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Thursday, October 26, 2006

re: Theater Is Not Virtuous

posted by on October 26 at 12:38 PM

Of course—theater is not vegetables. It’s not good for you, it’s not good for anybody. In fact, it’s insidious, awful, and corrupting. And, in the case of My Name is Rachel Corrie (now in New York, coming soon to the Rep), it “isn’t merely propaganda; it’s a polemic with a clear purpose: the creation of a secular saint. And not just an ordinary saint. It is a hagiography of a particular kind of saint: the victim of a Jewish blood libel.”

From The Jewish Exponent. (More inflammatory isn’t always better, but it’s nice to see a play kicking up the dust—and headed in this direction.)

Speaking of art-as-corruption: the famous brothel of Pompeii is restored and open for business:


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Glad to see the Pompeiian brothel open for business again. The business in this case is, of course, tourists taking photos of the dirty art rather than its original business, unless the Neapolitan Tourist Board is going for unheard-of levels of authenticity.

Two things: the speculation that the frescoes advertised the prostitutes' specialty is sheer bullshit: they were decor for the whole place, and any woman in any room probably had to do anything she was paid to do.

Second, when I visited this spot a couple of years ago, it was the busiest place in Pompeii, with three guided tours arriving at once. After listening to the spiel of the tour guides, we wandered in, took some quick pictures and quickly wandered out.

It's actually a very small building, and maybe fifteen feet of corridor from the entrance to the exit. As we left, I said to my girlfriend a sentence that I'm sure was said in Latin there back before Etna buried the place: "That's it? I thought there'd be more."

Posted by Bill | October 26, 2006 1:01 PM

I do think theater is special. I think there's something special about seeing a performance that you know will never be duplicated in quite the same way. It's the same reason I often like experiencing live music more than listening to the CD later.

I also think it's neat that a theater actor really has to memorize two hours of dialogue and perform it live. Film actors have the luxury of second takes. Does it make theater actors better or more special? No, just different in a way that I appreciate.

Plus, the audience does affect the play in a way that it doesn't affect movies or other forms of entertainment. I don't think it warrants magical terms, but it can often be a factor, especially in comedies. We've all seen a play kill one night and bomb the other and nothing changed but the audience.

I feel like the call to mark theater as something really un-special is a backlash again something but I'm not sure what that something is. There's all kinds of theater and some of its good, bad, boring, exhilarating, okay, nice. So is everything else.

Posted by digress | October 26, 2006 1:08 PM

I saw that brothel several years ago, pre-renovation...our Italian tour guide pointed a particular picture on the "menu," (thanks for ruining that story, bill) looked at our group (me, my wife, an conservative-looking gentleman and his college-age daughter) and laughed, "Ha! Doggie style, yes!"

This is the first story we tell anyone about Pompeii -- something about their reaction tells me the man and his daughter are still trying to forget it.

Posted by j | October 26, 2006 1:10 PM

Bill, that last part of your post belongs in the six-word stories comments thread. It's perfect. "That's it? Thought there'd be more."

Posted by Geni | October 26, 2006 2:18 PM

I talked for several hours today to a bunch of playwrighting students in two classes up at WWU.

They were snarky, annoying, and outrageously self-absorbed.

I loved them all.

I love them because they aren't film students, playing in a band, writing novels, or even participating in poetry slams. Instead, they're committed to a dying art form that I happen to love above all other art forms, one that gets less respect, money, or fame, that requires more sweat and effort, than any other art you'd care to name.

And so, Ms. Wagner and Mr. Kiley, yes: I consider that "possessing or showing virtue in life and conduct, and acting with moral rectitude or in conformity with moral laws; good, just, and righteous."

So, to hell with you all. I think working in theatre, loving theatre, and going to see theatre is virtuous.

(Though not: free from vice, immorality, or wickedness. Thank God. These are the reasons I got into theatre.)

Posted by John Longenbaugh | October 26, 2006 11:19 PM

This entire "Theater Is Not Virtuous" thread started when Wagner, her work left unfinished, complained when theatre received a positive mention in another medium.

The KUOW piece wasn't even a review, just a broad and brief survey of the local theatre scene. Wagner's viciousness and word choice (sloppy?) are curious; I can only imagine that Wagner was inflamed over WET not being mentioned. There has to be some personal angle - otherwise why even bother?

At the core of this is that the radio piece was written by someone who doesn't hate theatre. Now I know that Anne claims not to - but liking a small handfull of plays and wishing everyone else dead is not the same as liking theatre.

Weren't you moved into movie reviews? Is it disappointing to review art in which those involved will never read your vicious attacks? Nasty little barbs like this one, from your review of ReAct's "Six Degrees of Separation": "I know ReAct has been robbed once or twice, and all of its props were absconded with. Forgive my indelicacy, Theater Bandit, but perhaps you could strike again? (I'm kidding, of course, but the less stuff this company piles onstage, the better.)"

I'll be the first to admit that there are a lot a bad plays produced; but theatre isn't unusual in this - most band's aren't very good, most paintings, most dance - all of it. So what? You want a gold star for figuring that out? That's no insight.

But to take issue with people who are passionate about their art - just because they think it's special - WTF? Were you expecting a balanced perspective from those so intimately involved? Of course they think it's special, of course they think that what they're doing is important, and of course most of them will end up being wrong. So what? That's life.

Faulting artists for their passion towards their chosen form is just - perverse, reflecting an unreasoning antipathy.

Posted by John Galt | October 27, 2006 2:05 AM

John and John: No, no, no, no, wrong, no, and no. Nobody is faulting artists for their passion. Nobody is saying theater isn't difficult. Nobody is saying theater isn't valuable. The fact that you so readily leap to these incensed (incensed!) conclusions kinda demonstrates the point--theater-makers tend towards a preciousness and defensiveness that is dangerous for the form. You are your own worst enemies. (Theater, by the way, cannot die. That kind of suicidal ideation is juvenile.)

Posted by Brendan Kiley | October 27, 2006 12:11 PM

Yo Brendan:

I think Mr. Gall made a series of excellent points, the best being that Ms. Wagner was the reactionary one here. She had some sort of minor wig-out because a theatre artist or two said on a local radio show that they consider theatre to have a moral dimension, or to be "virtuous."

I asked her what she thought was "virtuous." After all, if she's getting into a froth about this, why not define her terms?

She replied to my query by throwing an dictionary definition at me like that solved the problem. That may have worked back in high school ("According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 'conflict' is 'a competitive or opposing action of incompatibles'") but here it's inadequate, not least because I looked at that definition and thought, "damn, I think at least part of that DOES define theatre to me."

Is my reaction "defensive?" Maybe. But "precious?" My friend, this is the art to which I've committed the last couple of decades of my life, and I'm not in the least "precious" about it. Combatative, ornery, and even hyperbolic, but...precious? Not a chance. Say it again and maybe I'll take a swing at your "precious" nose the next time we meet.

As to whether or not theatre is "dying--" would you prefer for me to say it's "sickly?" Or does your dismissal of such "ideation" (My Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines that as "the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas," which makes me suspect you misused this word) mean that any metaphors regarding theatre are invalid?

Posted by John Longenbaugh | October 27, 2006 12:47 PM

PS to John Galt: Sorry I got your last name wrong in my post. I know how annoying that is.

Posted by John Logenbaugh | October 27, 2006 1:02 PM

This is the second time in 24 hours that a theater-maker has expressed the desire to hit me. (The first was a rather more vociferous phone message: "I'd like to kick the crap out of you.") I take that as a good thing, a sign of life. To the theater artists of the world: Less mewling! More punching!

Posted by Brendan Kiley | October 27, 2006 1:14 PM

Logenbaugh (sic):

Suicidal ideation.

Minor wig-out? I think it was a Slog post. As for my "inadequate" definition: Sorry, but you can't exclude "free from vice" from the definition of "virtuous." I will repeat, theater has very little traffic in virtue. Viewing theater and buying theater tickets has nothing whatsoever to do with virtue. I don't think my view can possibly be any clearer.

As for the Ayn Rand worshipper above (seriously, Ayn Rand? Still?), my work was not "left unfinished." The Slog IS MY WORK, you idiot.

Posted by annie | October 27, 2006 1:14 PM

Hello Annie:

You must have missed that day in freshman English where they explained the use of the semicolon. The OED definition that you quoted is marked with this funny little punctuation mark that looks like this:


what that means is that while the sentence (in this case, a dictionary definition) is continuing, the separate clause that follows is a linked but distinct idea.

In other dictionaries (like my handy Webster's, used above) definitions are normally broken down in numbered clauses, as I suspect they are in the full OED instead of whatever condensed crappy desktop version you consulted.

All of which is to say: you're wrong. I am entirely justified, morally and grammatically, in saying that I agree with the first clause of the definition you posted, and disagreed with the second. "Virtuous" no more DEFINITIVELY means "free from vice" than it means, oh, "righteous," "chaste," or "moral," three definitions I just drew from Webster's.

Damn. Writing's HARD sometimes, isn't it?

PS: this is a slog comment posting. It's also an annoying bit of grammatic pedantry. Just like your earlier wig-out was, indeed, a wig-out.

Posted by John Langenbaugh | October 27, 2006 1:38 PM

The OED edition I cited is the OED Online, available free to anyone with a Seattle Public Library card. You may access it here.

You want the full definition of "virtuous"? You got it: Definition 2(a).

I. Of persons, personal qualities or actions, etc.

1. a. Distinguished by manly qualities; full of manly courage; valiant, valorous. Obs.

13.. K. Alis. 2408 (Laud MS.), Alisaunder and tholomeus, Mid her men at weren so vertuous, at hij weren passed ostes two. Ibid. 3319 Ne sei ich neuer so hardy knith..So stronge on hors ne so vertuouse. c1330 Arth. & Merl. 4310 For alle hem werre Galeus, e riche king so vertouous. c1450 Merlin xxix. 595 The slaughter [was] grete on bothe sides. Neuertheles whan Merlin saugh the saisnes so vertuouse, he [etc.]. 1474 CAXTON Chesse IV. vi. 178 Ye shalle vnderstande that they ben stronge and vertuous in bataylle. c1489 Sonnes of Aymon xx. 451 ‘Brother’, sayd reynawde, ‘I praye you that ye shewe yourselfe vertuous & stronge agenste our enmyes’. 1606 CHAPMAN Gent. Vsher I. i, My Lord, I know too well your vertuous spirit; Take heede for God's loue if you rowse the bore You come not neere him. c1611 Iliad XIII. 148 With this all strengths and minds he mov'd; but young Deiphobus, Old Priam's son, amongst them all was chiefly virtuous. 1611 BEAUM. & FL. King & No K. I, Must all men that are vertuous Think suddenly to match themselves with me.? I conquered him and bravely, did I not?
b. Of an act: Evincing a manly spirit; brave, heroic, courageous. Obs. rare.

1560 WHITEHORNE tr. Machiavell's Arte Warre 85 Thei had appointed rewardes to euery worthie acte: as he that faighting, saued the life of one of his Citezeins, him that had..slaine the enemie, and so euery vertuous act, was of the Consulles knowen and rewarded. 1653 COGAN Diodorus Siculus V. ii. 174 The child,..catching them [sc. two Dragons] by the throat, strangled them both; for which his vertuous act, the Argives called him Hercules.
c. Capable, able. Obs.1

1483 CAXTON Cato eviij, It happeth oftymes that they to whome nature hath denyed..her forces or strengthes been better and more vertuous to gyue a good counceyl than the other.

2. a. Possessing or showing virtue in life and conduct; acting with moral rectitude or in conformity with moral laws; free from vice, immorality, or wickedness; good, just, righteous.
The prevailing sense.
In some early quots. as a general term of commendation (cf. sense 3).

c1340 HAMPOLE Prose Tr. 14 e mare at a saule es..joynede to oure Lorde Godd, e mare stabill it es and myghty,.. gude, peyseble, luffande, and mare vertuous. 1390 GOWER Conf. II. 78 Bot if a man of bothe two Be riche and vertuous also, Thanne is he wel the more worth. c1400 Apoll. Loll. 91 Crist is more exellent & vertuosar an oer createris. a1475 G. ASHBY Active Policy 480 Looke that youre servauntes be of the best,..And eueriche in his degre vertuest. 1509 FISHER Funeral Serm. C'tess Richmond Wks. (1876) 301 All the vertuous and deuoute persones to whome she was as a louynge syster. 1534 CROMWELL in Merriman Life & Lett. (1902) I. 375 Diuerse other vertuose prestes men of good lernyng and reputation, shuld so testifie of her. 1563 Homilies II. Peril Idol. III. Ssiijb, The vertuest and best learned..auncient fathers. 1567 PAYNELL tr. Treas. Amadis of Gaule Eijb, I neuer saw a wiser, vertuouser or a more temperate prince. 1611 BIBLE Transl. Pref. 8 A man may be counted a vertuous man, though hee haue made many slips in his life. 1640 QUARLES Enchiridion xci, If a Prince expect vertuous Subjects, let his Subjects have a vertuous Prince. 1695 LD. PRESTON Boeth. IV. 172 The Reward of vertuous Men. 1701 ROWE Amb. Step-Moth. Ep. Ded., Two Vertuous (or at least Innocent) Characters. 1706 STANHOPE Paraphr. III. 206 Approving ourselves vertuous in our Behaviour as well as orthodox in our Belief.
transf. 1426 LYDG. De Guil. Pilgr. 22098 Byholde onder a Chartrehous, An ordur that is full vertuous. 1539-40 WRIOTHESLEY Chron. (Camden) I. 109 The howse of Sion..which was the vertues [= most virtuous] howse of religion that was in England.
1487 Barbour's Bruce IV. 742 He had beyn fals and couatus; Bot his vit maid him virtuous. 1660 N. INGELO Bentiv. & Ur. II. (1682) 72 When that which is worse hath cunningly contriv'd the destruction of Virtuous persons. 1691 HARTCLIFFE Virtues 397 It were impossible so long as Men..have a desire of their own Happiness, but they should be virtuous. 1707 Curios. in Husb. & Gard. 7 Ecclesiasticus injoins Labour and Agriculture as a Duty of virtuous Men. 1777 R. WATSON Philip II (1839) 23 Thus did this monarch, who was not less virtuous than most of his cotemporary princes, deliberately resolve to add treachery to the perjury and falsehood into which he had been betrayed. 1826 DISRAELI Viv. Grey V. xiii, I have been too weak to be virtuous: but I have been..tried most bitterly. 1859 GEO. ELIOT A. Bede xvii, Let your most faulty characters always be on the wrong side, and your virtuous ones on the right. 1881 Jrnl. Inst. Bankers II. IX. 563 The virtuous debtor, whose insolvency was attributable to unavoidable losses and misfortune.

b. Of women. Freq. = CHASTE a.
In quot. c 1400 merely an epithet of commendation.

c1386 CHAUCER Man of Law's T. 526 They can not gesse That sche had doon so gret a wikkednesse, For they han seyen hir so vertuous. c1400 Destr. Troy 2432 Venus the vertuus was verely the fairest. c1420 Chron. Vilod. 1573 er nasse A wysor wommon..Ny vertuoser in levyng,..en was is holy mayde. 1536 CROMWELL in Merriman Life & Lett. (1902) II. 21 Soo hath his grace I thinke chosen the vertuost lady and the veriest gentlewoman that lyveth. a1578 LINDESAY (Pitscottie) Chron. Scot. (S.T.S.) I. 157 Quene Margarit was werie wyse and werteous in hir husbandis tyme, bot sune efter his deid..scho became leichorous of hir body. 1598 SHAKES. Merry W. IV. ii. 136 Mistris Ford, the honest woman, the modest wife, the vertuous creature, that hath the iealious foole to her husband. 1611 BIBLE Prov. xii. 4 A vertuous woman is a crowne to her husband. 1632 High Commission Cases (Camden) 265 That she being a vertuous and a chaste lady, he called her whore often tymes. 1712 STEELE Spect. No. 286 1 In my Opinion, and in that of many of your virtuous Female Readers. 17.. Suffolk Miracle ii. in Child Ballads V. 66/1 Her beauty was beyond compare, She was both virtuous and fair. 1796 H. HUNTER tr. St.-Pierre's Stud. Nat. (1799) III. 77 ‘She will be virtuous’, said she, ‘and she will be happy: I knew calamity only in ceasing to be virtuous’. 1837 LYTTON E. Maltrav. II. i, Madame D'Epinay's memoirs are of this character. She was not a virtuous womanbut she felt virtue and loved it. 1843 A. BETHUNE Sc. Fireside Stor. 35 A virtuous woman, who has given her one whom [etc.].

c. Used as a title of courtesy in addressing or referring to persons, esp. ladies of rank or emimence. Obs.

c1532 G. DU WES Introd. Fr. in Palsgr. 896 Most illustre, ryght exellente & ryght vertuouse lady my lady Mary of Englande. 1588 KYD Househ. Philos. Ded., To the Worshipfvll and Vertvovs Gentleman Maister Thomas Reade, Esqvier, Health and all Happines. 1616 SIR W. MURE Misc. Poems xvii. title, Epitaph of the wery excellent, vertuouse..trulie honoured Lady, the Lady Arnestoun. a1700 EVELYN Diary 4 Feb. 1668, I saw the tragedy of ‘Horace’ (written by the virtuous Mrs. Phillips).

d. absol. (as pl.), chiefly with the.

1390 GOWER Conf. III. 226 He putte awey the vicious And tok to him the vertuous. c1425 WYNTOUN Cron. VII. 832 He chastit a at war wiciousse, And relewit al wertuousse. 1589 NASHE Anat. Absurd. Wks. (Grosart) I. 35 The acts of the ventrous, and the praise of the vertuous. 1597 MORLEY Introd. Mus. Ded., A second being..causing vs liue in the mindes of the vertuous, as it were, deified to the posteritie. 1651 HOBBES Leviath. IV. xlvi. 373 As if the Vertuous, and their Vertues could be asunder. a1711 KEN Urania Wks. 1721 IV. 498 They priz'd an humble modest Air, Sang more the Virtuous than the Fair. 1759 JOHNSON Rasselas xxxvii[i,] But the angels of affliction spread their toils alike for the virtuous and the wicked. c1805 LEYDEN in Life & Poems (1875) 195 The soft descending dews of sleep, That bathe the virtuous in serene repose. 1846 A. MARSH Father Darcy II. viii. 137 The esteem of the noble and virtuous I would still retain.

e. Of the disposition or mind.

1584 D. POWEL Lloyd's Cambria 398 Of a good and vertuous disposition. 1598 SHAKES. Merry W. I. i. 189 Slen. If I be drunke, Ile be drunke with those that haue the feare of God, and not with drunken knaues. Euan. So got-udge me, that is a vertuous minde. 1602 Ld. Cromwell IV. i. 20 He was my Maister, And each vertuous part, That liued in him, I tenderd with my hart. 1634 MILTON Comus 211 These thoughts may startle well, but not astound The vertuous mind. 1660 N. INGELO Bentiv. & Ur. II. (1682) 196 Many Vertuous Dispositions are fair Resemblances of the Divine Perfections. 1780 A. HAMILTON Let. to Miss Schuyler Wks. 1850 I. 187 A virtuous mind cannot long esteem a base one. 1784 COWPER Tiroc. 436 The most disint'rested and virtuous minds. 1816 SHELLEY Dæmon of World II. 136 The bliss..Which..Dawns on the virtuous mind.

f. Sc. Diligent or industrious in work.
Perhaps due to Prov. xii. 4: see b. above, quot. 1611.

1725 RAMSAY Gentle Sheph. I. ii, I've heard my honest uncle aften say, That lads should a' for wives that's vertuous pray. a1825 SCOTT in Jamieson Sc. Dict. Suppl. s.v., Her daughter was the most virtuous woman in the parish, for that week she had spun sax spyndles of yarn.
g. virtuous circle [after vicious circle s.v. VICIOUS a. 9], a recurring cycle of events, the result of each one being to increase the beneficial effect of the next.

1953 E. SIMON Past Masters III. 156 It will be a virtuous circle of publicity attracting helpers and, I trust, supplementary donations, and these begetting more publicity. 1958 Brit. Jrnl. Sociol. IX. 163 The child's..range and expression of discriminating verbal responses is fostered by the social structure... A virtuous circle is set up which is continually reinforced. 1982 Times 6 May 18/4 The rating reflects the company's virtuous circleyears of store building and modernization leading to productivity gains, which allow it to hold prices lower than its rivals but still make a better margin of 4·5 per cent.

3. a. Of acts, life, manners, etc.: Characterized by, of the nature of, virtue; according with, or conforming to, moral law or principles; morally good or justifiable.
Occas. in a weakened sense: ‘estimable, commendable, praiseworthy.’

c1375 Sc. Leg. Saints xix. 634 God to christofore gafe sic grace of vertuyse lare. Ibid. xxxvi. 424 Aganis awantis aim-selfe of uertuise lif. a1393 CHAUCER Gentilesse 17 Ther may no man..beqweythe his heyre his vertuous noblesse. a1400 Apol. Loll. 36 In meknes, pouert, paciens, & labour, & oer vertuus dedis. 1450 Lett. Marg. of Anjou, etc. (Camden) 97 The womanly and vertuouse governance that ye be renowned of. 1484 CAXTON Fables of Auian xi, None oughte to preyse hym self but oughte to doo good and vertuous werkes whereof other may preyse hym. 1509 FISHER Serm. Wks. (1876) 271 Blessyd are tho whiche haue made vertuous ende and conclusyon of theyr lyfe in our lorde. 1585 T. WASHINGTON tr. Nicholay's Voy. II. vii. 37 [They] are much giuen too musick and all other vertuous & honest exercises. 1607 SHAKES. Timon III. ii. 44 If his occasion were not vertuous, I should not vrge it halfe so faithfully. 1667 MILTON P.L. VIII. 550 That what she wills to do or say, Seems wisest, vertuousest, discreetest, best. 1712 STEELE Spect. No. 500 3 There is one thing I am able to give each of them, which is a virtuous Education. 1759 JOHNSON Rasselas xxxiii, The present reward of virtuous conduct. 1782 J. BROWN Compend. View Nat. & Rev. Relig. I. 25 To constitute an act truly virtuous, it must originate from a virtuous principle or habit. 1836 J. S. GILBERT Chr. Atonem. ix. (1852) 297 Can pride be virtue, or can any act be truly virtuous, if done in pride? 1838 DICKENS Nich. Nick. i, My Father has got it [sc. my uncle's money] now, and is saving it up for me, which is a highly virtuous purpose. 1871 R. W. DALE Commandm. Introd. 11 It is only the virtuous man who knows what is virtuous.

b. Of writings: = MORAL a. 3b. Obs.1

1509 HAWES Past. Pleas. XIV. (Percy Soc.) 53 He made also the tales of Caunterbury; Some vertuous, and some glad and mery.

c. Of a blush: Chaste, modest.

1818 BYRON Juan I. Ded. vii, Your bays made hide the baldness of your browsPerhaps some virtuous blushes.

4. Belonging to the virtuosi. Also absol. with the. Obs. rare.

c1680 BUTLER Rem. (1759) I. 10 Most excellent and virtuous Friends, This great Discovery makes amends For all our unsuccessful Pains. 1685 PETTY Will in Ld. Fitzmaurice Life (1895) 319, I obtained my degree of Doctor of Phisick in Oxford, and forthwith thereupon to be admitted into the College of Phisitians, London, and into severall clubbs of the virtuous.

II. Of things, their operations, etc.

5. a. Producing, or capable of producing, (great) effect; powerful, potent, strong.
In some quots. influenced by or approximating to sense 6.

13.. K. Alis. 5228 (Laud MS.), Hij maden fyres vertuous Fyue hundre, vche gret als an hous. 1390 GOWER Conf. III. 137 That word above alle erthli thinges Is vertuous in his doinges, Wher so it be to evele or goode. 1598 CHAPMAN Iliad IV. [VIII.] 22 Then wil I to Olimpus top our vertuous engine binde, And by it euerie thing shall hang. 1616 J. LANE Contn. Sqr.'s T. IX. 394 Till happelie her ffather slewe the snake, and by his virtuous wordes did th' venom slake.

b. Of actions, qualities, etc.

1387 TREVISA Higden (Rolls) II. 185 Touchynge e ridde liknesse, at is vertuous worchynge. 1422 YONGE tr. Secreta Secret. 246 Therfor the dygestion is the bettyr and more vertuose in wyntyr than in any othyr tyme. 1426 LYDG. De Guil. Pilgr. 3427 And ye may ther..Maken thynges fresshe of hewe, And whan ye lyst, transforme hem newe, Your power ys so vertuous. 1578 LYTE Dodoens 1 (heading), Plantes..their temperature, complexions, and vertuous operations. 1590 SHAKES. Mids. N. III. ii. 367 Then crush this herbe into Lysanders eie; Whose liquor hath this virtuous propertie, To take from thence all error. 1644 [H. PARKER] Jus Populi 18 Such causes as remain more vertuous then their effects, as the water heated is lesse hot then the fire. 1667 MILTON P.L. III. 608 With one vertuous touch Th' Arch-chimick Sun, so farr from us many precious things. 1797 COLERIDGE Christabel I. xxi, It is a wine of virtuous powers; My mother made it of wild flowers. 1813 SCOTT Rokeby I. ix, Yet the soil..Had depth and vigour to bring forth The hardier fruits of virtuous worth.

6. Endowed with, or possessed of, inherent or natural virtue or power (often of a magical, occult, or supernatural kind); potent or powerful in effect, influence, or operation on this account; spec. having potent medicinal properties or qualities; efficacious or beneficial in healing. Now arch. a. Of precious stones, etc.

13.. Gaw. & Gr. Knt. 2027 His cote, wyth e conysaunce of e clere werkez, Ennurned vpon veluet vertuuus stonez. 13.. E.E. Allit. P. B. 1280 e vyoles & e vesselment of vertuous stones. 1398 TREVISA Barth. De P.R. XVI. liii. (Bodl. MS.), [The more] at Jacinctus is liche to e Saphire in coloure,..e more vertuous it is. c1400 MANDEVILLE (Roxb.) xvii. 80 If e dyamaund be gude and vertuous, e adamand drawes not e nedill to him. 1483 CAXTON Gold. Leg. 214/2 A Margaryte, whyche gemme is white lytyl and vertuouse... The virtu of thys Stone is sayd to be ayenst effusyon of blood. 1503 HAWES Examp. Virt. iv. 40 Of vertuous turkeys there was a cheyr. a1533 LD. BERNERS Huon cxlix. 562 The stone was so vertuous that none coud esteme the valure therof. 1626 BACON Sylva §499 There is a virtuous Bezoar and another without virtu which appear to the show alike.

b. Of things in general.

1340 Ayenb. 113 Me zay et hit [sacramental bread] is ope substance et is uirtuous and substanciel aboue onderstondigge. c1440 Gesta Rom. lxii. 264 (Add. MS.), This knyght than had a vertuous welle beside his bedde. c1510 Gesta Rom. (W. de W.) Aiij, All my temporall rychesse I haue exspended, & almoost no thynge is lefte me, excepte a vertuous the myddes of myne empyre. 1527 BRUNSWYKE (title), The vertuose boke Of the distyllacyon of all maner of waters of the herbes in this present volume expressed. 1586 MARLOWE 1st Pt. Tamburl. III. i, For neither rain can fall vpon the earth, Nor Sun reflexe his vertuous beames thereon. 1590 SPENSER F.Q. II. xii. 86 Streight way he with his vertuous staffe them strooke And streight of beasts they comely men became. 1629 A. SYMMER Spir. Posie I. iii. 13 Behold the timely vertuous presence of Gods Providence. 1632 MILTON Penseroso 113 Canace.., That own'd the vertuous Ring and Glass.

c. Of herbs, etc.

1390 GOWER Conf. III. 129 And ek his herbe in special The vertuous Fenele it is. c1407 LYDG. Reson & Sens. 4433 The so vertuous, That no beste venymous..Ne may in no Wyse aproche. c1460 Wisdom 92 in Macro Plays 38 The drede of God, makyst..swete wertuus herbys in e sowll [to] sprynge. 1578 LYTE Dodoens V. xxv. 584 The leaves [of mallow] are good for all the greefes afore~sayde,..yet they be nothing to vertuous as the roote. 1609 C. BUTLER Fem. Mon. (1634) 108 Where the flowers are most fragrant and vertuous,..there the Honey dews..are most fine and pure. 1614 W. B. Philosopher's Banquet (ed. 2) 81 Fylberds..are vertuous in Medicine. 1632 J. HAYWARD tr. Biondi's Eromena 84 These our mountaines are full of vertuous herbes. 1700 DRYDEN Flower & Leaf 418 The Ladies sought around For virtuous herbs. 1853 G. JOHNSTON Nat. Hist. E. Bord. I. 264 Twenty-five ‘elegant’ copper-plates containing the figures of many of the most virtuous herbs. 1871 BROWNING Balaust. 2124 Cutting the roots of many a virtuous herb To solace overburdened mortals! 1884 Ferishtah Wks. (1896) II. 665/1 By application of a virtuous root The burning has abated.

d. Of drugs, etc.

1600 ROWLAND Lett. Humours Blood vi. 77 Strong sodden Water is a vertuous thing. ?c1614 J. DAVIES Let. Wks. 1876 I. p. xlviii, Least the intention of to much Reading hinder the working of those vertuous drugs. 1615 CHAPMAN Odyss. x. 283 Before her gates hill-wolves, and lions, lay; Which with her virtuous drugs so tame she made, That [etc.]. 1694 SALMON Bate's Dispens. (1713) 43/1 By that means you will have a very strong and virtuous Spirit. 1871 HAWTHORNE S. Felton (1879) 99 It is the most virtuous liquor that ever was.

7. Of great excellence or worth. Obs.

c1400 Laud Troy Bk. 9460 For now is non so glorious, Ne non in this world so vertuous, As Ilion was the while it stode. c1420 Chron. Vilod. 1171 Harp he couthe & syng welle erto, & carff welle ymagus, & peyntede botheSuche virtuose werkus he wolde welle do. c1430 LYDG. Min. Poems (Percy Soc.) 80 The douffe..Unto the erthe she toke hir flight, And sang a song ful gracious, Of al songes most vertuous.
III. 8. Comb. (in sense 4), as virtuous disposed, -like, -making, -minded, -seeming adjs.

1450 Rolls of Parlt. V. 206/1 By ther Founders and other vertuous disposed persones. 1654 WHITLOCK Zootomia 347 virtuous-making a Pattern among Wives, as she was before among Virgins. 1699 SHAFTESBURY Charac. (1711) II. 36 If that which restrains the Person, and holds him to a virtuous-like Behaviour, be no Affection towards..Virtue it-self,..he is not in reality the more virtuous. 1807 Europ. Mag. LII. 469/2 Those, on whom the virtuous-minded Muse Ne'er breath'd a portion of her hallow'd fire. 1959 S. SPENDER tr. Schiller's Mary Stuart III. iv. 63, I did not hide my sinful deeds behind The false show of a virtuous-seeming face.

Posted by annie | October 27, 2006 2:18 PM

I want to say, "Don't feed the theater trolls."

But I also want to say this:

"As if theater didn't have enough trouble already. It has to be loved passionately by John Longenbaugh? What did theater do to deserve that fate?"

Posted by Dan Savage | October 27, 2006 2:29 PM

Hello Annie:

Thanks for all of the helpful definitions of "virtuous." It looks like GREAT bedtime reading.

You didn't have to go quite THAT far to disprove your point (to wit, that I can accept one definition of a word but not the other), but hey, far be it for me to come between you and your verbal suicidal ideation.

Dan! Mon frere! How's the biking, buddy? Did you see me last time when I waved at you and you were biking and you looked like you looked back at me but maybe you didn't look back at me?

Now Dan, a petty man would reply to your unkind dig with something like "what did theatre ever do right to make someone like Dan Savage finally leave it?" but...

oh god. Maybe I AM petty.

Posted by John Longenbaugh | October 27, 2006 2:41 PM

Mr. Longenbaugh, stop being obtuse. Please? The reason I quoted the entire OED definition was that you accused me of squishing several definitions into one, perhaps because I was using a condensed desktop dictionary.

And I quote: "In other dictionaries (like my handy Webster's, used above) definitions are normally broken down in numbered clauses, as I suspect they are in the full OED instead of whatever condensed crappy desktop version you consulted."

I also gave you the full entry to demonstrate that, semicolon or no, the entire scope of the meaning I cited falls under a SINGLE definition (2a), which the OED flags as "the prevailing sense." No picking and choosing between clauses; no willful, petulant griping about the way reality doesn't fit with your worldview.

Theater is not virtuous. Q.E.D.

Posted by annie | October 27, 2006 3:10 PM
17 must be Friday at The Stranger, which means that the staff is bored and looking for a rumble.

At least Brendan e-mailed me to say he hoped our argument was all friendly-like.

Annie--our argument isn't all friendly-like, clearly. But rather than engage in any more button-pushing, I'll just say that I'm just as glad that you're out of theatre criticism as I am glad to be out of it myself. I would guess we're both tempermentally unsuited to it.

Posted by John Longenbaugh | October 27, 2006 4:59 PM

Wait, so, okay. This is what I thought you meant, Annie, am I right, that individual theatrical performances may or may not be worthwhile, but the artform as a whole is free from that sort of valuation? That is, going to a shitty high school production of Godspell doesn't necessarily make you morally superior to someone who's sitting at home watching, oh, say Fear Factor on FX.

Like, not all novels are challenging or thought-provoking; not every Harlequin has the same merits as Flann O'Brien. I'm kind of confused as to what the heck this whole debate is about. Mr. Longenbaugh, are you saying that seventeen year olds dressed as hippies warbling their way through Day By Day is more spiritually significant than a smirking Joe Rogan in the same way that a salad is better for you than a candy bar?

Posted by Horace | October 27, 2006 5:24 PM

hello Horace:

90% of everything, as Philip K. Dick pointed out, is crap. (crap means not virtuous, I guess.) Yeah, theatre's crap. But so's politics, books, popular music, folk dancing--whatever. If Ms. Wagner wants to be lured out of her apartment (where I assume she's in danger of crappy TV or crappy music or crappy sex or whatever) then she needs to seek out something that isn't crap.

But in the time that she was reviewing plays, I never got the idea that she valued the form of theatre enough to value the 10% that was really good. And she seemed so outraged by the 90% that was crap that it seemed like she didn't really like it at all.

Because of this a lot of people gave a big sigh of relief when she stopped writing about it. Brendan K. doesn't like all sorts of stuff, but he does seem to like theatre. Is that too much to ask from a theatre critic?

Posted by John Longenbaugh | October 27, 2006 5:41 PM


Did you send me an email to notify me that our conversation was friendly? I thought not.

Can you point to any evidence that I don't like theater, in the abstract? Not individual theater artists, or particular attitudes about theater, or specific theater productions, but theater itself?

Just because I don't worship theater doesn't mean I don't relish it.

Posted by annie | October 27, 2006 6:12 PM

God, theater people are unbearable.

Posted by Paulus | October 27, 2006 6:24 PM

You know, Annie, I guess I think if you really did "relish" theatre, you'd either go do it, or you'd keep going to see plays and write about them.

Particularly if you'd ever written about it like you were enjoying yourself.

Really, I just think you wrote about it for a while and then got bored of it and went off to write about movies. It was a good way to make a lot of funny cracks about how bad art can be sometimes.

Writing funny cracks about something you hate isn't really very hard.

And you probably thought that wasn't a bad way to make a living.

Me? I wrote about theatre for five years and then I got sick of writing about theatre. But I still love it and work in it. And occasionally I want to write about it again just because I really love the good stuff and wish more people knew about it.

Posted by John Longenbaugh | October 27, 2006 6:28 PM

I'm sorry to digress, but i have to take exception to something.

as quoted above,

"b. Of actions, qualities, etc.
1387 TREVISA Higden (Rolls) II. 185 Touchynge e ridde liknesse, at is vertuous worchynge. 1422 YONGE tr. Secreta Secret. 246 Therfor the dygestion is the bettyr and more vertuose in wyntyr than in any othyr tyme. 1426 LYDG. De Guil. Pilgr. 3427 And ye may ther..Maken thynges fresshe of hewe, And whan ye lyst, transforme hem newe, Your power ys so vertuous. 1578 LYTE Dodoens 1 (heading), Plantes..their temperature, complexions, and vertuous operations. 1590 SHAKES. Mids. N. III. ii. 367 Then crush this herbe into Lysanders eie; Whose liquor hath this virtuous propertie, To take from thence all error. 1644 [H. PARKER] ..." et al

is pretty stirring language.

Posted by SEAN NELSON, EMERITUS | October 27, 2006 10:20 PM

Hey, John Longenbaugh:

Way up at the beginning of this thread, were you really giving grammar lessons? Have you read your own posts?

Seriously, you need an editor if you're going to shoot your mouth off. No, I'm serious.

It's one thing to post and make spelling or grammar mistakes, but to have the balls to call someone else out on it.

Glass houses, man.

Posted by Carl | October 27, 2006 11:52 PM

You think my spelling and grammar mistakes are bad? Dude, look at that stuff from the OED!

"Therfor the dygestion is the bettyr and more vertuose in wyntyr than in any othyr tyme."

Have those guys ever heard of spell check?

Posted by John Longenbaugh | October 28, 2006 12:21 AM

This entire thread, from both sides, is easily one of the most pretentious things I've ever read. Go outside.

Posted by make it stop | October 28, 2006 9:22 AM

One last note (from me) against the myth that Annie Wagner hates theater itself, which is statistically disproved here:

"I've written about 91 plays, musicals, sketch-comedy shows, and dance performances—or, to put it another way, I've spent at least 182 hours of the last year in darkened rooms. Out of those 91 performances, I truly deplored 39, gave mixed reviews to 30, and heaped praise on 22."

Posted by Brendan Kiley | October 28, 2006 1:15 PM


I think you need to write a play.
Just join us !

Posted by Dorothy | October 30, 2006 6:07 PM

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