Sunday, March 25, 2007

Reader's Diary #246- Maurice Maeterlinck: The Blue Bird (Up to Act 3, Scene 1)

Mostly because of my incessant drive to become well-rounded (whatever that means), I've been trying to read more plays lately. So far it's been enjoyable, but it's hard to read plays and not keep thinking, "these would just be so much better to see." After all, that is their raison d'etre. But I've heard others say that poetry is meant to be oral, and I object to that. I thoroughly enjoy reading poetry, I find reading it very personal and intimate. So if people enjoy reading plays, who cares that they were meant to be performed. How about you? Do you read plays?

A funny thing happened while reading The Blue Bird. I started to notice that it was definitely a product of its age. Written back in 1908, it isn't just the fairy tale element that dates it. In particular, children are overly glossed with juvenile naivete. As I do when I read most plays, I tried to envision it being acted and Shirley Temple came to mind. I'm not sure if it was dredged up from a long forgotten past of meaningless movie experiences or if I shared the same judgement as a casting director back in the first half of the 20th century. It turns out Shirley Temple did appear in a movie adaptation of The Blue Bird back in 1940.

In the play's favour, despite having elements that would have an obvious attraction for children (a cat, a dog, water, sugar and more all become human- sort of), I am enjoying some of the more metaphysical elements which I assume were aimed at the adult audience. Specifically, I liked the presentation of memory. Tyltyl and Mytyl, the two lead children, travel to the Land Of Memory where they meet their grandparents and deceased siblings. I was taken with the idea of memory as a realm where the deceased go on "living" in a manner of speaking. I've often considered that heaven and hell might be similar. If you do enough good deeds on Earth, you live your heaven in people's memories. If you're evil enough, you live your hell in much the same way. And the times you're just not thought of at all? Well, I guess that can be purgatory. I quite like the idea that there would be doors between the three realms (please forgive this post, it's rather late and this is the way I get). Of course, most people don't spend their whole lives as saints or sinners, and they'd be remembered by different people in both positive and negative lights, so they'd spend a little time in heaven and hell. Of course the problem with my zany theory (other than the fact that I factor God out of the equation and make the living people the judges of the dead) are those people who do a lifetime of good deeds that go unacknowledged, hence unremembered. My version depends on fame. Shucks. I thought I was onto something.


Allison said...

There was a time when I read more plays than books, namely because I was in drama, but I agree its sometimes hard to get past 'this would be so much better live.'

I'm going to have to put this on my list, as I really like the idea of the Land of Memory. I've never really thought of living after death in ones memories...huh, I'm going to have to revisit this thought later, its too late now.

John Mutford said...

Allison, yes it is an intriguing take. That said, keep in mind that it is presented in a fairy tale so don't expect it to delve too deeply, or expand on the idea a great deal.