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Copy of Timberlake Wertenbaker | The Love of the Nightingale

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Transcript of Copy of Timberlake Wertenbaker | The Love of the Nightingale

Timberlake Wertenbaker | The Love of the Nightingale
Myth & History
through theatre

Timberlake Wertenbaker
Born to American parents (1951) in the Basque Country of France, she is a British playwright.
She lived in Greece for many years and studied in the US.
She has adapted and translated works by  Marivaux, Anouilh, Maeterlinck, Pirandello, Sophocles, Euripides and Preissova.
Her most famous work is Our Country's Good (1988).

Reading List
Wertenbaker, Timberlake ‘The Love of the Nightingale’ in Plays One. London : Faber & Faber, 1996. (Call: 822.914 WER on short loan)

Aston, Elaine An Introduction to Feminism and Theatre. London : Routledge, 1994. (Call: 792.082AST on short loan)

Berney, K. (Ed)Contemporary Women Dramatists. London, St James, 1994: pp262-267 (Call: 822CON in reference section)

Carlson, Susan Language and identity in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Plays. In E. Aston & J. Reinelt (Eds). The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Women Playwrights. Cambridge University Press, 2000:pp134-149. (Call: 822.91099287CAM on short loan)

Case, Sue-Ellen Feminism and Theatre. Hampshire, Macmillan, 1988. (Call: 792.082CAS on short loan)

Rabey, Ian Defining Difference: Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Drama of Language, Dispossession and Discovery. Modern Drama 33 (1990):pp 518 – 528. (Accessed from EbscoHost, hard copy on short loan – Call:P808.2MOD v 33 1990)

Roth, M.E. & Freeman, S. International Dramaturgy: Translation and Transformations in the Theatre of Timberlake Wertenbaker. Brussels P.I.E. Peter Lang, 2008. (Call: 822.914 WER/INT)

Wagner, J. ‘Formal Parody and the Metamorphosis of the Audience in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Love of the Nightingale’ In Papers on Language & Literature, Summer 95 Vol 31, Issue 3. (Accessed ONLY from EbscoHost.)

Winston, Joe Re-Casting the Phaedra Syndrome: Myth and Morality in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Love of the Nightingale. Modern Drama 38 (1995): pp510-519 (Accessed from EbscoHost, hard copy on short loan – call:P808.2 MOD v 38 1995)
She asks the audience to interrogate their assumptions about
which emerged from feminist movements, aims to understand the nature of gender inequality by examining woman's roles and lived experience;
developed theories in a variety of disciplines in order to respond to issues such as the social construction of sex & gender
Study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form & meaning have changed over time
Philomela is associated with the nightingale, a bird known for its song, and her depiction in creative works is of being transformed into a nightingale - even though in nature, only the male nightingale sings.
The Myth
Philomela - princess of Athens, a daughter of Pandion I, King of Athens and Zeuxippe.
Sister of Procne, the wife of King Tereus.

Ovid and other writers have claimed (either fancifully or mistakenly) that the etymology of her name was “lover of song”.
Procne's husband, King Tereus of Thrace (son of Ares), agreed to travel to Athens and escort Philomela to Thrace for a visit.

Tereus lusted for Philomela on the voyage. Arriving in Thrace, he forced her to a cabin in the woods and raped her.
This incited Tereus to cut out her tongue and leave her in the cabin. Philomela then wove a tapestry (or a robe) that told her story and had it sent to Procne.
In revenge, Procne killed her son by Tereus, Itys (or Itylos), and served him to Tereus, who unknowingly ate him.
When he discovered what had been done, Tereus tried to kill the sisters; they fled and he pursued but, in the end, all three were changed by the Olympian Gods into birds.
The names "Procne" and "Philomela" are sometimes used in literature to refer to a nightingale. A genus of swallow has the name "Progne", a form of Procne. Philomela can also be poetically abbreviated to "Philomel".
“I was brought up with a complicated
cultural mix: Basque, French, Anglo
and American, and always felt outside
any one of them. I think I can identify
with outsiders imaginatively. What it
means to be an
always interested
me … that feeling of being estranged
from your childhood and your roots.
Women often feel they are outsiders
anyway.” (Wertenbaker 1997, cited
in Carlson 2000:142)

Greek myths always written by, performed for & interpreted by men.
Why Myths?
What is a myth? The oblique
image of an unwanted truth,
reverberating through time. p. 315

Absence of women from traditional theatre forms – Female characters always written from male perspective.

Female characters secondary to male protagonists in Greek myths.
Different truths (many versions of 1 myth).
Idea of rewriting history from a female
[In Aristotelian theatre] Women are the
outsiders … they function only to provide
the limits of the male subject,
which help him to complete his outline …
Women are invisible – there are no qualities
ascribed to them, and their invisibility
provides the empty space which organizes
the focus on the male subject.
(Ellen-Case 1988:17)

“Males created theatre to be able to speak to each
other artistically in a public form. This is simply
historically true; there is nothing judgmental
about it. Greek women had no access to the public
forum and men were not talking to them in plays.”
(Jenkins cited in Wagner 1995)

Myth retold through 2 female protagonists
Wertenbaker’s audience may … refuse Tereus’s
association of himself with Phaedra, but we
cannot help but recognize that there is
in Tereus’s generic
identification of his own unraveling story
as a tragedy.
In seeing it so, Tereus has at once
admitted the wrongness of what he is feeling;
even worse, he has absolved himself entirely
of personal
by assuming that –
according to generic expectation – the events
that will follow are ‘fatal’ and therefore out of
his control. (Wagner)

“So you are afraid. I know fear well. Fear
is consent.” p. 329

“Now I wish you didn’t exist.” p.334

“I will keep you quiet.” p. 337

“You should have kept quiet.” p. 337

“I loved her. When I silenced her, it was for love.
She didn’t want my love. She could only mock,
And soon rebel. She was dangerous.” p. 351

Theme of Silenc(ing)
Procne: This silence … this silence … p. 300

Some Quotes
Procne: Where have all the words gone?
p. 297

Tereus: She could keep silent about it. p. 305

Helen: I have trouble expressing myself. The
world I see and the words I have do not
match. p. 316.

Male Chorus: Questions are like earthquakes.
p. 319

Tereus: If I could explain.
Procne: You have a tongue. p. 350
Silencing as a theme resonates with the silencing of many peoples in our contemporary world.

The traditional Greek tragedy structure does not demand questioning from the audience, as what occurs is due to fate and therefore inevitable.

The last scene of the play brings this idea of the need to always question to the fore. Philomele appears with Itys, who encourages him to ask questions (see p. 353-354). She will only sing for him if he keeps asking questions of her.

Itys: What is right?
The Nightingale sings
Didn’t you want me to ask questions?

The ending of the play is a dramatic image of a female, encouraging a young male, who has already demonstrated his father’s and culture’s lust for violence, to keep asking questions of her. We are left with an interaction which encourages a female perspective on moral experience.

Female/Male Choruses & their differences
“Both choruses are characterised by a passivity toward immorality that amounts in both cases, through differing degrees, to moral irresponsibility…The passivity of each Chorus is, however interestingly particularized according to gender” (Wagner 1995:6).

We asked no more questions, and at
night, we slept soundly, and did
not see. p. 321
We saw nothing.
p. 326

Hero: She won’t listen.
Helen: I am worried. It is not something I can say.
There are no words for forebodings.
Hero: We are only brushed by possibilities.
Echo: A beating of wings.
p. 300

Male Chorus: Does Philomele know?
Ought we to tell her?
We are only here to observe, journalists of an
antique world, putting horror into words,
unable to stop the events we will soon
p. 308

Wertenbaker’s acute listening to what happens in
the space between languages … to cultural
differences untranslatable across language or
historical communities.
(Roth 2008: 16)

Reaching back to ancient myths to speak to
contemporary lives, enacting lineages and
dialogues across generations … mining the always
changing relationships between language and
(Roth 2008:17)
Audience are cast in the role of translators
themselves, actively responsible for mediation of
(Roth 2008:24)
Iris: We speak the same
language, Procne.

Procne: The words are the same,
but point to different things.
p. 298-299

“The signs of masculinity dominant in Greek theatre such as the phallus, valiant soldier, or conquering hero are parodied. The dramatization of the rape and silencing of Philomele … is critically alienated as paradigmatic of the violent silencing of women in Greek theatre.” (Aston 1994:18-19).

Conforms to the status quo.
Well aware of the power structures and conforms accordingly
She consistently cautions Philomele to “keep silent”.
internalization of patriarchy.
The silencing of her lucid use of language.
It is through her that the themes of speech and silence manifest.
Overturns traditionally accepted notions of female behaviour
Embraces her sexuality, as something positive, rather than destructive.
Object of transaction.
She submits to her parent’s authority.
Perfect wife material.
She expresses discomfort at the way her sister transgresses the boundaries of female behaviour.
She changes and strengthens as a result of Tereus’ betrayal, thereby presenting a far more empowered version of woman than many other classical texts portray.
Procne: I obeyed all the rules; the rules of parents, the rules of marriage, the rules of my loneliness, you. And now you say. This.
Tereus: I have no other words.
Procne: I will help you find them.
The body of Itys is revealed
If you bend over the stream and search for your reflection, Tereus, this is what it looks like.
Tereus: She-
Procne: No. You – Tereus. You bloodied the future. For all of us. We don’t want it.
p. 351
Full transcript