June 4: I'll pass

I guess one of the things I'm hoping for out of this project is to make up for my haphazard education with this equally haphazard spin through 1908's judgement of what I ought to know. To find, there in a junk store on the side of the road, with its red-white-and-blue "ANTIQUES" flag flying, a dusty, but still perfectly serviceable, intellectual knickknack -- a Neglected Classic. Why aren't we paying attention to this?, I might think, and then I would have a curio that would stick with me forever. And in fact I'm grateful to have picked up Cellini in this way (although that's hardly intellectual).

Today's reading, however, is the kind of thing that goes right back on the shelf.

It's more Act I Scene i Theater, this time from Goethe's Egmont, and, if I may say so, I don't believe Goethe manages his exposition well. Imagine sitting through the following dialogue -- which I assure you is about a third of the entire speech -- when it's being spoken, not by a great actor, but by an OK one:

They did not help us much, ’tis true; they could only approach with their smallest vessels, and that not near enough;—besides, their shot fell sometimes among our troops. It did some good, however! It broke the French lines, and raised our courage. Away it went. Helter-skelter! topsy-turvy! all struck dead, or forced into the water; the fellows were drowned the moment they tasted the water, while we Hollanders dashed in after them.
In my mind's eye I see acting that features a great deal of over-gesticulation and unnecessary pauses. By the time scene ii rolls around, everyone in the audience has long beards -- even the women, for their boredom has made them desperate.

Add on the fact that these bluff, hearty peasants (as if there are any other kind) are expositing about the Dutch religious settlement of the 17th century, and what we have here is the type of play that, if your local rep company were doing it, it would be the one whose tickets you'd have to buy in order to get tickets to the play you really wanted. In order to see Patrick Stewart do "A Christmas Carol," you have to buy tickets to "Egmont" too.

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