On Becky Shaw

For every production at the Huntington, we make a resource packet filled with images and information to help the actors and director develop their take on the play. We found some of the sources we gathered for Becky Shaw so entertaining, we thought we would share them with you.

On morality
“Morality is not just any old topic in psychology, but close to our conception of the meaning of life. Moral goodness is what gives us the sense we are worthy human beings. We seek it in our friends and mates, nurture it in our children, advance it in our politics, and justify it with our religions. A disrespect for morality is blamed for everyday sins and history’s worst atrocities. To carry this weight, the concept of morality would have to be bigger than us.”

– Steven Pinker, “The Moral Instinct”

On strangers and guests
“The practice of guest friendship was one of the more estimable virtues of both the Greeks and the Romans. At first, and in a restricted sense throughout its long history, hospitum signified the simple but sacred duty of every man to welcome and protect any stranger who might come to his house.”

– Oscar E. Nybakken, “The Moral Basis of Hospitum Privatum”

On the economics of relationships
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interests. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.”

– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

On playwriting
“I wouldn’t call what I do satire. I care too much about my characters to poke at them for the betterment of culture. I’m not interested in a play where the writer hates everybody onstage.”

– Gina Gionfriddo

On the novel Vanity Fair, whose heroine’s name (Becky Sharp) recalls the title character
“[When William Thackeray wrote Vanity Fair], he was writing about the human condition and the folly that is in all of us. He’s showing you this amazing saga, but he’s asking the essential question, ‘Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us, having met our desire, is satisfied?’ That is the essential question of life, for you, me, and them. Becky Sharp […] was modern then, and she is totally timeless now. To have a Becky who didn’t like the cards that society gave her and created her own deck — that was a radical thing.”

– Mira Nair, director of the film adaptation of Vanity Fair


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