On First Recognizing Jennifer Ehle’s Voice on Film

I found the following scribbled on a slip of paper, tucked into the public library’s copy of the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice:

On First Recognizing Jennifer Ehle’s Voice on Film

Does she thus live? With such eyes, cheekbones, and lips?
With this quietly furnaced fire?

It began with the springtime-mountain-brook sound filling the car,
highway hours moving with Propero’s Miranda.
A daughter’s duty spoken gently; articulate, sweet.
The Prince lands, and The Tempest’s breathless Eve
beholds her Adam. Her voice keeps the fruit ripe on the branches.

Then, a lazy evening with a set of DVDs: O heavenly God,
do you so ply both lute and brush together?
Darcy’s Eliza—a sister and friend
with the same patient music of duty,
now gamboling on the dale with glistening eyes!
now standing her ground under an autumn arbor
with steel-spined zeal for truth,
admitting to herself error, but not defeat.

My Bard, my dear Jane Austen: never despair.
The fulfillment of these, your heroines,
time has given freely.
Check the jewel cases. Both credits read:
played by Jennifer Ehle.


1. Keats invented the genre, as you may recall. We tried it here last spring.

2. In between the news and various forms of tune-age, one might enjoy the Arkangel Shakespeare for company in the car.

2,011 Years of an Uncommon Era

Last Sunday after Mass someone said to me, “Father, it’s too bad we had to have the Diocesan Appeal. I missed your homily, because I could not make any sense out of that parable about the vineyard and the wicked tenants.”

Perhaps some people are saying to themselves right now, “The parable about the wedding guests makes no sense to me, either. But what are the chances that this joker will be able to explain it?”

Before we get to these parables, I have a couple questions for you.

What year is it?

Continue reading “2,011 Years of an Uncommon Era”

Defiant Pride on Screen

Did you know that Ralph Fiennes has made a movie version of Coriolanus, to be released in the U.S. in the fall?

Coriolanus is Shakespeare’s biggest badass. He is a Roman warrior who charges into the city of Corioles. The other soldiers hold back. The gates are shut…So Coriolanus subdues the city by himself!

That is just the beginning. The Romans hail Coriolanus as a hero, but the tribunes of the people are jealous. Impenetrably proud, Coriolanus refuses to play politics, so his enemies stir up his infamous choler and then contrive to have him banished for treason.

Coriolanus’ speech before leaving the city is just about the most audacious badass diatribe ever written:

You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate
As reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize
As the dead carcasses of unburied men
That do corrupt my air, I banish you;
And here remain with your uncertainty!
Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!
Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,
Fan you into despair! Have the power still
To banish your defenders; till at length
Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels,
Making not reservation of yourselves,
Still your own foes, deliver you as most
Abated captives to some nation
That won you without blows! Despising,
For you, the city, thus I turn my back:
There is a world elsewhere.

Mel Gibson’s reaction to Gary Sinise’s demand for ransom in the movie of that name reminded me of Coriolanus’ fiery defiance:

(WARNING: Low-quality video, plus a lot of bad words.)

(Mel gets the boy back alive, by the way, and Sinise winds up…well, not alive.)

This Fiennes movie of Coriolanus could really stink. There is a precedent: in 1983, the BBC made a movie version, with the hero depicted as a thwarted homosexual. It is a disgrace, and I have never seen cinematography more obtuse.

But be that as it may, long live Coriolanus! May the defiant badasses of the world prosper in triumph.