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The Lady's Not for Burning
by Christopher Fry

To:                ALL                   Date:    06/27
From:   YHJK89A    CATHERINE HILL        Time:     1:24 AM

Since some of you are starting THE LADY'S NOT FOR BURNING, I
thought I'd best post a note to clear up one minor          
reference.  At one point, the Chaplain says "I dreamed I was
standing on Jacob's ladder waiting for the gates to open and
the ladder was entirely made of diminished sevenths.  I was 
surprised but not put out."  I didn't understand the        
diminished seventh bit until I took Music Theory.  Since my 
theory is a bit rusty, I consulted my HARVARD DICTIONARY OF 
MUSIC on precisely what this musical interval is.  For all  
practical purposes, a diminished seventh is the same thing  
as a major sixth.  To get what it sounds like, sing to      
yourself the first two syllables of the famous nBc.  Fry    
did or does (He was born in 1907, and I haven't read of his 
death.) have some musical background and experience.  Why   
does anybody call a major sixth a diminished seventh when   
they are the same thing?  Well, it's partly bound up in what
the notes are in what particular key.  It doesn't pay to ask
too much about the reason for these technicalities.  You get
things like this:  "Experiments already conducted by        
Pythagoras (6th Century B.C.) lead to the following laws:   
(1) If the frequency of a tone is N, those of the octave,   
fifth, and (major) third are 2N, 3/2N, and 5/4N             
respectively."  Now that, I believe, we can term true,      
incontrovertable history.                  Cathy            


===============   Reply    1 of Note   60 =================

 
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 06/28 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:31 AM My son, who's taken theory more recently than I, tells me that in a MAJOR key the interval is a major sixth. In a MINOR key it's a diminished seventh. Serious musical types have their own vocabulary and jokes. For instance, I was taught that the oft-discussed Unpardonable Sin is flatting a Picardy Third. Cathy  
To: ALL Date: 07/01 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 6:26 PM Several of us have been flitting around the edges of "The Lady's Not for Burning" and I thought the play deserved a shot at its own thread. First, Fry's language and rythm is superb; I can hear Giulgud, Burton and Bloom as I read it -- out loud, which earned me many a nervous stare last weekend, as I was riding a train through the Alaska wilderness, mumbling to myself in a faux- English accent, while intermittantly cackling with laughter. Some of the lines are unforgettable. Thus, Thomas Mendip's description of post-traumatic stress syndrome in the Hundred Year's War veteran: I've been unidentifiably Floundering in Flanders for the last seven years, Prising open ribs to let men go On the indefinite leave which needs no pass. And now all roads are uncommonly flat, and all hair Stands on end. So very little use of horripilation in playwriting these days.... And, we have this gem, when Jennet protests that the "innocent" town's people could hardly believe her guilty of witchcraft, Tom replies: Innocence! Dear girl, Before the world was, innocence Was beaten by a lion all round the town. And liked it. Finally, in the humorous one-liner department, here's my favorite (possibly because it makes the judge look like the ones I practice before). In this scene, Richard and Alizon interrupt their elopement to return to the party in the company of Mathew Skipps, the town inebriate. Mr. Skipp's appearance is important to the story line, since Skipps has supposedly been turned into a dog (by Jennet, who the populace wants to burn at the stake for the offense) or murdered (Tom claims he did it, but can't convince anyone); when presented with evidence that NEITHER crime was committed, however, Magistrate Tappercoom has this quintessentially judicial reaction: It looks uncommonly to me As though someone has been tampering with the evidence. God, I love this profession. Finally, last but far from least, I recommend to you the love scene between Richard and Alizon in Act III. I am an admitted romantic and sentimental fool so perhaps you will find it all a little old-fashioned and overdone. I found it very effecting and moving. Anyway, a delightful play that I barely appreciated when I last saw it, 28 years ago, and to the CR's who pointed me in this direction, many thanks. Dick in Alaska, where being a romantic and sentimental fool is much easier with his wife safely home =============== Reply 1 of Note 9 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 07/02 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 0:57 AM Yes, DickinAlaska, you were right to read THE LADY'S NOT FOR BURNING out loud. It fairly cries for the voice to wrap itself around the language, which is, of course, probably the reason Fry wrote it as a play. Some plays are easily read, absorbed without the necessity of stage, although I assume most Crs to as I do and present themselves with an entire play-in-the-mind's-eye, when reading any novel or short story. Fry has a wonderful gift for the turn of phrase: "Life, forbye, is the way We fatten for the Michaelmas of our own particular gallows. And: "Men are strange. It's almost unexpected To find they speak English.... Show me daffodils happening to a man!" I've copied this one into my journal: "...your life, sir, is propelled By a dream of the fear of haing nightmares; your love Is the fear of your single self; your world's history The fear of a possible leap by a possible antagonist Out of a possible shadow...." Ah, me. Ruth, in California =============== Reply 2 of Note 9 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 07/02 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:57 AM Thanks for the splendid review of this little piece I recommended. I was really surprised that more of the CRs were not familiar with Fry's work, though I suppose he did peak in the 50s or so. I started to recommend THOR, WITH ANGELS, but THE LADY is easier to find and certainly his most famous. Yes, some of those lines would sound VERY odd read aloud on the train. Cathy =============== Reply 3 of Note 9 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 07/04 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 0:08 AM Well, here I am, late again to the party I was supposed to be hosting. Thank you, Dick, for starting the LADY'S thread for your lackadaisical Conductor. The main reason I chose this to read next is that I was looking for lighter fare -- both physically and figura- tively -- than Marquez, and T.L.N.F.B. is certainly that. Not insubstantial, though; mixed in with the comic dialogue such as NICHOLAS. I must tell you I've just been reborn. MARGARET. Nicholas, you always think You can do things better than your mother. You can be sure You were born quite adequately on the first occasion. ...we have musings on the peculiarities of the human condition like this one of Thomas Mendip's that I opened to at random while looking for quotes for this note: THOMAS. For the reason of laughter, since laughter is surely The surest touch of genius in creation. Would *you* ever have thought of it, I ask you, If you had been making man, stuffing him full Of such hopping greeds and passions that he has To blow himself to pieces as often as he Conveniently can manage it --would it also Have occurred to you to make him burst himself With such a phenomenon as cachinnation? That same laughter, madam, is an irrelevancy Which almost amounts to revelation. Finding something to quote from this play is an absolute pice of cake; the text is so generously studded with gems that you can open the book almost anywhere and come up with something good. There is more than one pretended claimant to the title of Resident Poetry Curmudgeon to be found in these parts, but I can state with some assurance that none are as con- genitally "verse-deaf" as I am. But even to me, Fry's work is most enjoyable; as Dick noted, it begs to be read out loud. Add to this readability its lightness of touch but underlying seriousness, and there you have something pretty remarkable. I think that if you're going to undertake something as unusual as writing a drama in verse in the 20th century, you can only succeed brilliantly or fail completely. That Christopher Fry achieved the former, I believe there can be little doubt. Thanks to Cathy Hill for putting us onto a play that I for one would have been unlikely to other- wise come across. Allen =============== Reply 4 of Note 9 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 07/04 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 0:27 AM Allen: This play went on the boards in 1947; England was a very grim place at that time, still suffering under rationing and with no very certain end in sight. Thus, I think the lightness of Fry's humor has a certain topicallity; yet,the underlying themes are very serious and very strong: love, faithfulness to the truth, resistance to the forces of ignorance and bigotry, are all there. I think, perhaps, that Fry has been downgraded a bit because of the humor. Yet the England of 1947 deserved a smile; they had given up a great deal for all of us in the preceding eight years. I personally think this is a better, and more enduring, play than it's current reputation reflects. Dick in Alaska, where he salutes Winston with champagne, scotch whiskey and hair loss, but draws the line at cigars.... =============== Reply 5 of Note 9 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 07/06 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 11:26 AM Dear C.R. friends, I finished THE LADY about two weeks ago, and it keeps slipping away from me. I enjoyed it, but it just did not stick. I liked some of the characters like Richard, Thomas, and the girls. Richard and the boy's father seemed as if they had hopped out of a Moliere play. You know:the uppity servant and the bumbling father. Perhaps i would enjoy this play more if I saw it. Jane in Colorado =============== Reply 6 of Note 9 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 07/06 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 6:51 PM Cathy, I second Allen's thanks for introducing me to Fry. As for not being familiar with him, I can confess that not only do I suffer from lack of familiarity with a lot of poetry, but I shy away from plays as well, being sure that the greater amount of words in a novel will help me to gain understanding of the author's purpose. Silly, I know, but...that being said, I must say that I enjoy TLNFB. Very funny, and although I haven't finished it, I am sure it will grow into a splendid little piece. I found it necessary to hear the lines in my head, as if on stage...it helps, and as Dick and others have said, it lends itself to that like a dream. I can even hear the timing of Mendip's little "noddings-in." To weigh in with a quote of my own, although I appreciate the others mightily: "To be--*want* to be hanged? How very drunk you are After all. Who ever would want to be hanged?...You didn't Make any allowance for individuality. How do you know that out there, in the day or night According to latitude, the entire world Isn't wanting to be hanged?" Eager to finish, Princess Sarah 7/6/95 3:35PM MT =============== Reply 7 of Note 9 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 07/10 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 0:42 AM A few left-over thoughts on THE LADY'S NOT FOR BURNING: I think one reason I seldom read plays is that I find there's always a certain element of frustration at the end: if I didn't like the play, it was time wasted, and if I did, then I always want very badly to see it performed. Considering this point, a further thought occurred to me: Is it better to read a play before you see it performed? At first I thought -- no, since plays are meant to be staged, they should be allowed to stand on their own. An exception would be made for works that require study beforehand to help you better appreciate them; I think you get more out of Shakespeare from a careful reading than watching a single performance. But as I thought of what I would do, I know that, given the opportunity, I would always read the play first, even if it was just a Neil Simon comedy. I guess this is because if you see a play before reading it, your visualization will always be colored by that experience. Evidently the pleasure of staging the play in my head, my own way, is so central to me that I'll choose it at the expense of spoiling any suspense I may have enjoyed while viewing a performance. What do the rest of you folks think? Here's something I can't figure: when Skipps, the man believed for most of the play to be either dead or a dog, turns out to be neither, the speech suddenly changes from verse to prose, and two pages later changes back. I think Fry must have had some reason for this change (which would not, I would think, be evident in a performance) but I haven't been able to even guess at what it may be. Before reading T.L.N.F.B., I thought I preferred drama in prose to verse, both in reading and performance, but now I've changed my mind. After all, drama is all artifice to begin with, so what's wrong with adding on another layer? Allen =============== Reply 8 of Note 9 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 07/10 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 11:57 PM Allen, I hadn't noticed the switch from verse to prose and back; of course, I get confused sometimes about precisely what constitutes verse. Skipps's lines are certainly arresting enough - all that bit about "holy weeping and washing of teeth" and "Peace on Earth and good tall women". I've read quite a lot of plays simply because we don't have that much theater here. We have flourishing amateur and "alternative" type establishments, but no regular, professional company. The only play I can remember seeing before I read it is MAN AND SUPERMAN, and that production left out the Don Juan in Hell act. Of course, Shaw gives such explicit stage directions you have quite good aids to visualization. You can also depend on a foreword and sometimes an afterword, along with other odds and ends like THE REVOLUTIONARY'S HANDBOOK AND POCKET COMPANION at the end of MAN AND SUPERMAN. I've found I rather prefer listening to opera than watching it unless the production is just super grade superb. Of course, visualizing from listening and visualizing from the written word are two somewhat different phenomena. This whole thing of visualizing and relating to stories told in various ways has psychological aspects. I wondered throughout Larry's public school career why, aside from the asthma, he didn't seem to perform up to what I knew his potential was. He could and can remember virtually every story I've ever told him, ever opera he's ever heard more than once or twice, every Star Trek episode he's ever watched, and the entire HITCHIKER series from the radio. Psychological testing in college told the story and relieved his mind considerably. He actually learns best from auditory and pictoral presentation; it is not so natural for him to pick up words. The written page just takes him a little longer. It's a great help to him to study to music, while I want silence as deep as the blessed braes of Inverary at midnight. Cathy =============== Reply 9 of Note 9 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 07/11 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 2:40 PM Allen: I believe reading a play and watching it are two quintessentially distinct processes. When I read a play for the first time, I'm primarily absorbing the story line and only beginning to form my first, dim ideas of how the story might "round out" on the stage. Only on subsequent reads do I flesh out my mental stage directions, make my personal casting decisions, etc. Contrarily, when I first see a play performed, cold, I often leave with only a sketchy idea of the plot line; but I'm full of the actor's characterizations, the scenery and the direction. I then can run home/out to the bookstore and get the play to read for plot, while all this theatrical color is fresh in my mind. In general, I try to read the play before the performance if at all possible; that prevents me from being distracted in mid-scene by plot puzzlement, and thus missing the next line, and the next, and so on. I think the more difficult the play, the more important it is to preview it -- and I include Shakespeare as "difficult" because if I don't read even a familiar WS play before I see it, it takes me a full act to get into the swing of Elizabethan syntax. This preview thing goes double for the really difficult audio-visual experiences, like opera. I love the music, but without a passing familiarity with the libretto, I'm dogmeat. Frankly, I've become very fond of opera produced on television, because of the translated crawl. I understand they have this in some form at live, big-city opera, but it hasn't arrived at the Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts, yet. Dick in Alaska, where an operatic treatment of the life of Hank Williams, Jr. would be a major draw =============== Reply 10 of Note 9 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 07/11 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 2:47 PM Cathy: Skipp's mangled verbiage ("Peace on Earth and good tall women") reminds me of that funny story in the Smithsonian Magazine a few years ago: the writer had, as a boy, attended church faithfully with his family, where as good noisy Protestants, they sang a good many hymns. Like most children confronted with religion he didn't inquire too deeply into many of the mysteries of his faith, including exactly why they were singing a hymn containing the line "Lead on oh kinky turtle." Only later, as an adult did he realize the line had been: "Lead on, oh, King eternal." Dick in Alaska, where the kinky turtle is probably subject to some form of federal protection =============== Reply 11 of Note 9 =================  
To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 07/11 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 11:16 PM Tennessee is the proud home of the Snail Darter and the Tan Riffle Shell. Personally, I'm glad the inch-long fish stopped a dam in East Tennessee we didn't need anyway. The Tan Riffle Shell is a rare muscle that's been holding up a dam in Columbia, Tennessee; I don't know whether it's won or not. To bring books (and religious experience) into this note, I should add that Columbia, Tennessee was the place where N.B. Forrest captured the noted atheist Col. Robert Ingersoll and his company. During his captivity, Ingersoll entered into some currency exchanges with the doughty general and played poker with his troops. When an account of this incident was published after the war, Ingersoll promptly sent the surviving troopers the money he owed them. They concluded that at least his poker ethics were sound. Cathy =============== Reply 12 of Note 9 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 07/13 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:14 AM Further notes on the perils of hymnody - Some well intentioned but misguided hymn writers seem to specialize in rapid tempo hymns featuring huge amounts of verbiage. Since our glorious English tongue isn't easy to sing in the first place, this makes for considerable misunderstanding. My first exposure to this type of hymn was on a choral tour bus (while the director quietly steamed), and I didn't believe my ears. In the course of a rapid exhortation that "Just a little talk with Jesus makes it right" I clearly heard the line "When you feel a little prayer wheel turning" and wondered when we all became Buddhists. Larry tells me that's precisely what it sounds like on the professional recording, too. It should be "If you feel a little prayerful yearning", but I've never honestly heard that. Hymns and scripture references turn up in all kinds of places in literature; it would be amusing for everybody to contribute some. There are also hymns with historical connotations and backgrounds, such is the weaving together of the human experience. My own anecdotal favorite is P.P. Bliss's "Hold the Fort" based on Sherman's telegraph to J.M. Corse at Allatoona Pass. (Corse held the fort at the loss of a third of his command.) Sherman, a just music critic, angrily repudiated the hymn and the attributed line. His actual message, according to the Official Records, was "Hold the Fort. I will help." He, however, preferred to remember another message and its response. He sent "Where is Corse?" and got back the reply "I am here minus a cheekbone and half an ear but able to whip all h**l yet." "And I'd like to see them make a Sunday School hymn out of that!" Sherman added venomously. Cathy =============== Reply 13 of Note 9 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 07/13 From: FBED59A EDWARD HOUGHTON Time: 5:21 AM Alan Crocker The dilemma you mention is mine also. I have season tickets to the local repertory company and the first play will be "The Lady is not for Burnning". I sometimes read the plays ahead, but sometimes I think I've enjoyed those most, that I didn't read first. Then they are like new contemporary plays. The one time that I wished that I knew the play was "Shadowland". I was totally unprepared for the sadness of the ending. I just wasn't familiar with C.S. Lewis' life. It was the best acted play put on here in a long time. But then I have this thing about crying in public. It seems acceptable if I know about it ahead of time. I'll read all the comments, then I put them in selective memory until I need them. Selective memory always seems to work for my kids. Edd Houghton =============== Reply 14 of Note 9 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 07/13 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 9:09 AM Cathy: Thanks for clearing up the "prayer wheel" reference in "Just a Little Talk with Jesus"; that one always puzzled me. On a similar "note"... Did you hear about the first-graders who were drawing nativity scenes as an art project just before Christmas? The renderings were all pretty standard, except for one youngster who added a figure of a somewhat obese young man in the background smiling reverently at the baby Jesus. "And who is this person?" the teacher asked. The little boy seemed put out because the answer was so obvious; he replied, "That's Round John Virgin, mother and child!" Then (supposedly authentic), there were the two preschoolers visiting their grandparents for a weekend who went to Sunday morning church and saw their first baptismal service, which they found fascinating. After lunch, the grandmother looked out the window where the kids were playing in the yard and noticed with alarm that they had dug a hole, filled it with water, and were about to baptize a neighbor's very uncooperative cat. She ran outside to intervene, and just as she reached the children she heard them intone, in perfect harmony, "In the name of the Father, and the Son, in the hole he goes..." Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 15 of Note 9 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 07/13 From: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Time: 1:28 PM HO, ha ha. Still giggling. =============== Reply 16 of Note 9 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 07/13 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 7:29 PM Your eccentricity is showing a bit, My Dear--and for God's sake, keep it coming! My love to you and yours. Your pal, Steve. =============== Reply 17 of Note 9 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 07/13 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 11:27 PM Thanks. I've been putting in some time seriously considering how to draw a kinky turtle on my Christmas card; I simply must have one. Cathy

 
 
This play went on the boards in 1947; England was a very grim place at that time, still suffering under rationing and with no very certain end in sight. Thus, I think the lightness of Fry's humor has a certain topicallity; yet,the underlying themes are very serious and very strong: love, faithfulness to the truth, resistance to the forces of ignorance and bigotry, are all there.
Dick in Alaska
 
Finding something to quote from this play is an absolute pice of cake; the text is so generously studded with gems that you can open the book almost anywhere and come up with something good.
Allen
 
I found it necessary to hear the lines in my head, as if on stage...it helps, and as Dick and others have said, it lends itself to that like a dream.
Sarah

 
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