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Friday, February 13, 2015

Compulsory Valentine's Day Post 2015

Happy Valentine's Day, lovers all! 

I see I did one of these two years ago, but it was mainly about me and book club and the National Year of Reading the previous year, with just a token reference to two classics, so here I am again.

According to Wikipedia, which has quite a lengthy article on this, there were several Christian martyr Valentines. The one we hear the most about is the one who lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, the Valentine who is supposed to have been locked up for performing secret marriages for soldiers, who were not allowed to marry(not true, according to Wikipedia). This made him the patron saint of lovers. He is supposed to have healed his jailer's daughter and sent her a farewell letter signed "your Valentine" before they killed him. True or not, it's a story I always enjoy. 

Chaucer mentions Valentine's Day in Parlement Of Foules (that's "birds" to those of you who think it's just a sports term!) as the day when birds gather to choose their mates. 

I vaguely recall a festival of Juno in Rome around that time of year when you were allotted a lover for the year. I think that's sweet. "Oh, no, I'm stuck with Publius again!  He has bad breath and big ears and keeps talking nerdy stuff about books!" 

Anyway, as I'm not getting any chocolates or hearts this year(and by the way, Wikipedia says that started with the good Saint who cut hearts out of parchment. Who would have thought it?) I will think about some of my favourite fictional lovers.

*Ah! The radio is  playing the Birdcatcher's Song from Mozart's Magic Flute, giving me another lover to write about ... Poor Papageno, he just wants a girlfriend and has to go through all that Freemasons stuff to get one. Now, that was an interesting presentation of love. Prince Tamino falls in love with Pamina just from a picture and she doesn't even need a picture! She falls in love just from hearing about Tamino. Still, a fun opera. I once saw the gorgeous Anthony Warlow as Papageno. A beautiful Papageno he was, too.*

Back to the fictional lovers. Last time I mentioned Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, a pair of strong people who just need to learn a bit about life. They are equals. I like that. Well, he is rich and she isn't, true, but in intelligence they are and we know she eon't take any nonsense from him. 

In Shakespeare my favourite lovers are Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. Beatrice's cousin Hero is a much more conventional lover, who faints dead away when Claudio humiliates her publicly. Anyone remember that scene in The Winter's Tale when Hermione faints away when her husband humiliates her? Both women sort of get their revenge by making their men squirm and think them dead before forgiving them, of course. As I hear it, strictly speaking the Hero/Claudio romance is supposed to be the main one in the play with Beatrice and Benedick as the kooky, loveable supporting characters. 

Come on, does anyone seriously believe that?  But it's true, in a way. Beatrice is an orphan living with her relatives; she can't be standard and she can be independent in a way Hero can't. And oh, what a character! "Kill Claudio!" she says when Benedick, who has been fighting a war of words with her and now admits he loves her, asks how he can help. She does add, "Oh, that I were a man!" In other words, "I need you to challenge him to a duel because I can't." And he agrees and does realise that his mate Claudio has done the wrong thing. 

Interestingly, I once saw a production of Much Ado About Nothing that was performed in Regency costume, a la Pride And Prejudice; it worked very well. Another, later production was done in 1950s costume, with Pamela Rabe and Hugo Weaving(yes, that Hugo Weaving, as in Agent Smith and Elrond)who also played Kate and Petruchio in The Taming Of The Shrew

Has anyone noticed the tendency in YA fiction for having a triangle? In it, the girl is courted by two gorgeous boys. Sometimes it's obvious from the beginning who will win her. Often it's not, giving fans the chance to argue happily over the matter as the series goes on. 

If you think about it, the triangle has been around for a while. Think about the novels of Jane Austen, for example. Though I can't seriously imagine anyone claiming to be "Team Wickham", if Pride And Prejudice was a series ... Who knows? (Actually, I take that back. I can totally imagine a "Team Wickham" if Pride And Prejudice was a modern YA novel.)

I am still trying to slot such a triangle into my WIP, because it's necessary; the heroine feels a strong attraction towards the long lost prince and she can't have him. Sorry! He's going to be king some day and at best she will be court wizard. And it would be a downer to have her end up with nobody. So I am working on someone she can have. But it's not easy, when you realise a story isn't working sixty thousand words in. So I kind of understand the romantic triangle in YA. 

I admit I prefer romantic comedy to tragedies. Life is too short anyway without having it cut off over love. Sorry, Romeo and Juliet! Your story is too sad for me. My favourite character in that is Mercutio and what does Shakespeare do? Kills him off! I did once read a short story whose author I can't remember in which Mercutio is rescued by Rosaline, the girl Romeo was pursuing at the start of the play. She thinks Romeo is a puppy and much prefers Mercutio, who comes to woo her on his behalf. They save Romeo and Juliet just in time, marry and keep the bronzed head of Tybalt. Pure wish fulfilment on the author's part and Shakespeare would no doubt have some rude, witty things to say about it, but still....

By the way, I'm sure we all remember the comical Valentine's Day chapter in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, where all the girls send Valentines to that fraud Lockhart and Harry is held down by force by a tough dwarf to listen to a Valentine from Ginny. (Well, he does end up marrying her many years later)

So, that's my Valentine's Day post, the best Î can do in bed early on a Saturday morning. Anyone else got some romantic favourites? 

All images in this post are public domain.

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