Sunday, 18 March 2007

Bianca

ive always really liked Bianca in "Othello". i never felt she got enough credit. what did she think of all that was happening? how did she feel about how cassio was treating her and the rumours that he was sleeping with desdemona? that bit where she fights with emilia is like a rousing call to all women, when their boyfriends or girlfriends get all bitchy about how many men you've slept with, it is the ultimate moment of angel/whore complex, and sexual double standards. the audience is meant to like cassio, but really, the way he talks about bianca, the way he treats and denies her, he's a villain.

i found this on wikipedia about bianca, and she is kind of reduced to a plot device, which is how she is always reduced. like mariana in "Measure for measure". but worse in my opinion, because i could never get along with what an awful idiot mariana is, although she is treated a lot worse than bianca i suppose. bianca has more fire in her, and for me that makes her more than a plot device. she is a woman with a history. anyway, here's the quote:

"Bianca is a character in William Shakespeare's Othello, whose name is Italian for 'white'. She is the mistress of Michael Cassio, but is used by Shakespeare as more than just that. She is used for the comparison of jealousy. She becomes jealous after Cassio gives her a handkerchief, and this rational, normal jealousy is compared against Othello's brutal, murderous, revenge seeking jealousy. Also, in the eavesdropping scene, Iago jokes with Cassio about Bianca, but Othello thinks they're talking about Desdemona, sending him into a furious rage."

hope im not infringing copyright with that.

so all this preamble is basically for me to introduce my version of bianca. hope it is ok. who knows, maybe one day i will write a whole series and rescue mariana from the moated grange and cleopatra and cressida from whorishness, give lavinia a tongue and exlpain just how utterly pissed off hippolyta was with theseus.
but for now it's just bianca:

Bianca

He loves me he loves me not I sing to myself as I pull flower petals off the stem and fling them in to the sea, it is a pretty pose, don’t you think. I lose, and so I play tinker tailor soldier sailor with cherry pips and laugh to find my happy fate lies with the thief, because truly my heart has been thieved by this damn soldier, and I think both the flowers and the fruit are not lying.
He does not love me, I know that much, but I think he needs me, and that is something is it not, is it not, because for as long as I am needed then I can see him, and the more he sees me, then the more he will realise that he needs me and he will grow to love me. It is a fallacy I know but what else do I have to go on.
‘Are you ashamed of me?’ I asked him point blank one night, a night where he sat by my side and introduced me to no one and allowed me one touch on my knee as if to reassure me that he still cared. But behind the closed doors of his room then his hands move from my knees to send me shuddering and him short of breath. ‘Are you ashamed of me?’ For why this awful denial, this pretence that we are nothing but acquaintance, before the press of his body against mine filling me up with a love that I can never suppress. He told me no, of course not, why would I be, but just like my fantasy of his realisation of his necessity, it is a fallacy. He hates to be asked such questions because he wants to admit nothing. He refuses to recognise what we are, and when I try and say such things aloud he calls me brash and coarse, and I am forced to turn it in to a joke, so that I can be his monkey once more.
That is not love.
Now I feel that whatever he feels for me is more akin to hate than love. Something in him revolts from me, he hates the passion I inspire in him, I know it so well, for I am not the right kind, for I scare him. He calls me monkey and gipsy and says they are endearing, but I know his secret. He sees a wildness in me that is out of his field of control and I know that when I show off the ecstasy that he brings in my bright face, he is somewhere inside recoiling in horror.
My eyes are too bright and my hair is too curled and my skin is too tanned and I know that to him I represent excess and lushness and an honesty that cannot be endured by the politesse that surrounds his world. So he denies me in front of all, and I strive against all my instinct and all that makes me what I am, and demurely accept his repulsion.
But why should I accept, my heart tells me angrily! I am who I am, I I I I I I say I over and over, me mi a me mia donna like a scratch across the grooves in my brain, repeating like a mantra to try and bring myself back in to this equation of two. Where am I to find myself as I allow him to take over all that it is that I love in myself, all the passion that makes me happy with what I have become, all the fire that he wants to reduce in to ice.
Sick of it! Sick of the men who take all they can from the flames in me so that they sputter and I can feel me being reduced, so that I have to keep repeating I I I to remind me, I need to remind me of me, before I lose myself in the mires of their lusts. I want my self back, I think. But it is too late now; I see that more and more. He has taken too much and I bend and flex to his will, to his want, so I keep quiet, even though at his revulsion part of me revolts, but I am learning to hush, to accept, to be silent.

For I have realised slowly that to win his love I have to change, and once the self in my is abandoned and left, then he will see the woman he loves in me, and then it will be the time when we walk down by the canals, my hand will be in his, and my head will be lowered respectfully. It is a struggle though, a struggle to keep my blood from rebelling against my heart. Angrily the little cells gang up on the muscle that it is instructed to obey. She pumps hard to keep the rebels in line, and some day soon my blood will be tamed, and I will be quietened as he wishes. Then I will have learnt not to fight anymore. The fighting will be left to his sword.

Flushed with wine and with swaying steps I found him on the bay with his men and I laughed too loud and spoke too clearly, placing my arm around his waist and proclaiming him as my lover, yes! he is my lover and yes! I love him and yes! I have held this body so covered in finery and uniform, bare and sweating in my own moist palms. My tongue was loose and I tried to press it against his, whilst he nervous and fidgety told me to run along, and his friends they laughed, they laughed at my dress slipping from my shoulder and called me a whore and pushed me hard against the wall as I struggled to find my soldier. They pushed me hard against the wall of the bay as I shouted out to him, but he had snuck away, ashamed of what I had done.
Yet somehow still I love him.
So I sail on this boat to his side but I know what I will find there. For even in the heat of the dry arid landscape he will only see what is dry and arid, and no amount of sun will lighten the coldness of his attitude to me.

As the bay laps against the shore, the ship tilts and heaves as does my belly. The belly from which should come life, the life that he wants to take. I lie alone in this bed, in my cabin in the heat, and I see his face bending over mine. I toss my head against the covers and close my eyes to try and stop this imagining. For if I look at the sight of his face I don’t know what my mind will tell me I see there.

He words me girls, he words me, as Cleopatra says, and so I can’t let him go.

I arrive on this island, stepping off the boat with my head held high for a moment, a moment when I can allow myself some pride. Soon my head will duck down and I will be silent against his voice.

I see the general’s wife and she is all that he wants me to be. All I hear is of her, of her and her beauty, of her and her sweetness, of her and her purity. And I think well whose fault is it that I am not so sweet, whose fault is it that I am rendered whorish, when I am no worse than she, really, I am no worse than she. If it is a damned life I lead, well by god it is an honest one. We are both women and we both bleed, and if the breaking of blood was not spilled by a husband, then who is to say that that was my fault. And how dare he talk to me of this? He who values purity so highly has no trouble pressing hard against my breast, he takes what he wants from this body he so despises and then blames me for not keeping to the picture book version.
And I want to gnash my teeth and I want to shout and yell and riot on the street that he so drunkenly fell about on, and scream why won’t you be mine like I am yours, why do you refuse to see that I am no worse and she is no better than me. I think he loves her and I think of what I hear, and who knows if I think wrong, for I think I hear that the general thinks he loves her too.
It’ll all end badly, I think I know that much.

He sends me to my room with this damn piece of cotton, this damn strawberry patterned token from some woman’s hand in to his, and I have to laugh, I have to pretend that I don’t mind. I flirt prettily of how I could not bear his absence, whilst I hide that to be from him is too painful for me to bear. But he thinks I came here because my slut body needs its satiation. For god forbid that a woman like me could love him tenderly, for how can my lust for his body be matched with a love like that which I feel. What woman would love the feel of the body against her own, could feel passion and heat, love is not for the demure! Damn him and his refusals! Damn him and his denials! He will not be seen with me and I beg my foolish head to release me from this, I tell myself that I will not be seen with him, and I laugh, I laugh I laugh, for what punishment is that for him?
I must be circumstanced.
I know that he laughs. And I know I won’t be his.
So although my heart aches to control my blood my passion rises and I shout and I yell and accuse him of loving this other, this pretty lady who is so pure and who is so sweet, and after I cry and I cry, for I know that so long as my head refuses to settle for that which he offers, he will never offer more.

Despite his nervous denials, I find him there in my room. The distress from all that is happening here is lined clearly on his face, and my heart appeals out to him. It is love, I think. For like a woman to a child, to see him sad leaves me sad, and I wish his sadness on to me to carry as my burden. I press my palm against his cheek and call him my darling and my love and my sweet thing and all kind tones I can think of. He needs me you see. Some part of him must know this, for what else would explain his presence here in my room. The secret muscles with their own programming kick in to action and lead him to my door. He has no conscious choice.
And he returns my caress with his hand stroking my cheek. But I know what is concealed in his hand, and it is not love that provokes his action, it is desire. And if I am to be what he desires, then I have to accept what he holds there. The paintbrush in his palm smears itself across my cheek, and replaces it with softer, rounder, dimpled ones that smile. They are pale and milky, and blush to a perfect rose that signals a brand new modest innocence. The sharpness of my cheekbones are filed down, and that angry flare that brightens what was once my face is subdued. The bristles rub out my eyes and colour them blue, drowning in that sea the lust and fire that resided there formally. He is perfecting me in the image he wants, and I let him do it, and I submit. I lower my head so that he can wipe out the darkness from my hair and when I timidly rise my eyes to his I see in them reflected the one that he wants. His desire pushes me inside of myself, and I curl up there, out of sight, lying safe in my belly.
And once he has hidden me, then he can take what he wants. As I lie covered deep down deep, the fresh brightness of my skin reflects a light that gives him the image he is pleased to see. The brightness blinds the dark flashes hidden under the painted blue so that they lie blank and white staring. He doesn’t see the damage that this desire has. And I accept, I accept all because I tell myself over and over that if I accept then he will love me, he will have to love, how could he not do otherwise?
But still I rebel, my body won’t obey what he inflicts on it! I can’t control my passion, I can’t control my response, and I know that if I don’t try harder I will throw myself out from behind his new portrait and he will be forced to confront the truth in my face. I grit my teeth and order my blood to halt its rush, but she doesn’t listen, and the soft pink cheeks they won’t listen either, they melt away under the pressure of the fight in me, and although I strive to keep her hidden, I can see as I look in his eyes that she has escaped, and he rolls off, frustrated with me, for I could not succeed in keeping the picture of his happiness.

And I lie prostrate by his body and I know this is the end.
I know this is the end.

3 comments:

Chris Heppell said...

Sian-genius, this is one of my faves.

Rabid Pounder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rabid Pounder said...

Yeah, this is really good. By the end of it I found myself almost verbally willing her on to push him away. Having to do Macbeth at school put me off Shakespeare (I'd probably like it now, but aged 14 it wasn't too appealing to me!), but this sparks an interest. Write more though, surely she's gonna be stronger than that!?

Look, thou spleeny tickle-brained death-token, insult your friends using Shakespeare! (can't see any from Othello though)
http://www.pangloss.com/seidel/Shaker/index.html?