The Bronte Parsonage Museum
I visited the museum on Friday. I really felt that it gave me an impression of what the Bronte’s had to cope with and the impressiveness of what they achieved. It also shed light on their brother, Branwell’s, interesting, but dark and roguish, life. I was fortunate enough, as well, to see the costumes from the 2011 Jane Eyre film.
I have just finished watching this report by Will Gompertz (it’s only a few minutes long) on the future of the novel by the BBC and found it quite interesting. The link is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-19341965 or you can find it on the arts/entertainment section on the BBC homepage.
Whilst I agree that it is a problem that fan fiction does not generate new ideas I also believe that, if done well, a novel can be both meaningful and a response to another piece of literature. But I suppose that is the key; it would have to be a reaction against an idea, or a development, from the first piece of literature. Take Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea for example, it rewrites Charlotte Bronte’s Bertha from Jane Eyre.
Jean Rhys’ anger at the linear, harsh, characterisation of Bertha has provoked a response, in the form of literature, which can be considered a masterpiece. In Jane Eyre Bertha is deprived of speech: ‘the maniac bellowed’. The onomatopoeic quality of the language makes her seem primitive. In short, Bertha’s perspective is lost. This portrait of Bertha is encased within Jane’s story. However, Rhys inverts this, showing that ‘there is always the other side’.
Therefore a literary response can be a positive thing. We should also note that literature is usually built upon literature. Stories usually do not appear without inspiration. Writers are usually good readers. Literature, from Shakespeare to Harry Potter, has intertwined ideas from other sources.
Albeit, this does not mean that new ideas are not needed and this does not mean that ideas can remain stagnant.
I wonder what others believe about the state of the novel?
The Taming of the Shrew is often referred to as one of Shakespeare’s most controversial plays in terms of a modern audience’s reaction. Indeed, I found the idea that Katherina could be tamed through such despicable methods tragic, rather than comic. Petruchio, in my opinion, is a villain yet he wins. Of course this is all down to interpretation. Often Katherina’s final speech, which shows herself to submit to Petruchio, is performed with a knowing irony. This softens the tragedy as Katherina is allowed to have a secret victory; her spirit is not completely broken. Thankfully, for me, The Globe Theatre’s version, which is currently running until October, adopted this irony. By juxtaposing this speech with a suggestion of disaccord (we could hear a huge bang coming from offstage) after their exit from the stage we know that Katherina will not be dominated. However, the play still ended with a sense of awkwardness amongst the final applause. As an audience we were unsure if we should be delighted (from the superb performances) or disgusted.
The play was after all highly energetic and thoroughly comic. Little touches, such as a gag about ‘kicking the bucket, were well appreciated, not to mention the start of the play. Without wanting to give anything away for potential play-goers I will just say that it certainly began the play with a comic bang. The audience’s attention was certainly gained! Alongside some excellent performances from both of the leads, as well as Bianca, this made the play spectacular. Katherina, as you may expect, begins as a fireball of a character and Petruchio as her match. However, Bianca, rather unusually, is less hopeless, less a damsel in distress, than in other productions of the play. She is more similar to her sister in that she attempts to gain what suits her. In short, she is manipulative of her situation and just attempts to achieve them in a different manner.
Regardless of the magnificent interior of the Globe Theatre this production of the play is certainly worth seeing. However, I would also say that the theatre did enhance the experience for me (even if my feet didn’t enjoy the three hours of Shakespeare). As a groundling I was able to partly imagine myself in Elizabethan London. However, this is not for everybody and I would highly recommend having a good think about whether you can cope with three hours of standing still; it may be better to opt for a seat. One woman even fainted during the performance! So I would definitely think about whether a seat is ‘to be or not to be’ (apologies for the shameless pun).