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Tony Grist

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The Rover [Sep. 13th, 2005|10:45 am]
Tony Grist
Ailz is writing an essay on Aphra Behn's The Rover.

I suffer alongside.

Aphra Behn was the first Englishwoman to earn her living as a writer. She's a hero, no doubt about it.

But the Rover is a problematic text. It's a comedy about a group of Englishmen behaving badly in Naples in the 1650s. It's as blokey as all hell and it climaxes with a couple of scenes of attempted rape.

Ho ho ho.

One guy in one of Ailz's discussion groups suggests it should be played as if it were the Benny Hill Show.

Perhaps, but most of us these days don't find Benny all that funny either.

It's a play without heart. I tell myself that Behn's England of the 1670s was a society brutalised by the experience of civil war followed by Puritan theocracy- a society in post-traumatic shock. This makes the play easier to understand, but not to like.

It's elbowed its way into the canon because a woman wrote it (there are better Restoration plays) but there's nothing feminist about it.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-09-13 03:55 am (UTC)
So that's what Ailz is up to these days. I was planning to ask how she was, since I haven't heard from her in awhile.

I suppose one can learn from bad work ("a play without heart") in a different way from good, but it's a painful lesson. Too bad the course doesn't just glance at this work as a curiosity and then move on to something juicier.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-09-13 04:50 am (UTC)
Yes, she's been writing essays, not LJ entries.

The Rover pulls off the remarkable double of being both disgusting and dull. There's a tape we've been watching with Andy Serkis (Gollum) implausibly cast as the rakehell hero- and it's just about the most tedious thing I've ever had to sit through.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-09-13 04:58 am (UTC)
Please give Ailz my regards and sympathy!

Know what I'm yearning to see again? The brilliant Six Wives of Henry VIII done by the BBC several years ago. I suppose you've seen the series.

My mother had the tapes, but they've been given away. I think I'll go to Netflix.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-09-13 05:48 am (UTC)
I saw it when it first came out. Yes, it was must-see TV.

I'm sure the BBC will have issued it on DVD.
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From: saskia139
2005-09-13 09:08 am (UTC)
Also, try your local or central library's audio-visual department. The library where I work owns them and we've watched them again recently--very entertaining, another example of what you can do with a small budget and good actors and a couple of cameras.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-09-13 03:53 pm (UTC)
A good idea! Thank you.

The actors were brilliant, the settings also.

Another of my favorite BBC series: Upstairs, Downstairs. Wonderful! My favorite was the King's visit for a bridge party.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-09-13 05:59 am (UTC)
I'd be curious to see that essay.

I remember a Monty Python sketch which involved a cat being blown up. Is that the same thing or different? Different I'd say, because the Pythons were aiming to shock and I don't suppose the 16th century essayist was.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-09-13 05:49 am (UTC)
She's craftyailz and she's delighted to have readers. She hasn't been posting much recently because of the demands of her Open University course.
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From: saskia139
2005-09-13 09:06 am (UTC)
I cannot hear of Benny Hill without thinking of my dad, who thought Benny was the Funniest Thing Evar. *g* Oh, well--can't choose one's relatives. He also liked jazz and science fiction.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-09-13 10:56 am (UTC)
Poor Benny. The TV company stopped commissioning his shows and he more or less died of grief. He hadn't noticed how the world had changed around him.
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[User Picture]From: barbarakitten_t
2005-09-13 11:08 am (UTC)
i can only offer tea and sympathy...

just because the pen was held by a woman is not a guarantee of quality writing....
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-09-13 11:38 am (UTC)
Aphra Behn was a talented and courageous person. An inspiration to us all.

I just wish I liked her writing more.
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