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Sixteen Lines: Seventh Line

Your Humble Blogger’s character is attempting to persuade the Governmental Authority to take the Woman’s Child; I relate that the village folk believe the child’s father to be the Father of Lies himself.

Should the child prove, after all, capable of moral and religious growth, possessed of the elements of ultimate salvation, then surely its prospects for these advantages would be improved by being transferred to wiser and better guardianship than Hester Prynne’s.

One thing about the Other Clergyman is that he is somewhere between comic relief and a villain; he is not a sympathetic character at all. He is not the Bad Guy in the piece, but he is bad—he dislikes the Woman, who is our heroine, after all. His fondness for the Man is fondness for the parts of the Man we don’t like, the parts that prevent him from pairing up with the Woman for a happy ending. In fact, his presence as the Other Clergyman makes him a symbol of the Clergy in an anticlerical play; he stands in for all the oppressive prudery we associate with the Puritans. He is also a pompous git, a preacher who likes the sound of his own voice, and clearly our Nearly-Legendary Director wants the audience to react to his speeches by almost instantly hoping for someone to shut the man up.

I can play that.

None of that, however, makes the questions about the lines unnecessary. In some ways the fact that nobody is really listening to the words makes the close examination of the line even more important for an actor, if only because it’s easy to get lazy and play it for laughs. So.

My character is against the child, for moral and religious growth, for the elements and particularly for salvation, and very much for surely, for the advantages, for improving them, and for the Child being transferred. Oddly enough, I am againstwiser and better guardianship—I mean, I am in favor of the guardianship being wiser and better, but I am against in the sense that I am speaking of them in contempt as being an easy, almost trivial matter to be a wiser and better guardian than Hester Prynne. Who I am against.

It’s a major-key speech, clearly. He’s a major-key guy.

The speech is addressed to the Governmental Authority; it is also addressed to the Man and the Husband, not in those roles but as a preacher and a philosopher. Mostly, its address to those two is designed to block any arguments they might make against fostering out the child. That is, its intent is not to get agreement, but to get silence or acquiescence, presenting the opposing view as being in favor of the Woman, which of course no man in his right mind could be.

I’ll add, thanking Christopher who brings it up, that the lines to fall into a rough pentameter:

Should the child prove, after all,
capable of moral and religious growth,
possessed of the elements of ultimate salvation,
then surely its prospects for these advantages
would be improved by being transferred to
wiser and better guardianship
than Hester Prynne’s.

I don’t want to overstate the matter, as any flowery speech of complex syntax could probably be divided into groups of five stress beats with some jiggery-pokery like the above, in which I have taken words such as salvation or capable and given them one stress, eliding the minor stress, but having a caesura when I want it so that surely its prospects is three beats and so on. Still, it does seem to work. And, if nothing else, it indicates the sort of person the Other Clergyman is: the sort who extemporizes in pentameter.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.