The Misanthrope

Moliere is a 17th century French writer known for his satiric comedy plays. His plays-be it Tartuffe, The Misanthrope or The School for

Husbands-predominantly look at the French society of the time with a satiric lens.  In his Preface to the play Tartuffe, Moliere has specifically outlined that the function of comedy is to correct men and society’s faults. This was the prevailing view of comedy’s function among Western writers of the time.

The Misanthrope is also a much layered play which brings into question the hypocrisies of the artificial upper classes of 17th century French society. The play is about Alceste, who detests contemporary society and its ways and manners, and his love for the beautiful widowed Celimene. Alceste does not wish to follow any superficial manners and believes them to be a waste of time and anyone who blindly follows them always elicit bursts of anger and hatred from Alceste. Celimene, on the other hand, believes that it is important to follow the social conventions for one’s own gain. This creates a lot of tension between the two extraordinary lovers who are as different as fire and ice. Alceste’s friend, Philinte, tries his best to diffuse the tension and to make Alceste understand that being in constant argument with the social world and with mankind is detrimental. With this main plot, Moliere explores several questions-whether Alceste is really a misanthrope or is it someone else and if he is the former, then it is rather paradoxical that a misanthrope is in love with Celimene; whether it is worth to struggle with social norms and not accept them at all and several others. There are several sub plots as well such as the nascent love between Philinte and Eliante; the simmering relationship between Celimene and Arsinoe; Oronte’s sonnets and his suit against Alceste who insulted the former’s writing abilities etc.. Within these several layers are revealed the minute workings of the aristocratic class, their hypocrisies regarding human relations, their vanity, the position and status of women etc.

The Misanthrope is a fun play to read as it provides an acute analysis of the malaise of the times, which Alceste detested, in a light, comic manner. All the characters are colourful and rounded with their unique viewpoints. Their dialogues and mannerisms give the reader a glimpse into their personalities and ways of thinking.  Moliere is a master of satiric comedy and he invests The Misanthrope with several lines of thought and meaning which the reader can ponder over. Many critics have pointed out that Alceste’s character is based on Moliere himself and that his deteriorating relationship with Armande Bejart was the basis for Alceste’s relationship with Celimene. We can never know the truth, but only speculate. And while you speculate, do try and relate the play to our own contemporary hypocrisies as well. Happy reading!

Dreamy Love

Are you tired of watching the same,old,boring, cheesy, Bollywood or Hollywood romantic comedies or chick flicks? Do you absolutely scorn those ridiculous lovey-dovey songs that do nothing to take the plot forward? Or scoff at the, lets face it, stupidity of such films?

Then, Shakespeare comes to your rescue! Now the last thing most people would want is to read the Bard’s plays rather than watch those crappy chick flicks. You agree, don’t you? However, most of the plots of these contemporary rom coms have been inspired by his plays or have elements from many of them. The difference lies in the fact that the plays are far more intricately written than the soppy,mawkish rubbish that film industries churn out regularly.

Hence one simple Shakespeare play that is sure to lighten the scorn and fatigue created by scores of the more or less similar roms coms is the famous, hilarious, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.‘ You may have read a summary or watched the film but nothing can beat watching/perusing the actual play with its funny twists and turns, ample confusion and blunders, modicum of magic and loads of love to entertain you thoroughly.

Taken from ebookee.org

Now comes the plot which is rather complicated but I’ll try my best to explain. There are essentially three worlds described in the play-the world of Athenian lovers, the world of the fairies and the world of the Athenian workers. The play starts off in Athens where the Duke Theseus is waiting for his wedding day anxiously. He is to wed Hippolyta who is an Amazonian queen. To his court comes Egeus followed by her daughter, Hermia and two young men, Demetrius and Lysander. Egeus complains to Theseus about Hermia’s wish to marry Lysander which is contradictory to his own desire that Hermia must marry Demetrius instead. Theseus supports Egeus and believes that Hermia must do as her father wishes as that is the law of Athens,disobedience to which will result in death. Seeing that Hermia and Lysander don’t stand a chance against the duke’s or the former’s father, the young couple decide to run away in the forest. Hermia tells of this plan to Helena, her friend who likes Demetrius blindly but the feeling is not mutual. Helena tells Demetrius about Hermia’s plans and so he too goes in the forest in search of them and Helena follows Demetrius. The forest is the realm of the fairies and the King and Queen of the fairy worlds are Oberon and Titania respectively. This royal couple has been quarreling over an Indian boy who Titania has adopted. Oberon wants the boy for himself but Titania refuses to part with him. Meanwhile, when Helena follows Demetrius in the forest, Oberon sees them and hears their conversation. Demetrius is scorning Helena but she is adamant in her love.(One point to note is that the Athenians cannot see the fairies). Oberon summons Puck, an evil cum good spirit who is Oberon’s servant as well, and tells him to get the flower whose love juice when sprinkled on the eyes of a person on waking up falls in love with the first person who he/she sees. The Fairy King wants Puck to do that with Titania and tells him to sprinkle on an Athenian man(he does not specify whom as he has not seen Lysander yet) as well. Puck successfully does his first task. However the latter is messed up-instead of putting it on Demetrius,Puck puts it on Lysander and the first person he sees is Helena (One can imagine all must have broken loose in the forest because of this confusion). Oberon wants Titania to fall in love with some beast or an ugly being. Puck sees a bunch of workers rehearsing for a play which they want to perform at Theseus’ wedding. He transforms a worker’s, Nick Bottom’s, head into an ass and Titania sees this fellow first on waking up. This along with Puck’s mistake lead to comical consequences that have slight dark undertones and it is through these misunderstandings that the Athenian lovers find their love and Oberon is able to get back Titania’s affections and her Indian boy. The play happily ends with the marriage of the Duke to Hippolyta.

You seriously did not expect it to end any other way, did you?

Despite its predictable ending, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘ provides a wonderful take on the notions and idea of love, provides a glimpse into Shakespeare’s mastery of weaving the different strands of the three plots into one fitting conclusion, proffers a peek into certain Elizabethan conventions of life, theater, patriarchy etc.

Now this is only a very short synopsis of a marvellous romantic comedy play that is extremely fun and merry to read. It does not and cannot encompass the play’s beauty,comedy and complexity wholly. There are so many layers to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘ that one is perplexed whether Shakespeare wrote it only for mere entertainment or for other instructional purposes as well. It may not be one of his best plays but still remains a popular one that is sure to make anyone laugh. And if the Shakespearean language daunts you, don’t fret, it isn’t that difficult. Just try reading it aloud, going with the flow of the verse, comprehension will come to you eventually (Plus the notes and the annotations help a lot). And if you can, go watch its performance which will further deepen your understanding of the play and perhaps kindle a love for Shakespeare forever freeing you from the tedious rom coms of today!

Of Holy Men and Monkeys

The problem with reading an awesome novel by a particular author is the high expectations one has with the other novels and when that doesn’t happen,you feel heartbroken for both yourself and the author. And that’s exactly what happened with ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard‘ written by Kiran Desai. Having read her other, more famous, Booker prize winning novel, ‘The Inheritance Of Loss,’ which is quite splendid weaving strands of varying themes into a beautiful story, I built up many sky high praises for Kiran Desai. But, unfortunately, her debut novel doesn’t come close to her 2nd one. ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard,’ is a good read nonetheless, yet lacks the brilliance that lights up the storyline of ‘The Inheritnace of Loss.’

Taken from christophersrarebooks.com

The plot of ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard‘ begins with the birth of Sampath in an apparently middle class family living in a village named Shahkot. Then the novel does an Indian soap opera kind of leap and we see Sampath twenty years later, quite dull, and doomed as a failure by his father. Only his mother, Kulfi, has faith that her son will be able to be something in life. And ho! what do you know, he does manage to do just that. But not before getting fired from his clerk job in the post office and running away from Shahkot to be away from the misery of life. He then comes across a guava orchard and decides to climb on a guava tree and interestingly finds peace and solace over there. He feels uncluttered and unfettered on that tree. With a quirk of fate, he gets mistaken by a holy man atop a tree and his father gets a brilliant idea to juice out money from this venture. People flock to listen to his wise words and seek his advice and blessings! Sampath thus from being a good for nothing fellow becomes a famous Monkey Baba revered by one and all. Apart from Sampath, we get to see the rest of his peculiar family like his mother who relishes food and whipping up quite grand and glorious dishes. Then his sister, Pinky who falls in love with an ice cream seller, Hungry Hop.

The one word for this novel is eccentric. ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard‘ reminds one of the bumbling comedies staged during Elizabethan Age that had similar comic situations with myriad quirky characters. The book gives a satirical take on rural/town India and its obsession with godly figures. It highlights the dishonesty that prevails among the fake babas that spring up in all nooks and corners. Of course, Sampath never intended to become a Monkey Baba. He in fact wanted to run away from all things pretentious. So perhaps Desai is trying to bring out how holy men should be in their heart and soul? Well, one can interpret it in anyway one wants. The characters are also well fleshed out particularly Kulfi whose love for food has been highlighted since page 1.

While the comic ans satirical part of the book is perfect, its the Bollywoodish touch and the simple, immature writing and the weak climax that make the book rather disappointing. Its quite entertaining and funny in its ludicrous situations but not really a must read, though a fun read!

Well, you could either go for it and enjoy the fun or avoid it completely. Take your pick!