Theatre Alls Well That Ends Well Discussion

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10:06:31 AM Nov 25th 2013
edited by
To argue with the Jerkass trope: it may be the king who gave Bertram the command to marry Helena, but she also played a major role at it. She could stop the king and lie that she doesn't want Bertram this way, instead she wants to choose another husband who can appreciate her as she deserves. It's unlikely the king would threaten her into sticking to her initial decision in that case. And a priori, she could have asked the king for nobility in exchange of the cure, so she becomes good enough for the snobbish Bertram, then let him come to her as a suitor if he wants, instead of putting Bertram under pressure to get him against his will, showing she doesn't really care for his feelings. About braggingly leaving her, it's understandable of one to rudely demonstrate uninterest to a Stalker With a Crush who is even being disrespectfully selfish, and he only wrote he doesn't consider himself her husband. And if he doesn't, why should he stay faithful? I am not saying Bertram was perfectly moral, since he fooled, used and discarded Diana in a pretty caddish way, but his behavior seemed to be pretty fair to Helena. He has never led her on, he wasn't hostile to her before the forced wedding, his only sin was not falling in love with her.
05:35:47 PM Nov 25th 2013
I kind of get the feeling from your edits on the play that you are rather a Fan Hater of Helena.

The idea that she is kind of a yandere is as I understand it a pretty longstanding one- part of why the play is considered a "problem play". So yeah, she's not really a Mary Sue (although the fact that she is an otherwise pleasant person (besides her insane crush on Bertram) is probably why people of the court like her and (correspondingly) don't like him. For his part, Bertram really is a jerk- consider the mocking note he sends her as well as his behavior toward Diana (which in fairness, you do note)- that's the other reason it is a "problem play".

Now in terms of Bertram not wanting to marry Helena, I think what makes Bertram a jerk is that this is a play written during a period where arranged marriages were the norm, and the circumstances here are a rare gender inverted Engagement Challenge- which is why your comment that "and makes the time period unrealistically liberal about her parentage" and on Protagonist-Centered Morality strike me as rather ridiculous because yes, that is pretty much exactly how things go in all of the stories where some male peasant wins a princess- perhaps that is the intent of the play?- it comes across "strange' when the peasant is female and noble male?

Incidentally though, the play derives from a story in The Decameron, which is another reason why your comment about the play being "unrealistically liberal about her parentage" is quite strange (not that it is really realistic in either play- it isn't supposed to be, since it is a fairy tale plot").
04:06:27 AM Nov 26th 2013
edited by
It's true that overly worshipped characters tend to arouse antipathy in me however much they may deserve it, but I don't think it makes my logic biased about their morality, especially as I can sympathize with both of them. As I revised the note, it only contained that he'll never be her husband rather than particular rudeness, so I don't consider that mocking but a determined rejection - the same determination as Helena's, but he deserves punishment, and she deserves reward for it. Bertram also has a Goal in Life, to go to the war, what he doesn't want to give up, but he has little more support than a 'good luck' for it. It looked pretty cowardly of him to run away after the wedding, but as he was practically blackmailed by the king, he didn't have much choice. Helena's unconditional pining, for which she is considered a Yandere, was pretty adorable to me, I'd rather consider her that because of her means to win him. Arranged Marriage plots are okay, but even in fairy tale-like romances (or in Romeo and Juliet) fighting against it was the virtue, not obeying it. The prize of an Engagement Challenge is usually also the princess' love, not an obviously unwilling princess by force (if it is, the king is a villain, being cruel to his daughter). I also prefer stories which note that a truly loving suitor doesn't accept his love's hand if she must be forced to him. For example I liked Henriette's speech to Trissotin in The Learned Ladies:
''This flame of love, that burns within the heart,
Is not enkindled, as you know, by merit ;
Caprice may light it ; when our fancy's pleased,
We' re often at a loss to say just why.
If, sir, we loved by choice and wise selection.
You would possess my heart and my affection.
But love is guided otherwise, you know.
Leave me, I beg you, to my native blindness.
And do not seek to profit by constraint
That 's put upon me, sir, in your behalf.
A man of honour will not choose to be
In aught beholden to our parent's power;
It will revolt him to make sacrifice
Of her he loves, and win her heart by force.
Then do not urge my mother to insist
Upon the utmost rigour of her rights.
Take back your love, and offer to another
The homage of a heart so dear as yours.''
About the views of parentage, you may be right, and I'll delete Mary Sue and Protagonist-Centered Morality for the indeed conventional 'persistent stalking gets rewarded' romance aesop.
07:56:32 AM Nov 26th 2013
First, I wanted to apologize. Kind of a bad day for me yesterday, and I was rude. I'm sorry.

Also, cool to see another Moliere fan.

In terms of Bertram's letter, I'm thinking of this part:

When thou canst get the ring upon my finger which/ never shall come off, and show me a child begotten/ of thy body that I am father to, then call me husband: but in such a 'then' I write a 'never.'/

Helena takes this as a challenge, but it's basically equivalent to saying in modern parlance- "I'll marry you... when Hell freezes over!"

Re Helena, I brought up the yandere analysis in reasponse to the Protagonist-Centered Morality trope. Thinking about it, she isn't the first Shakespearean heroine who has a somewhat obsessive attraction to a guy who is uninterested (and outright contemptuous) of her- there's also another Helena in ''A Midsummer Night's Dream with a similar thing (and her "spaniel speech" probably raises more eyebrows than any of the Helena's behavior in this play).

Although in a different way, Helena is kind of similar to Shakespeare's Prince Hal/Henry V in being someone who its oddly hard to tell whether they are a good person or a bad one and there's a lot to support both sides of the argument.

Regarding the Arranged Marriage plot, you are right- I didn't mean to come across as advocating it- I was more saying, "if we are ok with all of the princesses in fairy tales who are the prize in an Engagement Challenge, then Bertram should just grin and bear it".

But, as you suggest, we probably shouldn't be fine with it- while the stories usually imply that love comes naturally with it (although, I've read a couple of folktales where the princess resists and is presented as evil), there's no reason to assume it would.

But yes, it is pretty understandable why Bertram or the fairy tale princess in that situation would not be too happy about the situation. Bertram is a bit better off, since he knew the person to whom he was being engaged, but yes, his anger is understandable.

And it is also true that in such a situation, one would wonder how good of a husband he could possibly be (and why Helena would want to marry someone so obviously uninterested in marrying her).

At the same time (going back to the jerk thing) although the play is definitely skewing fairy tale logic by having Bertram behave in what is probably a realistic/understandable reaction, Helena does have more obvious good qualities than he does, which is a lot of why Bertram's own family members take her side.

01:57:17 PM Nov 26th 2013
edited by
Yeah, I can see why he is an unlikeable character, but he didn't deserve tenth of the contempt he received. I rather imagine him as someone like Thomas in Downton Abbey: obnoxious, but understandably so, only gives back what he got from life. I'd also rage if I got such an abusive Parental Favoritism from my mother, who preferred someone not even blood related, and even the authority were going along with this. No wonder he disliked Helena for that and was snobbish about his ancestry since practically that was all he had to rise above his rival. I understand what the note means, but that reminded me of Brian's case with Justin in Queer as Folk: at first I also agreed that Brian was the jerk, the abusive boyfriend, but seeing what he actually did I thought damn... he was just saying no and held on with meaning it! And Justin was the one who violated his clearly drawn boundaries, expected what Brian told him he will never give, wanting to be his tyrant while taking advantage of his generosity. All while I still dislike Brian, since he is a narcissistic spoiled jerk otherwise but in that situation I would have done the same (except the part when he gives in - I always cringe when this attitude is rewarded with love). Sometimes the uninterested one is really seen as cruel, even if she is already engaged like Grimm's beloved in Rousseau's Confessions - now that does send a bad message. To Helena's obsession I even thought 'aww, I'd treasure her', and felt sorry for the other Helena - Demetrius was really a Jerkass to her, and he did lead her on in the past. I think even I'd appreciate someone pining for me like that (while settling for my company), that part of obsession is ok for me. Helena's insecurity about her rank at first showed her Woobie-ish, and was potentially hearthwarming to see her earn her limelight, but she was already worshipped, and the way her (verbal) displays of self-deprecation always concurred along with her actions of selfish entitlement (at least when proposing to Bertram and asking him for a goodbye kiss), I couldn't help but feel manipulative hypocrisy behind her good-naturedness, something like Bianca did in The Taming of the Shrew, provoking Katharina until her Rage Breaking Point then Playing the Victim Card to their father. Reading the play the first time, at least in the beginning, I saw her as a woobie, getting abuse for her love, but the general worship she got and the way she wanted to reach her goal forcefully instead of the respectful suffering she began with made her rather a spoiled favorite rewarded for tyranny than a Guile Hero asserting her right in my fantasy, also Bertram, while certainly not innocent, wasn't punished for his sins but for standing up for himself. I don't agree that their acquaintance is an advantage, though. Not just because they grew up like siblings to suddenly turn into lovers, but in marrying a stranger, there is at least a slight chance that the spouse will be my type. If I know someone for years, and my feelings haven't developed into the slightest interest, it's probably for a reason and unlikely to ever change. And neither of them went through a drastic change of personality to enable a drastic change of feelings, nor showed particular Hidden Depths: we knew she is resourceful, we knew she is obsessed - pardon, determined -, we knew he is rude and resentful, and he stayed so.
09:29:07 AM Jan 13th 2014
edited by Charsi
What I mean is that it's not her obsessive feelings what make her antipathic to me, but her selfish and manipulative actions to win him and her disrespect for his feelings and free will. (And mostly that she doesn't get punishment which could force her to morally develop, nor consequences of her mistakes which could force her to learn. It's her, not him, who would need The Love Slap of Epiphany. If I were the rest of the cast, I'd just give my blessing if the love is mutual, simpathy if it isn't and otherwise stay out of it. Neither adult should be babied nor punished for the Crime of Self-Defense.) What I mean in my YMMV edit that she didn't try to support him in his own ambitions, what even The Phantom of the Opera could do for Christine, making her the star of the Opera, if even as a quid pro quo for being with him. Helena didn't say "let me go, my mother, to the king and try to say some words in favor of him so he may prove himself and make you proud", or even "would you marry me if you could go to the war?". She never asks him "why do you hate me so much? What have I done to you and how can I make up for it?". She doesn't care what he feels. Instead, she decides to offer him her service (to sit around in his house as the Grande Dame she is entitled to be by his title), and everything she is (in his case, just an unwanted company), as An Offer You Can't Refuse. Because I am oh so shyyy and humble to say I am asking for you (never mind I am forcing you in public). It's almost as hypocritical as the prostitute in Volpone was when saying she is oh so embarrassed to speak in front of men. And this is the touching display of her love and affection for him. This is when he should suddenly fall in love with her. Even letting her in his house was more than he owed her. No, sweetheart, go back to my mother, she is in love with you, not me, and kiss with her if you do with every casual aquaintance, save for strangers and enemies. And no, I don't need to leave already, but I want to, I won't turn my life upside down just because you had the whim to intrude. And you know what, if you loved me as selflessly as you claim, you'd wish me good luck. Even if it's forcefully made official that she is Entitled to Have You. This reminds me of two novels, both set in the 19th century though, but still well in the Arranged Marriage -era. One has a failed romance the girl claims was ruined by her father's too servile humility, because how could they expect the more refined boy to get married into such a family? The other has a forced marriage where the unwilling fiance was really rude to the bride (shouting he hates her when he was supposed to take the wedding vows, throwing the ring away, things like that), who wasn't even the one who initiated it, but he wasn't vilified for his unchivalry, let alone for his disinterest, but acknowledged to be in the right, even by the bride herself! Not to mention a third, in which a marriage between two incompatible personalities and one-sided love eventually develops into hatred on the other's part and, after long years of torture, the destruction of both of their lives, in the disinterested/hateful partner's Sympathetic P.O.V., who was insulted by the suitor's disrespectful, entitled intrusion, and everyone trying to force them together and insisting she should fall in love with him and feel honored by his interest. I suspect that would be familiar if the POV would be switched to Bertram's. This other story at least has the slight point that the suitor is from a rich family while the heroine's is poor, and both of them are of half-noble, half-peasant birth, and her suitor does selfless things for her. Even if he felt entitled to own her, he at least gave something to her in return. Her, not her mother, not her king. But I digress. He is also convinced she does love him back but her Sugarand Ice Personality doesn't let her show it on his own extroverted ways. (He was a good-natured charismatic person, too, and I am not sure we aren't meant to still take his side.) Helena doesn't seem to delude herself that Bertram loves and wants her, or else that royal prize would be quite a Wasteful Wishing. Bertram should be honored by a suitor both poorer and lower born than he is, in the merit of her personality alone. Which would be enough if he had any feelings for her, but this setting only makes Helena look just as shallow as he is, pining for his looks and rank. If it were at least Nobility Marries Money or Trophy Wife, but it's only Nobility, Money and even Good Looks Marries... Insecurity? And it's honoring for him why? Even if he would be in love with her, her personality would be still one to run away from because her behavior toward him isn't only insulting but downright scary. It raises red flags of a charming future abusive wife. Not Helena is the one to feel sorry for here, the worst Bertram would do to her is leave her again. She'd probably survive that with admirers rushing to take care of her and the child. But she can and will get her minions to ruin him if he doesn't cater to her whims, that's practically proven. (Vid.: MARRY HER NOW OR YOU WILL BE RUINED, YOU UNWORTHY TRASH! and her heroic gesture itself: I hunt you down even abroad, there is no escape from me!) I've read a Real Life story about a woman who brought her husband to court to ruin him with a slander, that also became familiar to me here. The judge all but asked her out and he was persecuted. That's why charming ones are dangerous if they aren't Incorruptible Pure Pureness. They easily take advantage of that and are always in the right, even when they blatantly aren't. (He reminds me a little of Georges Dandin, though: he may be tactless, but that doesn't mean he is in the wrong. Assuming that being Out-Gambitted, his spouse getting special treatment for being noblenoble, despite all her family parasiting on him for nothing, not even common courtesy in return, doesn't play a part in his general treatment. I wouldn't mind a divorce in his case: fine, if you keep biting the hand, it will stop feeding you, let's see which of us is better off without the other.) Maybe they could still divorce, though: it's not like the marriage is consummated and it was a pagan wedding anyway, at least I don't recall any church, priest or vows. Moreover, what is worse? Thinking 'she is just a peasant, I can do better', or saying 'she is out of his league, so she is entitled to his interest, and allowed to do anything to own him'? Seizing a fair lad by force isn't less creepy just because it's female on male and lowborn on highborn. She still has more power than he has, it's not fair play. Not only men can be abusers and stalkers.) In general, she says his every wish is a command to her, but I couldn't see her do anything selfless for him. She didn't help him earn his goals, nor did she try to defend him from the general bullying, though it probably would be easy for her to use her Popularity Power to his advantage. She only used that against him, to break him into obedience. She condoned others insulting him in front of her what Juliet never did, though Romeo has killed her brother, and not just turned her down. (If that plot was all the children's fault for simply acting their age and they'd still have become desperate enough to get reckless if the adults would have just let the crush blow over, with supervision, not to mention it was on a barely adolescent girl to be a super-tactful negotiator to Paris who didn't even think to ask her what she feels for him... Is it so hard to notice if one courts one-sidedly? Was he Mr. Collins? In general, why is it always on the woman to have all the emotional intelligence in these situations? Hell, if my family tried to abuse me into an older man's bed at fourteen, I'd also grasp at any straws to break free and at least choose my own spouse.) I am not sure even I would be able to listen silently and cutely while my beloved is insulted like that. Even the abuse of a fictional character I don't particularly like makes me flinch. She rather seemed to see him as just beautiful features and kisses for prey, with his disinterest and free will only as flaws for the Love Martyr to forgive and ignore. Changing yourself to please your shallow Love Interest is pitiable, but a legitimate love martyrdom. Expecting the Love Interest to change his taste for your sake is just unreasonable. The ugly duckling wouldn't be an inspiring Self-Made Man either if it would be treated like swanner than swans all along and refused to transform to burden the most unwilling swan instead. Besides, if he is a worthless person for not flipping a switch on himself and decide to fall in love with her, why is her taste handwaved by 'well, it's inexplicable, but it doesn't grade her as a person'. If she is so intelligent, why does she find sitting around in others' castle mentally more satisfying than a job she'd probably love and help many people with? If she is so mature and deep, why does she deem someone immature and informedly shallow, haughty and abusive (but hot and rich) to be the partner she needs? Not to mention being so clever and mature she bases a marriage on challenges, one-sided obsession - which probably isn't much deeper, either - and practically make it an abusive power play. If she is so dignified and resourceful, why did she choose to parasite instead of providing for herself? Are the others feminist enough to sell her a husband, but too sexist to let her open a pharmacy? I know, I know, but I need to see why the good guy is better than the bad guy. Being luckier, more charismatic, more privileged and more powerful don't suffice. Neither does belonging to a typically "victim" gender and class. I'd even ask the king, were I Bertram's Possession Sue, that if he could give Helena nobility and fortune, and she also deserves it, why doesn't he do it already? Why does he leave her an orphaned nobody instead? Though having no better social skills, I wouldn't know either whether to fall in love on command or provoke the king until I am beheaded, I'd probably also take a passive-agressive path: if she wasn't my choice, she won't be my responsibility, if it's my mother and the king she is marrying, let them take care of her, financially and romantically. - If I were Helena's, I'd try and work myself onto a Nouveau Riche level from the start and ask the king for my own nobility and holding even regardless of hot foster brothers to impress, to prove there is more to me than a kept pet and not waste my brains on stalking my way into Trophy Wife -hood. I wouldn't embarrass both the brother and myself by publicly throwing myself at him, but confess in private and accept no for an answer. 'I know you have other plans for now, and I wish you good luck with them, but will you consider me when you are ready to settle down? I am not planning on parasiting on your family forever, I will work on earning nobility or at least wealth while you are away, I'll prove that I love you for yourself.' Even if I had no empathy or honesty for my beloved, I still have dignity, dammit, if he won't marry me because he wants to, with no coercion involved, I won't be his burden. And sit down and think thoroughly whether looks and unattainability are enough to make someone a good husband or we would be better off just visiting each other at night until we grow bored of that. It's not like I am already a lady with a reputation to protect. Servant girls can always do some extra work for their lords. A question of personal principles, though, whether to get into a casual romance, but it would be still more practical than marrying for lust. And admitting a Jerkass looks good doesn't make one shallow, but being so blinded by said looks you mistake that for love, that kinda is shallow. - Is that a self-serving malice toward the creator's unfavorite, to make it a degrading marriage for him? Asking him from the king and not from himself in private doesn't even make sense, if she only wants him to say yes if he wants her, too (I couldn't find any trace of this lenience in the text of the play, though). If a nobleman wants to marry a commoner's daughter, he may just do it, couldn't he? Without being bought by her from the authority? I understand it should be read as a hearthwarming gesture of I could have everything but I want only you, my love!, but the aspect of the prize's free will is shown. To quote a feminist blogger:

"Essentially, Helena pulls out the version of the Grand Romantic Gesture that I can’t stand, the one that puts public pressure on someone to accept a romantic offer. Helena chooses Bertram for her husband right after she saves the king’s life. There’s no way Bertram can refuse her without looking like the world’s biggest tool, and that’s a terrible position to be put in. Look at how people felt like they had the right to criticize Mila Kunis because she didn’t immediately accept an offer of a date made by a total fucking stranger. “Come on, Mila, do it for your country! This guy’s done so much for America!” “Come on, Bertram. Marry Helena. She’s done so much for the king!”"

About Arranged Marriage being the norm: okay, but then why judge everyone else by 21st century standards? Or give her the best of several time periods? High Middle Ages/Renaissance (I suppose, if it's "Roussillon", "France" and "king", not "Ruscio", "Gaul" and "emperor") for Arranged Marriage, then back to antiquity for slavery (buying a person for medicines feels closer to that than Arranged Marriage, and stepping out of Western culture a little, for a French pharaoh biased and despotic enough), then forward to Present Day for feminism (even Isobel Crowley had a harder time having her medicines accepted, but apparently widows in the 20th or 17th century weren't taken as seriously as cute teenage girls in the 16th or earlier); then they all live in Soviet Union and feudalism was never even a thing, for droit du servant girl; then mid-Dark Ages and she is a Viking, clapped in the back for a good rape, not a lady to be shamed for scandalous behavior (or even a Present Day woman to be told "how can you be so desperate, have you no dignity?")...though starting with a quick detour to the 18th century for rationalism would have solved the problem much quicker and easier: 'As a healer, I know that hiding a wound under paint is not healing it. If anything, it will fester even more. This problem won't be solved by denial and rushing into commitment we aren't ready for, either. What I need is to step back and examine it. What do I want? His love. (Treated like) a fact: he would be in love with me if I weren't below his socioeconomical "league". - Assuming I can't honestly talk with him about it, because a marriage takes two, and those two aren't the wife and the mother-in-law. And that's not considering how will we make a marriage work if we can't even talk honestly to each other. Will I call a royal guard every night to grab him and shove him onto me in the bed? - So what do I need? Nobility on my own right. What do I have to use? The king owes me a payment, and he doesn't know what money is for, or is secretly broke. Well, he has the authority to make me a noblewoman, doesn't he? And however much I love my foster mother, not having to rely on mercy bread is a definite plus.' However, where was it clearly stated that her lineage was his problem? (Even then, that would be easily fixed if she bothered to try, not just, as I suspect, were getting off on owning him as unwillingly as possible.) Or even that he hates her? He was only saying he isn't interested in her and doesn't want to get married. He isn't interested in her, so it must be because of her parentage? Are there no other possible reasons? Can't it be that he doesn't want a swindler for a wife who isn't even above forcing him? Can't he love someone else? Can't he be gay and have a secret but happy "friendship" with Parolles going on for a while? Can't she be just not his type? Can't he just prefer being single? There are millions of possible reasons why someone happens to be The Not-Love Interest, that doesn't make the disinterested one a haughty bully. Most of his answers to the king didn't feel like being a bitch about the situation to me but being the Only Sane Man about it, asking to let himself decide what to feel for her and not comprehending why he should pay someone else's debt in a way he has never promised to, and rightfully calling the cast out on feeling so entitled to take his life away just to mold him into a Satellite Love Interest that they vilify him for not playing along. That even reminds me of this story:, if Bertram is Mike, the king is the sister, and Helena is Candy :D Mike was also vilified for not going out of his way to fulfill someone else's promise, pay someone else's debt without being even notified before the last moment of fulfilling it, let alone asked for consent... And the king is frustrated at him for making a promise outside of his power (he didn't have the common sense either to tell her I am the king, I can give you nobility, but I am not God, I can't give you someone's heart- and even in an Arranged Marriage, he was needed to say yes and take her hand to make it official, they couldn't just say he is your wife, like it or not, then restrain him and shove him into the bed with her, he would have needed to stay at home and court her, she wasn't content with his name and his empty house, and she needed to complete his Engagement Challenge, not the king's, to have him), and he wouldn't clean up his mess for him. - "Know’st thou not, Bertram, What she has done for me?" - "What the hell has [she] done for me – not for you, but for me?” 'I don't know what is supposed to be such a gift about her and so despicable about me, but even if she were out of my league, I wouldn't be morally obliged to be interested in her, and I don't think it's my responsibility to give her nobility, even if I were the one she healed. No, I don't owe anyone an explanation why I am not in love with her. If she is so wonderful, she can earn her own title anyway, and find a scholar with a heart of gold to share it with, and help the world together. Let her prove she is so much better than terribly shallow me and chooses her Love Interest based on personality and intelligence, not looks and castle. Helena, you don't need me to get nobility, mother, you don't need me to adopt her, your majesty, you have money to pay for your medicines. Freaking crown her for all I care, but leave me out of this and let me live my own life, will you? And please stop handing me to each other behind my back like I am not a person. No despot in the world gets to prescribe who I should love. Even if I make a wrong decision, at least it will be mine. (Moreover, either good luck with the economy if marriage equals retirement to you, or thanks for the extra humiliation, but wife can wear a chastity belt and suck it up.)' But seriously, Bertram hasn't promised her romance and marriage, never courted her, hasn't made her pregnant, she has never done any favor for him, not even the king has the right to make all his whims into laws, selfishly, because he can't pay money for his medicines, nor nobility for a service to the king. Bertram doesn't owe Helena anything, by any means. Not even as a moral obligation, as he didn't seem to be made look like Barbara Allen, needed for giving mercy-pity-love to his poor admirer. Rather as an insolent servant, insulting her majesty by daring not be interested in her. The only base she is entitled to his romantic interest that she wants him and everyone else is madly in love with her - which is quite Mary Sue-ish, that whoever doesn't worship the ground she walks on is a villain and an idiot and must be punished and converted, instead of having her simply forget him an move on. It's not like he ever went out of his way to bully her, anyway. I wish the worst "abuse" I could ever get were the object of my obsession saying he isn't my husband, especially by going out of my way to bring it on myself. "Mother, you really should keep your pets outside; why do you put your clothes on every beggar you see; what would I need your services for? my boots are already clean; if you want to start offering yourself, you don't need a castle for that, use the brothel like everyone else." Now those would be snobbish insults worth getting up in arms about, not a simple "I don't love her and I won't strive to". And pleasant manners warrant being liked, but doesn't warrant being worshipped, courted, kissed up to on this level like she were the authority of the town. (Even that, I would understand if people would find her lovable because she is so cute with her insecure humble humility, so they'd hate seeing her hurt and not understand how someone could not love her, but why must they say she is noble, she could be an emperor's wife, and he should call her mistress? What entitles her to power and privileges? Through a man, even, if she is shown to be so resourceful on her own in her fight against a man? Was Elizabeth the First only a king's trophy wife? This publicity shift from empathy to servility is what makes my mindset shift from 'how touching and flattering, of course I will take care of this cutie' to 'who does this Spoiled Brat think she is, I don't owe her anything' at record speed.) Even the audience, the modern day audience with knowledge of the Basic Human Rights and plenty of other stories which cast the forcer of the marriage as the villain, not the one saying no to the force (though having used to the object of unrequited love being vilified, I admit), making them care about the norm more than empathy or the necessity of Show, Don't Tell about Helena's moral superiority: it's a question of empathy and selflessness not to hurt my beloved even if my culture and time period gives me every right to do so, not to mention dignity, not to cling to a company where I am unwanted - and why move into his house just to watch as he Sleeps with Everyone but You - , and common sense, not to become dependent on someone who doesn't like me and isn't dependable. Let alone drag an innocent and helpless child into a one-sided power play of a marriage. Mommy could pack them up to run around the world after daddy. - I suspect daddy would be off again after the curtain is down, after a second momentary show for the mob to let him be: 'now that I am cornered and threatened, I am suddenly sooo in love with her... now bye darling, much happiness to you and my mother'. Better yet, what if mommy realizes she only wanted what she couldn't have, and now that the chase is over, he isn't so interesting anymore? - They would probably be better off adopted by a serf in a happy marriage and genuine love for his children when their noble parents are done using them as a pawn. Or the king and granny if they so enjoy playing with other people's lives. When I hear women in Real Life think having a child will fix the untrustworthy husband or unstable relationship, I always think 'I am not sorry for you if it doesn't work out, you were the reckless one here' and also 'you have the right to waste your own life, but not a child's who depends on you and didn't do anything not to deserve a loving family'. I am not even sure I would admire my own mother's heroism of struggling to raise me on her own and vilify my father for not going out of his way for a family he never even wanted if he wasn't any more reliable and caring when they met. Then mother would have no right to think of herself as his victim if she weren't forced nor tricked, she would be simply sleeping in the bed she made with her I Can Change My Beloved - complex. Attraction is not a choice but planning a family is not the time to think with your libido and get into a "challenge accepted!"-mood and keep running after someone who doesn't want you. (And not to let my guard down around someone with a sword, a temper and no tact. Who knows how desperate one could get, having a stalker willing to ruin everything they value in life, rather than understand what "I am not interested" means. And not to give my virginity to someone who doesn't care enough not to make it torture.) Yes, I can see she is clever and resourceful (though not at everything), but that in itself only makes her a talented sociopath, not a moral victor to root for, unless in the Might Makes Right sense. Meanwhile, the abstract norms and laws are represented by an equally biased human, the king. I understand different times have different moral codes, and I'll apply that to this story in the instant I see one about a death camp prisoner vilified for attempting to escape, since holocaust was the norm back then, and he was the criminal there. Or, as above, no Double Standard: let's either be contemporary and not vilify Bertram for not being a democrat, or let's be modern and vilify Helena, too, for being a stalker. Removing the Double Standard of genders, too. Having a man buy the female protagonist, chase her abroad where she ran away from him and rape her pregnant - all while her whole world of bullies take his side so she not only has no helpers, but has enemies everywhere - I bet would be more disturbing than aww, the poor man doesn't deserve this evil, evil woman who should be honored to be the property of this perfection. I bet she would be considered Ax-Crazy or even a Complete Monster for the same actions if she were a male antagonist, not beautiful, not charismatic, not cute. It may have been acceptable in Shakespeare's age, but I hope I am just taking things too literally... Even if I know that most things which are romantic in fiction would be creepy in Real Life. I can understand how hurtful it may be that everyone can see how valuable you are, but one particular abuser of yours, whose opinion you depend on, still won't admit that, and though your obsession with that delusional opinion doesn't make sense since you even have plenty of others willing to give you the care and recognition you crave, feelings can't be controlled by rationality and practicality. That's fine, that deserves sympathy, if you are selfless and respectful about it towards that someone. As the abuser's Self Insert, I'd help this victim, unless her first idea were unapologetically forcing and tricking me. In that case, she'd lose all my compassion right away. If we ended up in an Arranged Marriage without her wanting it, and she'd apologize for causing me problems, I'd say "it's okay, I don't blame you". If she'd seize the opportunity of the apology to try and use her prey for a kiss, because even casual acquaintances kiss in greeting, I'd only say "my name is your prey, not my affection. Let's not pretend we are in love". Even if Arranged Marriage is okay, it seems to be especially cruel to force someone to feign love for the Unwanted Spouse. To quote Pitigrilli: "I may give my wallet away if a knife is held to my throat, but to proffer it smiling, begging the robbers to be so kind and accept it, that exceeds even my angelic patience". That's why her saying he doesn't have to marry her if he doesn't want to, after having already bought him and proposing to him in front of the obviously biased public, makes this gesture look even more cruel. Because she didn't give him a free choice here, but also forced him to beg for what he doesn't want and pretend to like it before being forced into it anyway. "Say yes only if you want to but you will be ruined if you say no" isn't generosity, it's torture. But at the very least a bitchy gesture from a Spoiled Brat who is well aware she gets special treatment and not only abuses it, but shamelessly rubs it in The Unfavorite 's face: 'go ahead, say no and be the bad guy here, while I am being the generous martyr so they will adore me and hate you even more! Like hell will I say I don't want you anymore, that would mean you can leave unpunished, and I can't have that!' I don't believe the proposal itself was a honest mistake on her part, either, that she turned into an innocent idiot for the time who honestly couldn't see what she was doing and got under the completely baseless delusion that he would be suddenly willing to marry her, to Snap Back into The Social Expert afterwards to harass him back, showing more self-pity than remorse, if I might add. I'd prefer having her Out-Gambitted and get a taste of her own medicine, for example if Bertram sent Parolles home to say he is dead and it was Parolles he helped slip into Diana's room, so it would be her turn to be forced together with someone she doesn't even like, and start loving him dearly, ever, ever dearly (not that I don't think it still served him right, trying to trick a girl and ending up being tricked himself. But this Double Standard again... she has to be rewarded for doing the same, if not worse, to him). Or 'hey, Your Majesty, this handmaid has cleaned up my rooms nicely, so she is your wife now or this army of mine will leave your country to the staggering of the youth'. Though the story would be likeable to me if it were as much about her learning a lesson because she wasn't perfect all along, either: you can force someone to be with you, but not to love you; and if the relationship is one-sided, you won't be happy, either; your partner is a person, too, you have to respect his free will; caring is a two-way street, listen to what he wants if you expect him to give you what you want. That's where I'd put his "challenge" besides Literal-Minded: those are his own terms, not the king's who thought can give him away, with things which can't be forced out of him, only given by him willingly. Forced to acknowledge what he has to say and accept his conditions, instead of only repeating what she wants from him and listening to others say what he should feel, she becomes able to earn his willingness. I feel that could fit more consistently in the plot than 'don't be haughty just because you are luckier' (what is true enough, but you don't have to fall in love with and marry everyone you don't look down on), or 'never give up' (which is agreeable about inanimate goals, but fighting for someone against themselves, that's stalkerish, selfish and disrespectful). Too bad it's still an evil, abusive jerkassery on his part to insist to be treated like a person rather than a property, and Her Helenaship still has to work around his conditions to punish him. Like hell will she care about his consent, when she can take the easy way out and trick him. Or the ending is an impressive writer's vision, discovering Stockholm Syndrome so early. Not to mention the kind-of incest in that (even if they are Not Blood Siblings. If one can incest with a stepmother or a brother-in-law, a foster brother isn't surely okay either)... Another thing I loved about the others in the play was the Double Standard about respecting the other's decision even if we don't agree with it: you want to have a terrible and unloving husband? Sympathy, but we will do what we can to help you do this mistake. You don't want to marry this excellent match you don't even deserve? Don't you dare reject this gift forced on you, you will marry her, damnit, and pretend to love her, or else. (I still feel this all to be quite Creator's Pet-like: not only the In-Universe laws and morality go out of their way to revolve around her - ok, let's forget nobility, but: taking the clearest and not even polite rejection as a challenge to harass harder is not creepy but admirable; throwing oneself at someone obviously disinterested, in public, even, is refined and virtuous; not to mention how dignified it is to humiliate yourself into an Abhorrent Admirer Stalker With a Crush; consigning your life and a child to someone who doesn't want either of you is clever; having someone who doesn't even like you get trapped with you and one-sidedly provide for you is a favor for him; having you career ruined for good, being publicly degraded into a slave for sale and all but chased out of your home as a public enemy with a stalker on your heels makes you ''spoiled'', but if one person out of a whole town, who is practically your sibling, doesn't have romantic feelings for you, you are severely abused - , but neither the king, nor strangers abroad have bigger concerns than her love life, not to mention that Bertram is supposed to love her for ruining his Goal in Life and humiliating him. It's easy to be an Ideal Hero if anything you do becomes the new right and reach all your goals with invincible awesomeness if everyone and everything serves you. Fight your way to this level with everyone antagonizing you, now that would be an achievement. If impartial laws just happened to be on her side, I'd accept that to be just the story's internal logic, and agree with an 'ancestry is not everything'-aesop in it. But the others don't condemn Bertram for disobeying the king, breaking his husbandly duties, trying to use and discard Diana or whatever understandable, but for breaking the unwritten law that it's obligatory to fall in love with Helena. They scold him for not treasuring the wonderful mistress, and with that, she is ascended into an unfairly favored tyrant, not even a Spoiled Sweet, because she accepts it and takes advantage of it, even if feigning shy humility - if I am especially malicious, a preamble of 'oooooh, I am not worthyyyy' *bats eyelashes* can be a useful tool of manipulating a request into being fulfilled. Even Bertram ends up begging her to make a wish. I have never succeeded involving someone rude into this "do something for me"-"what do you want?"-"nothing"-"come on, tell me"-"no, nothing"-"..."-"well, if you insist..." game, and though I am easily manipulated, it wouldn't be a problem for me to simply walk away from it either. I wonder that part about the thief asking for her prey was her approaching him cautiously, knowing she is unwanted, or she believed he was suddenly in love with her and was only bashful about it. Did she think from the beginning that the love was mutual, but they couldn't get together because of their different social levels, so the king's blessing was all they needed?) Everyone taking her side In-Universe and in the audience makes me cringe endlessly, like feeling sorry for a rapist because his victim isn't pretty enough for him. (He may have come from a differently functioning In-Universe than the others, all right, but still, the strained way he is broken into the role of the won prize he was cast in didn't seem to be natural to me, with his unprizelike informed bad boy-personality, her too early and too easy victory, her not having to prove her worth because she has never been treated like Cinderella, even the mother-in-law, who could have been the haughty noble mother, all but woos her. Because it's also typical from a mother, being hellbent to get rid of her son to another woman, and deeming an officially nobody, with only her pleasant manners for dowry, to be too good for her child. Moreover, the Countess is either The Empath or incredibly naive for a middle-aged authority figure because there is this girl, without any money or titles - but with enough brains and charms to scheme, always succeed and never get caught - , dependent on her family for her living, allegedly out of her son's league, her actions proving nothing but selfishness and dishonesty towards him. It's obviously a selfless, unconditional true love, right? She couldn't just be kissing up so she can ride on a highborn husband's coattails into a steady and glamorous ladyship she couldn't have inherited. Because she is nice, she is sweet! Niceness just proves honesty, right? No calculating person ever is able to put on an act of cutesy to avoid suspicion and/or manipulate others, after all. I am not saying that's definitely the case, but I'd have considered that possibility if I were the Countess and not blinded by her charms and my more motherly affection than what I have for my biological child. You have my mother's love, Helena; let me have my life: do you marry her. Let them make him a beggar and watch whether she is still interested in him, or something. And being lowborn itself doesn't make her a Self-Made Man, considering Bertram was trying to prove his own worth as a soldier, stood up to his country of haters for his opinion and feelings and left everything he had to live his own life, not even unsuccessfully while Helena used the herbs she had inherited to have a husband handed to her on a silver platter, expecting him to turn from unwilling to loving on command and using the country's adoration for her advantage. How far could she get without anyone going out of their way to help her and give her special treatment? 'And does my son love you back? Even if he does, you have to prove you love him for himself, I won't let him be used for his wealth and title'; 'here, have some gold for your herbs, but I won't give up one of my best swordsmen just so you can have a husband'; 'you want to take my love from me? and I am supposed to help you with that? get out of my house!'; 'however out of his league you may be, he doesn't owe you romance he never promised, you wanted an unloving husband, reap what you sow'; 'I thought you noble, daughter, but where is your virtue, where is your dignity? Not even whores stoop to forcing themselves on unwilling men, and you are surprised he doesn't treasure you?'. And too much of a jerk to feel sorry for, like it's written under And Now You Must Marry Me (and they also think that's what she pulled, not a marry me only if you want to-proposal)? If I assault someone for no reason, am I the one to be pitied there because my victim doesn't smile and nod at me meanwhile? Who on earth is kind to their assaulter? Besides, I still uphold that polite disinterest isn't hatred, rejection isn't Domestic Abuse, and obstructive selfishness is a pretty good reason to hate someone's guts. Though I have always disliked the romance plots where the hero's perceived moral state virtually equals his interest in the heroine (bad man if he doesn't love her, turns good if he falls for her), and thus the heroine's high-handed behavior is seen as heroic if it's in favor of nagging him into the romance. I have even written an unpermitted comment onto a post about One Day, asking why Emma was so entitled to Dex' romantic interest, and how was her obsession for a hot Jerkass less shallow than him not lusting for her personality behind her frumpy looks. It's not like I am sexist, this I-am-entitled-to-have-my-love-requited attitude is just as, if not more revolting on men's side. However much I agree with feminism, this attitude feels like The Unfair Sex to me. I don't mean it as Shakespeare-bashing or anything, and I believe this is not the way it should be interpreted, but when I see others just as Literal-Minded -ly vilifying Bertram, not for the good reasons there are, but for daring not fall in love with his manipulative stalker, that's what brings out the misanthrope in me.
12:02:36 PM Aug 4th 2013
Is there a trope about the theorem that the bad man who must be reformed is morally obliged to be interested in his Dogged Nice Girl? Like here, or Brian in Queer as folk, who is forced into a relationship with Justin.
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