Thursday, December 6, 2012
Bathory 2008, Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Longitude
On this first of December, anniversary of my grandmother Ellen’s death 11 years ago, [she was 98, only admitted to 94, died suddenly after a freak accident where she fell trying to pull the blinds down], I am multitasking. As an aside, my grandma’s sisters and brothers all lived long lives bar one who died young of something like cancer. Then, they had freak accidents into their late 80s and 90s. My great-grandfather, their dad, was a sea captain, and the girls used to swim out in the Aegean to meet his ship. Hearty stock, that. So, I am multitasking, looking up Massie’s Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, and blogging. Catherine, a generation or two later than Erzebet, was more powerful as empress, but more formidable and ruthless. Had history been written differently, Massie may have written Erzebet the Great, and Catherine would appear in more books about serial killers and ruthless murderers, though she does appear in her capacity as Russian Empress in a couple books about evil women and evil people. I recommend Bathory, 2008. Anna Friel, whom I believe is British, has done a fantastic job, comparable to Dorothy Tutin and Genevieve Bujold playing Anne Boleyn, or Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth R, and also Vanessa Redgrave as Mary, Queen of Scots. Her name escapes me, but the actress who plays Dr. River Song on Dr. Who and who played in ER, also did an equally fantastic, comparable job playing Boudicca in the BBC production for Masterpiece Theater, yet another powerful, brave, and resourceful woman long vilified by history. Outside the fictional love affair with Caravaggio, which was born because of hints in his paintings and his mysterious absences while fleeing from the law, the film on Erzebet gives explanations for much associated with her. How Thurzo was owed money and turned on her and her husband for wealth and power, how her servants were tortured than swiftly executed as the only eyewitnesses who saw what really happened in her castle. There were explanations for the deaths, for her book of names, which could well have been names of those who had healed, for the “bath of blood,” which was water turned red by certain herbs, and I can tell you myself that eucalyptus and chamomile will turn water red. Also, the religious wars going on, the struggle with the Ottomans, all things that built and built. In the end, one wonders what, if anything, Erzebet could have done. That there were, and are backlashes against wealthy, powerful women is a given. That sometimes when the victors write history, it is skewed, is something we are discovering. There are entire academic departments devoted to the scholarly analysis of revisionist history. The story of Anne Boleyn bears witness to that; she is now a popular topic of fiction, and has become a sympathetic figure nearly 500 years later. A fascinating parallel to Erzebet’s story is what else was happening in the world. It was still the age of exploration, and the beginnings of The Industrial Revolution. A great book to study is Longitude, by Dava Sobel and William J. H. Andrews. The book tells of the perils of sailors trying to navigate solely by latitude, because there was no measurement instrument for longitude until the invention of Harrison’s longitudinal clock in the 18th century, a situation I believe influenced Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner.