Persuasion Insights from the Playwright

Persuasion at Livermore Shakes starts July 7th

jennifer-with-skirt-over-her-head

Jennifer Le Blanc as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, LSF 2014. Costume by Barbara Murray. Directed by Lisa A. Tromovitch. Photo by Gregg Le Blanc, CumulusLight.com

BY JENNIFER LE BLANC

Hi! I’m Jennifer Le Blanc, I adapted Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion, for the stage. I’m so excited that Livermore Shakespeare Festival will be producing it this summer with Mary Ann Rodgers directing.

My absolute favorite passage from Persuasion, is the letter. If you’re familiar with the book, you know exactly the swoon-worthy letter I mean. A soul-piercingly good missive. If you’re not familiar with the novel – Hooray, welcome to Persuasion! And don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil the best part for you.

Instead let’s take a peek at another brilliant moment. Our heroine, Anne Elliot, and her friend, Captain Harville, are having a heartfelt conversation about who loves more strongly, men or women. Captain Harville argues that there is a correlation between men’s physical strength and their emotional strength; so since men are stronger than women, their emotions must be stronger, too. Anne, who has experienced considerable romantic disappointment, feels that women love more tenderly than men.

Captain Harville brings up literature as evidence:

“But let me observe that all histories are against you- all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side of the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say on woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say they were all written by men.” (p. 216 in Collins Classics edition of Persuasion)

Lindsey Marie Schmeltzer and Ryan Tasker in Sense and Sensibility, directed by Jennifer Le Blanc for LSF 2015. Costumes by Callie Floor. Photo by Gregg Le Blanc, CumulusLight.com.

Lindsey Marie Schmeltzer and Ryan Tasker in Sense and Sensibility, directed by Jennifer Le Blanc for LSF 2015. Costumes by Callie Floor. Photo by Gregg Le Blanc, CumulusLight.com.

To which Anne replies:

“Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.” (p.216)

In the 21st century we are seeing the need to celebrate all sorts of diverse voices in our story-telling, just as Austen recognized the need for women’s voices in the 19th century. It’s so exciting to me that her response was to pick up a pen. And how lucky for us that she did! We get to enjoy her satire, her romance, and her philosophy. I love her wit and wisdom as she illuminates the strength, nobility, foibles, snobbery, and passions of humanity- all delivered with a healthy dose of humor. And I hope you enjoy it, too!