Friday, October 29, 2010

Send them a thunderbolt with your regards - Extreme Meteorological Phemnomena and The Social Arrangements of Women in the Plays of Gilbert and Sullivan

So the aging Greek gods have been replaced, for a year, by a company of actors.  Actors perhaps do not make such good gods.  I’m talking about Thespis (1871), by the way, the first play by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan:

THESPIS.  Oh, then I suppose there are some complaints?
MERCURY. Yes, there are some.
THES. (disturbed).  Oh.  Perhaps there are a good many?
MER.  There are a good many.
THES.  Oh.  Perhaps there are a thundering lot.
MER.  There are a thundering lot.
THES. (very much disturbed) Oh!

Or, as Mercury sings:

Olympus is now in a terrible muddle,
  The deputy deities all are at fault
They splutter and splash like a pig in a puddle
  And dickens a one of 'em's earning his salt.
For Thespis as Jove is a terrible blunder,
  Too nervous and timid - too easy and weak -
Whenever he's called on to lighten or thunder,
  The thought of it keeps him awake for a week.

All right, that’s the thunder.  How about the social arrangements of women in Gilbert and Sullivan?  There is a title to knock the fun right out of the subject, The Social Arrangements of blah blah blah.

The question here is, if the actor is married to an actress, but his character is married to a character played by an actress not his wife, to whom is he really married?  Hmmm?  To whom?  The actress Daphne, playing Calliope, refers to authority, to Lemprière’s Classical Dictionary, to prove her claim to marriage to Apollo:

DAPHNE.  Read.
THESPIS.  "Apollo was several times married, among others to Issa, Bolina, Coronis, Chymene, Cyrene, Chione, Acacallis, and Calliope."
DAPH.  And Calliope.
THES.  (musing)  Ha.  I didn't know he was married to them.
DAPH.  (severely)  Sir.  This is the Family Edition.
THES.  Quite so.
DAPH.  You couldn't expect a lady to read any other?
THES.  On no consideration.  But in the original version -
DAPH.  I go by the Family Edition.

I thought those prudish Victorian theater-goers – never mind about that.  I am often incorrect in my ideas about Victorian theater-goers.

I just read the second G&S, Trial by Jury (1875), about nothing but the Social Arrangements of Women, and how they are most properly socially arranged by judges, lawyers, juries, and other assorted male dunderheads, idiots, and charlatans.  Perhaps the actual argument of the play is something other than what it actually says.  Who can say?

I had to force myself to stop after just two of these pointless, nonsensical plays.  They are popcorn-like - salty and buttery, sweet and savory.  Also short.  And Thespis and Trial by Jury are not even the good ones.

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