Wednesday, February 25, 2009

understanding John Dryden

hey everyone

i was on the radio today, sort of. my complaint about referring to multiple protagonists warranted a reading on air (which you can listen to or download here) apparently. fascinatingly, the presenter who made the error of referring to "two protagonists" in an advert (of all things) chose to use a John Dryden quote in his defence. Alas, as i will get to, the quote used proved my point rather than make the host appear correct, but he appeared somewhat oblivious to this. as the broadcast veered towards something of a dig at your humble narrator (questioning my gender, suggesting i am bereft of friends), i suppose one would expect nothing less.....

to go back to my moans and groans, i have a quarrel with anyone that refers to a multiple of protagonists in any play, story, film or, as is the case with the well spoken host of the show Mr Andy Rice, 30 second advertisements. a simple literature rule for you - one cannot have more than one protagonist in a story! you can have many prominent, well defined characters, but fundamentally only one is the protagonist, which is to say the reason the story exists. Mr Rice, in his very posh, alluring tones, often mentions an advert as having 2 or 3 protagonists. i got rather fed up of hearing such drivel at times when traffic reports should have been on, and thus mailed him.

whilst i am flattered that he gave my comments some airtime (more or less in the same way that Mickey Mouse is presumably flattered when American news channels give airtime to his imaginary birthday), i was puzzled to learn that he believed his terminology was correct on the basis of a John Dryden quote. Dryden, some 400 years ago, made a comment along the lines of the "characters used to portray the protagonists in his plays". To Mr Rice, this was apparently a reference to multiple protagonists in a story and thus vindicated his vocabulary. to everyone else, of course, this is nothing more than John Dryden using the term correctly.

let's have a look at the quote again, shall we, with my emphasis placed on key letters : "characters used to portray the protagonists in his plays". There are two ways you can interpret the great Dryden. either he is talking about different characters in different plays (i.e. one protagonist per play), or he speaks of the characters as a collective in describing his plays as a whole, which is to say for the purposes of conversation it is one protagonist as a group. methinks Mr Dryden at no point referred to any of his works bearing two or three protagonists, i would be interested to be shown something that has me in the wrong in this respect.

the remainder of airtime given over to my concerns was, alas, used as some sort of dig at me. i had clearly irked the presenters, as they couldn't work out if i was of the male or female gender (most people clock this from my "kingmonkey" address), and then suggested that i should change my tone and approach somewhat if i wished to have any friends. well, if we ignore the former, the latter is interesting. i am blessed with a number of friends, whose company i appreciate and trust that the sentiment is reciprocated. i could not tell you how many friends i have as i do not see it as something to be counted; the quality of friendship strikes me as being more important than the volume or number of them.

in regards of why i bother with all of this, there are three reasons. firstly, i love the gift of the English language and it drives me up the wall when people in positions of influence (broadcasters, writers) abuse it, subliminally influence others to do the same and then see the very same people turn around and whinge about "dumbing down" and falls in standards. secondly, i loathe and detest anyone who tries to sound intelligent and superior to everyone else around them by incorrectly using long words and impressive sounding phrases that they clearly do not understand. thirdly, finally and most importantly, on the whole i was rather bored and it amused me a very great deal to fire of a mail at random to someone about the first subject that crossed my mind. that they chose to respond to it makes it all the more amusing!


be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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