the lesson of “Falstaff”

 

 

Tonight I saw “Falstaff” at the Opera House.

 

The main character is a balding, ageing, rotund old knight who attempts to woo a couple of married women.

 

He writes a couple of corny letters, he whispers a few dodgy phrases in a woman’s ear – and for this he is scorned, pilloried, mocked and beaten.

 

It occurred to me: had a young handsome character said and done the exact same thing, Verdi would have written him as a hero.

 

How unforgiving, mercenary are our C19th arts towards the aged and unbeautiful. How ageist.

 

I recall “Ruth” of “The Pirates of Penzance”. Another ageing character whose attempts at romance are met with relentless ridicule (ultimately) by her object of affection, Frederic.

 

Read the lyrics. They shock.

 

In the C21st we should publicly work against ageism in our society, recognising and resisting the tendency to prejudice against all for whom time has passed.

 

(Privately, it is not unwise to conduct oneself and present oneself as youthfully as is plausible and natural. Society will always be imperfect – presenting oneself as a Falstaff, or a Ruth, will not be beneficial).

 

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