Victoria, Season 2, Week 4

Faith, Hope and Charity

This week’s episode centered on the Irish Potato Famine and the British lack of response. First we see a meeting of Church of Ireland pastors, which is connected to the Anglican Church, where the men discuss their response to the potato famine. They’re offering soup kitchens to the Catholics who agree to switch denominations. They gripe about the poor Catholics who haven’t tithed to the Church of Ireland, which the law required them to do. Yes, later in the episode Victoria appalled, too. Why donate to a church you don’t belong to?

In the 19th century anti-Catholicism is in high gear. Only one pastor, Dr. Traill, objects and sees that all the Irish need food. The rest are quite un-Christian and wiling to let their neighbors starve. I suppose they’re unfamiliar with Mark 25: 35-40.

At Kensington Palace, Victoria and Albert welcome Ernst who’s got some mysterious health problem, which turns out to be an STD. The condition is slowly revealed.

Lord Peel and a new character, who’s a real churl, Charles Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, explain to Victoria why they can’t help the Irish. Trevelan hates the Irish whom he thinks are subhuman. In fact he thinks the famine is a boon, because it will cull the herd. Victoria was rightly appalled. She seeks solutions, but neither Peel nor Trevelyan want to rock the boat in Parliament. Victoria wants to feed these people and she wants to repeal the Corn Laws, tariffs that protected the price of grains. Peel and Vrevelyan worry that if we give free food to the starving, everyone will expect free food.

Victoria confers with Albert over the matter, but Albert’s so upset with the stench of the old plumbing that he brushes her off. He’s hellbent on getting more WC’s in the palace. I’m not sure why he couldn’t manage both issues. He’s basically an executive. His job is to make decisions while someone else installs WC’s or sends the food to Ireland.

irish-potato-famine-1846-47-granger

Downstairs our attention is drawn to the servant girl who’s from Ireland. She’s lied about being Protestant to keep her job. Her family is starving back home. She needs to get money to send to them so they can eat. One great scene is when she tells off Penge, who makes snide remarks about Papists and the famine.

Ernst is told that his mistress Harriet’s husband has died. This should be a great opportunity for him to court her openly. (Though this is not historical at all. The real Ernst was already married by now and this particular lord did not die in a hunting accident or in this year. He died later.)

I can’t feel sorry for Ernst. Actions have consequences. Fooling around with prostitutes comes at a cost. Laughing off his choices as following in his reprobate father’s footsteps is ridiculous. Ernst gambled with his life. I will feel sorry for any woman the show might marry him off to.

phytophtora_infestans-effects

A diseased potato

When Victoria asks the duchess about her land in Ireland, Charlotte, dismisses the country as an uncivilized spot with no real society. She should stay in London. The duchess is a poor traveler.

Mr. Francatelli is seen consorting with some woman who wants him to sell palace secrets and go with her to America. Apparently, she’s the source of all the finery he’s been able to afford. However, he decides to stay put (so the storyline with Skerret can continue). He gives the Irish servant girl his gold watch so she can sell it and send the money home.

The queen does send the Irish some help, which is true to the history. In spite of his wife’s protests, Dr. Traill does the Christian thing and opens a soup kitchen at the vicarage. He contracts typhus and dies. The episode ended with a montage of the starving of Ireland. Hats off to the show for using Irish music throughout, but to squeeze a famine that went on for years into one episode is just wrong. I think the issue should have come up throughout this and probably next season.

Here’s a collection of tweets that an Irish newspaper collected in response to this episode.

Advertisements

The Book of Will

ct-1511289057-ux9gm7oh09-snap-image

What a fun play! Written by Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will at the Northlight Theater till December 17th tells the story of how without the effort of his friends, we wouldn’t have an authentic collection of William Shakespeare’s plays. In 1620 after Will had passed on, his friends were fed up with bad Shakespearean plays. Some were bad versions patched up with garbled versions of the plays made from copyists in the audience who tried to take down everything that was said. Some were just plays written by hacks who tried to copy Shakespeare’s style.

The play begins in a pub near The Globe theater where three of Shakespeare’s friends Richard Burbage, John Heminges, Henry Condell, actors from the King’s Men’s troupe and Condell’s daughter Elizabeth bemoan the horrible fakery that passes for Shakespeare. When Burbage dies suddenly they realize the only chance for passing these masterpiece plays down to posterity is to collect and publish a folio. It’s an expensive undertaking that is complicated by the lack of a full set of originals. A few plays are here, another bunch are with a scrivener, most actors only got their part, not the full play so some had to be carefully put together. No respectable printer wanted to touch the project so Heminges and Condell had to settle for a slimy, greedy cheat.

The play is delightful as it weaves memorable passaged of the Bard’s work throughout the story, which is well paced. The characters include Shakespeare’s wife, daughter and mistress, and Heminges’ and Condell’s wives and and so there is some female influence supporting the impossible project. The Northlight’s set and costumes were perfect. I’m tempted to go again.

What’s great about the Northlight is free parking and every seat has a clear view.

Antony and Cleopatra

Film_Cleopatra_Gallery_Embrace

After reading the play for my book club, I watched the 1971 Antony and Cleopatra film starring, written and directed by Charlton Heston. It was a grand epic and I think today a director would be more naturalistic, which isn’t necessarily bad. I did appreciate the grandeur and pretty much expected that in a Heston production.

I was surprised by the amount of skin shown. We see Charlton Heston in a thong-like loin cloth and some women’s bare backsides. It was the early 70s and Antony and Cleopatra were led by their desires and Cleopatra’s court was hedonistic in Shakespeare. (Earlier Chaucer wrote about Cleopatra and she was more of a “good wife,” more nurturing and romantic.)

The film did make parts of the play, which I read for my online book club, clearer.

The film was able to show the scale of the battles and their brutality, which was quite gory, but how things would have been. While it wasn’t perfect, I got the sense that the film did include authentic aspects of the Ancient World.

It reinforced my attitudes toward the characters–they weren’t at all admirable, but they were compelling as great people who suffered great falls.

As I watched I wondered why Shakespeare had all three servants–Iras, Charmian, and Eros–commit suicide for their masters. Such blind loyalty. I wondered how Shakespeare’s contemporaries thought of that. I wondered why no one went on to move on with their lives. Two women killed themselves for Cleopatra. Wow. Was she worth dying for? Ladies, you could have had a better life post-Cleopatra.

There was a scene in the film that really struck me. In Act 2, Scene 2 when Caesar and Lepidus are conferring Caesar’s watching two gladiators spar. Then Antony walks in and he and Caesar . All the while the gladiators spar and are quite violent. Therefore there was a good tension between the veiled, polite language Antony and Cleopatra use and the increasing fighting Caesar’s seeing.

10,000 Marks

My old employer, DDB has an office in China. Last month I showed my students a couple of their commercials. I just discovered this one. It’s thought provoking for this culture, where mothers tend to view their children critically so they have room to improve. DDB wondered whether they could change this behavior with an ad.

It’s gotten 40 million views and counting in China.

I found this moving, but also wondered about making women feel guilty while televised. I suppose if they felt willing to criticize their kids in front of a camera, they perhaps opened themselves up to this, but then again they were following a cultural norm.

What do you think?

More from Dressing Downton

DSCN5427

Tearoom at the Driehaus Museum

DSCN5441DSCN5453DSCN5465

DSCN5475

Care to guess who wore which of these at Rose’s presentation?

DSCN5506DSCN5445

DSCN5444

Just like Violet always wears violet, for Rose they liked to                                                                put her in rose or include a rose in her clothes or jewelry

Background: Mr Selfridge

winifred black About Winifred Sweet Black Bonfils, the reporter in tonight’s episode, Encyclopedia Britannica says:

Winifred Black, née Winifred Sweet, (born Oct. 14, 1863, Chilton, Wis., U.S.—died May 25, 1936, San Francisco, Calif.), American reporter whose sensationalist exposés and journalistic derring-do reflected the spirit of the age of yellow journalism. Winifred Sweet grew up from 1869 on a farm near Chicago. She attended private schools in Chicago, in Lake Forest, Illinois, and in Northampton, Massachusetts, and after an unsuccessful attempt to establish herself in the theatre she turned to journalism. On a western trip on family business in 1890, she won a position as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, William Randolph Hearst’s first newspaper. The era of yellow journalism was just dawning, and the example of Elizabeth Seaman (whose nom de plume was Nellie Bly) had helped set the style for woman reporters. Taking the pseudonym Annie Laurie, Sweet scored a number of exposés, scoops, and circulation-building publicity stunts. A “fainting spell” on a downtown street led to an exposé of San Francisco’s receiving hospital and the purchase of a city ambulance. She secured by a ruse an exclusive interview with President Benjamin Harrison aboard his campaign train in 1892; in the same year, she investigated the leper colony on Molokai, Hawaiian Islands. She was also active in organizing various charities and public benefactions, using her column in the Examiner to mobilize public concern; among these was the California Children’s Excursion to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. In 1892 she married a colleague, Orlow Black, but they were divorced five years later. In 1895 Hearst sent her to New York City to help his newly acquired New York Journal battle Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, but she found that city uncongenial and in 1897 settled in Denver, Colorado, where she joined the staff of Harry H. Tammen and Frederick G. Bonfils’s boisterous Denver Post. She continued to contribute feature articles to Hearst’s chain as well. When Hearst launched a newspaper campaign against Mormon polygamy in 1898, she went to Utah and reported from the scene. In 1900 she disguised herself as a boy and slipped through a police cordon to become the first outside reporter and only woman journalist to enter Galveston, Texas, in the aftermath of the disastrous flood of September 8. She opened a temporary hospital in the city and administered relief funds collected through the Hearst papers. In 1906 she reported from San Francisco following the great earthquake of April 18, and in 1907 she observed the trial of Harry K. Thaw for his June 1906 murder of architect Stanford White. The favourable coverage accorded by Black and other female reporters to Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, who was the featured attraction of the case, gave rise to the epithet “sob sister.” Though Black married again, the second marriage also ended in divorce. She continued to travel widely as a reporter in her later years. Reference Winifred Sweet Black. (n.d.) Encyclopedia Britanica. Retrieved May 17, 2014.(See if your local library has this encyclopedia online.)