Polly is a sad slut.

This play was great. I really regret that I was sick the week we did it in class, as I would have liked to discuss it very much, and because I heard the presentation was great. But enough of that, on with the blog!

I really wish that I knew what the songs sounded like. Not being familiar with popular folk tunes from the eighteenth century, I had no idea how to imagine any of the songs. But the songs even without music were great- and they made such a difference in the form of the play. That was one of the things I like best about the Beggar’s Opera; it was so totally different from our other selections, in form as well as content.

The Beggar’s Opera is about the common folk where the other plays were about at least the rich merchants, and mostly the upper crust of society. In the Beggar’s Opera we get the burnt pie bottom instead of the light flaky edge pastry. That doesn’t really make much sense as a metaphor does it? Oh well. Anyway, the difference in the class being portrayed led to Gay using completely different language than any of the other playwrights. I wonder if besides being quite different because of the music this play would’ve been shocking to any members of the aristocracy who watched it. I mean, in reading the other plays you don’t hear much about sluts and wenches and casual murder and pre-marital sex etc.

The mocking of the nobility is a huge part of this play. Her parents say that because she married a highwaymen, Polly will be almost as bad off as if she had married a lord. Her parents blame all Polly’s faults on her pretensions of being a lady. The highwaymen present themselves as much more honourable than the greedy lords, and they consider themselves brave and honourable, just in their own position in the world. MacHeath calls himself “no mere Court friend” to insinuate that the aristocracy are too self-interested to be true friends. But it turns out that MacHeath is just as much of a bastard as any aristocrat when he calls up a whole bunch of prostitiutes minutes after swearing undying love to his wife.

The treatment of marriage in this play is absolutely delightful- AT FIRST. I just kept laughing. “Away hussy. Hang your husband and be dutiful.” says Mrs. Peachum in I.x . She and Mr. Peachum were never married, which we are told is the source of their happiness. I thought that maybe Polly and MacHeath would actually be happy, since the play is so different, and because poor poor Polly is so in love, but I guess that in the Restoration marriage is bad across the class barriers. Then you add Lucy to the mix, and my desire to punch MacHeath in the balls just about doubles. He’s such a cad!

I found the plot in general to be easy to follow, not that it was uncomplicated. There weren’t too many characters to keep track of, and I found pretty much every character (except the lesser highwaymen and Filch) interesting. One of my particular favourite images in this play was the group of whores as Judas to MacHeath’s Jesus in II.iv. They betray him with a kiss. How inappropriately biblically allusive.

The ending made me really, really mad. The Playersays that it has to be a happy ending because it’s an opera, but I say it wou’ld’ve been a much happier ending if MacHeath had been hanged. So, in the end, Polly is still a sad slut, not emotionally, but pathetically for accepting MacHeath.

Add comment April 20, 2007 nikiengl3203

But when do they go to school?

Just kidding. I know that it’s a metaphorical school. But seriously, how much better would this play have been if it were actually a literal school for scandal. That’s the play I would’ve written. It would be totally awesome. The main character would be like this misfit in the beginning who didn’t quite fit in, but then he’d catch up with special tutoring in Heiress Fortune stealing, virgin ravishing and fake sincerity and he’d make friends with a group of misfit rakes that the rich libertines full of ennui don’t believe in, and they’re all snobby, but then the misfits would pull off some sort of big stunt, like embezzling some desperate widows. In the end they’d get the respect of everybody and the rich snobs would get their come-uppance. Sweet.

But seriously, I liked this play.  Even though I was a bit confused about the actual good qualities of the supposed hero. I’m not saying that it isn’t good to lend people in need money, and he was clearly the better brother but Charles wasn’t so great a person either.  I mean he was sort of irresponsible and wasteful. I kept thinking about those poor tailors he is probably never going to pay. I don’t think I can really like a character whose main good quality is that he keeps a painting. The ‘bad’ characters were generally more interesting than the good ones, especially in the confusion scene with Joseph and the Teazles.

The Teazles plot was more troubling to me than anything else though. I mean you’ve got a young woman who marries an old guy for his money, and they use that ridiculous baby talk which we’ve learned equals a really bad marriage in plays like The Country Wife. Then at the plays end, the young girl repents her ‘evil ways’ of thinking differently than her husband. It’s true that she was mixing with a bad crowd, and contemplating doing wrong, but the thing that makes her repent is when she realizes that her actions will hurt her husband.

One convention that I don’t think it would really be possible to go against in Restoration of drama would be names that indicate character. I mean if you just name people that’s not going against a convention is it? But it would be cool if a playwright went against the convention and gave people misleading names. Like a really nice character named Meansure or a mean guy named Nicealways. That would be funny, but the misleading names fit better with the play’s theme of deceptive appearances. The name Surface fits this theme, because we need to look below the surface of everything to find its true character, even if the true character is a bill dodger.

This was much cleaner than our earlier plays, but it did have the false letters and people hiding in scenes behind screens shenanigans I’ve become accustomed to. I feel like the relationship between Charles and Maria was even more shallow than we’re used to. I mean they hardly ever even talked to each other, then she thinks he’s a scoundrel, then he’s rich and they’re getting married. Boo. And their engagement is ridiculous- he doesn’t even ask her. She says, “For shame Charles. I protest Sir Peter, there has not been a word.” The men just ignore her completely, and she never speaks again.

The play is funny though, with all the gossiping, especially anytime Candor talks about how she won’t insult people while insulting them. I can imagine how the gossips would have been staged as very over the top and silly, or maybe even seriously malicious. Though the latter seems less likely, it would make an interesting impact on the play. Overall I liked it.

Add comment April 19, 2007 nikiengl3203

Have you a nostrum that can bring an end to this semester?

Yes. It’s called time and it has passed, and this will be our final class this year. Hooray! I mean, boohoo I wish I could study Restoration drama forever. So Cowley, another female playwright, has brought us the Belle’s Stratagem. While I did like this play I have to say, did she even try to name this? I’m picturing a lady in period dress, flipping through a book of plays, stopping on a page and saying ‘ oh! A Beaux Stratagem. Yeah that sounds good; I can just change the gender. She was probably going for the parallel, to highlight the fact that it is the same sort of scheme the audience is used to seeing from men, but that we get from Letitia in this one.

In any case, this was an alright play. I mean it hardly made me heart beat faster, but I laughed a couple times. I liked the chracter of Letty but she confused me a bit in the beginning. I kept wondering why, if she later proves so great, she makes such a bad impression at first on Doricourt. Speaking of names, Doricourt kind of sounds feminine, and I spent the majority of the play thinking Flutter was a woman, no matter how many times I was told otherwise. At first I thought that there weren’t any of those significant names, but then I realized that I was wrong. The main characters get character development but the secondary characters get the funny names. Like Courtall and Silvertongue, and my personal favourite, Mountebank.

One of the things that I noticed about this play was it was very go England go. The whole English beauty versus Italian and French mystery bit between Doricourt and Saville. English beauty comes out on top in the argument and in the play. Doricourt also says that even though French men are better servants, because they’re naturally subservient when Englishmen can’t be, he can only be friends with English men.

Letty was a good character, and I liked her a bunch. Even though her entire goal was to get her man, she was still pretty clever. And really where do you find any character not motivated by love or lust or marriage?

I really liked the subplot with Saville and Lady Frances. It was the funniest part of the play, and the most interesting. It was also sort of sad, since we all know that Saville’s boundless devotion will never be rewarded. It was a very different sort of passion than the ones we’ve seen before. Poor Savvy.That’s what I would call him if I were his friend, which I would be if I lived in Restoration London. His switcheroo of the prostitute for the lady was a great double cross.

1 comment April 12, 2007 nikiengl3203

I’ll give them this: it is a good strategem.

It has come to my attention that I haven’t written a post for The Beaux Strategem yet. To be honest, it has come to my attention that I haven’t posted on a lot of plays yet… something I really am planning to rectify as soon as possible. I feel so unworthy compared to some of you who blog every week without fail. Forgive me!

So, as we were talking about in class last week for another play, this is another play with meaningful names. How meaningful may depend on your temperament. But Aimwell and Archer are pretty representative of the male heroes: both because they are soldiers and because of the subtle differences the names imply: Aimwell has the best intentions (aims) and is slightly kinder than the more mercenary Archer, who simply gets the job done without emotions. Mrs. Sullen’s name strikes me as a bit unfair- probably because it has negative connotations that I don’t think she deserves. She does has to have the same last name as her husband, who deserves the negativity, but I think his name should be a lot stronger than sullen.

This (the Sullens) is for me the most disturbing elements of the play. It makes me shudder just to think of all the meaning behind Mrs. Sullen’s lines in Act II, scene i. when she describes her husband coming home the previous morning at four. This woman is being effectively raped every single night by her disgusting, brutal, drunkard husband and she is so flippant about the whole thing. She hates it, but it comes with matrimony. The only comfort I can take is that she’s a fictional character, but even then she is probably a realistic depiction of any number of women at the time. Ugh. It makes me feel totally…unclean. She even says in the same scene that all she wants in the appearance of civility to save face. Talk about low marital expectations: Well I just wish he would beat me on the body-parts that are covered by my clothing, so I can save my pride.

But moving on to lighter fare, I love all of Archer’s delightful little pick up lines, which I know Jay was good enough to post in his blog.  But what happens to Cherry? She is an interesting seemingly multi-layered character and we never find out what happens to her at play’s end. I mean she ends up with “the good guys” when she tells Aimwell about the burglars plot, but I would like to know more. Maybe I’ll pull a Wide Sargasso Sea on her.

Even though Archer and Aimwell are the heroes, reformed rakes etc. I didn’t like them very much. Suddenly it’s okay to everyone that they’ve been running around the English countryside ruining virgins and stealing ladies’ fortunes? Well, not completely okay, since Farquhar equates their activities with those of the highwaymen. And then there is the conspiracy- not just foreigners, but a foreign priest- you can’t get much more evil than that. Hide the children the Irish Catholics are coming!

Add comment April 10, 2007 nikiengl3203

Hell is other people.

Well, I know I’m behind in my posts. I tried to come to school Thursday, but failed and had to go home half-way through my day. I have been sick and extremely busy, though I suppose everybody else is too, so enough of my excuses. This will be on the evening of one act plays that took place last week. The first show Wild Abandon  was a one man show, with an extremely sparse set. An interesting aspect of this show was the way it integrated a slide show into the performance. How different plays can be now! From candles to powerpoint projectors in just 250 years! I liked the show; I thought that the actor who played Steve should be commended for giving an energetic and dedicated performance.  The play was chock full of symbolism and messages- the smothering good intentions of parental love, the egg as the potential and beginning of human life, and a fixation on death are just a few examples. I laughed a lot during this play, although it was very dark. The one thing that was grating for me had nothing to do with this particular performance; I felt that at times the script was too self-aware, as if it were trying too hard to be abstract and bizarre.

The second show was No Exit which featured UNBSJ’s own Drs. Bell, Goud and Jones and Tim Turnell. Three of the characters, Garcin(Turnell), Estelle(Bell) and Ines (Jones) are in hell with each other. The fourth character is their room’s hellish valet(Goud). All four actors did a very good job, though Turnell did have some problems with lines. I found the characters of Estelle and Ines the most compelling and complicated. The three occupants of a second empire drawing room (hell) need something from each other: Estelle needs male sexual attention; Ines needs to get Estelle, and Garcin needs to be told he isn’t a coward. Of course, in hell, they can never realize these needs. I found it interesting that the two female characters were driven by a need for love of some kind, while  the male needed to be told he was what a man should be. The needs were a bit sexist. I wondered as I considered the play which woman I would most like to portray, but I couldn’t decide. Ines is darker and sinisterly fun, but I think that Estelle would be a challenge for me to play.

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire evening.

1 comment April 2, 2007 nikiengl3203

There’s something so jantee about a soldier…

Whoops! In the rush of end of term essays, my presentation for this class, improv practices and the constant barrage of latin, I almost forgot to post on “A Bold Stroke for a Wife”.  I am soooo happy that my group randomly chose this play; it rocks!

But seriously, I think that this play has a depth that our other comedies lack, namely in the characters of Fainwell and Anne Lovely. After a deluge of libertines and rakes/reformed rakes, we are gifted with Fainwell. He doesn’t have  a shady past, he serves his country (I particularly am not too crazy about the military, but it’s a great virtue in ABSfaW) and he seems to really care about Anne Lovely. He does everything he can to get her, but it’s all harmelss trickery, not really hurting anybody, as opposed to say running off with seduced women’s fortunes. There si never any atlk of his wanting Anne as just a sexual plaything, and then getting coerced into marriaage; his objection is marriage from the get-go. Really Colonel Fainwell’s late arrival in our schedule is handy: he’s like Mr. Right- early on in life we wouldn’t appreciate him, wanting the debonair bad-boy who promises to ravish us at midnight, then leaves us heartbroken. Now that we’ve dated a few losers, we can really appreciate his honest self-suffiency, stability, and purity of love.

Anne Lovely is a strong female character, as one might expect to find in a play by a female playwright. In a time and a world where what you wear defines who you are, Anne Lovely doesn’t allow clothes to define her. She stays independant from the images thrust upon her by her guardians.  She has a strong spirit and personal convictions, which is practiaclly a miracle considering her eccentric upbringing.Centlivre is pretty obviously pro-war in this play. Lovely gives a speech about the merit of soldiers, and their superiority to lazy gentlemen who do nothing for others. She is also clearly liberal: the play contains many messages for free will and personal choice.

The play also attacks certain things: marriage and religion. The contractual aspect of marriage and the ridiculous lengths one had to go through to get married in the eighteenth century are parodied by Anne’s guardian arrangement. Religion is consistently attacked in the Quaker scenes, Centlivre was decidedly not religiously conservative. She gives the devout Quakers names like Slenderbrain and Littlewit. Both Mr and Mrs. Prim are exposed as hypocrites: Mrs. Prim is vain, and Mr. Prim is a lecher, despite their pious fronts.

This play reads fast because it has so much action, and less lengthy dialogue. Loved, loved, loved it!

3 comments March 22, 2007 nikiengl3203

SJTC’s The Glass Menagerie

Imagine my surprise and delight when Jay informed me last night at the Imperial that by attending the Glass Menagerie, which I was doing anyway with friends, I would benefit in this class!I was familiar with the play beforehand, having read it a few years ago, so I must admit that I had certain expectations going in. The show was engaging and well-played overall, with few noticeable flaws.

The Glass Menagerie is a play that acknowledges itself as such, at least in the character of Tom, played by Alex Goldrich, who really brought life to a complex and interesting character. Goldrich had great chemistry with Elizabeth Chase in the role of Tom’s mother Amanda. They were believable as mother and son in both affectionate and confrontational scenes. Chase was fantastic as the mother Wingfield, and energetic to the point of hilarity. Because of Keith Dickson’s good work with Jim O’Connor, the gentleman caller and the complex portrayal of shy Laura by Emily…Emily? what’s your last name?I know it’s a D…I’m sorry… I felt my heart breaking at the end of the play. I really felt Laura’s pain. Emily gave an emotionally charged performance.

The play’s main themes were denial and the concept of illusion over reality. These ideas manifest themselves most strongly in Amanda’s refusal to acknowledge her real situation, and prattle on constantly about the South, Laura’s preoccupation with her glass and the phonograph, and Tom’s nightly movie going. Each character attempts to distract him/herself from the real life they are living with an illusion of choice. Amanda character is heavily in denial, which is obvious when she refuses to allow anyone to say the word cripple about Laura.

I guess this review is running a little bit longer than a paragrapgh, but I just have two more things, I prmoise. One- I think the play contained some pessimistic views on marriage- their father deserted, Amanda looks at marriage like a business transaction, and in Amanda’s stories the best thing a husband does for his wife is leave her a rich widow. Two- the play being a memeory play affected the sets and lighting that I liked: the colours were different and less than realstic for an apartment in St. Louis and the lighting was also less than realistic- to good effect. The only thing I would say the play needed wa sto be a bit louder, to compete with the music and so that all the great lines get heard by the entire audience.

2 comments March 15, 2007 nikiengl3203

Fair Penitent?

I have got to stop reading those intoductions before I read the plays. I get expectations, and they are not always lived up to. For example, I was ready to love Calista, and then found myself torn.

I just can’t make up my mind about her character. Maybe the class discussion will help me to figure it out, but right now, I just don’t know. I thought she was a coward, and kind of a jerk to Altamont. I mean, I had some sympathy for her, marrying someone she didn’t love, but not that much. Then again, I liked her because she was honest about her feelings, and didn’t try to pretend to be thrilled when she wasn’t. I pitied her for falling victim to Lothario- ha! I was going to type such a Lothario, as in the character type , not the character himself- but then I hated her when she is confronted by Horatio and turns Altamont against him. She could’ve just said it was nothing, or made up a story, but instead she destroys their friendship, when she knows she’s in the wrong.

We get another examination of friendship in The Fair Penitent. In these restoration plays where marriages occur every scene, and the boys are really girls, people are hiding in all the closets and nobody knows how to pick up a letter, I’m most intrigued by the treatment of a platonic relationship. I feel like the situation gets less attention, and as a result, less cliches. Horatio and Altamont get their own little sub-plot. I ended up being really angry with Altamont when he tosses aside his friendship for Calista, after all the agony Horatio went through trying to decide what to do. Altamont realizes his mistake, and the reader is told that a loyal friend is more importnat than a lover.

Lavinia and Horatio seem to have both friendship and love; they are married and confidantes. It was refreshing after all the jaded, terrible couples we’ve seen to get one like Lavinia and Horatio. I think in many other periods or genres, the dissatisfied couple would be the exception, and the true-lovers tired, but in it has been so long since I read a play where the partners just love each other , no games. And I liked both Horatio and Lavinia. Actually they are the only likeable, in love couple that I can think of from this course.

2 comments March 1, 2007 nikiengl3203

Okay, maybe I’d only be cutting to feel…

I decided that I would give The Way of the World another chance, in video form. I still hate it, but at least there were a few moments that, when handled by live actors, made me crack a smile. It definitly didn’t hurt that the play was highly condensed. Watching the videos really points out how important staging is in these plays. I mean, for me, Shakespeare is still great on a page, but better in performance.Congreve is terrible on the page, bearable in performance. So I guess that there’s no need for suicide; although, let me just clarify, I didn’t actually mean it.

Add comment March 1, 2007 nikiengl3203

” What sudden death of wine or kind women has reduced thee to thinking?”

So, after the horror of Congreve, I have to say it was with apprehension that I took up Trotter’s “Love at a Loss”. I started to hope again as I read the introduction, but proceeeded with caution, expecting at any moment to be confronted with tired dialogue and unintentionally bad characters. But! Trotter wrote an excellent piece of drama that has restored my faith in Restoration comedy. Thank god for female playwrights!

I found this play both amusing and thought- provoking. The increase in focus on the female perspective from other plays we’ve read was refreshing. One of the things I found most interesting was the friendship between Lesbia and Miranda. We haven’t really seen any real friendships between women in the previous plays, that is a relationship that goes beyond simple surface description, ” oh yes, of course we’re the best of friends” type thing. With Miranda and Lesbia, the reader sees depth and conflict, but real affection; certainly it is the most realistic depiction of friendship, or female relationship that we’ve seen yet, in my opinion.

I also appreciated all the musing of female characters like Lucilia about deception and marriage. The thoughts were not wildly unrealistic, or affected as we often saw in plays like “The Country Wife”, where ridiculously overdone females think about how much they hate virtue and just want to have sex with rogues. It is likely that the Trotter’s more balanced and normal female characters make it easier for her to give them complex thoughts, as when Lucilia says, ” Nay though I have succeeded better, I find within all is not as it should be: a secret check, that so entire a confidence as Phillabell has in me is not returned with that plain, open, artless dealing it deserves.” (634) So, she is a normal woman, who though she has been forced to play by society’s rules, feels guilty for deceiving the one she loves. Giving women ideas and making them something other than a virtuous virgin or a sex-seeking slut? Dealing with people in ways that might actually have occurred in real life situations? Why, that’s so crazy it just might work!

Trotter’s refreshing realism in her characters, particularly the women, and their thoughts, is somewhat marred by the ending, when Lesbia allows everyone to vote on who she should marry. It seemed out of place in what was otherwise a very pleasing plot for me, especially since Lesbia had proved so interesting and clever before.

Trotter doesn’t go quite so far in the diversification of her male characters. We see the unrepentant rogue, the vain angry man, the sweet lover, and the ” good-natured, officious fool”. Speaking of which, Bonsot was one of my favourite characters. He was bumbling and foolish, but not in a way that I dreaded having to listen to him ramble on and on and on. His speeches were for the most part, short contradictions that I found highly amusing. I particularly enjoyed Act 4 Scene 1, with Miranda, Lesbia and Bonsot. He not only puts out such gems as ” my brother sending me, I came of my own accord” and ” I was with them all the time they were alone”. He also refuses to ” discover” the secret, even after Lesbia has done so, thus muddling everything while he thinks he is helping. My favourite Bonsot line of the entire play was, ” I always endeavor to make a right between any persons that I am acqainted with, though they are absolute strangers to me”.

 Overall, I would say that this play is without a doubt my favourite so far.

3 comments February 22, 2007 nikiengl3203

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