only thing that consoles me is that she has autonomy – two or three thousand pounds to her name – and this would leave her fine for the rest of her life, if she finally came to the decision that she wanted to run away. I keep hoping that some woman in one of these plays will “cock a snook” at their “honour,” at the society around them, and dissapear to become some beautiful, beautiful writer like Marian Evans Lewes (George Elliot), Emily Brontë, or Dickonson. Or even the writer of the next play… but the chances of such a thing happening are slim to none, since the horney patriarchal stamp was embedded too deeply in the warmth of society…

I really should say something about the Irish-pretending-to-be-French. I couldn’t really help but be offended at the emerging British Nationalism that decided to take over the world two hundred years after. “George,” as we named the author in class due to mix-ups with Shrek, must have been very well aware of the hatred that everyone had for the poor Irish folk. Either hatred or insufferable pity… I thought that they were an interesting comic relief, but their presence offended me. Not because they’re Irish, of course, but because of how they’re treated in general. It’s as if they’ve no other object in life but to be little toys for the superiour main-actors to play around with. … *sigh*…

The Glass Menagerie

•March 19, 2007 • 3 Comments

I have to begin with saying that the play’s end was just perfect. From its reputation, I’d expected that it wouldn’t end in a sappy manner, but when the dreaming-poet-brother finally left his entire family to head out, and his sister’s candle was blown out, I was overjoyed. I’d been so worried that the poor girl would actually find some happiness in her life! My God, I’m a terrible person!

 My hat off to Emily for a splendid performance – I actually have a top hat, so that can be done literally – and the rest of the actors were swell. I especially liked the southern mother who was frightfully irritating: her superficiality was a crowning touch on the American society which beats down the dreamer and allows no peculiarity in its citizens. The play’s commentary on how we treat our eccentrics is sad; why one wouldn’t let someone live in a world of glass, I still can’t imagine. Of course, once you want to do that you’re branded an escapist and, under the Patriot Act, a terrorist (thenceforth becoming a prisoner in Guatanamo Bay and being subjected to all forms of wonderful gloves). Any society is like that, really, and it’s sad because the mind that is trapped should not be treated unmercifully, or the mind that is free in an imaginated world should not be called back to whatever foolish semblence of reality this arrogant race has inflicted upon itself. But now I’m beginning to ramble, so I’d better stop that! Great play, everyone! I’m happy I went to see it. (Now gimme gimme gimme sweet, sweet percentage!)

March Break Madness

•March 7, 2007 • 1 Comment

Righto, time to take a break from the big, long, and horribly complicated business of writing the Restoration Drama essay. In this little break, I shall continue to write more about Restoration drama. Gotta catch up on two plays that I have slightly neglected for the … oooo… last few weeks. It’s that bloody snow storm. I had one snow day and relaxed during it – that is how tragedies are formed. Or at least periods of being bogged down.

Reading Marriage a la Mode again, I still think that we’ve passed the best plays. Leafing over to The Country Wife, I weep that Mr. Horner no longer disturbs me horribly. After Congreve, I grieved that all was lost. The stock characters were getting to me, and Congreve was a wussy. Then Love at a Loss gave me a glimmer of new hope. I have to say that Alain et. al. ‘s presentation was suitably interesting and made me more interested in Congreve’s play… I now no longer want to throw the book at his grave, merely place it down in a sound-effects kinds of way… but Love at a Loss was rather nice. All of the old amusing things were there – mistaken letters, anti-matrimonial rants – and done rather well. I have to say that The Country Wife was far better in portraying the letter scene, but that didn’t bother me so much.

I have to say that the most interesting thing about this was that Catharine Trotter tried to write it from a female perspective. Being a female, I have to say, from a male’s perspective, that she is rather male-like. That is, she’s working from within a cultural hegemony that sanctions the status of women as being decievers and men-destroyers. This, though, is offset, and it’s the offset that I’d like to talk about a bit. “Well, I am happily come off,” says Lucilia, “but through such dangers, such anxieties, as might warn all our sex against those little gallantries” (5.4.197-199). To say that this would have been just fine if we were reading The Fair Penitent -we could have been rather sure that Rowe actually meant it – but the quote is actually blown asunder by the character of Beaumine. Examine the Libertine man: he deceives women, takes their “honour,” and moves on – sometimes he has to woo them, other times he’s lucky enough to get an equal libertine. Either way, the Libertine is never the one that’s blamed. When Grandfoy and Beaumine are about to have a duel, they decide against it and say that their Lesbia should decide. Now the chances of a woman being destroyed by a scandle is very high. The chances of a man actually dying in a duel is not. Duels could be ridiculous: two 70+ year old men who couldn’t see an elephant a foot away would show up to some large field with two guns and hit a target a hundred yards away from each other (although, arguably, they were indeed trying to hit each other). The duel would then be over and both person’s honour restored. Women couldn’t just go out and wail a hatchet into some Libertine’s face, though, because not only would she be likely to be overpowered by someone who did not have to wear a corset, she’d be socially ostracised. Or hanged, or something. All very discomforting. So by taking it from the woman’s point of view, Trotter, although she says that the instinct to lie comes naturally in women (3.3.15), she shows that it, as well as liscentiousness, comes as easily, if not more easily, to men. The advantage of looking at the whole affair from a woman’s point of view, therefore, is that it allows ones misanthropic vien to shoot through once one sees that men and women are just as bad as each other.

The Fair Penitent destroyed my hopes for a fun play. Yes, it was only 30 pages (WOOT!) and didn’t take me long to read at all (WOOT!), it was 30 pages of drolling nonsense. Seriously… I wished a Hamlet on Congreve’s play, and this play took that idea and made a cheap parody of tragedies. Right, I’m sure poor Rowe was taking himself more seriously than that, though, so I’ll be kind and take him seriously as well.

Class was interesting! I  never did consider the bratty bitch Calista as having anything other than a stereotypical bratty bitch character. To see it as someone who is trying to launch out of her role, though, is fair. Although I know we can’t go back in time and say “Hey, he’s a post-Rich Feminist!”, because that would be anachronistic… … … He’s a post-Rich feminist! Well, I believe that when the writer tries to portray someone accurately, or a situation accurately, something else takes over. To have a penitant who really had committed a crime would be difficult if she was a fawning little bum like Lavinia. And, since she was not a fawning little bum, she had to be something else thereby – a real person. A real person would more likely lash out when they want something, unless they’re completely destroyed by society.

That’s where the tragedy comes in. A more rational person reading this play might say “Oi! Altamont was right! Forget the whole affair and go off and live happily somewhere!” But nooo… Sciolto has to kill himself and the world has to be made into a riot. The Fair Penitent is simply too… stupid… to be a real tragedy. I have reservations about certain Greek and Roman plays, such as Oedipus being a bit too hard-line on the poor father-killing incestuous king… erm… but! That play is clever! This play is overdone in the consequences of a woman’s infidelity, and underdone in proper social commentary. There’s a certain poem written by Goldsmith, “When Lovely Woman Stoop to Fall” which uses this kind of hyperbole. They’re both horribly silly and I hope that Swift has had a go at them all.

•February 22, 2007 • Leave a Comment

I can hardly write on this piece, I found it so horrific! Love at a Loss was fun, but this Way of the World is hardly the way of the world at all. I found myself not caring for the “brotherly tiffs,” the fact that Lady Wishfort was duped over and over again gave me not one laugh (not one!), and I wished a Hamlet upon the play before I got though it halfway.

Bloody Congreve…

I used a considerable amount of time trying to figure out something nice to say about this play, and I couldn’t. So I went to other people blogs. Jay’s for example, was great! It told me about the references to death and the fact that everyone in the play tried to play wordplay (and failed). Coleena, as always a voice of intellect that we can trust, made me feel happy that hate could be pointed towards characters in this play. Although my hate is slightly more extensive… It was in Cass’ blog, though, that I ran into the idea of sadness being in the characters themselves, as well as myself, so I simply have to decide that they were not happy to be in that play either.

Actually, the thing that Congreve seems to be doing with this play – the usual get-together at the end – does leave an unhappy note in the play. He is trying to challenge the viewer, I think, to remain loyal to his wife or her husband, as is shown by Mirabell’s last rhyme in the play. Having said that, the fact that I hate this play so very much must never reach the ears of any future wife of mine… but the moralising in such a play was already done in Marriage a la Mode, and that play was far more exciting because it had usurped monarchies and was set peculiarly in English-Sicily.

I was so happy to read the extra readings after reading this play that even the excessive moralising of poor Mr. Collier was really a reprieve to read. For once I agreed that the libertine should be taken and hanged. His overly Restoration-Rationalist attitude in saying that plays should “recommend virtue, and discountenance vice; to show the uncertainty of human greatness, the sudden turns of fate, and the unhappy conclusions of violence and injustice: it is to expose the singularities of pride and fancy, to make folly and falsehood contemptible, and to bring every thing that is ill under infamy, and neglect.” was a fine argument if it meant getting Congreve out of the playhouse.

My typing seems to have gotten larger. Am I shouting?!

But truly, I must lament if Congreve was forced to stop the lewd behaviour because of people like Collier. Although I think that most of the formulaic plays that we’ve read so far have been rather repetative, their amusing content has made up for that fact – I never really got tired of Wilmore falling in love all over the place. But as Marsden shows, a large anti-smut movement was taking place towards the end of the 17th century, and although I like the freedom that has taken place in the 20th century, I cringe at the idea of reading plays that are anything like Congreves’. The conservative move of trying to repress sexuality, especially that of women, is, in some ways, worse than the plays that sometimes objectify them or, in the case of Aphra Behn, try to give them freedom (obviously in this case). To say that women are going to fall apart just because they have “liberty” is obviously unreal, but Collier and this movement is simply petrified at the idea of a woman being sexually free. That’s for prostitutes! not women of good breeding who are supposed to be non-sexual creatures without genetilia. While they might be right that once a person knows about something, they have a capability to copy-cat; Collier, in my own opinion, is simply too transfixed by the idea of a woman being perfect.

The defenses of theatre are peculiar, though. To show these things on stage often causes the lust for them to dissapear? “With its actresses depicting scenes of love, the theater presents appropriate objects for the male gaze. In this sense, the objectified woman acts as a social safeguard, a means of regulating unruly male desires for the betterment of society.”