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Elia and The Last Essays of Elia / Charles Lamb, by Charles Lamb On the Artificial Comedy of the Last

Century The artificial Comedy, or Comedy of manners, is quite extinct on our stage. Congreve and Farquhar show their heads once in seven years only, to be exploded and put down instantly. The times cannot bear them. Is it for a few wild speeches, an occasional license of dialogue? I thin not altogether. The business of their dramatic characters will not stand the moral test. !e screw every thing up to that. Idle gallantry in a fiction, a dream, the passing pageant of an evening, startles us in the same way as the alarming indications of profligacy in a son or ward in real life should startle a parent or guardian. !e have no such middle emotions as dramatic interests left. !e see a stage libertine playing his loose pran s of two hours" duration, and of no after consequence, with the severe eyes which inspect real vices with their bearings upon two worlds. !e are spectators to a plot or intrigue #not reducible in life to the point of strict morality$ and ta e it all for truth. !e substitute a real for a dramatic person, and %udge him accordingly. !e try him in our courts, from which there is no appeal to the dramatis person, his peers. !e have been spoiled with & not sentimental comedy & but a tyrant far more pernicious to our pleasures which has succeeded to it, the exclusive and all devouring drama of common life' where the moral point is every thing' where, instead of the fictitious half(believed personages of the stage #the phantoms of old comedy$ we recognise ourselves, our brothers, aunts, insfol , allies, patrons, enemies & the same as in life & with an interest in what is going on so hearty and substantial, that we cannot afford our moral %udgment, in its deepest and most vital results, to compromise or slumber for a moment. !hat is there transacting, by no modification is made to affect us in any other manner than the same events or characters would do in our relationships of life. !e carry our fire(side concerns to the theatre with us. !e do not go thither, li e our ancestors, to escape from the pressure of reality, so much as to confirm our experience of it' to ma e assurance double, and ta e a bond of fate. !e must live our toilsome lives twice over, as it was the mournful privilege of )lysses to descend twice to the shades. *ll that neutral ground of character, which stood between vice and virtue' or which in fact was indifferent to neither, where neither properly was called in question' that happy breathing(place from the burthen of a perpetual moral questioning & the sanctuary and quiet *lsatia of hunted casuistry & is bro en up and disfranchised, as in%urious to the interests of society. The privileges of the place are ta en away

by law. !e dare not dally with images, or names, of wrong. !e bar li e foolish dogs at shadows. !e dread infection from the scenic representation of disorder' and fear a painted pustule. In our anxiety that our morality should not ta e cold, we wrap it up in a great blan et surtout of precaution against the bree+e and sunshine. I confess for myself that #with no great delinquencies to answer for$ I am glad for a season to ta e an airing beyond the diocese of the strict conscience & not to live always in the precincts of the law(courts & but now and then, for a dream(while or so, to imagine a world with no meddling restrictions & to get into recesses, whither the hunter cannot follow me & & ,ecret shades -f woody Ida"s inmost grove, !hile yet there was no fear of .ove & I come bac to my cage and my restraint the fresher and more healthy for it. I wear my shac les more contentedly for having respired the breath of an imaginary freedom. I do not now how it is with others, but I feel the better always for the perusal of one of Congreve"s & nay, why should I not add even of !ycherley"s & comedies. I am the gayer at least for it' and I could never connect those sports of a witty fancy in any shape with any result to be drawn from them to imitation in real life. They are a world of themselves almost as much as fairy(land. Ta e one of their characters, male or female #with few exceptions they are ali e$, and place it in a modern play, and my virtuous indignation shall rise against the profligate wretch as warmly as the Catos of the pit could desire' because in a modern play I am to %udge of the right and the wrong. The standard of police is the measure of political justice. The atmosphere will blight it, it cannot live here. It has got into a moral world, where it has no business, from which it must needs fall headlong' as di++y, and incapable of ma ing a stand, as a ,wedenborgian bad spirit that has wandered unawares into the sphere of one of his /ood 0en, or *ngels. 1ut in its own world do we feel the creature is so very bad? & The Fainalls and the 0irabels, the 2orimants and the 3ady Touchwoods, in their own sphere, do not offend my moral sense' in fact they do not appeal to it at all. They seem engaged in their proper element. They brea through no laws, or conscientious restraints. They now of none. They have got out of Christendom into the land & what shall I call it? & of cuc oldry & the )topia of gallantry, where pleasure is duty, and the manners perfect freedom. It is altogether a speculative scene of things, which has no reference whatever to the world that is. 4o good person can be %ustly offended as a

spectator, because no good person suffers on the stage. .udged morally, every character in in these plays & the few exceptions only are mistakes& is ali e essentially vain and worthless. The great art of Congreve is especially shown in this, that he has entirely excluded from his scenes & some little generosities in the part of *ngelica perhaps excepted & not only any thing li e a faultless character, but any pretensions to goodness or good feelings whatsoever. !hether he did this designedly, or instinctively, the effect is as happy, as the design #if design$ was bold. I used to wonder at the strange power which his !ay of the !orld in particular possesses of interesting you all along in the pursuits of characters, for whom you absolutely care nothing & for you neither hate nor love his personages & and I thin it is owing to this very indifference for any, that you endure the whole. 5e has spread a privation of moral light, I will call it, rather than by the ugly name of palpable dar ness, over his creations' and his shadows flit before you without distinction or preference. 5ad he introduced a good character, a single gush of moral feeling, a revulsion of the %udgment to actual life and actual duties, the impertinent /oshen would have only lighted to the discovery of deformities, which now are none, because we thin them none. Translated into real life, the characters of his, and his friend !ycherley"s dramas, are profligates and strumpets & the business of their brief existence, the undivided pursuit of lawless gallantry. 4o other spring of action, or possible motive of conduct, is recognised' principles which, universally acted upon, must reduce this frame of things to a chaos. 1ut we do them wrong in so translating them. 4o such effects are produced in their world. !hen we are among them, we are amongst a chaotic people. !e are not to %udge them by our usages. 4o reverend institutions are insulted by their proceedings & for they have none among them. 4o peace of families is violated & for no family ties exist among them. 4o purity of the marriage bed is stained & for none is supposed to have a being. 4o deep affections are disquieted & no holy wedloc bands are snapped asunder & for affection"s depth and wedded faith are not of the growth of that soil. There is neither right nor wrong & gratitude or its opposite & claim or duty & paternity or sonship. -f what consequence is it to virtue, or how is she at all concerned about it, whether ,ir ,imon, or 2apperwit, steal away 0iss 0artha' or who is the father of 3ord Froth"s, or ,ir 6aul 6liant"s children. The whole is a passing pageant, where we should sit as unconcerned at the issues, for life or death, as at a battle of the frogs and mice. 1ut, li e 2on 7uixote, we ta e part against the puppets, and quite as impertinently. !e dare not contemplate an *tlantis, a scheme, out of which our coxcombical moral sense is for a little transitory ease excluded. !e have not the courage to imagine a state of things for

which there is neither reward nor punishment. !e cling to the painful necessities of shame and blame. !e would indict our very dreams. *midst the mortifying circumstances attendant upon growing old, it is something to have seen the ,chool for ,candal in its glory. This comedy grew out of Congreve and !ycherley, but gathered some allays of the sentimental comedy which followed theirs. It is impossible that it should be now acted, though it continues, at long intervals, to be announced in the bills. Its hero, when 6almer played it at least, was .oseph ,urface. !hen I remember the gay boldness, the graceful solemn plausibility, the measured step, the insinuating voice & to express it in a word & the downright acted villany of the part, so different from the pressure of conscious actual wic edness & the hypocritical assumption of hypocrisy & which made .ac so deservedly a favourite in that character, I must needs conclude the present generation of play(goers more virtuous than myself, or more dense. I freely confess that he divided the palm with me with his better brother' that, in fact, I li ed him quite as well. 4ot but there are passages & li e that, for instance, where .oseph is made to refuse a pittance to a poor relation & incongruities which ,heridan was forced upon by the attempt to %oin the artificial with the sentimental comedy, either of which must destroy the other & but over these obstructions .ac "s manner floated him so lightly, that a refusal from him no more shoc ed you, than the easy compliance of Charles gave you in reality any pleasure' you got over the paltry question as quic ly as you could, to get bac into the regions of pure comedy, where no cold moral reigns. The highly artificial manner of 6almer in this character counteracted every disagreeable impression which you might have received from the contrast, supposing them real, between the two brothers. 8ou did not believe in .oseph with the same faith with which you believed in Charles. The latter was a pleasant reality, the former a no less pleasant poetical foil to it. The comedy, I have said, is incongruous' a mixture of Congreve with sentimental incompatibilities9 the gaiety upon the whole is buoyant' but it required the consummate art of 6almer to reconcile the discordant elements. * player with .ac "s talents, if we had one now, would not dare to do the part in the same manner. 5e would instinctively avoid every turn which might tend to unrealise, and so to ma e the character fascinating. 5e must ta e his cue from his spectators, who would expect a bad man and a good man as rigidly opposed to each other as the death(beds of those geniuses are contrasted in the prints, which I am sorry to say have disappeared from the windows of my old friend Carrington 1owles, of ,t. 6aul"s Church(yard memory &#an exhibition as venerable as the ad%acent cathedral, and almost coeval$ of the bad and good man at the hour of death' where the ghastly apprehensions of the former & and truly the grim

phantom with his reality of a toasting for is not to be despised & so finely contrast with the mee complacent issing of the rod & ta ing it in li e honey and butter & with which the latter submits to the scythe of the gentle bleeder, Time, who wields his lancet with the apprehensive finger of a popular young ladies" surgeon. !hat flesh, li e loving grass, would not covet to meet half(way the stro e of such a delicate mower? & .ohn 6almer was twice an actor in this exquisite part. 5e was playing to you all the while that he was playing upon ,ir 6eter and his lady. 8ou had the first intimation of a sentiment before it was on his lips. 5is altered voice was meant to you, and you were to suppose that his fictitious coflutterers on the stage perceived nothing at all of it. !hat was it to you if that half(reality, the husband, was over(reached by the puppetry & or the thin thing #3ady Tea+le"s reputation$ was persuaded it was dying of a plethory? The fortunes of -thello and 2esdemona were not concerned in it. 6oor .ac has past from the stage in good time, that he did not live to this our age of seriousness. The pleasant old Tea+le King, too, is gone in good time. 5is manner would scarce have past current in our day. !e must love or hate & acquit or condemn & censure or pity & exert our detestable coxcombry of moral %udgment upon every thing. .oseph ,urface, to go down now, must be a downright revolting villain & no compromise & his first appearance must shoc and give horror & his specious plausibilities, which the pleasurable faculties of our fathers welcomed with such hearty greetings, nowing that no harm #dramatic harm even$ could come, or was meant to come of them, must inspire a cold and illing aversion. Charles #the real canting person of the scene & for the hypocrisy of .oseph has its ulterior legitimate ends, but his brother"s professions of a good heart centre in downright self(satisfaction$ must be loved and .oseph hated. To balance one disagreeable reality with another, ,ir 6eter Tea+le must be no longer the comic idea of a fretful old bachelor bridegroom, whose teasings #while :ing acted it$ were evidently as much played off at you, as they were meant to concern any body on the stage & he must be a real person, capable in law of sustaining an in%ury & a person towards whom duties are to be ac nowledged & the genuine crim(con antagonist of the villanous seducer .oseph. To realise him more, his sufferings under his unfortunate match must have the downright pungency of life & must #or should$ ma e you not mirthful but uncomfortable, %ust as the same predicament would move you in a neighbour or old friend. The delicious scenes which give the play its name and +est, must affect you in the same serious manner as if you heard the reputation of a dear female friend attac ed in your real presence. Crabtree, and ,ir 1en%amin & those poor sna es that live but in the sunshine of your mirth & must be rippened by this hot( bed process of reali+ation into asps or amphisb;nas' and 0rs. Candour & -< frightful< become a hooded serpent. -h who that remembers 6arsons and 2odd & the wasp and butterfly of the ,chool for ,candal & in those two characters' and

charming natural 0iss 6ope, the perfect gentlewoman as distinguished from the fine lady of comedy, in this latter part & would forego the true scenic delight & the escape from life & the oblivion of consequences & the holiday barring out of the pedant =eflection & those ,aturnalia of two or three brief hours, well won from the world & to sit instead at one of our modern plays & to have his coward conscience #that forsooth must not be left for a moment$ stimulated with perpetual appeals & dulled rather, and blunted, as a faculty without repose must be(and his moral vanity pampered with images of notional %ustice, notional beneficence, lives saved without the spectators" ris , and fortunes given away that cost the author nothing? 4o piece was, perhaps, ever so completely cast in all its parts as this managers comedy. 0iss Farren had succeeded to 0rs. *bingdon in 3ady Tea+le' and ,mith, the original Charles, had retired, when I first saw it. The rest of the characters, with very slight exceptions, remained. I remember it was then the fashion to cry down .ohn :emble, who too the part of Charles after ,mith' but, I thought, very un%ustly. ,mith, I fancy, was more airy, and too the eye with a certain gaiety of person. 5e brought with him no sombre recollections of tragedy. 5e had not to expiate the fault of having pleased beforehand in lofty declamation. 5e had no sins of 5amlet or of =ichard to atone for. 5is failure in these parts was a passport to success in one of so opposite a tendency. 1ut, as far as I could %udge, the weighty sense of :emble made up for more personal incapacity than he had to answer for. 5is harshest tones in this part came steeped and dulcified in good humour. 5e made his defects a grace. 5is exact declamatory manner, as he managed it, only served to convey the points of his dialogue with more precision. It seemed to head the shafts to carry them deeper. 4ot one of his spar ling sentences was lost. I remember minutely how he delivered each in succession, and cannot by any effort imagine how any of them could be altered for the better. 4o man could deliver brilliant dialogue & the dialogue of Congreve or of !ycherley & because none understood it & half so well as .ohn :emble. 5is >alentine, in 3ove for 3ove, was, to my recollection, faultless. 5e flagged sometimes in the intervals of tragic passion. 5e would slumber over the level parts of an heroic character. 5is 0acbeth has been nown to nod. 1ut he always seemed to me to be particularly alive to pointed and witty dialogue. The relaxing levities of tragedy have not been touched by any since him & the playful court(bred spirit in which he condescended to the players in 5amlet & the sportive relief which he threw into the dar er shades of =ichard & disappeared with him. 5e had his sluggish moods, his torpors & but they were the halting(stones and resting(places of his tragedy(politic savings, and fetches of the breath & husbandry of the lungs, where nature pointed him to be an economist & rather, I thin , than errors of the %udgment. They were, at worst, less

painful than the eternal tormenting unappeasable vigilance, the ?lidless dragon eyes,@ of present fashionable tragedy.

SILENCE!THE CO !T IS IN SESSION ,ilence< The Court is in ,ession is a classic instance of appearance and reality and the fine blending between the two, so that, neither the characters nor the audience can ma e out the line of demarcation between the two. The main action of the play begins as a moc (trial. 1efore the characters reali+e, they start pouring out their spleen against the accused, 3eela 1enare. *s the charges against her so perfectly match her real life situation that she, too, forgets it being a moc (trial and ta es everything seriously. In the process, she gets completely shattered. For the characters, too, their appearance or the mas of a civili+ed person is removed and the brute behind the mas is revealed with the contribution of each of them in tormenting and cornering the lone prey, 3eela 1enare. =adical feminist theory is chiefly concerned with the issues arising out of prostitution, sexual harassment, rape and woman battering. :ate 0illet insists that the roots of women"s oppression are deeply buried in gender system of patriarchy. This ideology is wea as it separates women from the mainstream rather than integrating them into it. =adical feminism sees the oppression of women as fundamental and the most basic form of oppression. *ll other forms of oppression stem from male dominance. The purpose of this oppression is to obtain psychological ego satisfaction and strength and self(esteem. In patriarchal culture power is equated with aggression and masculinity' wea ness with compassion and feminity. !omen are supposed to bear male oppression silently and mee ly. !here they fail todo so, they are branded as Aloud" hysterical, cra+y and punished. >i%ay Tendul ar is one of the prominent Indian playwrights. 5e is also nown as screen and television writer, literary essayist political %ournalist and social commentator. 5e is a man of radical and progressive views. >i%ay Tendul ar has powerfully articulated the socio(political situations in his plays. 5e has expressed it by saying. The silence the court is in session is a play about the difficult of a young woman, who is a victim of the male dominated society. Tendul ar has critici+ed the follies prevailing in the society The original name of the drama in 0arathi is ,hantata< Court chalu *he#BCDE$. It was translated in Fnglish by 6riya *dar ar. The words of the title are very common in law courts where the honorable .udges pronounce the words to bring bac order and decorum if the parties concerned create chaos and commotion. In other words, the very words

silence the court is the session indicate the absolute authority of the %udge in the court room to decide upon the manners of others. The %udge has also the final authority to pronounce contempt of court in case of breach of discipline. In a civili+ed society the court system is in vogue for the sa e of %ustice. The %udiciary is considered to be one of the four main pillars of democracy. In ,ilence< the court is in session >i%ay Tendul ar chooses a term of %udicial register as the title of his play to ma e a powerful common on society with a heavy patriarchal bias that ma es %ustice impossible. * %udicial court is supposed to be a seat of .ustice, seriousness and decorum. Through out this play, Tendul ar also ma es a review of the present day court procedures, and points out the problem of degradation of the court. Tendul ar"s ,ilence< The court is in session depicted the tragedy of an individual victimi+ed by society. The female protagonist becomes the victim of sadism of his male counterparts. The audience is made to witness a more enactment of what is rehearsal of sort of a moc (trial to be stage later in the day. The woman, 1enare, who faces the moc charge of infanticide in the moc rehearsal of a play and whose affair with professor 2amale exposed by her fellow actors. It is on ,u hatme"s suggestion they decide to ma e 1enare the accused. It is notable that 1enare is allotted the role of accused of silence< The world is in session. 1enare is cross(examined in the court with full moc ery. *ll the other characters li e witnesses 0r. /opal 6on she, 0r. :arni , =o de, ,amant, Counsel for the defense and counsel for the crown 0r. ,u hatme and .udge, 0r. :ashi ar and his wife 0rs. :ashi ar all behave in a way of moc ery. 1enare is summoned merely as a witness while she remains the prime accused as the mother of an illegitimate child and having illicit relations with so many persons. In the beginning of the play, we find 1enare bubbling with over(confidence. ,he represents the wor ing class women who want lead a liberated life. Though she is a victim of incest, it is not in the main focus as it is referred to by way of reflection by 1enare herself. ,he is robbed of her virginity when shehardly fourteen years old. The focal point of the play is the violent response of the maledominated society to ore(marital relationship and motherhood. The moc G trial holds a mirror to our social response to such things. It is pre(eminently male biased. !hat is wrong, immoral for a woman is not so far a man. 1enare is the accused and not 6rof. 2amle. The character of 0s. 1enare reminds us to various female characters depicted by *rundhati =oy, ,hashi 2eshpande and *nita 2esai in their boo s. These writers also exposed the suffering of the women at the hands of the male dominating society. The moc ( trial holds a mirror to our social response to moral values. ,ex is a private affair in one"s life. 1ut there certain social and moral values attached to it. 6re(martial or post(marital sexual relations are condemned in Indian society.

The social rules in practice are more( strict for women than for men. Tendul ar throws light on the hypocrisy of the society that excuses men and women for the same offence. 1enares maternal uncle no where appears as an accused for committing incest with her similarly 6rof. 2amle is merely a witness in the trail of the case, where as 1enare is an accused of the society of law. ,he has done no offence in the eyes and the law, but she has violated the social taboo. This false position of the men in the court, as he has done any infanticide, prompts them to an illegal wedding of the %udicial laws and social laws to prosecute the woman challenging men"s authority. * feminist would discern a realistic depiction of the society and the court biased against the women as they are dominated by men. 3eela 1enare competing for equality with men in their own world. -n the other hand, 0rs. :ashi ar is middle aged, married, a house wife and disapproving of childless. 0rs :ashi ar thin s that it is woman because of being a man and husband. ,he does not oppose her insults and still seen, 0r. :ashi ar as a caring husband because he has bought a string of flower for her hair, a to en of romance not love. 0rs. :ashi ar has damaging view against 1enare. ,he does not hesitate to say that these young unmarried girls get everything without marrying. ,he shows her doubt, how can 1enare remain unmarried till the age of thirty(four? 0an has all the rights to be sinful in the society.*ll the rights to are reserved specially for him. -n the other hand, a woman must be deserted, ignored, thrown away and should be punished for her sins. !omen have been faced several problem and they havebeen exploited by the men and society at large. They have suffered insilence and feminism tilts exactly about her. !omen in literature, through thecenturies, have been based upon the mythic models from the =amayana and the 6uranas9 ,ita(silent sufferer. 1enare represents all the women in India who are suppressed oppressed and are marginali+ed. ,he brea s down during the moc ( trail because the story of the character in the play she is performing at the moc ( trail is identical to her own. 1enare was psychologically harassed but was still starving to search for her existence. *ccording to 6. -bula =eddy and 6. 6ramila2evi. 1enare, the principal character in the play is as sprightly, rebellious and assertive as the heroine of ,ha espeare romantic comedies ( of course. 1enare is lovely spar from the thunder bolt of Tendul ar. ,he is a new woman pleading for freedom from the social norms. It is most stri ing that 1enare"s defiance of the traditional taboos and demands of marriage with her uncle in a play produced in BCDE. !hen society was far more conservative and tradition(bound it was certainly radical of its time. Tendul ar depicts women as being equal underneath their socio(economic class. ,ilence is a symbol of oppression, a characteristic of the subaltern condition, while speech

signifies self(expression and liberation. 3eela 1enare is refused to be cowed down by men. The last speech of 0s. 1enare was s illfully constructed by Tendul ar. It echoes the irony, sorrow lampoon present in Indian society. 0s. 1enare said' 1ut I was ignorant instead' I threw myself off a parapet of our house(to embrace death. 1ut I didn"t die. 0y body didn"t dieI felt as it feelings were dead G out they had not died either then. *rundhati 1aner%ee in an HIntroduction" to >i%ay Tenduli ar"s five plays compares it to 4ora"s declaration9 1enare"s monologue is reminiscent of 4ora"s declaration of independence but lac s the note of protest that characteri+es the speech of Ibsen"s heroine. It is more a self(%ustification than an attac on society"s and highlights the vulnerability of women in our society #p.ix$ *t the end 1enare brea s her silence and spea s passionately about conspiracy against her. >i%ay Tendul ar presented the court by converting the accusation into the verdict. The moc (trial ends up with an interruption by a visitor reminding them of their being late in the show. This interruption brings them bac from illusion to reality. 1ut 1enare remains in the same condition engrossed in thought for she is overta en by the reality implied in the illusion. 5er reality is different from others. 6arrot in the play is a powerful symbol of illusion of her own self and sparrow represents her reality. The green cloth parrot is also a symbol of the foetus ta ing human shape in her womb. 1ut she would be losing in the due courseof time in deference to the en%oinment of the fustian value holders of society. Tendul ar treats his female characters with understanding and compassion. In his feminist research on the effect of development of women, has clearly revealed that in many areas of the clearly revealed that in many areas of the country the rights of women are infringed, women are exploited emotionally, socially and physically. 1enare is dismissed from the %ob. ,he cries in painbut she does not succumb to the social torture and stands defiant till the end. The cynical game is well(rooted in their sic psyche that informs the verdict they pass on her, with the sort of pleasure that can be envy of professional torturers. The verdict is that her baby should be illed because its existence negates the very idea of moral values. The questions posed by the play call for a total overhauling of the society"s entire moral code. Though Tendul ar is not a self(ac nowledged feminist, he goes with the feminists in voicing women"s concern, their sensibility and their sub%ugation as well as their protest. Thus, Tendul ar"s dramatic world reveals his deep and uncanny insight into feminine mind.