Wednesday, 31 July 2013

School for Scandal: The Danger of Gossip

Like Marlowe's Dido, this is also my very first play by Sheridan. I first heard it mentioned (and played) in The Duchess film. Later on I found the book in my university library (which has so many beautiful books with nobody touching them) but felt reluctant to read it. For this month's LRP, however, I feel like reading it very much. So I brought it home last Thursday and started reading it this morning.

It's everything but serious.

School for Scandal portrays the life of England upper class where people talk about everything about everyone. It's all gossips and scandals (therefore the title). What also interesting is how the play shows gossip on the make.

CRABTREE: Why, one evening, at Mrs. Ponto’s assembly, the conversation happened to turn on the breeding Nova Scotia sheep in this country. Says a young lady in company, “I have known instances of it; for Miss Letitia Piper, a first cousin of mine, had a Nova Scotia sheep that produced her twins.” “What!” cries the Lady Dowager Dundizzy (who you know is as deaf as a post), “has Miss Piper had twins?” This mistake, as you may imagine, threw the whole company into a fit of laughter. However, ’twas the next morning everywhere reported, and in a few days believed by the whole town, that Miss Letitia Piper had actually been brought to bed of a fine boy and a girl: and in less than a week there were some people who could name the father, and the farm-house where the babies were put to nurse.

Isn't it crazy how such baseless slander should come out of nothing but mistake? The play is actually an amazing instrument to show hoe ridiculous but dangerous gossips are. Sir Peter, one of the few characters in this play who hate gossip and scandal, expresses himself beautifully.

SIR PETER: Ah! many a wretch has rid on a hurdle who has done less mischief than these utterers of forged tales, coiners of scandal, and clippers of reputation.

Ruining people's reputation is as bad as killing them. There's a proverb in my country that says 'slander is even worse than murder'. Sir Peter even would love to pass a law that forbid gossiping, so that “no person should be permitted to kill characters and run down reputations, but qualified old maids and disappointed widows,” who have too much envy and too little work to do.

And I haven't told you even a jot of the main plot. Haha. Like most comedy, School for Scandal's plot is hard to explain but easy to understand when you read (or watch) it. 

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Weekend Quote #47

Certainly, Madam; to smile at the jest which plants a thorn in another's breast is to become a principal in the mischief.

This weekend's quote is taken from Sheridan's play The School for Scandal, which is nice enough to read, and quite funny too. Actually, I don't really like choosing the quote above since it was spoken by an annoying character, but because the words are so true, I decided to have it put down here.

Well, School of Scandal, as the title suggests, talks about scandals and gossips which circulate among people from the upper class of society. The people participating in it insist that they intent no harm while what they do is absolutely the contrary. Even as they laugh upon the misfortune or slander of others, they forget that somebody is hurt.

For me personally, the quote above reminds us all to think before we speak, to have in mind what effect our words might have on others. When somebody is being ill-spoken of, even smiling at it – thus considering it as entertainment – would be wrong. Instead of meddling with other people's business, let's mind our own, which if taken seriously, would consume most of our times anyway.

Ha! That's the weekend quote for you. Now, please share yours.  

Monday, 22 July 2013

Dido, Queen of Carthage: My First Marlowe's Play

Around a month ago I read the play, and found it to be very good indeed, even though I am by no means well-acquainted with any Elizabethan play except Shakespeare's. I chose the play Dido for no other reason than my fondness of Greek and Roman myths and also Shakespeare's Hamlet. In Hamlet there's a player who recites “Aeneas' tale to Dido” about Priam's slaughter, and such story I find in this play as well. So, now to the review.

The play begins with Jupiter and Ganymede together on the stage. Jupiter flirts with the young boy (yes, he's a boy) and promises him everything he desires if he could only get his love. Then Venus enters, complaining about the sufferings Aeneas must face. Jupiter assures her that Aeneas will be fine. Venus then meets with her son and leads him to Dido's place, who receives him with all honour and affection. But that's when the problem begins.

Venus has Cupid disguised as Ascanius. He then pricks Dido's heart with his arrow, which makes her suddenly and madly in love with Aeneas. She persuades Aeneas to cancel his plan to go to Italy and become the King of Carthage instead. Nevertheless, the gods have decided that Aeneas must go, leaving Dido in despair. The queen kills herself in fire, followed by her lover, Iarbas, and his lover, Anna.

For those who have read Aeneid, none of these are new. The story had been a legend by the time the play was written anyway. People expected these things to happen on stage. However, Marlowe, being a great poet and playwright, was able to rephrase the story into beautiful lines. There are times when his words remind me so much of Shakespeare. They lived in the same period and I think Shakespeare took a lot of lesson from Marlowe's plays.

The part I love best from the play, maybe, is as Hamlet told the player, "Aeneas tale to Dido" about the fall of Troy. It's so...Greek, or I might say, Roman. I don't know. But it reminds me of my experience reading the same sort of thing in Odyssey, when the main character must tell his story to his listeners. 

Aeneas tells Dido about the fall of Troy by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin
Having said that I like the play, I want to quote what my friend said when I told him that I was reading it. He said, “I still prefer Shakespeare anyway.” I think I still love the Old Bill better than any playwright anyway.  

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Weekend Quote #46

I hope I am not too late for this week's Weekend Quote. I should have posted mine yesterday, but, yesterday being all hectic and busy, I decided to write it today, late as it is.

So, here it is:
Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
'This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.'
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.
I would not change it.
From Shakespeare's As You Like It, this is the words of Duke Senior, who was exiled by his brother, and whose dukedom was taken from him. He, and some of his followers, stayed in the forest of Arden, like Robin Hood and his merry men, happy and content with their new lives.

The quote above is full of expression of contentment, which I find very interesting and inspiring. In court, where they dwelt before, even with all the riches of the world, they had to deal with enmity, and worse, flattery. But in the forest, they feel like ordinary human beings again, They hunt for food, eat what they get, find recreation in nature, and feel happy about it. For philosophers, the Duke being one of them, he finds many things to think and meditate upon.

Living such life, I have no wonder that the Duke could rightly say, “I would not change it.”

That's my choice for this weekend. Don't be shy to share yours. 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Weekend Quote #45

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."
Taken from Wilde's play The Importance of being Earnest. This quote attracts my attention because that's exactly what I do every single day. I always leave my house with my diary and a pencil case in my bag.

Well, I've been keeping diaries since I was 10 or so. I don't write everyday, unfortunately, but I always bring it anyway, because I love reading it over and over again. It's funny to see how time and experience form you.

Besides, by having a diary, I can always track people I fall in love with. (Want to guess who are on the list?)

That's the quote for this weekend. Want to share yours?

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Daughter of Time: A Great King Wronged

I didn't know that it would be like this. When I picked the title for one of this year's challenge, I didn't think of history. When I later learned that it's about Richard, I was thinking about time travel, not bedtime analysis. Anyway, I gave 5 stars for it in Goodreads.

To make long story short, the book is about Richard III. The one with the withered arm and hunchback, the one who killed his two nephews in the tower then usurped their throne, the one who was killed in Bosworth by Henry Tudor? Exactly, except that most of the well-known story isn't true.

In the Daughter of Time, a Scotland Yard investigator and an amateur researcher looked up history to find whether Richard was truly the one to be accused for it. Their 'academic investigation' brought them back to the War of the Roses through pages and pages of contemporary sources. It was not in vain. They found out, not only that the king was 'more sinn'd against than sinning', but who the true culprit probably was.

I like the way this book narrates its story. Instead of making a serious essay with pages of references, Josephine Tey made it a novel, a digestible story, and at the same time carefully put sources and actual facts inside. It must have taken a lot of research to do so, and I appreciate such effort from an author.

Talking about accuracy, I sent an email to a member of Richard III Society and asked her how much of it to be trusted. Although she said that someone thought that it flawed, overall the novel is more accurate than not. Thus I recommend it to all who love history, and who want to know more about Richard III.

Oh, and for your information, I heard that people are proposing a petition to properly bury the remains of Richard III.  

Monday, 8 July 2013

Officially using Bloglovin

So, for various considerations, I have decided to join Bloglovin. Just consider this post as a brief announcement. Please follow my blog using the link below or the button somewhere around the blog. (I can't remember exactly where.)

Have a nice day...

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Sunday, 7 July 2013

LRP July Meme: Let's Talk about Playwrights

“The play's the thing.” - Hamlet, Shakespeare

This month's theme is 'other author', which means we will read neither Shakespeare nor Wilde, and maybe not Greek either. So, one question: “Who is your playwright this month?”

Not everybody knows playwrights. I have a friend who didn't even know who Shakespeare was, not mentioning other less-known playwrights. To enhance our knowledge in this matter, this month's meme is simple: Tell us about your chosen playwright. Anything can go. You can give a summary of his life, is works, or, if you prefer, just what you like and dislike from him.

As usual, guiding questions. Again, this is NOT necessary. As I sadi before, anything can go.
  • Give us his brief biography.
  • Give us a tour through his plays.
  • What you like or dislike from the playwright.
  • Compare him with other playwrights you know.

Voila! Let's have fun with our chosen playwright this month. Oh, and if you happen to read more than 1 playwrights this month, feel free to share more than one also in the meme. Have a nice reading!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Weekend Quote #44

“Most people's first books are their best anyway; it's the one they wanted most to write.”

Taken from Josephine Tey's novel The Daughter of Time, this quote caught my eyes when I read it. It's not even the point of the story. In fact, it has nothing to do with the (brilliant, by the way) story. But I think it has some truth in it.

Well, not for all people, of course. Some people become a greater writer after a while. Ass Shakespeare says, 'custom lends us a kind of easiness'. But the first book is like the first born child. It's new experience. People put everything they have in that one first book.

That's the quote I want to share with you this weekend. I'm supposed to make it yesterday, but I think it's still weekend anyway. And if you haven't read Daughter of Time, I hugely recommend it to you. Will write a review in a couple of days. Meanwhile, have a nice weekend.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Captain Blood: Slavery vs. Piracy – Which One is Worse?

Perhaps firstly I need to say that this is a re-read. I read Captain Blood the first time when I was in high school. I found a simplified version of it approximately 6 years ago. After that, I tried to read the complete unsimplified novel – which was fun. And it's exactly my thought when I re-read it this time.

The story started when Peter Blood, a respectable, peaceful, quiet, and “humane” gentleman (as the man put himself), was captured and tried for attending to the wounds of a man who was a rebel. Blood himself was not, seeing how fruitless the rebellion would be, amongst them, but still he had to pay the price of being reckoned as one of their supporters. He was supposed to be hanged, but fortunately (or unfortunately, you choose) he was sold as a slave to Jamaica.

Thanks to his medical skills, however, he escaped the wretched condition of regular slaves. Instead, he served as doctor in the island, attending to the Governor himself, even. Still, the life of a slave was not endurable at all – even with the presence of Miss Arabella Bishop, the very niece of his “owner”. The lady's kindness was a great contrast to her uncle's, although I think they shared the same hard-headedness and folly. Blood found this lady fascinating, and liked her very much. However, this is not the story of Romeo and Juliet, or Othello even.

One day Colonel Bishop, Blood's owner, flogged one of his friends Jeremy Pitt. This action, followed by Blood's bold and sarcastic nature almost put him in the same situation, if it were not to the Spanish pirates who came unexpectedly. Being thus strangely rescued by Fate, he made his escape along with his fellow-slaves and took over the ship. They became pirates after that.

That was actually the beginning of a long naval adventure. Exciting indeed, profitable, maybe, thanks to Blood's various skills and good judgement, but alas, not pleasurable. In Blood's mind lies the very lady after whom he named his ship – Arabella. Worse still, upon one occasion, under misguiding information and out of her own jealousy, the lady herself rudely called him 'thief and pirate'. Blood was then impelled to find a way to be a respectable gentleman once more, without neglecting his loyal crew, of course, and if possible, regain the esteem – if not love – from Miss Arabella Bishop.

I have always loved sea-adventures. I have always loved sailors. I have always appreciated the had work needed to direct and command a fleet at the times when one must depend upon Nature and his ability with little help of fortune to cross the sea successfully. And I have always loved Captain Blood since the first time I read it. The book portrays beautifully the battles on the sea, the disputes between pirates, the sense of honour that people respect in that era, and the enmity between European nations carried as far as the Carribean Sea.

I also love the plot. It talks of how much hatred people can harbour inside their heart when they were treated unjustly. And yet, even with such hatred, one can always be merciful and honourable, instead of craving for vengeance. It is also a book of second chances. People can always change. Fate can always change. Therefore it is also story of hope – long though it may be until it arrives.