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Captain Bligh and the mutiny on the Bounty have become proverbial in their capacity to evoke the extravagant and violent abuse of power. But William Bligh was one of the least violent disciplinarians in the British navy. It is this paradox that inspired Greg Dening to ask why the mutiny took place. His book explores the theatrical nature of what was enacted in the power-play on deck, on the beaches of Tahiti and in the murderous settlement at Pitcairn, on the altar stones and temples of sacrifice, and on the catheads from which men were hanged. Part of the key lies in the curious puzzle of Mr Bligh's bad language.
List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; Prologue; Act 1. The Ship; Entr'Acte: Sharks that walk on the land; Entr'Acte: Ralph Wewitzer: The First Captain Bligh; Act 2. The Beach; Act 3. The Island; Epilogue; Notes; Reference Bibliography; Index.
Posted April 24, 2007
'I am a professor of parables,' writes author Greg Dening, 'and the Bounty is a parable. Indeed, there is much parable about ourselves in our peculiarly twentieth-century representations of the past of the Bounty.' Five of those representations have taken the form of film. Dening has added a sixth, in the form of a three-act academesque. Thoughtful prologue's', entr'actes, and an epilogue link the narrative to its historical context, its local mise-en-scene, and its modern role as an icon of cultural literacy. The drama takes place aboard ship 'a wooden world where the language of every action reverberates upon the soul of the voyage', on the beach 'the place where the conquering sea meets the vanquished land, a transitive action complete with subject and object', and on the island 'where sailors fall from grace with the sea, 'bad language' in anybody's book'. The entr'actes bring us face to face with rituals of sacrifice, peace offerings, and politics, a brash yet brilliant contrast of original Polynesian culture with that of colonizing England. In Dening's final analysis, it's all a matter of management - management of work and play, management of the 'oeconomy,' management of the sublime - all work together to form one unabridged narrative of drama at sea in the eighteenth century. Superb.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.