drama: Moliere: Tartuffe (1664)

Although I’m looking at Moliere through a translator, I haven’t been quite impressed by what I have read, which, I suppose is ignoring language altogether in favor of meaning. Tartuffe is a story of a prominent and wealthy man duped by a con-man, Tartuffe, who pretends to be excessively pious in such a way that is thorougly modern, considering the sorts of religious figures in Chaucer or even in Grapes of Wrath, in which the religion is the clothes one wears, this is entirely different because religion becomes Tartuffe’s very skin. Since those who term themselves non-denominational have grown to such prevalence in recent years, I only began studying religion because of such people who would ask me questions like, ‘yes, you read the bible, but did you READ it?’ So, I must relate one of the best examples of casuistry I’ve ever heard, which is only the finest example I know of a million others. I asked, ‘so…you said you’d never have sex again if he broke up with you…so, how is sleeping with all these guys possibly in line with the teachings of Jesus?’
‘Easy–I thought about it and I figured it out. You see, as a Christian I’m only supposed to sleep with the man I’m married to. And really, if you plan on marrying a guy it’s pretty much the same as if I’m already married to him, because my intentions are sincere. So, all I have to do is tell myself that this is the guy I’m going to marry, and it’s as if I’m already married to him, so that when I have sex with him it’s not against un-Christian of me.’
‘You know…finding loopholes in the bible is a bit dangerous.’
‘Why?’
‘Well…because you’re not going to outsmart god.’
‘It’s all right there in the bible.’
‘Well, that was very clever of you.’

This is how Tartuffe operates, convincing Orgon to sign over all his worldly possessions, force his daughter into marrying him, and giving him enough evidence to have him jailed as a traitor. With just a few pages to go, the king saves the day and the good are rewarded and the bad are punished. The emphasis everyone places on this play is over the criticism of religion–Moliere was nearly excommunicated over it, and the play was banned–over his depiction of a man falsely religious, whose religious logic makes sense for evil ends. And I don’t particularly care–the movie Saved does a better job of putting it together for me.

But there’s this question which isn’t entirely answered, being: how is it that Orgon can be so easily duped, and then so steadfast in believing in the goodness of Tartuffe, against all reason? Well, the answer is suggested in the introduction I read, too bad I didn’t come up with it on my own. In any case, nobody seems to discuss this one: Orgon is getting on in years, with a daughter on the verge of marriage, a young second wife for himself, and various spunky servants living with the family, and in his bitterness over his declining overall virility, his only answer is to force everyone else to lead the life time has doomed him to live, and his solution is found in Christianity and its ‘no fun allowed’ principles. While Tartuffe is exploiting Orgon for money and power, Orgon is exploiting Tartuffe as shackles over his family. This is all that gives him depth, and it takes Tartuffe’s near-rape of Orgon’s wife before Orgon is shaken out of bitterness. Orgon himself is never religious, but enamored by the religiosity of Tartuffe, and uses one for the substitute for the other.

Once a day I have a small ability to write, and this is not that once a day, because I just can’t convince myself to care right now!

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George Michael vs. Beyonce

Let me preface this by saying that I’m a little bit in love with George Michael right now. I began voice lessons this week–what’s difficult about it all is the difference between ‘proper’ and what really works for me. For example, I’m learning to breathe through my nose. But I love the sound of in inhalations through one’s mouth–it’s a sexy sort of thing and I think ties in with the sounds of the mechanical aspects of the piano, of the fingers sliding against the guitar strings when changing positions, even the buzz of bass strings, I love things that remind us of the humanity behind the music, I mean, I often love mistakes, I love the way Miles Davis does something like ghost-notes in his mis-hitting notes that in anyone else would probably be a mistake, but with him and his classical background, we have to assume is intentional, or else we’re doubting his genius. Charlie Parker against the early Coltrane, both have their explosions, Coltrane even borrows suspiciously from Parker’s patterns, yet Coltrane seems somehow so precise, Parker seems almost racing himself with his head turned to see if he’s still in the lead, and when he stumbles, he really fucking stumbles (listen to Chi-Chi take 3, when they play the head at the end this is most apparent); I don’t know how I feel about Parker fucking up, the careless sound of it, is what I mean. I like dirt, but I like it to be dirty precisely where one is expecting it to be dirty, like that post-sex-day-in-bed sort of feeling, you’re simply covered in everything you’d expect to be covered in, regardless of how the performance went, and it’s delightful, and it’s that which makes Brandenberg Concerto no. 2 difficult to listen to while naked, and James Gang’s ‘Funk #49’ something that makes it difficult, at the very least, to keep one’s shirt on. I love these noises. But now I’m being asked to stop making them. Listen to Head Automatica’s ‘Beating Hearts Baby’ and you’ll hear they even dub these inhalations in to make them better. But…I want to sing like George Michael. I’m officially a high tenor. James Taylor is a tenor. I already knew I could sing anything James Taylor could, that at all times I can hit every note on a full three octaves, and on occassion, more than that. I love you, George Michael, I love you. But…there’s this one thing about you that bothers me:

On ‘Wake Me Up’ he jumps the word ‘up’ fairly consistently, sometimes worse than others. I don’t know if it’s intentional. Being ‘in the pocket’ is somehow very important in music, which means being a little behind the beat, perhaps it indicates a self-assurance, like crossing the street without looking, but George Michael is so far out of the pocket that it hurts my ears. In comparison, there’s Beyonce’s ‘Crazy in Love’ which at first I believed had a chorus in which she was simply off beat, or that someone had lined it up wrong. I don’t know if I can contribute the serious in-the-pocketness to her own vocal chops or if it’s just somebody moving everything over a little to the right on the computer. But I don’t care. One of them has something that screams out sex to me, even if it’s some dumb lyrics about being in love; the other one is about…well, being sad about not going dancing, and this is the guy who more or less brought rap to England, or made rap British, or something like that. I just don’t know if I can deal with it much longer without rationalizing it, and I’m trying really fucking hard.

And I finished something by Moliere today so I haven’t only been dicking around, I’ve also been reading a little bit. So fuck off.

drama: Molière – The Misanthrope (1666)

Amidst the calls of John McCain in the last debate, “now, there’s just another example of Senator Obama’s eloquence” it’s rather fitting to read Alceste making the same arguments just about now, and to consider how Molière presents him. A friend mentioned that she’d heard Molière described as the French Shakespeare–I disagree, because Shakespeare, in my opinion, in his best work concentrates on the person rather than on the idea. There are, as I recall, some of his plays that seem rather to in a way typify ad absurdum, e.g., Titus as revenge play, Comedy of Errors, but as one moves through his work, there is something always very human about his characters–although most would disagree, I find even his Joan la Pucelle or Aaron worthy of our sympathy. But then, as I’ve stated before, I’ve been accused of naturalistic readings of Shakespeare, so I suppose I’m not particularly worthy of interpreting them. Meantime, I’m not even sure how one stages The Misanthrope, its scenes ending mid-conversation, and beginning again right where they left off, except now the room is filled with more players. Perhaps French drama demanded the players never enter or exit the stage mid-scene? Shakespeare’s comedies always use marriage as a device to end a play quickly, as love never seems very sincere here–and this is a comparison I can make easily: even the deepest love suffered by Alceste is easily broken off at the play’s conclusion. This leads me then to Peters’ discussion (‘The Rhetoric of Adornment in “Le Misanthrope”‘, by Jeffrey N. Peters The French Review) that one’s essence is cloaked beneath one’s social presentation.

So, what of language? There is the language of court, the language unadorned by rhetoric, which is later paralleled by the language of poetry, and the language of letters between friends. And what makes it all the more interesting is that the whole play is written in rhyming couplets, so that even the barest prose is rendered ornate by that which represents it. Alceste makes a reference to an old poem that, although simple, is passionate–and I can identify, considering the deep song lyrics presented by Lorca in his lectures–simple and breathtaking, anonymous authors, poor us.

But then…how much am I supposed to extract from a comedy of manners except what is obvious, the same criticism we always hear, that outward appearances are more highly valued than inner substance, even today on Wall Street, that we thought was a meritocracy until we found ourselves beset by misvalue.