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Sixteen Lines: Second Line

My character’s second line comes after the Woman does not respond to the ironic plea of my younger colleague to expose her lover to public censure.

Woman, speak the name! That, and thy repentance, may work to take the scarlet letter off thy breast!

Shall we go to our questions from before? Clearly, I am for the speaking of the name, and I am for repentance, and although I am not for removing the titular mark of shame, I feel that it’s a worthwhile bargain. My character also feels, clearly, that the marker is a severe punishment indeed.

In one of the introductory essays to one of the editions I read from as I went through the novel as preparatory research, the scholar suggests that the main character is neither the Woman nor the Man but the titular character—a character in that sense, not a person at all. We begin with the scrap of embroidered cloth (in the book, I mean, as the play dispenses with that bit) and follow it back to its occasion, and see it as it changes meaning, as it signifies one or another thing, changing over the course of the story. A badge of shame, of course, and a punishment. When (in the book) the townswomen grow to respect the Woman for her rectitude over the years, it is said by some that it stands for Able, rather than Adulteress. The Man thinks he sees an A in the sky as he stands out his mad midnight vigil, and of course in the end, as he dies, some people see the red letter on his bared chest. Others claim they did not. In the show, we do see the letter (just to give away the ending), because doing the effect where some of the audience see the A-shaped wound and others do not requires giving out those glasses, which would mean increasing the ticket price. At any rate, the letter and its various locations, meanings, attributions and possibilities is very much a concern throughout the play. We even play the entire show under a big red A—I was going to say we play it literally under the shadow of the letter, but presumably the lighting will prevent that.

So. The second first question I have been using is who the speech is too (clearly it is to Woman, and while there are of course multiple audiences and the speaker is aware of them and attempting to manipulate them as well, still, the speech is clearly to Woman) and what response the speaker hopes to achieve. Again, in this simple speech it is to have the Woman speak the Name—but does my character actually want the letter removed? Would that serve the Pastor’s purposes? I think this can be answered either way and therefore requires a choice, and I think, insofar as I have to make the choice at this stage, that I choose to portray a Pastor who does not, in fact, want the letter removed. Who does want the name, and is willing to bargain for it, but is also reserving the right to deny that there was an agreement and compel the Woman to remain branded even after giving up the name (judging, for instance, that the repentance is insufficient).

That isn’t the Pastor of the book, but it is (I think) the Pastor of the play, or of this version of the play, or of this production of this version of the play. On Thursday, with two weeks before we open.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.