Saturday, 13 December 2008

Silken Hotel, Aldwych (Cont)

The Aldwych facade of the old Gaiety Restaurant has a Drama Group, appropriately enough considering the sadly demolished Gaiety Theatre was next door.
To the right is the hooded figure of Tragedy, holding a knife in one hand and a severed head with the other. A snake has curled its way through the eye socket of a scull, over Tragedy's shoulders and is turning as if to strike. All very odd.
Comedy on the left is much more straightforward, a lovely flirtatious girl with a fan to show how jolly she is. Representing comedy in symbols is very difficult. Showing her slipping on a banana skin or boarding the boat for the West Indies (Jamaica?) would probably have lowered the tone.
Binney had a bit of a problem with symbology with the group in the centre as well. Here he shows three of Shakespeare's most famous heroines, Ophelia, Cleopatra and Juliet, all helpfully labelled.
Cleopatra and Juliet have the instruments of their deaths - Cleo has both asp and bosom on display, and Juliet carries the chalice with the sleeping potion (though she eventually stabs herself). Ophelia, on the other hand, is drowned in a stream, which is rather difficult to include so Binney settles for showing her wringing her hands in a bonkers sort of way.
The heroines are being saluted by girls playing what look like alpenhorns.


The Duke of Waltham said...

Hmm, JVLIET... One would have expected that, since V has been used instead of U, the Roman practice would also be followed with regards to using I instead of J. I suppose this inconsistency is fairly common, though.

Chris Partridge said...

Well spotted, Yr Grace. Nobody does Latin right - next door in Bush House they would later invent television "Television? The word is half Greek and half Latin. No good will come of this device," as CP Scott said.

The Duke of Waltham said...

Good point, Mr P.; linguistic eclecticism seems to have rivalled its architectural counterpart in the nineteenth century, and I cannot say things have improved ever since. However, to be fair, Latin borrowed heavily from Greek anyway, so I cannot say with certainty that at least some of the modern hybrids couldn't have been coined by the Romans themselves had they encountered the needs these words have been created to serve.

Speaking of Latin and Greek, the latter language still lacks the equivalent of J, and when foreign names containing it are Hellenised, iota is used. Juliet is still known as Ιουλιέττα (Ioulietta), although the direct transliteration of words like Jamaica and jaguar has long prevailed over the Greek versions that were common until the 1970s, at least in writing.