Sunday, May 1, 2016

Rivals


Dance of the Knights - Prokofiev - from Romeo and Juliet

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This will be a brief post; I am working on a longer one about the first of May because a lot of thoughts about workers and solidarity and responsibility swirling around. Bits and pieces of those thoughts are going to various essays for various classes, but I need a coherent place to think it through, which means I have to clear my mental cache of unrelated content.

Last Thursday we went to see Romeo und Julia at the Deutsche Oper. Beautiful production, amazingly talented dancers, and incredible music. The above is my favorite song from the production, probably in part because it was also the only one I had heard before but also because of the bassline and because the aggressive brass part returned in other sections to herald the arrival of Tybalt Capulet, the Prince of Cats and my favorite character from Romeo and Juliet.

I have written at various points about identifying strongly with figures from history or literature. My latest reminder of how great I think Tybalt is brought to light a pattern: I identify with rivals.

Tybalt from the 1968 film
...and from the 1996 film

Tybalt Capulet, the aggressive guy who pretty much single-handedly drives the spate of deaths in the second half of the play. Cannot even relax at a party and is told by his uncle, who perpetuates the Capulet-Montague feud, to chill out. Frequently cast to look devilish. A talented swordsman. "Peace? I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee."

Turnus, King of the Rutuli, the aggressive guy who is responsible for the death of many Trojans and presents the main resistance to Aeneas. A powerful warrior, much beloved by his troops. I have written a poem about him.

Laertes, son of Polonius and brother of Ophelia, the aggressive guy who forces Claudius to take action and whose duel with Hamlet is responsible for the spate of deaths in the last act of the play. I have written about him already too.

The trend is aggression and action in defense of something--family honor, land and love. These guys drive the conflict of the stories in which they take part, and are not afraid to fight for what is important to them. They are honorable to a fault--that is, their sense of honor pushes them to confront people violently.

There are rivals with whom I do not identify. Hector (Iliad), for example; Luke Castellan and Octavian* (Percy Jackson); Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter). In these cases the heroes (Patroklos, Reyna, Harry) are more compelling. 

*It kills me that the character named Octavian is the villain because, as I am constantly prattling on about, the real Octavian (Augustus) is my idol and I want to be like him.

These rivals, the ones that don't resonate, are missing...something. Hector is too happy with his family life; the Percy Jackson villains and Malfoy are too sneaky and, in any case, are not the main opponent but rather servants to a larger evil. These are rivals that the hero outgrows.

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