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How Does The Herbal Bed Explore The Conflict Between What Society Expects Of Us And Our Inner Devices?

1233 words - 5 pages

The Herbal Bed explores the conflict and discrepancy between human desires and the social conventions and expectations, which endeavor to repress them. Peter Whelan utilizes this universal conflict by developing a string of moral dilemmas that prevail within and among the characters to explore the conflict between ones own desires and the expectations of the restricted Jacobean society. Moral dilemmas are utilized to endeavor the individual human desires and passions and what society believes to be morally correct. Weare confronted with a main moral dilemma that splits the audience between societies views and modern perspectives of Susanna. Our consideration of the main thematic concerns of ...view middle of the document...

The moral dilemmas faced by the characters are evidence of a more general conflict between what society condones as right and true and what is in fact right and true for the individual, by setting the play in such a contextually fraught setting the struggle between this dilemma is amplified.
In the play, the complexity of Susanna lies in the appeal of her feminist ideology and the post-modern appropriation of her characterization, Whelan makes her the character that appeals to us the most as a 21st century audience. To do this he uses contextually specific moral dilemmas of other characters to underpin and support Susanna’s key moral dilemma of conformity and duty versus individuality. In Act 1, scene 1, Rafe’s dilemma was irrelevant to us but nonetheless the presence of that moral dilemma gives us the power to reflect on the meaningful ones, “Bowing’s what you do isn’t it? Doesn’t mean anything”. Susanna’s perceptive and insightful observations, complex nature and resolve make her a post-modern female protagonist. Whelan has taken the independent nature of Shakespeare’s dominant female characters, such as Beatrice and Juliet, to compose Susanna. “We all were surprised of the man and medicine and the poet’s daughter”, this acknowledges the structuring and composition of Susanna from her father’s plays. The beauty of Shakespeare’s language often comes through in Susanna’s revelation, “love’s alchemy”. To her, love and truth are tied up in belief that they have the power to transform, nurture and inspire an individual. Images of love having the power to “change us” reflects the change of Susanna as she succumbs to desire, passion and joy of the human spirit; components that are missing from her life with John.
Whelan uses intertextuality to allude to other plays, such as the court scene from The Crucible and the garden, which displays the original sin from Adam and Eve, giving in to temptation. The herbal bed is symbolic of Susanna herself as it is walled in and disguised from society, it is domesticated but yet Susanna is free-spirited. The garden connotes Susanna’s moral and spiritual composure as the garden is able to exist in balance and so is she. It has the power to be curative as well as poisonous, it can be polished and wielded whilst being wild and it has the power to transform from day to night. During the day it is symbolic of the characteristics, which define her relationship with John and the boundaries of society, but at night it is symbolic of everything that releases her....

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