Brontë

I had a picture book when I was little called "The Brontë's". It showed snapshots of what growing up a Brontë was like. They lived on the moors. This is a theme within the stories I like best. They lived in a parsonage because their father was a clergyman. They were "home-schooled" and much of their days were spent outside with their many animal pets. Emily Brontë had a hawk. They played with Branwell's toy soldiers, starting long wars lasting days involving many rooms of their house. I knew that Branwell tried to be a successful artist in many mediums, but died instead. That was what I learned from that picture book when I was young.

More recently, I have read Jane Eyre, so I know some of Charlotte. I loved that book so much, I got the rest of the sister's works but haven't had a chance to read it. I love Jane Eyre (the book and the woman), she inspires me to be better and to do the things I need to do. I noticed how Jane Eyre, although written in the same time period, is very different and far darker than anything Jane Austen ever wrote. This I like. This interests me. I've never been able to get very far into Pride and Prejudice because it is simply about love and how a woman gains a man, or vice versa. Jane Eyre is about love, yes, and how the woman gains the man, but there is more. Whereas Lizzie discovers that Darcy has a kid-sister, Jane discovers that her fiancé is married to a mentally unstable woman locked in his attic the day of her wedding. Whereas Lizzie goes from disgust to acceptance to love, Jane goes from fascination to crush to love to ardent, requited love, to heartbreak, to devastation, to desolation and separation to independence (she creates a life with a job and a home by herself at about age 19), to inheritance and further independence which she uses to find her love again. There is a darkness in Charlotte's novel not least because of its locale. The moors are vast, empty and stormy, thus creating the perfect backdrop to a few gothic romances.

After Wuthering Heights, two of the actors stood at the door handing out fliers asking for audience members for that evening's performance of Brontë. The man handed me a flier and I said that I was coming to the show already and he was very happy and said, "Tonight’s show is even better". Now, considering the performance I just saw, I hoped it would be, but considering how low I would rate Wuthering Heights, "better" could mean anything.

So, I came into the theatre. The stage was strewn with papers that had been written on. There was a table with three chairs and books piled high upon it. There was even a loaf of bread on a cutting board on top of one of the piles of books on the table. And there were three piles of colourful fabric on the floor. The play began when three actresses in neutral, tight blacks entered and walked around the stage looking at their books and papers. Then, they went to the piles of fabric. They helped the first sister into her dress, zipping her up and then they went on to help each other put their dresses on. All of this is done in silence. And then they have this totally awesome meta conversation/story/monologue introducing themselves and their lives and their books and their family. It was completely my style. It was pure storytelling. Much of the play was direct address. But the scenes were beautiful, as well. They depicted the imagined daily life of these three mysterious sisters.

My favourite was Emily (who I keep thinking is named Mary??). She wrote Wuthering Heights which is by far the darkest and strangest Victorian romantic novel ever written I believe. In the beginning monologue, she says that she's "the hardest to find out about". Which makes me want to know more. And, of course, leaves the character up to the playwright's and the actor's imagination. Emily certainly had some of the most thoughtful, melancholic and beautiful lines in the entire play, which made me love her even more. She was opinionated and hot-tempered and independent and absolutely brilliant, all things that inspire me in a character.

Charlotte was the oldest, the most practical, she did all the work and didn't know what to do if she wasn't doing something.

Anne was kind and generous. In the beginning monologue, she humbly and admiringly refers to her sisters' work next to her own. She's not as well known, she says, and people don't usually read her book if they haven't read Emily and Charlotte's work, to their great works. She says this looking admiringly at Charlotte and Emily in the sweetest voice you could possibly imagine someone using to say, "People only know me after they read some of my sister's work because their work is better than mine, and more famous." I noticed that right away. And I think that pretty much sums up Anne's character. She's sweet and kind and wants to rid the world of hunger and unhappiness. She even brings up how hurtful it is that we impose gender roles so early in life. Which is true, but also... it was 1830. Who knows, someone may have had that thought then, but with the universal consciousness at the time I don't know if anyone might have stumbled upon anything close to that. They dressed little boys up in dresses because they thought God favoured girls... Genders were very specific and for many it was just accepted. I am sure there were people who questioned it, but I think the idea of "imposing gender" is a very modern one. That took me out of the play, unfortunately, because it was too contemporary an idea for that world.

Emily was the "black sheep", as they say. She did not fit in. Charlotte kept trying to get her to wear a corset or do what she was "supposed" to do, but Emily would refuse. We have to remember that this is the mind that Wuthering Heights came out of. Quite a mind. The character goes out to walk on the moor for hours and hours, she writes until early into the morning.

I have decided that the Yorkshire dialect is my favourite of all the dialects.

"To be beautiful is to belong to others and not yourself."


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