ordering, specify UPS or Parcel· Post). BLITHE SPIRIT was produced by John C. Wilson Rt the MOToeco. Thl'atre in l':ew York. The play was dil eev,d by ~1 r. Blithe Spirit. It's a farce, by Noel Coward, set in the British countryside in All of the characters have educated British accents except for Edith, whose accent. McGuire Proscenium Stage / Nov 25 – Jan 14, PLAY GUIDE by NOËL COWARD directed by DAVID IVERS. Blithe Spirit.

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Blithe - Download as Word Doc .doc /.docx), PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online. killed, “passes over,” joins Elvira, and the two “blithe spirits” haunt the hapless BLITHE SPIRIT. CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS. Charles Condomine- Charles Condomine, a novelist. Charles is bright, sophisticated, articulate, and debonair.

As Charles and Elvira squabble over their past indiscretions, she realizes that her return to earth has been a fiasco, and decides that she will happily cooperate in Madame Arcatis efforts. As the medium struggles to bring about the transit, Ruth, now also visible to Charles and to us, enters the room, like Elvira entirely wrapped in unearthly grey. As she enters the others sense her presence and stand stunned by this latest development, which brings the scene to an end.

Several hours have passed as the final scene opens, everyone on stage suffering exhaustion from the nights ceaseless spiritualist exertions, despite which the ghosts are still stuck in the world of the living. Madame Arcati finally realizes that it was not Charles who called the dead back to life, but rather it must have been a psychic subjectin the house, who wished for them.

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She performs a ritual to summon whomever may have been the agent, and Edith, the comic maid, answers the call. Harnessing Ediths psychic powers, Madame Arcati hypnotizes her and channels her energies toward transporting the ghosts.

As Ruth and Elvira taunt and hector CharlesElvira gleefully confessing past infidelities, Ruth denouncing him for his atrocious behaviortheir voices fade and their forms disappear, presumably returned to the other world.

But as Madame Arcati and Edith exit, Charles calls out to the vanished spirits, who respond to him by smashing up vases and throwing books off their shelves. Elvira and Ruth havent really left, they have merely been relegated to invisibility and, happily for Charles, imprisoned in this house, which they will henceforth haunt.

Charles can escape them now simply by leaving. Goodbye for the moment, my dears. Charles is a man who has been living a thoroughly conventional life and, judging by his last moments on stage, hating virtually every minute of it.

He confesses to having been hag-ridden all my life, and rejoices that, now Im free. As we observe his scenes with his two wives, we come to realize that both his marriages have been fundamentally unhappy, scarred on the one hand by Elviras infidelity, and on the other, by resentment toward an increasingly domineering Ruth.

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Behind Charless air of sophistication and poise there lurks a trapped animal longing for release. We see this in the recurrent rhythm of the scenes between him and his wives: what begins in sweetness and light ends in rancor and verbal violence. Thus, toward the end of the play Elvira declares at the beginning of one such scene that, I sat there, on the other side, just longing for you day after day.

But by the middle of the scene they have come to rhetorical blows: CHARLES: I am pained to observe that seven years in the echoing vaults of eternity have in no way impaired your native vulgarity. You never suspected it, but I laughed at you steadily from the altar to the graveall your ridiculous petty jealousies and your fussings and fumings CHARLES: You were feckless and irresponsible and morally unstable.

As the smoke of verbal battle thickens, the scene climaxes with Elvira literally retracting her opening declaration of love and longing, declaring that an afterlife with Charles would be nothing but bickering and squabbling for ever and ever. Charles, thoroughly sick of these insults, agrees that Elvira should go away, the sooner the better. As Samuel Johnson observed, second marriages represent the triumph of hope over experience.

Charles it seems is the perfect illustration of that pronouncement. A two-time practitioner of domesticity and marriage, Charles playsmore or lessby the rules, despite feeling suffocated by them.

But his encounter with the uncanny pushes him beyond the conventions he has been willing to observe.

A mystery writer his book about the homicidal medium is to be called The Unseen who finds himself in the middle of a ghost story, he ends the play determined to break out of the fiction of his previous life.

Now, with both wives safely immured in his country house, he rather leeringly announces that hes going to enjoy himself as he has never enjoyed himself before. What exactly does that mean? The verb enjoy, innocent enough as an injunction from your waiter, has also a coarser, more sensual edge to it. Note that Charles doesnt say he is going to be happy, or that he is going to live as Ive never lived before. Rather, we detect a much more specifically carnal implication in his choice of words.

Having been disappointed in his wives, he will seek out other pleasures, previously unenjoyed. With women?

Blithe Spirit

Or, having twice been disappointed by the fair sex, will he look elsewhere entirely? Ruth Condomine. Charles complains that Ruth has become increasingly domineering. We see something of this in her reaction to her husbands bizarre behavior upon encountering the ghost of Elvira. Instead of taking seriously his claims of psychological disturbance, she accuses him of drunkenness, and proceeds to hector him persistently for his presumed misbehavior.

Thus throughout much of the play she seems to be something of a nag, and self-righteous to boot. Her final words reveal a great deal about her: she disappears nagging, scolding, and threatening. Not, as with Hamlet, The rest is silence, but rather, The rest is more of the same.

Her previous marriage to a much older man raises interesting questions about her character. Why would she have done such a thing? Did she feel an older mangrateful for her youthwould be easy to manipulate? Was she a fortune hunter? Or did she settle for such a mate because she doubted her own attractiveness and therefore felt uncertain that she could catch and hold someone her own age? Her obsession with Elviras looks give some credence to the latter possibility. These questionsobliquely raised in the script make a role such as this attractive to an actress who relishes the creative opportunity to fill in the blanks.


Elvira Condomine. Beautiful, pleasure-loving, impetuous, selfish, somewhat shallowthese are all traits that are imputed to Elvira in the course of the play.

As Charles says of her: I remember how fascinating she was, and how maddening. I remember her gay charm when she had achieved her own way. I remember her physical attractiveness, which was tremendous, and her spiritual integrity, which was nil.

The trait she displays most convincingly is selfishness. Her desire to take Charles away from Ruth and have exclusive possession of him for eternity leads her first to sabotage the stairs and the ladder, causing injury and pain, and ultimately to commit murder.

These are the actions of a supremely selfinvolved creature. But she is also beautiful andwhen she chooses to becharming.

In fact, according to Charles, one of her greatest charms was that sheunlike the domineering Ruthnever ruled anyone. Her attempts to seduce Charles nearly do ensnare him, as we see when he tells Ruth that he is having fun being haunted and isthat word againbeginning to enjoy himself. As succinctly as anything her manner of death expresses her character. Suffering from pneumonia as a result of punting in the rain with Captain Bracegirdle, she was convalescing.

Her flirtatiousness and infidelity land her in a sick bed, and her sense of the ridiculous BBC musical programs being notably pompous finishes her off in a spasm of derisive laughter.

Madame Arcati. The daughter of a medium, she had her first trance at age four, and her first ectoplasmic manifestation at five and a half. Invited to Charless house as a figure of fun, Madame Arcati turns out to be a person of formidable power and dignity.

Thus, when Dr. Bradman twits her on her supposed spiritual control, a child born in She must be a bit long in the tooth by now, I should think. Bradman, but I fear you dont; at least not profoundly. And later, when a quarreling Ruth reveals that Madame Arcati was asked to dinner only to get material for a mystery story, she is magnificent in her umbrage:.

By the end of the play she has grown in the eyes of the Condomines from being a charlatan to being their only source of hope in escaping from their spiritual snarl.

She is also a most un-spiritual medium. No ethereal figure of ascetic otherworldliness, Madame Arcati relishes food and drink, wolfing down sandwiches and martinis throughout the play.

Moreover, she is physically robust, thinking nothing of pedaling seven miles home on her bicycle after an exhausting night of trances and spells. Her parting words capture the range of her appetites, from the spiritualistic to the gustatory: Well, goodbye, Mr. Its been fascinatingfrom first to lastfascinating. Do you mind if I take just one more sandwich to munch on my way home.

For nine tenths of the play, Edith is nothing but a comic convenience, a maid with the funny habit of rushing about all the time.

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She is the quintessential unseen to use the title of Charless book. Overlooked throughout most of the action, it is only at plays end that we discover her crucial powersomething of which she herself is unaware.

The Bradmans. Also comic conveniences, the Bradmans are there to thicken the atmosphere of bourgeois reality against which the appearance of ghosts stands out so strikingly. Bradman is a chatterbox in the tradition of country gossips, curious about everything, impatient with her stolid husband, eager for new experiences and titillating information. Bradman is the solid citizen who stands in contrast to the labile characters of Charles and his wives.

Rational, commonsensical, skeptical, he is an indispensable element in every ghost story. The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, has one of his characters say, I almost believe we are ghosts, all of us.

Certainly we all haunt one another.

Dead parents, relatives, and friends visit our dreams and hover over our waking lives with questions and reminders, while the departed heroes and villains of history still walk abroad, staring down at us from a Lincoln Memorial, or shrieking at us from Nuremburgall of them taking up enormous psychic space in our personal and public lives. Coward plays brilliantly with this fact in Blithe Spirit.

What if a psychological truththe way we are haunted by the deadwere presented as a tangible reality, a fact? What if Elvira ceased being merely a dangerous topic of conversation between Charles and Ruth and became instead a literal inhabitant of their house? What would we learn about the dynamics of married life?

The most famous ghost play in history is Hamlet, and there, as in Blithe Spirit, a phantom from a first marriage makes trouble for a second.

Also, as in Blithe Spirit, the ghost is selectively visiblein Coward only to Charles, in Shakespeare only to the surviving son. And in both works the consequence of the ghosts visit is the death of the second spouseRuth in Cowards play and Claudius in Hamlet.

So is Charles some sort of latter day comical Prince of Denmark? In some ways. We should remember that Hamlets first soliloquy is a plea to be let loose from the weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable prison that life has become after his mothers second marriage. Isnt this, mutatis mutandis, what Charles is longing for? Escape from the flat and unprofitable life of a husband? Hamletwith the prompting of the ghostgets his wish by dying. Charles gets his by locking up his ghosts, and going off to enjoy himself as never before.

Hamlet can rest easy only after his mother and uncle have been killed; Charles can paint the town only after his wives are dispatched.

Is Coward, like Shakespeare, showing us a world where theres no happiness as long as your family is alive? Can boys have fun only when dad, mom, and the missus are dead and buried? Which wouldnt be surprising, since parents and wives are the immemorial killjoys in the bachelor party of life. We might also notice that in , when Coward wrote the play, the most practical and socially-acceptable way for Charles to achieve the freedom to enjoy himself was to have his wives die.

Reference code MS, Box 4, Folder Edition statement of responsibility. Statement of projection cartographic. Statement of coordinates cartographic. Issuing jurisdiction and denomination philatelic. Date s. Title proper of publisher's series. Parallel titles of publisher's series. Other title information of publisher's series. Statement of responsibility relating to publisher's series.

Numbering within publisher's series. Name of creator Renton, David, Immediate source of acquisition. Language of material. Script of material. Availability of other formats. Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication. Finding aid personal-archives-of-david-rentonAll the accoutrements of the typical Noel Coward setting are present here: we are in a room that is attractive, handsomely furnished, provided with a fireplace and mantelpiecean arena of affluent comfort, good taste, and civilized behavior.

Appearing only to Charles, Elvira soon makes a play to reclaim her husband, much to the chagrin of Charles's new wife, Ruth. Bruno Rocha. He confesses to having been hag-ridden all my life, and rejoices that, now Im free. Description record identifier. Escape from the flat and unprofitable life of a husband? Hamlet—with the prompting of the ghost—gets his wish by dying. Beautiful, pleasure-loving, impetuous, selfish, somewhat shallowthese are all traits that are imputed to Elvira in the course of the play.

Does it involve punishment and reward?

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