Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Dramatic death

I've been kind of stuck with some of the writing I'm working on. I did, however, have a story accepted by this site, DeadMule, that shines a spotlight on Southern Literature.

I've been reading about Restoration Drama and the bloodthirsty nature of the 17th Century audience in a book called Preface to Restoration Drama. Never has such a bald title concealed such a wealth of mirth-making material, it really is hilarious stuff. Here are some notes on dramatic death...

Because the Restoration audience liked to witness mayhem and murder, it is hard to find a tragedy without one or more killings on-stage. All the poets racked their brains for deadly devices more interesting than the commonplace sword and dagger. Pistols and muskets were unreliable engines and rarely used. Poison in a goblet of wine was convenient but conventional: some ingenious writers served their poison in skulls instead of glasses, or provided poisoned swords, daggers, baths, sweetmeats, or even poisoned gloves, one sniff of which was enough to send a victim into convulsions. Garroting with a silken cord was dramatically effective, when it was done in full view of the audience. Beheading, hanging, and impaling were usually done off-stage, with appropriately horrid sound effects: when the scene opened the audience saw ghastly dummies in grotesque postures.

One objection to dramatic death by beheading, strangling, or hanging was that the victim lacked breath for a farewell speech. Stabbed through the lungs, he could die in verse, capping the final rhyme with his last breath. Lovers could take a long farewell; villains had time to confess and repent; and great men could philosophize on fate, change, kings, and desperate men. If necessary, credibility was sacrificed to convention; for example, in Gould's The Rival Sisters (1695), wicked Catalina, struck by lightning, had time to confess her sins before she died. The dying speech beame a screaming rant when the victim was poisoned...

Is it just me, or isn't that great! Now, I wonder if there's anywhere in the U.S. where they stage revivals of Restoration Drama...


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