Thursday, September 20, 2012

Attention Must Be Paid

Ordinary lives of ordinary people can be made into high art.

Russell Banks


Hello Lily


It all began with Figaro. He was a character invented by the French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais (1732 - 1799). He wrote three plays on the subject of Figaro who was essentially a barber, a simple but clever man with wit and intelligence who eventually worked his way up to a position of power and influence. Beaumarchais' plays were originally produced prior to the French revolution in which he was involved and also in the American. revolution.

It was said that the French aristocracy would come and see the plays and laugh at the preposterous idea that a simple man, a commoner, should attain such power and be so capable of wielding it. Soon however the revolution came and the aristocrats had stopped laughing. Figaro was a prophetic character. Which makes one stop and pay attention..

It took some time before Beaumarchais' idea caught on. French and Italian opera was still being written about kings, queens, nobles and holy men until

Giacomo Puccini whose characters were ordinarily people with real stories. One of his most famous operas is Madama Butterfly about a Japanese girl who marries an American naval officer thinking he will return to her and the love affair will last forever.. When he finally does return, with his American wife, the poor girl kills herself. That opera is very popular in the US even though it doesn't paint a good picture of us. It makes one stop and pay attention.

One of the greatest American plays is "Death of a Salesman" written by Arthur Miller and first produced in 1949 on Broadway It starred Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock. Willy Loman is a traveling salesman, he, his wife and two sons are trying to make a go of it in an uncertain world and it's a desperate struggle. It is a prophetic ploy for sure since it is the recessions this country has suffered that has created many Willy Lomans. Vacillating between useless bravado and depressing failure he eventually kills himself just as the mortgage is paid off and they are"free and clear." Willy says through the play "attention must be paid."

Aristocrats may lead extraordinary lives, but it's the ordinary people who tell the true stories of life.

Dana Bate - The Vagabond

Never give up.


1 comment:

Geo. said...

Been a long time since I read that play in English 1A. Seems to me there was another directive that thematized Willy Loman's life: to be well-liked. He'd get all uncertain about it, whether he'd achieved it or not, and his wife was most supportive. He settled on the idea that he was liked but not well-liked, which might be what killed him. Bela Lugosi, with his axiom, "there is no such thing as bad publicity" had a clearer view of modern advertising and commerce. I never quite understood either notion but, even tho he was not so fictitious as Loman, Lugosi lived longer.