Thursday, February 7, 2008

Worship of False Idols

Erika and I met tonight to discuss Lady Smatter, Cecilia and how their journeys connected to the overall center meaning of the play: the what is the what of the play.

As we worked, I began to realize that the first scene between Lady Smatter and Cecilia aside from setting up a lovely sea-saw of status play, also felt a bit like a religious zealot looking desperately for a convert. And the more she, Lady Smatter, is "shunned" or questioned by Cecilia the harder she tries to defend the specialness of her purpose.

I discussed this with Erika and it became clear that this religious feeling of Lady Smatter's toward her authors and criticism was used again and again. When Beaufort says he has no interest in her authors -- she cries out that he has blasphemed! Her passion for literature and "knowledge" is so strong that is seems her only life purpose. Her authors are her Gods and her Esprit Party is her church.

Erika felt that her character Cecilia, and Beufort's devotion to the ideal vision of Love was also a bit overworked and zealous - and without any ground in reality.

Both Lady Smatter's devotion and Cecilia/Beaufort's seem to be full of passion without any real matter or ground to stand on.

(It reminded me of the image/gesture I came up with in our last Sunday meeting....that all of these characters are dancing as fast as they can on a cloud because if they slow down or really stop to look at themselves or each other -- they will fall right through the cloud -- so they have to keep their little dangling legs and floppy feet on the move)

We started then to play with some potential themes around this idea:

Religious devotion to false idols makes idiots of us all.

Religious devotion to false idols leads us to worship false wisdom.

Passion for passion and Passion for knowledge that are not grounded in wisdom lead us to ruin.

We then noticed the last line in the final scene of Act II between Lady Smatter/Cecilia as Smatter exits...

Lady Smatter: Tis vain to reason with a person in passion

If Censor is reason and all the rest of the people are lost in various modes of passion -- this line really speaks to the whole.

Finally, I am reminded of something Casey brought up a couple weeks ago -- that the role of the "Censer" in mass is to purify the earth -- he is the one that comes through with the incense.

Censor blows Reason into the dancing faces/groundless feet of Passion so that maybe Wisdom can prevail.



Magis Theatre Company said...

Very interesting and totally "in fashion" of the time. Notice Thomas Paine's work.
The following is from Wikipedia.
"The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology", a deistic treatise written by eighteenth-century British radical and American revolutionary Thomas Paine, critiques institutionalized religion and challenges the inerrancy of the Bible. Published in three parts in 1794, 1795, and 1807, it was a bestseller in America, where it caused a short-lived deistic revival. British audiences, however, fearing increased political radicalism as a result of the French revolution, received it with more hostility.

At the beginning of Part I of the Age of Reason, Paine lays out his personal creed:

I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy.
But, lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe


So Smatter, would... of course worship in no other church but the church of her "own mind."
It's very easy to excommunicate anyone who thinks differently than you are if you are your own Pope... or is it Swift? (bad pun)
-- George

Erika said...

George, I get your point about Smatter's "church of her own mind," although Paine does not seem to be saying that he would excommunicate anyone who disagrees with him. He says that others have a right to believe what they wish, and that each person must remain true to what they personally believe. I'm not sure that Paine is exactly laying out a creed, he seems to be more in the "deeds not creeds" vein of the Unitarians: "religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy." Paine sounds more like Censor than like Smatter to me. (But then, I am a Unitarian, and therefore perhaps biased....)

Magis Theatre Company said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Magis Theatre Company said...

Quite true... my comments were not a critique of Paine; I would leave that to the Witlings themselves. It was merely a dovetailing of these thoughts to your own discussion. Since Smatter tends to take things out of context, I thought it was a fair bet that she might like that quip.