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“A tragic poet had his play put up before the boards. He watched a tragic actor who was required to wear thick shoes and tall wigs. Since it was his play and knew the effect he wanted from him he explained his entry called for a subtle approach. The much harried actor said when he came in such thick shoes it was a wonder he did not fall over. “So I need a cane to support myself. How much more subtlety you intend to put into my cane?”
Another time a comic actor who did not impress his audience with his witticisms asked the public, “You get two obols worth of seat, free from the city. The least you could do is show some appreciation of that?”
Dramatists of yore wrote as they often said, as inspired by gods. The audience lapped it up and said they were enlightened and taken to a higher sphere as a result. Aesop was shrewd to note how the relationship between the writer and his audience went a shift over the years. It was progress that Aesop thought as natural. The audience became enlightened with so many plays that they attended in civic pride and it made them arbiters as well. Gradually it was the taste of man on the street that decided the kind of plays that were to be staged. Not the poet, not the muse but the uncouth rabble set the trend. It was the masses that in the end beat the system.” (selected-Ch.11.6 pp.203)
Here we see two principles at work. Mass education enabled them to understand the nuances of the play and consequently judge the dramatists as their peers. Inversion principle gave the masses the power to determine what kind of plays they wanted to see. Dramatists had to write plays to cater to their tastes or go out of fashion. Public taste was not inspired by gods but by social realities of the day. Conjugation principle gave their taste its vitality and not from exalted imagination of dramatists.

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In order to understand the life of Sarah Bernhardt it may be relevant to touch upon the historical role of demimondaine in national life of France. Gallic spirit is quite unique that can be explained by the absence of it in such countries as UK or in the USA. The Profumo scandal in England and the recent John Edward’s trial in the USA come to mind.

The Americans pride themselves that many instances the rags to riches of people as proof of the merit in their way of life. But for women France shows by their customs and panache as the right place a woman with wit and originality can, despite starting life from the streets, end up as national treasure as Sarah Bernhardt and Edith Piaf. They are the embodiment of Gallic spirit. So was Mme du Barry one such. Who shall surpass Ninon de Lenclos in her ability to be her own and be independent at a time the Establishment was as stern as represented in the person of Cardinal Richelieu? Ninon who treasured her independence joined the convent with the sole reason of being just independent and not marry for money or power. Yet she had both aplenty.
Like Germaine de Staël she became a popular figure in the salons, and her own drawing room became a centre for the discussion and consumption of the literary arts. In her early thirties she was responsible for encouraging the young Molière, and when she died she left money for the son of her accountant, a nine-year old named François Marie Arouet, later to become better known as Voltaire, so he could buy books. In a manner of speaking she was the power in making encyclopedia movement in France reach to its full flowering. I cannot resist an anecdote about this remarkable woman.
Cardinal Richelieu offered fifty thousand crowns for a night in her bed. Ninon took the money, and sent a friend instead. “Ninon made friends among the great in every walk of life, had wit and intelligence enough to keep them, and, what is more, to keep them friendly with one another.” (Saint-Simon).
Ninon de l’Enclos is a relatively obscure figure in the English-speaking world, but is much better known in France where her name is synonymous with wit and beauty as our subject ‘the divine Sarah.’

Sarah Bernhardt(1844-1923)
She was born in Paris as Henriette Rosine Bernard, the eldest surviving illegitimate daughter of Judith van Hard, a Dutch Jewish courtesan known as “Youle.” Her father was reportedly Edouard Bernard, a French lawyer, and she was educated in French Catholic convents. To support herself, she combined the career of an actress with that of a courtesan – at the time, the two were considered scandalous to a roughly equal degree. she was encouraged to pursue a theatrical career by one of her mother’s lovers, the duke de Morny(1859). After a brief appearance at the Comdie-Franaise (1862-63), she joined the Odeon theatre (1866-72), where she acted in Kean by Alexandre Dumas Sr. and Ruy Blas by Victor Hugo, charming audiences with her golden voice. Returning to the Comdie-Franaise (187280), she starred in Phèdre to great acclaim in Paris and London. She formed her own company in 1880 and toured the world in The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils, Adrienne Lecouvreur by Eugne Scribe, four plays written for her by Victorien Sardou, and The Eaglet by Edmond Rostand. After an injury to her leg forced its amputation (1915), she strapped on a wooden leg and chose roles she could play largely seated. One of the best-known figures in the history of the stage, she was made a member of France’s Legion of Honour in 1914.
anecdote:
On one occasion the actress Madge Kendall, congratulating the ‘divine Sarah’ on her performance, added that it was a pity her plays dealt with passion that she could not take her daughters to them. Sarah retorted thus, ”Ah Madame, you should remember that were it not for passion you would have no daughters to bring.”
benny

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(After the threat posed by Persia was gone Athens and Sparta fell out. Their rivalry will bleed them white and their decline will leave Rome to rise as an imperial power. b.)
Athens of old was gone. None could believe how quickly the city had showed a deep chasm within itself. It was thus Aesop found Athens in his advanced years. He was sixty something. When one of old acquaintances shared his disappointment at the deep division rearing its head Aesop dismissed it thus, ”Nothing strange, Cleomenes, what do you expect from a city of highest ideals but would require slaves? We ourselves are to blame.”
Even when Athens looked so formidable, tocsin of decline was going on at a rate that was so subtle and implacable. The citizens the wise, the good, and the bad spent their lives just as the very dregs of the city made their living: for all their actions good or bad could not have stemmed the crisis. It wasn’t the guardian spirit of the city had abandoned the city but the march of events taking elsewhere needed more room to spread out. In the face of such overwhelming onslaught the city was not adequately protected. (Just as a hurricane can be explained as Mother Nature letting out excess of heat escape. Hurricane Katrina, – or Floyd before it, made a landfall not caring where it hit. The dikes of New Orleans would fail and create unparalleled havoc. Such an impersonal hand takes over history of nations as well.) Athens was no exception to the general rule.

5.
Athens in transition. For Aesop it was as if his beloved city, that tower of pride had vanished, brick by brick even while he sought its shelter: his more pressing concern was to beat back the boredom which was creeping on his old age.
Aesop told stories to the Athenians the young and old, not so much for its moral content but as a way of being part of the warmth that the living gave out. It did lessen the pain of losing his wife, and his old master and his wife. And his only friend Xeno took leave for the last time. Before he died the old cynic felt homesick. He had a knack of making every friend look a fool. It did not work in the case of Aesop because he affirmed that he was a fool. “I am a fool for progress Xeno. I look forward to changes. What these will be or in what shape or form I have no idea. Yet I call it is progress. (A higher state of things, so I tell myself.) But when it comes, I am sure, I will not like it at all.”

6.
A tragic poet had his play put up before the boards. He watched a tragic actor who was required to wear thick shoes and tall wigs. Since it was his play and knew the effect he wanted from him he explained his entry called for a subtle approach. The much harried actor said when he came in such thick shoes it was a wonder he did not fall over. “So I need a cane to support myself. How much more subtlety you intend to put into my cane?”
Another time a comic actor who did not impress his audience with his witticisms asked the public, ”You get two obols worth of seat, free from the city. The least you could do is show some appreciation of that?”
Dramatists of yore wrote as they often said, as inspired by gods. The audience lapped it up and said they were enlightened and taken to a higher sphere as a result. Aesop was shrewd to note how the relationship between the writer and his audience went a shift over the years. It was progress that Aesop thought as natural. The audience became enlightened with so many plays that they attended in civic pride and it made them arbiters as well. Gradually it was the taste of man on the street that decided the kind of plays that were to be staged. Not the poet, not the muse but the uncouth rabble set the trend. It was the masses that in the end beat the system. (ch:11-Beating the System:sections 4-6)

benny

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