Thursday, March 2, 2017

Not Necessarily a Useful Thought

The friend who set up an on-line discussion group for War and Peace a couple of years ago has decided that it would be well to do the same for Shakespeare's comedies. While he adjusts WordPress to his liking, I have read a fair bit of Shakespeare over the last several weeks. I believe that we will be looking at the same time at Rene Girard's A Theatre of Envy: anyway, I have read the plays in the order mentioned in that book's chapter headings

On my taking up Two Gentlemen of Verona for the second time since the New Year, it suddenly occurred to me that in three of comedies touched on by Girard one has a female character who disguises herself as a young man. Given that boys played the female parts of Renaissance dramas, this reminded me of "britches" parts in operas, in which a mezzo-soprano plays the part of a young man, a young man who just might in the course of the opera find it useful to dress as a women: think of Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro or Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier.

I'm not sure what if anything to make of this, except to say that the English of about 1600 had a robust sense of humor, and so did the Austrians of two and three hundred years later. But that isn't news, is it?

I mentioned this to an older relative, who said that she never cared for the "trousers" parts, even though one of her favorite arias, the Barcarolle in Tales of Hoffman, involved one. Yet I don't think she'd care to see Cherubino's arias eliminated from The Marriage of Figaro.

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