Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mourning is the Mannon metier

Robert Benchley's review of O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra was published in The New Yorker on 7 November 1931.
He was clearly taken by the monumental play, and called it "a masterpiece" outright. Clearly, though, he was also wearied by the six-hour production.
"The final scene of all, in which Electra, or Lavinia, closes herself up in the great New England Greek temple for the rest of her unhappy life, content that mourning is her métier, made up for [all the discomfort]." 

The word métier is derived from the Latin ministerium. The sentence above means, prosaically, that Vinnie's calling in the end is to mourn.
That is the end to which she was born. Benchley's assessment of Lavinia's character, the central figure in the play, of course, has me thinking about the elegance of O'Neill's title.

I walked from class this evening musing over what O'Neill might have called the play, had he not come upon the title he chose. What if his title had feet of clay?

Mourning is Lavinia's métier
Gosh, Vinnie, I really like you in color
Good-bye Flying Trades
The Mannon she was always meant to be
Being Mannon

This exercise is sort of silly. I'm engaging it therapeutically.

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