The Resource For Musicals



Sweeney Todd Forum


Reply to topic  [ 16 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Mrs. Lovett's Psychological Motivation 
Author Message
Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend

Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 3:42 pm
Posts: 1816
Location: Maison des Lunes
Post Mrs. Lovett's Psychological Motivation
Is Mrs. Lovett a puppet-master? I've heard it said several times that she's the truly evil presence in Sweeney Todd, doing anything she can to bend Sweeney to her will. Angela Lansbury epitomizes this Lovett.

I've always simply believed that, far from being a mastermind, she's simply a solipsist- nothing but herself and her goals is real to her. Like Nietzche and Ayn Rand, her ends justify her means. She has no devious plot, but things like robbing the dead, misleading a troubled man, and even coercing the town into cannibalism are simply "business" to her. This is Helena Bonham Carter's Lovett.

Consider the different interpretations of the "locking Toby in" scene. Angela lures him in with tenderness, then traps him ruthlessly. Helena has obvious regret for what she does to the child, but does it anyway because it's him or her that time, and Lovett has to stay safe.

_________________
"I LOVE incarceration,
I could lock up a platoon,
I'll be strapping up an inmate,
Very tightly, very soon.
So wave one bachelor goodbye,
She'll be your bride- she'd rather die
Than have her daddy ossify
In my sordid saloon..."


Tue Aug 18, 2009 8:48 am
Profile WWW
Young Hoofer
Young Hoofer

Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2008 5:23 pm
Posts: 40
Location: At the moment I'm trapped in North Carolina
Post 
I agree with you. Also, with Angela, her love for Mr. Todd was very subdued, arguable even. With Helena it was OBVIOUS and written all over her face in near every scene. Just another reason I love her.

_________________
Have the lambs stopped screaming, Clarisse?


Tue Aug 18, 2009 9:04 am
Profile
Supporting Player
Supporting Player
User avatar

Joined: Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:23 pm
Posts: 109
Location: McKeesport, PA
Post 
Judy kaye's Lovett is another good example as a woman who will do whatever necessary for personal gain.

_________________
As for myself, I am simply Hop-Frog the jester- and this is my last jest.


Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:31 pm
Profile
Tony Winner
Tony Winner

Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:12 am
Posts: 313
Location: US
Post 
I feel that Mrs. Lovett as written is a combination of the two types you describe...with a little more weight lent to the profile you favor.

I also feel that calling her "evil" is dismissive, especially in Sweeney Todd which is a sophisticated social commentary. Lovett's got tinges of Machiavelli, yet she's also a caricature of a proletarian struggle as understood by Marxists. Plus she's wrestling with being a widow and having no children, not a respectable position. Also important is that while she's an enabler to Sweeney's murders, she doesn't have to coax him into killing. He already has that latent bloodlust. (Yes, she leads Sweeney to believe that Lucy's dead, but that doesn't change that Sweeney already had a murderous rage. If he had known Lucy was alive, it's not as if he would have settled down. This is part of the tragic arc...the end of the play is set in motion even before the action begins).

It is prudent to say that she is selfish, and that her actions throughout the play merely spring from that. But that merits more explanation.


Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:54 am
Profile
Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend

Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 3:42 pm
Posts: 1816
Location: Maison des Lunes
Post 
Well you've brought up an interesting point there- the Marxist commentary.

Is Sweeney Todd genuinely Marxist commentary, or is it a sublime example of the modern Shakespearean revenge tragedy? According to Sondheim and Christopher Bond, in the introduction to the Sweeney Todd annotated libretto, the Marxist read was tacked on by Hal Prince for the original production, while neither of them cared much for it. This is why the Marxist imagery and symbolism has largely disappeared from subsequent major productions of the show, including Sondheim's personally-approved film version, which pared it down to its roots in tragedy and Grand Guignol.

_________________
"I LOVE incarceration,
I could lock up a platoon,
I'll be strapping up an inmate,
Very tightly, very soon.
So wave one bachelor goodbye,
She'll be your bride- she'd rather die
Than have her daddy ossify
In my sordid saloon..."


Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:33 am
Profile WWW
Tony Winner
Tony Winner

Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:12 am
Posts: 313
Location: US
Post 
To a certain extent that's a debate in literary dramatic criticism: Can the author of a work truly dictate which are the appropriate readings of the text? That is, can we say that Sweeney Todd can't be read from a Marxist critical perspective because Sondheim and Bond don't like it?

I happen to believe that the text exists separately from the author as it is published. But still, the Marxist stuff to me serves better as an undercurrent to the narrative and meat of Sweeney Todd, which is more prominently the revenge tragedy.


Tue Sep 01, 2009 6:48 am
Profile
Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend

Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 3:42 pm
Posts: 1816
Location: Maison des Lunes
Post 
What I mean is, is the Marxism a "read" to the text, or is the whole text itself an allegory for such?

_________________
"I LOVE incarceration,
I could lock up a platoon,
I'll be strapping up an inmate,
Very tightly, very soon.
So wave one bachelor goodbye,
She'll be your bride- she'd rather die
Than have her daddy ossify
In my sordid saloon..."


Tue Sep 01, 2009 8:13 am
Profile WWW
Tony Winner
Tony Winner

Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:12 am
Posts: 313
Location: US
Post 
I'd favor it as a read, especially considering the multi-tiered narrative.


Tue Sep 01, 2009 8:29 am
Profile
Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend
User avatar

Joined: Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:52 pm
Posts: 1043
Main Role: Performer
Post 
Vichysois wrote:
To a certain extent that's a debate in literary dramatic criticism: Can the author of a work truly dictate which are the appropriate readings of the text? That is, can we say that Sweeney Todd can't be read from a Marxist critical perspective because Sondheim and Bond don't like it?

I happen to believe that the text exists separately from the author as it is published. But still, the Marxist stuff to me serves better as an undercurrent to the narrative and meat of Sweeney Todd, which is more prominently the revenge tragedy.


I completely agree with this. Even if Sondheim and Bond don't like it, if the evidence/textual support for Marxist undercurrents are there, then one can interpret them.

As for Mrs. Lovett... it may be because I've never had the privilege of seeing Sweeney Todd on stage, but I do prefer HBC's "the ends justify the means" interpretation rather than a "Mrs. Lovett is pure evil, end of story" one. I think it makes her a more interesting character that way.

_________________
Currently: Ensemble, Assassins
Previously: Lucy Brown, The Threepenny Opera; Kim MacAfee, Bye Bye Birdie; Edith, Pirates of Penzance; Penny Sycamore, You Can't Take It With You


Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:36 pm
Profile
Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend

Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 3:42 pm
Posts: 1816
Location: Maison des Lunes
Post 
I understand that it CAN be read as such, but I was asking if we thought it was integral.

Case in point- two examples.

A: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe may be a fantasy novel on its surface, but beneath all that, it is an allegory for Christian moral struggles and the tenacity of belief and good. It is nearly impossible to read the novel without this undercurrent informing the plot.

B: The Wizard of Oz has ambiguously been seen as an allegory for several things, most notably the Populist movement in American politics and the burgeoning field of psychology. However, none of these are definitively accepted reads, and you choose them from the story at your own perspective. On its own, the story is "Just a story."

Which of these is Sweeney Todd?

_________________
"I LOVE incarceration,
I could lock up a platoon,
I'll be strapping up an inmate,
Very tightly, very soon.
So wave one bachelor goodbye,
She'll be your bride- she'd rather die
Than have her daddy ossify
In my sordid saloon..."


Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:35 am
Profile WWW
Broadway Legend / MdN Veteran
Broadway Legend / MdN Veteran
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2007 12:44 pm
Posts: 2758
Location: North Carolina
Current Obsession: Shaw
Main Role: Performer
Post 
le_moofin wrote:
As for Mrs. Lovett... it may be because I've never had the privilege of seeing Sweeney Todd on stage, but I do prefer HBC's "the ends justify the means" interpretation rather than a "Mrs. Lovett is pure evil, end of story" one. I think it makes her a more interesting character that way.


Actually, HBC's interpretation is my least favorite. Lansbury's has many, many more layers to it and a lot more depth. LuPone's is arguably worse than HBC but with how much the latter let me down in the movie it's hard for me to say that.

_________________
Image


Wed Sep 02, 2009 3:38 pm
Profile WWW
Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend
User avatar

Joined: Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:52 pm
Posts: 1043
Main Role: Performer
Post 
ActingDude17 wrote:
le_moofin wrote:
As for Mrs. Lovett... it may be because I've never had the privilege of seeing Sweeney Todd on stage, but I do prefer HBC's "the ends justify the means" interpretation rather than a "Mrs. Lovett is pure evil, end of story" one. I think it makes her a more interesting character that way.


Actually, HBC's interpretation is my least favorite. Lansbury's has many, many more layers to it and a lot more depth. LuPone's is arguably worse than HBC but with how much the latter let me down in the movie it's hard for me to say that.


I think HBC's interpretation is great... for film, that is. I do agree that onstage her subtle approach wouldn't work at all. I think I kinda posted ambiguously - what I mean is that I prefer an interpretation of Mrs. Lovett that doesn't make her out to be the puppetmaster/pure evil character that was suggested earlier. I think Lansbury's Lovett also shared some of that ruthlessness that I so admire in Lovett (well, not admire but appreciate). I think it's almost a cop-out to say that Mrs. Lovett is pure evil because it simplifies her character so much.

_________________
Currently: Ensemble, Assassins
Previously: Lucy Brown, The Threepenny Opera; Kim MacAfee, Bye Bye Birdie; Edith, Pirates of Penzance; Penny Sycamore, You Can't Take It With You


Wed Sep 02, 2009 7:31 pm
Profile
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Reply to topic   [ 16 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.