“It were profanity for
To treat as vanity
the sway of Love.
In no locality or principality
Is our mortality
it’s sway above!”
Princess Ida or Castle Adamant
March 17 to April 9, 2006
|Stage Director:||Lesley Hendrickson|
|Music Director:||Roderick Phipps-Kettlewell|
In Princess Ida William S. Gilbert turns Tennyson’s epic poem, ― The Princess, into a scathing attack on women’s education. Though Gilbert’s sneers are hard to take, today it is almost as hard to take them very seriously. In his time, however, Gilbert was preaching to the choir. The prevailing sentiment of both sexes was that a woman had no need for higher education to fulfill her duty to make a comfortable home for her husband. Education would only make a woman querulous and dissatisfied – hardly conducive to domestic quiet.
Ida further alienates modern sensibility by forcing an arranged marriage. As far as Gilbert was concerned, any reasonably intelligent and attractive young lady ought to be able to make a go of marriage with any reasonably intelligent and attractive young man. Romantic love he treated as humbug. Now, many couples in the G & S canon are paired up almost at random by the final curtain. But they, at least, were looking to be paired up: Ida clearly is not.
So how does one approach a modern production? An easy argument is that ― those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Those of us old enough to remember the bad old days before the women’s liberation movement can take a certain satisfaction in showing the youngsters how tough it used to be. But one can also move beyond Gilbert’s cheap jokes at women’s expense and see more broadly human questions. How does one effectively rebel against a clear injustice? Can the use of force ever be justified? Finally, isn’t the cause already lost if one’s principles are abandoned in the attempt? Some issues, I fear, will never become dated.
Two excellent internet resources for information about Princess Ida: