Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Perdition, Girls, and the Spider Bystanders

Last night's tweets;

Don't pair up Thor with Florence Nightingale.
Yoghurt's all the mana anyone needs.
Valkyries suck at delivering mail.
Every one her mark she always exceeds.

I think the story in this next sonnet is shaping up to be "Norse Mythological Figures Assimilating Into Modern Culture". And valkyries really aren't great at delivering mail--they're too busy with their melodic, full-throated laughter and killing.

Here are actually two spiders, one from last night and one from the night before, in one epic film;

That's two blockbuster tracks off the Ranma 1/2 soundtrack, going out to all you early 90s anime fans out there.

On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I watched the 1981 BBC adaptation of The Winter's Tale with breakfast. I'd never read the play. I enjoyed it, though I can see why it's not counted amongst Shakespeare's greatest. It's intriguingly schizophrenic, and I wondered if it was one of the plays where Shakespeare might have actually been only one of a group of playwrights. The first half of the play feels like a variation on Oedipus Rex, with a few roles shuffled about and exaggerated, with the focus placed on the stubborn and paranoid king of Sicilia. He's sort of a King Lear character. Though he retains his throne, he exhibits Lear's jealousy early on, but it's his friends and family who become exiles, rather than the king himself.

There's a psychological credibility to the king's inability to believe his wife's innocence and to quickly and harshly condemn those who would act as her advocates--the strength of his love for her provoking an equally boundless and senseless passion in retaliation to the slightest possible threat to their relationship. Actually, the impression I had was that the king had himself begun to loose interest in his wife, couldn't believe that he would, so he blamed his wife and his brother. The affectionate conversations at the beginning of the play do seem oddly forced and over the top, and at the end of the play the idea of time's toll on affection is directly referred to by the King and another character.

Or, it may be an even more fascinating a statement on the contradictions that make human behaviour so inscrutable--it's possible Leontes loved his wife too much and not enough.

The second half of the play unexpectedly veers into romance and comedy, with Leontes' daughter, Perdita, having been, Oedipus-like, abandoned as a baby by the king's order, becoming sixteen years later the subject of the play. I actually enjoyed this portion a great deal more, though there's less to say about it--much of the dialogue is given to a robber named Autolycus and a slow witted shepherd, and their story is told alongside a tale of hidden identities involving Perdita and her love for the disguised prince of Bohemia, whose father, King Polixenes, is also disguised. A lot of familiar elements here for Shakespeare, the point this time apparently being the juxtaposition of family, romance, deception, and the truth of fundamental motivations revealed when no-one has to worry about the identities they're attached to.

I fully expected the end of the play to be tragic, with the King of Sicilia having an incestuous affair with his daughter (ala Oedipus) and lots of people dying--which is apparently what happened in the source material Shakespeare drew from. Instead, there's an extremely odd happy ending. I'm not sure the tragic ending would have really added anything, so maybe this is one instance where it's okay to let the audience feel good. What the hell, we deserve it.

It was a good production--Jeremy Kemp was fine as the King of Sicilia, though my favourites were Rikki Fulton as Autolycus and Robert Stephens as Polixenes, who had a sort of Oscar Wilde quality that added an unobtrusive flavour to a character who's otherwise there almost solely to serve the plot. But this was my favourite exchange in the play;


[To POLIXENES] Sir, welcome:
It is my father's will I should take on me
The hostess-ship o' the day.

You're welcome, sir.
Give me those flowers there, Dorcas. Reverend sirs,
For you there's rosemary and rue; these keep
Seeming and savour all the winter long:
Grace and remembrance be to you both,
And welcome to our shearing!


A fair one are you--well you fit our ages
With flowers of winter.


Sir, the year growing ancient,
Not yet on summer's death, nor on the birth
Of trembling winter, the fairest
flowers o' the season
Are our carnations and streak'd gillyvors,
Which some call nature's bastards: of that kind
Our rustic garden's barren; and I care not
To get slips of them.


Wherefore, gentle maiden,
Do you neglect them?


For I have heard it said
There is an art which in their piedness shares
With great creating nature.


Say there be;
Yet nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean: so, over that art
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry
A gentler scion to the wildest stock,
And make conceive a bark of baser kind
By bud of nobler race: this is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature.


So it is.


Then make your garden rich in gillyvors,
And do not call them bastards.

No comments:

Post a Comment