TL Question #13 ~ The Message

by Stephen Jeffreys

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suec
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Unread postby suec » Sun Dec 18, 2005 3:27 pm

I think there is a message. Last time we discussed this I said that it is a morality play and I still believe it because it deals with a recurring universal question. I think this is mainly why there is a prologue and an epilogue, why we are given these direct addresses to us. Jeffreys shows us a man reflecting on himself and his life, and we are invited to do the same. I believe that this is the real reason why Rochester wants our attention, that he is holding up a mirror for us to see ourselves reflected. He asks us to walk in his shoes for a while: "Feel how it was for me... Did he know something more profound? Or is there some wall of wretchedness that we all batter with our heads".

The play shows us a man who has this precious gift of life that is so short, but then it is short for us all, really, whether we live to 33 or 66 or 99. He is a man with many blessings, a wife and children, standing in society, intelligence, the capacity to love... and how does he use these blessings? Where does he find meaning in his life and happiness? His wife reminds him that he is a rational man, a man of intellect and asks why he cannot apply these attributes, why he must persist in destroying himself. It is a good question. Earlier in the play, he asks Barry to change her life, to "Leave this gaudy guilded stage", but he, too, frequents such a stage, that gives him no happiness: Court. Yet he doesn't leave it. How many people in the audience are in just such a position in their own lives - and who stay? He tells Barry that life is a trickle of "Why should Is", but he doesn't seem to have dealt with them satisfactorily, to have taken action. His wife wants him to "live and live differently". For me that isn't just about giving up the drink, and it seems that he couldn't anyway. The self-medication that Johnny talked about, the making a beast of himself to get rid of the pain of being a man: it didn't work, did it? That is what is so awful for me. He had the means of finding happines for himself, but he couldn't. He didn't change his life, or at least the effort he did make came too late, and he couldn't find happiness in the life that he did have, he couldn't be content, couldn't appreciate the wonderful bleassings he had been given.

I think that the message of the play is to make the most of what we have, to find happiness in our short lives, to evaluate, ask questions, find the meaning for us, because life marches on, regardless, and then there is no more time left. That is the message that I have taken from it, anyway.
"Luck... inspiration... both only really happen to you when you empty your heart of ambition, purpose, and plan; when you give yourself, completely, to the golden, fate-filled moment."

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Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 18, 2005 4:37 pm

As usual, I have more questions than answers. :-? What do you make of this statement?

"Now I gaze upon a pinhead and see angels dancing."

I'm wondering if he is saying that his life was pointless.
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Unread postby Betty Sue » Sun Dec 18, 2005 5:05 pm

Pollyanna that I am, I took that as a positive statement, Liz. The old (pointless?) debate was over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, but the Earl is just gazing and seeing the angels dancing, not counting. I think he felt it was a spiritual experience. He must have regretted the life he'd led but is saying he at least saw the light at the end, which is worth something...
And, suec, I loved your explanation!
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Dec 18, 2005 5:28 pm

suec wrote: I think that the message of the play is to make the most of what we have, to find happiness in our short lives, to evaluate, ask questions, find the meaning for us, because life marches on, regardless, and then there is no more time left. That is the message that I have taken from it, anyway


I like that explanation, suec. It certainly is a valuable one. :cool:

Liz wrote: "Now I gaze upon a pinhead and see angels dancing."


I've been wondering about that line too and I could go either way at this point. Either he feels it was pointless or it represents a spiritual awakening. Anyone else?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 18, 2005 5:58 pm

I would like to think that there is some message to this play other than merely a history lesson on a libertine and a poet. I assume that writers choose to write about things that they feel strongly about—at least strongly enough to give them the impetus to write about them. So I’m thinking there is a message.

I keep coming back to the ending. There are mixed messages in it. The common theme seems to be associated with his drinking, though. Although Sackville doesn’t want to believe JW converted and is a drinker himself, he admits that JW’s thought processes changed without drink and tells us that his mind was more concerned of the soul than of the body once off the drink. Lizzie Barry indicates that his death was pre-mature. And I am reading into this that it was due to the alcohol. And then there are Rochester’s own thoughts at the end indicating that he really wanted to shake his habit and recognizing that maybe it had been responsible for the wrong he had done.

I guess what I am saying here is that the point could be that self-medicating can have many disastrous effects—on those around us, on our spirit and on our body.

But I also see the spiritual side of it (i.e. his words at the end). Even Sackville makes a case for it even though his words prior to and after this statement indicate differently: “My Lord held the soul to be merely a function of the body until he stopped drinking.”
You can't judge a book by its cover.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Dec 18, 2005 9:44 pm

Liz wrote: But I also see the spiritual side of it (i.e. his words at the end). Even Sackville makes a case for it even though his words prior to and after this statement indicate differently: “My Lord held the soul to be merely a function of the body until he stopped drinking.”


Having not read the biographies yet, I wonder what place religion had in his life before his last years? Several of you have said he reverted so I take that to mean he was more of a believer in his younger years? I know his mother was quite religious so he was probably brought up in the church as a young child. Was he devout before his time in the military? Did he believe in the soul before he became dependant on alcohol? And of course this could be dialogue written for the play and not from any known source.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby gilly » Mon Dec 19, 2005 2:41 am

The angels/pinhead line to me, means that he can see God's grace/angels even in a tiny thing like a pinhead.It is such a beautiful line..It tells me that he has had an epiphany, a revelation..And I am coming at this question as not a particularly religious person, but that line shouts at me for it's spirituality....It reminds me of William Blakes,''To see the world in a grain of sand'' . :cool:
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Unread postby SamIam » Mon Dec 19, 2005 12:53 pm

Hmm..these are all good answers. I think the author wanted us to reflect on our lives and lead by example. JW thought he was damned from the start so he went out and had fun. The thing is we don't really know if we are damned from the start or not. It's all a matter of what you believe.

As for the quote, I agree with you Liz that he's saying his life was pointless but God was still watching out for him.
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the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. -Eleanor Roosevelt

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Unread postby Boo-Radley » Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:35 pm

Yes, I think there are a couple of messages in the play. One message of course, is how terrrible it is to waste one's talents. I really do believe that talent is a blessing, a gift and that when you have such a gift you have a certain responsibility to it.

The other message I got from the play, is that you can't allow the past to usurp your future. It sounds simplistic, I know but sometimes, in life one must pull it together and move on, because not doing so is not an option. Life is meant to be lived, you only get one shot, and the harm you do to yourself and to those who love you while you obsess over issues that can't be changed or remedied can sometimes be catastrophic. Moving on may require that you see those issues for what they are, and be honest with yourself about them, and of course sometimes that can be painful and daunting. However, the alternative of remaining mired in the past, and the depression and destruction of spirit that results is worth that initial pain, I think.

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"With this hand I will cup your.... Oh goodness no!"~~Victor Van Dort

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:43 pm

Too true, Boobaba. Life marches on whether we ready or not and we need to make the most of it!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Boo-Radley » Wed Dec 21, 2005 12:02 am

Liz wrote:As usual, I have more questions than answers. :-? What do you make of this statement?

"Now I gaze upon a pinhead and see angels dancing."

I'm wondering if he is saying that his life was pointless.



Lizbaba, when I read that the second time around, it made me think that maybe, Wilmot was saying that for 1st time in his life he was pondering the divine, the nature of God.

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"With this hand I will cup your.... Oh goodness no!"~~Victor Van Dort

"The theater is my drug, and my illness is so far advanced that my physic must be of the highest quality."~~John Wilmot

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Dec 21, 2005 11:15 am

He certainly seemed to question everything and try to see things in depth. I can't imagine he wouldn't do the same with religion. It's a very interesting question.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby dharma_bum » Fri Dec 23, 2005 1:39 am

I've thought about "the message" again for couple days, here goes:
The world needs agitators who shake the status quo so the Kings and Kingdoms recognize they too might tumble down.

The world needs poets and artists and, YES, ACTORS who see the world differently so that through their vision we enrich ours.

The world needs genius, though the price is high. There is a cost to world for such a person to walk the earth, but not so much so that the havoc they wreak outweighs the rewards of their gifts.

Liz wrote:What do you make of this statement?

"Now I gaze upon a pinhead and see angels dancing."

I'm wondering if he is saying that his life was pointless.

I think what might have happened to the real JW at the end of his life may be different from the fictional JW Stephen Jefferies wants us to know.
***small movie spoiler***



In the movie, I thought that the line was delivered with an edge of sarcasm…almost like look what became of me at the end of my life—gone from “too great heat” to not even a spark… pitiful. Also, from wherever afterlife JW speaks to us, he indeed seems to be up to his old tricks… enjoying a bit of the grape.
"You can't broom out your head. You certainly can't broom out your heart. And there's a hot wire between them, and everything shows in the eyes."
—Johnny Depp

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Dec 23, 2005 1:22 pm

dharma_bum wrote: In the movie, I thought that the line was delivered with an edge of sarcasm…almost like look what became of me at the end of my life—gone from “too great heat” to not even a spark… pitiful. Also, from wherever afterlife JW speaks to us, he indeed seems to be up to his old tricks… enjoying a bit of the grape.


Well said all around DB. I agree the way JD delivered the line it was a bit sarcastic. Yet another way to interpret the ending!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Liz » Sat Dec 24, 2005 1:15 am

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:
dharma_bum wrote: In the movie, I thought that the line was delivered with an edge of sarcasm…almost like look what became of me at the end of my life—gone from “too great heat” to not even a spark… pitiful. Also, from wherever afterlife JW speaks to us, he indeed seems to be up to his old tricks… enjoying a bit of the grape.


Well said all around DB. I agree the way JD delivered the line it was a bit sarcastic. Yet another way to interpret the ending!


I need to see this movie again. :bounce:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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