I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights

zaterdag 30 juni 2012

The character Vashti in Charlotte Brontë's novel Villette

The character Vashti in Charlotte Brontë's novel Villette was based on Rachel, whom Brontë had seen perform in London.

French classical actress, the daughter of Alsatian-Jewish traveling peddlers. Her talent was discovered when she was singing in the streets as a young girl, and nurtured in drama school in Paris.  Her fame spread throughout Europe following a sensational success in London in 1841, and became particularly associated with the works of RacineVoltaire, and Corneille, touring in BrusselsBerlin, and St. Petersburg. When Rachel first stepped on the stage of Comedie Francaise, French classical tragedy was not dying but dead. Regardless, Rachel would remain true to her classical roots. She aroused audiences with an undeniable craving for the tragic style of great writers like Corneille, Racine and Molière. She evoked a high demand for classical tragedy to remain on the stage. She created the title role in Eugène Scribe's Adrienne Lecouvreur. Her acting style was characterized by clear diction and economy of gesture, and represented a major change from the exaggerated style of those days. Out the doors of Rachel’s theatre was a battle of artistic desires. Society was beginning to demand the highly emotional, realistic, instinctual acting styles of the Romantics. Rachel completely turned her back on the Romantic Drama movement happening in nineteenth century France. She was best known for her portrayal of the title rôle in Phèdre. Eliza Rachel, as the actress was also known, was reportedly a great tragédienne.

Rachel’s private life was scandalous, and was chronicled with lip-licking relish by the European press: the Leeds Intelligencer, for example, noting her withdrawal from the role of Cleopatra, said her “success was becoming more questionable every day,” as if an immaculate private life was essential for success in that role ( Leeds Intelligencer , 8 Jan 1848). Her health was as fragile as her morals, and she died of consumption. Blackwell Reference  Rachel_(actress) Rachel

During the summer of 1851, Charlotte Brontë visited London and saw Rachel Felix, the famous French actress, perform in several plays. "Thackeray's lectures and Rachel's acting," she wrote to Elizabeth Gaskell, "are the two things in this great Babylon which have stirred and interested me most -- simply because in them I found most of what was genuine whether for good or evil...." Brontë's adjective, "genuine," affiliates her assessment of Rachel with a mid-century theatrical discourse that increasingly represented the stage and the most favored acting styles as "natural." Although it turns up in many texts and contexts, George Henry Lewes, in his role as drama critic, articulated principles of "natural acting" that influentially framed the discourse for both its onstage and offstage versions. When he too saw Rachel on stage in 1851, Lewes, echoing Brontë, accordingly pronounced the actress "exquisitely natural" and set her up as a positive exemplar for what he perceived to be a theater in decline.
Brontë's and Lewes's assessments register a paradoxical cultural impulse that led them both to specify a controversial actress as the embodiment of naturalness. Recent studies of theatricality have underscored its potential to upset traditional gender categories; in particular, such studies have recognized women's capacities to elude naturalized sexual and gender roles in the theatre and to construct their own identities on stage. While these studies have influenced my arguments, I also suggest that the structure of mid-Victorian theatricality accommodated an essentialist version of gendered identity. In the context of the 1850s, moreover, a careful assessment of some such conceptions of identity must modify what we usually see as the restrictive tendencies of essentialism. Jonathan Dollimore has recently argued for the transgressive potential of certain appropriations of dominant ideologies, even essentialist ones, at specific historical moments. My readings of Lewes and Brontë support Dollimore's point: while they both viewed Rachel as essentially "natural," they surveyed her from markedly different gendered positions within Victorian culture. Their affiliated constructions of theatricality thus instantiate nature in the service of divergent cultural goals.
The discourse of natural acting exhibits the prominent features of a high culture conception of Victorian theatricality. This conception distinguished "genuine" or "natural" essence from a material and artificial medium of performance, a distinction that speaks to our current theoretical debates about identity. In postmodern critiques of the coherent humanist subject, theatricality often functions to disrupt conceptions of an originary self and essential identity that ostensibly exist apart from the discourses and practices of specific cultures. Delineating this disruptive theatricality is a project integral to many feminist dismantlings of monolithic, ahistorical conceptions of "the Feminine." These welcome efforts at cultural concreteness, however, cannot fully explain the Victorians' yoking of theatricality and gender, for their theatricality prefigured but was not a prototype of the postmodern version. Unlike postmodernists, many Victorians believed in a theatricality that sometimes revealed and sometimes obscured a timeless, innate self; in this view, an authentic core identity is separated from an external, performing, artificial self. If the portents of postmodern disintegration lurk in the fissures of this divided self, the binary construction nonetheless permitted the Victorians to privilege the "authentic core" in an effort to maintain what they saw as the integrity of a coherent identity. muse.jhu.edu/journals

1 opmerking:

  1. The French playwright, Jean Racine, mentions The Queen Vashti in his play, " Esther". Vashti is the queen before Esther. One wonders if Charlotte got the name from the Bible or the Racine play ? Perhaps both In those boxes and boxes of French literature Charlotte borrowed from the Taylors, works of Racine had to be among them


The Parlour

The Parlour



Charlotte Bronte

Presently the door opened, and in came a superannuated mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like Miss Bronte, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his daughter. A long interval, during which we coaxed the old dog, and looked at a picture of Miss Bronte, by Richmond, the solitary ornament of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Bronte's celebrity. Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me upstairs to take off my bonnet, and herself brought me water and towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers propped on wood, were all scrupulously clean and neat. When we went into the parlour again, we began talking very comfortably, when the door opened and Mr. Bronte looked in; seeing his daughter there, I suppose he thought it was all right, and he retreated to his study on the opposite side of the passage; presently emerging again to bring W---- a country newspaper. This was his last appearance till we went. Miss Bronte spoke with the greatest warmth of Miss Martineau, and of the good she had gained from her. Well! we talked about various things; the character of the people, - about her solitude, etc., till she left the room to help about dinner, I suppose, for she did not return for an age. The old dog had vanished; a fat curly-haired dog honoured us with his company for some time, but finally manifested a wish to get out, so we were left alone. At last she returned, followed by the maid and dinner, which made us all more comfortable; and we had some very pleasant conversation, in the midst of which time passed quicker than we supposed, for at last W---- found that it was half-past three, and we had fourteen or fifteen miles before us. So we hurried off, having obtained from her a promise to pay us a visit in the spring... ------------------- "She cannot see well, and does little beside knitting. The way she weakened her eyesight was this: When she was sixteen or seventeen, she wanted much to draw; and she copied nimini-pimini copper-plate engravings out of annuals, ('stippling,' don't the artists call it?) every little point put in, till at the end of six months she had produced an exquisitely faithful copy of the engraving. She wanted to learn to express her ideas by drawing. After she had tried to draw stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing; but in so small a hand, that it is almost impossible to decipher what she wrote at this time.

I asked her whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in Villette was so exactly like what I had experienced, - vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep, - wondering what it was like, or how it would be, - till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it. ----------------------She thought much of her duty, and had loftier and clearer notions of it than most people, and held fast to them with more success. It was done, it seems to me, with much more difficulty than people have of stronger nerves, and better fortunes. All her life was but labour and pain; and she never threw down the burden for the sake of present pleasure. I don't know what use you can make of all I have said. I have written it with the strong desire to obtain appreciation for her. Yet, what does it matter? She herself appealed to the world's judgement for her use of some of the faculties she had, - not the best, - but still the only ones she could turn to strangers' benefit. They heartily, greedily enjoyed the fruits of her labours, and then found out she was much to be blamed for possessing such faculties. Why ask for a judgement on her from such a world?" elizabeth gaskell/charlotte bronte

Poem: No coward soul is mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.

O God within my breast.
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life -- that in me has rest,
As I -- Undying Life -- have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move mens hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou -- Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

Emily Bronte

Family tree

The Bronte Family

Grandparents - paternal
Hugh Brunty was born 1755 and died circa 1808. He married Eleanor McClory, known as Alice in 1776.

Grandparents - maternal
Thomas Branwell (born 1746 died 5th April 1808) was married in 1768 to Anne Carne (baptised 27th April 1744 and died 19th December 1809).

Father was Patrick Bronte, the eldest of 10 children born to Hugh Brunty and Eleanor (Alice) McClory. He was born 17th March 1777 and died on 7th June 1861. Mother was Maria Branwell, who was born on 15th April 1783 and died on 15th September 1821.

Maria had a sister, Elizabeth who was known as Aunt Branwell. She was born in 1776 and died on 29th October 1842.

Patrick Bronte married Maria Branwell on 29th December 1812.

The Bronte Children
Patrick and Maria Bronte had six children.
The first child was Maria, who was born in 1814 and died on 6th June 1825.
The second daughter, Elizabeth was born on 8th February 1815 and died shortly after Maria on 15th June 1825. Charlotte was the third daughter, born on 21st April 1816.

Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls (born 1818) on 29th June 1854. Charlotte died on 31st March 1855. Arthur lived until 2nd December 1906.

The first and only son born to Patrick and Maria was Patrick Branwell, who was born on 26th June 1817 and died on 24th September 1848.

Emily Jane, the fourth daughter was born on 30th July 1818 and died on 19th December 1848.

The sixth and last child was Anne, born on 17th January 1820 who died on 28th May 1849.

Top Withens in the snow.

Top Withens in the snow.



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