“The circle that moves with you is the veil built up against you” (G. Maxwell)
I’ve been thinking lately about many things and certain motifs and actions in some dramas as well. I’ve been obsessively analysing The Princess’ Man for one simple reason – it is a magnificent display of everything that life consists of. There is everything packed in 24 episodes. No drama since SKKS moved me so much. True, I like Idiot Dongsu, but it’s not the same level. I don’t rewatch it, paying close attention to the way of delivering the emotions. Koreans are known for being emotional and I find this aspect of their dramas appealing. After all, we are all driven by instincts. We had this talk with one of my soulmates on msn about Romeo and Juliet case. And I realized for the first time with such clarity what fascinates me in this play. Well, I knew that ever since, but now, watching TPM, I know what path I’m taking.
Oh, and it’s nice to see Asiae posing the same question as I did – exactly who is this Princess’ Man here, keke.
In my master’s thesis I stressed the meaning of the border (I called that buffer). I was always fascinated by borders. Maybe because my hometown is located just on the country border and signs were always imprinted in my mind? Not sure. And I partially blame Mircea Eliade for this. I know, modern scientists are not much in favor of him, so mentioning Eliade as your source of inspiration may result is supressed chuckle now among researchers, but I never cared for such things. Hell, I’d adopt Jung’s theories if they fit to my plans even. Eliade had a great inside on some things. And it was him who stated that the line separating sacrum from profanum belongs to the latter. It was an epiphany for me. And this very line is something that haunts me ever since.
In my stupid days of youth I was writing stories, obstinately putting a character that turned out to be the traitor. Treason is something I place right on that border. It belongs neither to the previous party nor the next. Traitors are often scorned with “once betrayed, he may betray again”. I have no idea why I am so stubbornly attached to the idea of treason.
To make some sense out of this post – in TPM there is Shin Myeon. He’s a traitor. Both to his friends and to himself, and I’m having a ball watching his reactions. He has chosen his side, fine. For us, viewers who sympathize with unfortunate Seung-yu, Myeon became a butcher because of politics and his own feelings. But, here’s the thing, there was a way to say NO. There was. Both for him and his father. Suyang wouldn’t kill them if they didn’t cooperate, he would just disregard them. But for an ambitious politician oblivion is worse than death and dirty conscience. And now come Myeon motifs – jealousy and inferiority complex. Seung-yu lived as he wanted, he played with gisaengs, drank a lot and still was a bright young man, not bound by status rules. This gloomed Myeon’s days. He was always dutiful. Turned out – Seung-yu had no problems with reaching out for revenge and duty at all, but he didn’t display that all day long. And Myeon was branded as the one “who has friend’s blood on his hands”, as Seryeong nicely put that.
I was wondering about his reaction after hearing that ship sank. His face couldn’t tell me was it horror when realizing that his friend is dead, and would never come back, or just rotting satisfaction that finally he left and won’t be able to interfere with Seryeong’s heart. Perhaps both.
Seung-yu’s change is also worth mentioning. One thing bothers me especially. He clearly supresses his own, personal feelings for the girl, we know that, we see that. And what? He is ready to sacrifice this girl for the revenge nonetheless, knowing that this will be his undoing. He does not have any illusions he will survive this, but blindly walks through chosen path. He’s on double border, actually. First – he’s not alive but not dead. Oficially, he’s dead. He can’t do anything for living, and judging his behavior he doesn’t care much to live past his revenge. Second, he’s standing in the line between hatred and passion. Well, the fact that he hates with flaming passion makes this line slightly blurred.
And now we come to the morally shady actions of his. Fangirls probably missed this. He kidnapped Seryeong on the day of her wedding to Myeon (yey!) to use her as a bait to get to Grand Prince Suyang. And he promised her that he would kill her too “with his own hands”. Venting your anger at a weaker woman is never a good thing. This is that morally doubtful behavior of his. We can understand his desire to kill Suyang, hell, he has the right to do it, but using the girl is just low.
And this is why I love this drama. Because this small, unpleasant detail of Seung-yu’s behavior shows how people blinded by rage, hatred and emotions act. They are not noble. His acting is far from it, he’s rough, bitter and on the verge of exploding. He’s not that pretty-smile guy as he was before ep 9.
Seryeong is changing too. Seeing Seung-yu alive obliterated in one second everything that she was before. She forgot about survival instinct even, she complies with his every brutal order, she follows without word of complaining. She pulled him so they wouldn’t be seen by Myeon… this small scene slapped me actually. And she saved him by the end of ep 14 by taking the arrow aimed at his (good) chest.
Historical dramas ring true on the level of showing how humans are. In costumes we see greed, hatred, loyalty, passion, indifference, betrayal, love, happiness and death. I’m not sure if modern-set dramas show that much. Except for family, long ones, of kors. This is why I treasure Shakespeare’s plays like Makbet, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, etc. The more I get old, the more I find them true. They are not some “school plays we have to read”, but little gems of how people act, times may change, but a man’s heart stays the same. Example? Prince Suyang led the rebellion, killed dozens of people (including his own brothers) because he saw himself on the throne. Greed for power. Is this really non-existant in our 21st century world? What differs our times from 15th century Suyang is methods. Modern politicians rarely kill the oponents.
Why did I mention Romeo and Juliet? Well, this story is branded (I think unfairly, as I mentioned it in a first review of this drama) as korean Romeo and Juliet. This is just an epithet. Actually it’s more like word association (anyone with basic literature education probably knows that), we say: tragic love story, we think: Romeo nad Juliet. Regardless if the plot fits.
TPM plot doesn’t exactly fit into the description, it reminds me also of some motifs from El Cid. To clear things mentioned at the beginning – I do find R&J story fascinating because of one detail. Time.
The love story doesn’t interest me much, Shakespeare wrote more passionate romances. This one is ill fated by the families, we know that, blah blah. Anyway, it’s this “one second too late” case that has me in its grip since some time before. The letter came one second too late and Romeo left believing Juliet is dead. Juliet has woken up from her stupor one second too late to prevent the poison. This is the most terryfying fact in the whole story. The fact that happiness can be destroyed by such trifle thing, such mistake. “If only” golden rule applies to this situation as well.
In TPM we have similar “playing with time”, but kind of reversed. This reminds me a bit of Chilsuk’s case in Queen Seondeok. He said that he mistook the fact he escaped death so many times. He thought it was his luck, but by the end of his life he said that “death should claim his long time ago”, and he made a mistake fighting so much for staying alive. Here, no one said that, but the exactly same ominous feeling is present. Seung-yu escaped death few times. The forest for the first time, punishment that resulted in his father removal from office, he was saved from decapitation after his father’s death, and luckily he was cuffed to a wise guy on that ship. In all this situations he should die.
You may trick Death, but she will pay you back tenfolds, I said that to the screen while watching his struggles to stay alive.
Borders, I seriously am not sure which side of Seung-yu’s border is better now.
I guess I will be writing some more after next week’s episodes.
Right now I’m just waiting, analysing, taking cardiac drops…
PS(H). One poem came to my mind.
The Valley of Unrest
Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless—
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye—
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave:—from out their fragrant tops
External dews come down in drops.
They weep:—from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.