Saturday, February 13, 2010
The Charades of Becky (cont'd)
Thackeray's second allusion used to describe Becky's character is to Clytemnestra, the wife of King Agamemnon, who became her husband upon killing her first husband. When Agamemnon sacrifices their daughter Iphigenia, an embittered Clytemnestra along with her new lover Aegisthus plot the murder of the king. Upon Agamemnon's return from the Trojan War, Clytemnestra get revenge by stabbing and killing her husband.
At a party at Lord Steyne's house, a game of charades was started up (a popular form of entertainment at the time) and in the final scene, Rawdon appears as Agamemnon and Clytemnestra makes her appearance as well:
Clytemnestra glides swiftly into the room like an apparition--her arms bare and white,--her tawny hair floats down her shoulders,--her face is deadly pale,--and her eyes lighted up with a smile so ghastly, that people quake as they look at her'
A tremor ran through the room. "Good God!" somebody said, "it's Mrs. Rawdon Crawley."
The darkness and the scene frightened people. Rebecca performed the part so well, and with such ghastly truth, that the spectators were all dumb, until, with a burst, all the lamps of the hall blazed out again, when everybody began to shout applause. (Chapter 51)
Becky is so convincing in her performance that even Steyne says to himself, "By --, she'd do it too." Thackeray includes the episode mostly to describe Becky's character rather than to draw parallels.
Thackeray reinforces the idea of Becky as a Clytemnestra in the penultimate illustration of the novel entitled, "Becky's second appearance in the character of Clytemnestra." The illustration depicts Becky behind a curtain listening to Dobbin and Jos Sedley, with whom Becky reconnected after being abandoned by everyone, having a conversation about Jos's fears that Becky would kill him if he left her too. Becky is armed with either a dagger or a vial of poison, but the actual text gives no indication that Becky is in the room. Jos dies three months later and Becky collects his insurance money, causing many to suspect that Becky played a role in his death.