Book 7 Chapter 1 of Tom Jones.

This is part of an ongoing project in which I will record and post one chapter per week of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones over the course of four years.

It's the start of another book, meaning we get another discursive chapter from Fielding. This time, Fielding discusses comparisons of the stage to real life, and points out the use of stage metaphor has grown commonplace. He uses as an example the phrase "behind the curtain" being used more often outside of the theater than in. I'm sure we could come up with even more examples, and, if we were to subscribe to the modern idea that our language has a profound effect on our neurological processes, and also take into account the modern study of Performance Theory, we might say Fielding was somewhat ahead of his time.

He dismisses Shakespeare's profound "poor player" from Macbeth as being hackneyed, and tries to revive a work called "The Deity" which had already been forgotten nine years after its publication, when Fielding was writing. The Deity was written by Samuel Boyse, who seems to be largely forgotten. Go ahead, Google a few lines of his poem, and see that the first page of hits goes directly to Tom Jones, rather than Boyse. Probably not a fair test, but there it is.

Anyway, Fielding echoes one of Shakespeare's other famous stage metaphors, in saying that, well, one man, in his time, plays many parts. He cites as an example, David Garrick (pictured here in the role of Richard III), the most celebrated actor of his time. In addition to playing the great parts, he's also played fools. So too might Black George, in stealing Tom Jones' 500 pounds play the knave. But he may at some point play a more heroic role in this story, as nobody is ever wholly hero or wholly villain. We certainly see this dichotomy with this book's hero.

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AuthorMark Turetsky