Assuming that you’re all acquainted with my peculiar infatuation with young, effeminate and excruciatingly gorgeous males, an aesthetic propensity I think I’ve previously expressed in my post about Oscar Wilde’s splendid lover, bawdy poet Bossie Douglas, my yet again developing a fascination for a historical pretty boy should not imply any trace of surprise on your behalf.

Allow me to repeat for better understanding: I have contracted, so to say, a great interest in the very foppish main character I bet you’ll also adore to this extent  if watching the really worth watching film “Stage Beauty”. In an age when, after the Greek inherited tradition, roles like Juliet’s or Desdemona’s had to be interpreted by adolescent lads (that is, until Margaret Hughes imposed herself in the domain during the Restoration), Edward Kynaston, my virtual crush, made the moast graceful lady, pretty talented and surprisingly flexible as he could play both a King and a Queen in the same act. Though this remarkable trait is omitted in the movie so to create a more intense drama, which doesn’t diminish its juiciness, Kynaston could fairly be considered an interesting person, not short of appeal and definitely not of theatrical aptitudes.

No wonder he was a high member of Rhode’s company at the Royal Cockpit, situated not far from the Whitehall Palace, thus very frequented by aristocrats. Edward’s portrayal of Shakespeare’s Henry IV brought him to join the King’s (Charles II) company.

His contemporaries, naval administrator Samuel Pepys and the actor-manager Colley Cibber prized Edward’s intriguing capacities, noting his most brilliant she-roles in renaissance productions as Ben Johnson’s “Epicoene” and John Fletcher’s “The Loyal Subject“, being clear that he was quite a sensational figure in 17th century London (he was born around 1640, commencing the acting career in his early 20’s ).

I find extraordinary the simultaneity with which he enacted characters of the two genders, like in the winter of 1660, when he filled the role of Otto in “Rollo Duke of Normandy” having played   Arthiope only the previous week. Such accurately managed shifts fascinate me; he must’ve possessed a huge imagination and a lot more psychological equilibrium to balance the characteristics of the two sexes inside him, pulling out the needed one at command, with awing credibility nonetheless.

Quotations of his coevals underline the strange ability, asserting that he had fabricated “a Complete Female Stage Beauty” who “performed his Parts so well, especially Arthiope and Aglaura” and “has since been Disputable among the Judicious, whether any Woman that succeeded him so sensibly touch’d the Audience as he” (Downes, “Roscius Anglicanus”).

He also finds appreciation in Pepys’ now notorious diary.

Saturday, 18 August, 1660     Captain Ferrers, my Lord’s Cornet, comes to us, who after dinner took me and Creed to the Cockpitt play, the first that I have had time to see since my coming from sea, “The Loyall Subject,” where one Kinaston, a boy, acted the Duke’s sister (Olympia), but made the loveliest lady that ever I saw in my life, only her voice not very good. After the play done, we three went to drink, and by Captain Ferrers’ means, Kinaston and another that acted Archas, the General, came and drank with us.

Monday, 7 January, 1660/61    Saw “The Silent Woman.” The first time that ever I did see it, and it is an excellent play. Among other things here, Kinaston, the boy; had the good turn to appear in three shapes: first, as a poor woman in ordinary clothes, to please Morose; then in fine clothes, as a gallant, and in them was clearly the prettiest woman in the whole house, and lastly, as a man; and then likewise did appear the handsomest man in the house. (between brackets, I would’ve judge this way too 😉 )

Monday, 1 February, 1668/9    We find no play there; Kinaston, that did act a part therein, in abuse to Sir Charles Sedley, being last night exceedingly beaten with sticks, by two or three that assaulted him, so as he is mightily bruised, and forced to keep his bed.  (part which appears in the movie too, making me flinch as I have horror of attractive persons venturing into fights that may cause them lose their natural pulchritude; it’s nothing sadder to me than being deprived of a particularity thus addictive)

Tuesday, 2 February, 1668/9   At the King’s playhouse,  “The Heyresse,” not- withstanding Kinaston’s being beaten, is acted; and they say the King is very angry with Sir Charles Sedley for his being beaten, but he do deny it.

Tuesday, 9 February, 1668/9   Saw “The Island Princess” which I like mighty well, as an excellent play: and here we find Kinaston to be well enough to act again, which he do very well, after his beating by Sir Charles Sedley’s appointment.

A part I have further enjoyed was his travesty carriage-trips with the “Ladies of Quality” who “prided themselves in offering him a ride through Hyde-Park” just to see with their own goggled eyes the testimony of his virility… by slipping a bold hand under his many skirts. Really an awkward scene but doubtlessly pleasurable for the naughty Kynaston boy.

He did have big on and off stage success.

Even I, the girl from the future, was charmed by his ambiguous personality.

What do you think about him?

Advertisements

Once upon a time in the British Parliament, more precisely in the House of Commons,  the juiciest gossip topic apart the outbreak of a new World War and the perpetual conflicts with Berlin was the enmity between prominent politician Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), then occupying the privileged position of Prime Minister, and the audacious Viscountess Nancy Astor (1879 –1964 ), known to be the first woman sitting as a Member of the Parliament, who, from some reason or another, could not at all live in mutual tolerance.

VS.

The two were reputed for a series of sarcastic dialogues whose lines were ping-ponged on the halls of Westminster Palace to the delight of the many accidental witnesses that obviously couldn’t refrain a smile when hearing such virulent interlocutions like the following:

Nancy Astor: Winston, you are drunk.

Winston Churchill: And you, madam, are ugly. But I shall be sober in the morning!

Any other lady would’ve slapped him, offended by this type of rudeness which seemed as if taken from Oscar Wilde’s plays, but not our Nancy, no, for she was an adept of intelligent revenge and on numerous times had the chance to retort smartly a mocking proposition to equal the score.

Thus, when the stout Winston attempted to both tease and ridicule her by stating that “having a woman in Parliament is like having one intrude” on him “in the bathroom”, she serenely replied: “You’re not handsome enough to have such fears”, provoking general dissimulated laughter amongst the stiff diplomats, we can imagine, to her satisfaction.

Also, at his impolite question about what disguise  he should wear so that nobody could recognize him at the Astor’s “stupid” masquerade ball, Nancy ironically responded using rhetoric: “Why don’t you come sober, Prime Minister?”

Yet by far my favorite is the immortal exchange of witty words which Consuelo, Duchess of Malborough, registers in her “the Glitter and the Gold” autobiography: “Lady Astor and Winston were actuaded by a strong antipathy one for the other, so much so that one never invited them together, dreading the inevitable explosion bound to occur. It was therefore unfortunate than on one of her visits to Blenheim, when my son was host, Churchill should have chosen to appear. The expected result of their encounter was not long in coming; after a heated argument on some trivial matter Nancy, with a fervor whose sincerity could not be doubted, shouted, ‘If I were you wife I woul poison your coffee!’ Whereupon Winston with equal heat and sincerity answered ‘And if I were your husband I would drink it!’

That’s a first-hand experience I wish I could boast with!

Isn’t it comical?

Poor Arabian women?

January 29, 2012

How we, cosmopolite, liberal Europeans, with pronounced anti-sexist views and very democratic in behavior (really?), love to pity our Islamic sisters, the poor veiled ladies obviously maltreated by their husbands, oppressed by their discriminatory culture which, in addition, breeds mass-terrorist! We feel so superior, so falsely advanced and philanthropic, if we sustain their “cause” or, after reading the tragic memoir of one struggling Arabian wife, deeply involve in “aid Muslim women” organizations with the strongest sense of self-importance! It’s our duty to support them and actively participate in their externally imposed adaptation to the modern values. We made a mean of boasting with our humanitarian actions from it!

banner

And I don’t state that encouraging emancipation is, though majorly artificial, something blameworthy (after all, help’s inevitably welcomed), but it’s wrong to treat Arabian women as being clearly inferior. Not to say it’s another form of the unfairness we claim to want to diminish.

We, sophisticated, unprejudiced lads, seem to have forgotten the funny contrast between our histories. Bet you don’t expect what I’m about to tell.

While the fancy, highly “cultivated” European dame of the Early Meddle Ages was spending her time doing oh-so-complicated things like this…

woman in the middle ages

…and, if aristocratic enough, this…

women spinning

…the poor Muslim gals had to settle on easier jobs, fitted for their limited capacities, like, I don’t know, patronizing world’s first University?

When the erudition of the female population was badly seen by Christiandom and women had to be satisfied with mere basic knowledge so they could remain the docile, plain brides men desired, Fatima al-Fihri (died 880), nicknamed Oum al Banine (meaning “the mother of the children”) founded the oldest academic degree-granting University existing today, the University of Qarawiyyin, in Morocco. Daughter of a wealthy businessman, Mohamed al-Fihri, she invested the money inherited from her father to build gathering locations for scholars. Her sister, Mariam, is said to have been responsible for the construction of the Al-Andalus (Andalusian) mosque in Fes.

university of qairawan

This was late 9th century, almost 200 to 400 years before the birth of our more educated Hildegard of Bingen (1097- 1179) and Christine de Pizan (1363- 1430).

The 10th century doesn’t disappoint either: around 950, Miriam al-Ijli al-Astrulabi hand-crafted intricate astrolabes, a premature type of global/ Sun/ Moon/ planets/ stars positioning system, which was an impressive deed for the epoch.

astrolabe

It’s sad, though, there’s not much information about these two, at least not in accessible language, ’cause it would be great to learn more of their lives and accomplishments. Personally, I discovered Miriam and Fatima’s vague stories from an informative exposition-program I stumbled across in Istanbul. It was called “1001 Inventions”  (if you need further details) and introduced to the public a list of the chief Islamic scientists, astronomers, doctors, architects, mathematicians, etc, amongst whom were our admirable ladies.

fatima-at exposition

miriam- at exposition

miriam

Summing up: it’s very nice to help and sponsor Muslim women to speak-up, claim their God-given rights, liberate or whatever, yet you should bear in mind that they’re far from being pathetic and poor, on the contrary: they have a legacy we can’t brag with.

%d bloggers like this: