The Belle’s Stratagem – now this woman has her witts about her

Hannah certainly creates a character that understands society and works with the social structure to change her circumstances.  I kind of felt that Doricourt would have had that initial impression even if she exemplified the woman she did at the ball.  I think because of the contractually arranged marriage, Doricourt already had a “chip on his shoulder” about the whole situation. 

This woman is not in the least bit pretentious and nor is she naive in her understanding that the only way to change Doricourt’s image of her is to work within the society that values women as objects.  She understands that his initial reaction to her was indifference which she perceives as worst then hate because at least hate resonates passion.  Thus her plan turns out marvelously and in the end she is rewarded the same passion that felt for her fiance. 

I think that of all the plays I’ve read this term, this had to be my favorite.

School for Scandal – like I always say things aren’t always what they seem

I apologize for being late in my posts (crazy life).  Anyway, I don’t know if I’m just starting to understand these plays better or if the later playwrights were more interesting but I really liked the last few plays.

What I found most interesting about this play is how the playwright demonstrates the deceptiveness of social expectations and appearance.  Even though Joseph says all the right things, acts the right way (at least in the face of society), in the end he is found to have a faulty character.  Joseph takes his moral cues from society without having any sense of his own decency–exemplified in the rather amusing scene between him, and Mr. & Mrs. Teazle and again when Sir Oliver disguises himself as a Mr. Stanley — a man of want .  Joseph is portrait of superficiality while assuming an air of importance (“this is one of the bad effects of a good character.  It invites application from the unfortunate, and there needs no small degree of address to gain the reputation of benevolence without incurring the expense”).  Thus he ends up shamed and degraded by the society in which he feigned benevolence and strong ethics.  Charles, on the other hand, is shunned by society because of his financial insecurity and the necessity for him to constantly borrow money from loan sharks.  However, in the end he proves himself the more worthy man as he has intact a sense of moral obligation (demonstrated when Sir Oliver tries to buy his self-portrait).  In the end, it is Charles that gets the inheritance and the girl.  A very interesting plot line.

The Beggar’s Opera

Hey, I think we have a winner!  I really loved this play.  Perhaps because the rake finally got his own.  It was so blatantly obvious the social hypocrisies that dominated the different classes and even it seemed that noone could see beyond his/her socially constructed society.  I mean here we have parents calling their daughters sluts and giving her some of the most bizarre advise that parents could give.  Even though Mr. and Mrs. Peachum were right about the fact that he probably had more then one woman (being a highway man), it was still absurd advice.   Well, one things for sure this play gave new meaning to the notion of one dying for love.  It was a change from the woman being on the receiving end of another’s manipulation.  Here the man is hanged because he has married against the parent’s consent and for the Peachums this is the only way to ensure that their daughter will gain financial security.     

A Bold Stroke for a Wife

I rather enjoyed this play.  It was rather ingeneous of the Colonel to go to such lengths to secure his wife (surely this is true love and not her thirty thousand pound fortune).  I think this play greatly speaks for the costuming of this time.  Not only did Colonel have to change his outfit but he also had to change his tactics to manipulate the guardian of particular interest at the time.  Although the colonel seems to genuinely care for Mrs. Lovely, this theme of the man misrepresenting himself for personal gain seems to be a common theme of the Restoration plays.  No doubt this is a reflection of the ways in which men did procure their women (through manipulation and lies).  I am always amazed at the minor consequences for the men who gain access to women under false pretenses.  There must have been a lot of bitter women during this time.

No Exit by Sartre – the “eyes” have it

I thoroughly enjoyed this play last night.  After the death of the three characters in this play they are taken to their hell but it is not the hell that they have anticipated with “fire and brimstone” and instruments of torture.  Garson, Inez and xxxxx (her name eludes me) are destined to spend their eternity trapped into the world that they had exemplified while still alive on earth.  xxxxx’s life was composed of materialism and the social life where social expectations are elevated.  Her false values eventually causes her to reject the man she was “destined to fall in love with” and their child (who she betrays through an act of infantcide).  Garson, a rake who thrived on manipulating the emotions of his wife, secured his demise by running away from the war.  Inez is a lesbian character whose emotional torture of her young lover eventually causes the lover to turn the gas stove on, ending both of their lives. 

 What stood out most in this play was all the references to eyes and mirrors.  At one point when xxxx is trying to apply her makeup without the aid of a mirror (there are no forms of looking glass in hell) Inez assures her that she can look into her eyes and they will be xxxx’s mirror.  The problem with this is that it causes a distorted image of xxxx and what pleases Inez (the application of xxxx’s lipstip as to give her lips a cruel look) is not what pleases xxxx.  While alive each person had attempted to define “themselves” through another person or person and therefore they never became fully human in the sense that they never uncovered their sense of authenticity.  Now they must remain eternally trapped in their shallowness.  There is no longer any escaping the tragic lives they have lived (their lives are complete – there is no longer any way to affect change) and therefore will inevitably cling to the other in a false attempt to justify their actions.

The Beaux’ Stratagem

I must admit I caught myself rolling my eyes a few times during this play.  I found it hard to suffer through another twisted plot where men (namely Archer and Aimwell) blatantly use flattering (empty dribble as I like to call it) to try to manipulate naive women (such as Dorinda and Mrs. Sullen) out of their money.  However, having said that there are certain aspects of this play and the honesty and new ideas that arise that I found quite interesting.  I rather enjoyed Cherry’s character and her banter with Archer in her attempt to bribe him with two thousand pounds to marry her.  She seems to be more aware of the notion of  power and greed  that traps men and women into marriage and at least she is honest in her recognition that without some sort of monetary gain for the man she may be fated to become an “old maid.” 

Mrs. Sullen too has an element of honesty that is refreshing.  She does not try to hide her detestable relationship with her husband and openly confesses her desire for Archer: “if I met him dressed as he should be and I undressed as I should be … I can’t swear I could resist the temptation, though I can safely promise to avoid it, and that’s as much as the best of us can do” (IV.i.487-92).  I was intrigued by the final divorce but it was bitter sweet in the sense that it was rather ambiguous whether or not she would be “jumping from the frying pan into the fire” with another wretched man whose sole interest is in her financial status.  I mean I laughed after the attempted robbery when Mrs. Sullen says “I was pretty near [robbed], had not these two gentlmen interposed” (V.iv.192).  They interposed because that would mean less financial gain for themselves. 

What stood out for me most in this play was that the need for money, greed and power is so ingrained in this society that it is not shocking to be found that you are being taken advantage of as in the example of Dorinda and Aimwell.  Even after his confession she says: “Matchless honesty! Once I was proud, sir, of your wealth and title but now am prouder that you want it.  Now I can show my love was justly leveled and had no aim but love” (V.iv39-42).  Men and women alike participate in this notion that wealth and position are the ideal and Dorinda is willing to accept his honesty because he desired what was socialy desirable.  When Aimwell takes the liberty to offer Archer half of the “lady’s fortune” right after he finds out that his brother has died and he has inherited his fortune.  I must admit I’m still shaking my head. 

The fair penitent – how penitent was she

I know some may argue that Calista was unpenitent for her love afair with Lothario and I agree that initially she went to great extremes to deceive both Altamont and Horatio.  However, when we consider the socially constructed world in which she lived and the horror of her “sin” it seemed utterly impossible for her to confess her actions: “For ’tis the solemn counsel of my soul/ Never to live with public loss of honor:/ “Tis fixed to die, rather than bear the insolence” (645:33-35).  She is driven by the knowledge that her actions are worthy of death and so it is in a state of self-preservation that leads her to boldly declare to Horatio that the proof of her infidelity is a “contrivance” and a “forgery.”  I think that the reader’s sympathies fail for calista when her fit of rage spills over in an attempt to destroy the male friendship between Altamont and Horatio.  It is at this point that the reader realizes her actions throughout the play are fueled by a hatred for her Altamont and although he is an apparently naive and somewhat overzealous young man he has truly gained the sympathies of the audience.  It is her rashness that seals her fate.  However, there is one point in regards to her penitence that I wish to point out.  At the end right before Calista extinguishes her life, she comes to an understanding of how her actions have affected the catestrophic events of the play.  It is apparent that by the end of the play she has come to a new level of awareness by understanding that her actions have sowed the seeds of destruction: “think thou, curst Calista, now behold/ the desolation, horror, blood, and ruin/ thy crimes and fatal folly spread around/ That loudly cry for vengeance on thy head” (V.i.153-55).  For Calista “penitence and pray’r” would never suffice as she can find no place of repentence except by her own blood shed: “Nothing but blood can make the expiation/ And cleanse the soul from inbred, deep pollution” (V.i.162-4).  It appears that blood is the only way of escape as death claims Lothario, Sciolto, Calista, and Altamont.  Truly Calista’s final pleas to her father “My father! will you now at last forgive me” are with a sincere and penitent heart of self recognition and as he forgives her she finds peace in her act of penitence.

The way of the World

Although I found this play one of the most difficult to follow that I have read so far, it did make an interesting case for the problems for widows in becoming prey to men who seek financial security.  In the rather amusing scene where Lady Wishfort waits for her lover, the reader is made aware (because of her own hysterical ponderings as to the best way to receive him) of the pretentious nature of her “intended” union.  In a society where love is measured according to one’s pocketbook it seems the widow is at the mercy of male domination.  Even though Mirabell has made an enemy of Lady Wishfort by pretending to be in love with her, in the end, it is his trickery that causes her to forgive his earlier sins and allow him to marriage her niece, Mrs. Millamant.  In this world where the woman is identifiable by her marital status (as suggested by the recognition of the ladies in this play with thier late husbands’ surname,) she is unable to escape the influence of men unless she sets up a type of prenumptual agreement like Mrs. Milllamant does with Mirabell.  Millamant is acutely aware of the pretentions surrounding her and makes Mirabelll understand that she will not succomb to such falsities: “don’t let us be familiar or fond nor kiss before folks, like my Lady Fadler and Sir Francis, nor go to Hyde Park together the first Sunday in a new chariot to provoke eyes and whispers and then never to be seen there together again, as if we were proud of one another the first week and ashamed of one another forever after” (574).  Unlike the rest of the characters who see the games but still participate in them, Millamant refuses to play such social games.  This female character is probably one of my favorite that I have seen this term.  When she resists society’s feminine form–  “strait-lacing, squeezing for a shape, till you mold my boy’s head like a sugar loaf …” –she resists the marriage form and the social assumption of a structured, pretentious life for married woman.

Oronooko

I found this play quite interesting and intriguing. One of the parts that seemed to really stick out in my mind was the objectification of Imoinda. It seemed she became the “bone” that all the stray “dogs” fought over. It is almost as if because women have played such a prominent role as bargaining tools to substantiate another’s fortune, that most men do not even take an onze of consideration for the freewill of the woman to choice her mate.
Although some have felt that the comic plot was insignificant in comparison to the tragic plot, I feel that it held quite a significant role. On the one hand, we see Lucia and Welldon manipulating themselves into a marriage (irregardless of the extreme measures necessary) and Inoinda whose marriage to Oroonoko is considered of utmost insignificance. I felt that these two plots created an interesting paradox within the play. Although social norms and customs dictate that marriage for woman is of the utmost urgency, there is a certain non-challant attitude towards the institution of marriage within this same social structure. Truly, like this play the social customs are both laughable and tragic.

“Love at a Loss” – isn’t that the truth

This is a most interesting play that seems to rest upon the very principle that love is indeed “at a loss;” however, this begs the question of whose loss.  I must admit the “love triangles” in this play had me wagging my head.  First, we’re introduced to Lucilia who confesses she has been writing secretly to Cleon but not because of her undying love for him (or anything as equally romantic) but because of a sense of “oblig[ation] in conscience to save a man’s life” (592).  It is her concern for his happiness that nearly costs her own happiness with Phillabel.  In this scenario the reader is plunged into the world of the young woman trapped between a sense of duty (which leads to betrayal, lies, hypocricy and so on) and her love for her “intended.”  Next, we’re introduced to the triangle between Beaumine, Grandfoy and Lesbia.  Beaumine, an admitted rake whose sole purpose in life is to avoid marriage, pretends his desire to “wed” Lesbia so that he might “bed” her.  On the other hand, Grandfoy whose love for Lesbia appears genuine, is found to be unfavorable to this woman.  Even though she catches Beaumine in his trickery and lies, she is unable to dispise him.  Beaumine is even more cunning in his deception as he purposely manipulates honesty to seek deception.  Beaumine of his own admission seeks a love that is comprimised and not easily assessible: “you should go abraod when you’re sure I shall come to see you; look angry or cold upon me without telling me why when I come to caress you; and when I expect you should be fond of me, make me suspect you are thinking of another.”  I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought that this was an odd philosophy of love.  Finally, we have a love triangle between Constant, Miranda and Beaumine.   It is in this triangle that Beaumine’s ideal of love is played out and we see Miranda as a female version of Beaumine.  Interestingly, she eventually chooses Constant when he has had enough of her games and attempts to leave her.  Although initially the ending where Beaumine and Constant are voted on as eligible men for Lesbia appeared to lack significance; upon further pondering I decided that the playwrite purposed the notion that “most votes carry it” as an overarching theme which all the above relationships could fit.

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