Sunday, April 6, 2014

Act I, Scene I: Blessings

Photographs:  Two Spoons Tied Together

A variety of doubles are created in this scene.  The Countess complains of losing a second husband when Bertram goes off to court.  Her son has become the double of her husband.

Lafew promises that the King will be a husband to the Countess, and a father to Bertram.  The King is now a double for the Count.   Because of his sickness, the King may even join the Count in death.

Bertram and Helena are both encouraged to be like their fathers, becoming twins of each other in the upholding of their paternal legacies, and potential doubles to their fathers.

As Helena is encouraged to be like her father, we get a hint of what we will see from her as she leaves the traditional roles of the time behind.  She will become a doctor and a suitor.

Helena and Bertram are also double of each other in their relationship to the Countess, who later proclaims that she considers herself Helena's mother.  We can even detect a rivalry in Bertram's attitude towards Helena.  When Helena receives the Countess's blessing --the Countess's description of Helena's character is a blessing, a declaration of Helena's worthiness ("She derives her honesty and achieves her goodness..."--Bertram says nothing to second his mother's opinion.  Helena cries, but Bertram doesn't try to comfort her.  Instead, he asks for his own blessing from his mother.  "Madam, I desire your holy wishes."  The Countess grants him her blessing.  "Be thou blest, and succeed thy father In manners as in shape."  She gives him advice for living that she did not give Helena, and she leaves.

Bertram then issues Helena a command.  "Be comfortable to my mother, your mistress, And make much of her."  By seeking to dictate Helena's behavior, he emphasizes his social superiority to her.  He treats her only as a means to his mother's happiness.

Lafew, unlike Bertram, gives Helena two compliments.  "Farewell, pretty lady.  You must hold the credit of your father."

Bertram and Lafew leave.  Bertram believes that he is leaving Helena behind and does not comprehend that he is already conjoined with her as a double.

I chose the spoons as metaphor for this joining, which is as much fate in their fathers' deaths and their relationship to the Countess as it is to Helena's love for Bertram.  The severed roots in the photographs symbolize the loss of their fathers and their struggles within a family identity.

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