Now, I was expecting to have this post out earlier this week, and you are likely aware that this is going to be double-dipped by the title. Truth be told, I was unsure if I wanted to make this post, but I am going to be a man of my word on this blog for once. There is no direct correlation between these two works, as one is a novella, while the other is a play.
The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope is a “swashbuckling” adventure-romance novella taking place in the fictional state of Ruritania, where protagonist Rudolf Rassendyll is forced by unforeseen circumstances to play the nation’s king. This is due to his nearly identical appearance to the king, which forces Rudolf into a complicated plot involving the capture of the true king.
Outside of the word “swashbuckling” sticking out, The Prisoner of Zenda was interesting on a conceptual level: it had the rough plotline of a children’s novel/fairy tale but told in the manner of an adult novella. There is a lot on the table here: a star-crossed romance, political espionage, and the all-important question of who is worthy to lead. As with The Thirty-Nine Steps, this novella is mostly valuable depending on its novelty to its reader. The entertaining premise has been done many other times, and what drives the plot is the central conflict between the king and his conspirators. There is value to be found in its pioneering of the ‘Ruritanian romance‘ genre, but how much substance exists is entirely dependent on the reader.
The pacing of the novella is rather frontloaded, as the introductory chapters take more time to establish various characters and the setting before jumping into the action, which carries the rest of the plot. There is no significant time devoted to making characters undergo significant development or even giving them any depth, but they feel unique in that they are fairy tale characters under a realistic light. This works well in conjunction with the themes of leadership and duty.
There is not too much else to say, I am afraid. However much mileage you get out of this novella depends on your exposure to this sort of plot, and how strong your craving for characters that have to be three-dimensional is.
Look Back in Anger by John Osborne is an ‘Angry Young Men’ play that deals with the couple of Jimmy and Alison Porter as they deal with their personal issues that impede their relationships with others as well as between the two. Before I continue, I would like to elaborate that feminism is a huge aspect of this play. This play was controversial upon its first performance in 1956 (also in which the play takes place) for its harsh and realistic tone, and there is no doubt it may spark some today. The characters are the epicentre of all that happens here, and they are provocative quite a bit of the time.
Jimmy lacks decency for all around him, including his wife Alison and friend Cliff (who lives with them). His character is sometimes painted in a sympathetic light, being portrayed as a sophisticated man in the working-class, clearly being outside of his time period. On the other hand, Alison hails from the upper-class, but she is ultimately neutral-minded when it comes between her love for Jimmy and tiredness of his vitriol behavior. Describing these characters is the best indicator to how the kitchen sink drama unfolds between these two, which brings the questions of not only feminism, but also nostalgia, education, and love into question as they are examined in a post-WWII fashion. Their portrayals are interesting, and exploring them in depth is central to this play.
While I found this read to be interesting, the forte of plays that I adore have a great semblance of wit, which is absent here. Look Back in Anger is not lacking in any heart, (there is still some notable instances of it, in fact) but know that one will likely either be taken aback by this play or find it fascinating (if I may make some generalizations). It is a play cemented in its time-period, but it still proves to be an interesting reflection. Its shorter length may make it a quicker read, but the heavy subject matter is unavoidable. Perhaps it is appropriate within the context of facing societal issues, but know that this is not a play that exists to entertain one.
I apologize for the shorter-lengthed impressions for today. To be frank, I now feel as if cluttering this blog with bi-daily posts on older pieces feels counter-productive to both myself and the kind of content I ultimately wish to make on the blog but know that I am not cutting the axe on these posts so soon after their debut. Instead, I have a more substantial idea to adapt them to a format that is more friendly to myself and this blog. Consider these last few posts an experiment, as I now want to tentatively declare that at the end of each month, I will be giving an ‘impressions roundup,’ instead of littering many of these throughout the month to clog up the blog. Of course, there will be exceptions if I find something that I think is phenomenal, (like Blade Runner 2049) but don’t expect that to happen too often.
Anyways, enjoy your day. I know I’ll be getting some sleep now. 🙂