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This is a subpage of Historical Novels and deals with the specific topic of textual analysis of the historical novels that are subject of this course. These novels are Waverley by Sir Walter Scott, Tachmas, Prince of Persia by Jean-Regnauld Segrais, Tudor, A Prince of Wales by an anonymous author and Charles Dacres by an anonymous author. There are two other expert groups within this course, Writing of History and Problems of Genre.
The novel is set in Persia around the 1666 to 1676. The exact date is not mentioned in the novel, may be deduced by several facts. The subtitle of the novel is 'An Historical Novel, which happn'd under the Sophy Seliman, who Reigns at this day'. It can be assumed that Sophy Seliman is the Persian Shah Suleiman I., who's reign lasted from 1666 to 1694. Since the novel was published 1676 this limits the time the novel could take place in to the first decade of Suleiman's rule. The setting is not described any further, the reader has to imagine it by himself.
The novel is set in France, at the French court, around the 1413 to 1461. As in Tachmas, the exact date is never mentioned in the text, but may also be deduced by several facts ( the novel begins with "...when war which had continued for so many ages between the English and Welsh, seemed to be put to an end..." p.3 and ends with Owen Tudor's execution p.154; Henry V's landing in the Normandy also hints to this period of time). The setting is not described any further.
The novel is set in France and England. It plays in the late 18th century. The protagonist is born in 1760.
Instead of elaborating on the setting, the novel describes the characters in length, especially prince Tachmas. The characterisation technique are solely an authorial, explicit description for all the characters.
Tachmas is described as an good looking and intelligent prince. “It is hard to guess whether Tachmas was more obliged to Nature for the Perfections of his Body, or the Excellencies of his Mind [...]” (Tachmas, 3). These perfections, together with his good reputation evoke fears in his brother, the Sophy Seliman, that Tachmas wants to replace him. His flaw is that he is overly trusting, both in his brother and in his advisor, Allagolikan. Tachmas appears as a closed and monodimensional character, there are no enigmatic points, no actions that the reader cannot explain or understand. He does not change during the course of the novel and is therefore static.
Negara, the leading female character, is described at equal length. She is beautiful and charming and has “A Wit [that] gave a particular grace to all she said.” (Tachmas, 7). She is of noble blood and has an equally good reputation.
The Sophy Seliman and the antagonist Allagolikan, as well as the slave Sunamire, are also described in detail, although not as lengthy as the main characters.
The information we get about the characters are solely supplied by the author. The main characters (Tudor & Catharine)are presented in a static way,the reader doesn't get any information about the past or the development.
Tudor is described as handsome and intelligent, a heart-throb(Frauenschwarm, sagt man das so??). "That Prince (Tudor) was indeed endowed with most engaging qualities; for besides the excellent Beauty and Comeliness of Body, he possessed a gentile and pleasant Wit, which easily insinuates, and contributes as much to the Conquest of Hearts, as all the sparkling Lustre of the World." p.15
Catharine is described as stunning beautiful and extremely amiable. "...Catharine...was justly esteemed one of the greatest Beauties, and most lovely persons that have ever been."
The other characters are little described, all of them are introduced together by Tudor. "The men appeared to me extremely civil and well bred; and the Ladies (to my fancie)performed all their set about with so good Air, that I thought other Countries destitute of the Politeness which was to be found in France." p. 19
Charles Dacres (the Heir)
Compromise (the lame attorney)
Parabole (Tutor at the University)
Tom Trueman (the Commoner)
Jack Jumble (the Parson)
Sporco (and other Collegiate Characters)
Euphemus (a Gamester)
Fitzwoden and O’Blunder (Officers in the Irish Brigade)
Marguerite (the Brunette)
Comtesse Grasse, and Louise (sisters, the one a Wit, the other a Savante)
Madame Belle-Court (Pensioner in a Convent)
Principe ****** (an Italian Nobleman)
Catherine of Meaux (the Unfortunate)
Prospectus (a Philantrophist)
Speculator Climax (the Author)
D’Olinville (an Emigrant)
The main character in this novel is a dynamic character. His development is the main focus in this novel additionally to the historical accuracy. In Charles Dacres, there are authorial descriptions but the author also introduces the characters in more detail in letting other characters talk about each other. Additionally, the name of the character already hints at his or her outward appearance and his or her character. Most of the other characters in this can be described as types, whereas Charles Dacres is an individual.
- son of Richard Waverley
- grows up with his uncle Sir Everard and Rachel at Waverley Honour
- spends his youth reading in his uncle’s library Zitat 6
- lack of “proper” education (Zitat 5)
- romantic and idealistic (Zitat 7)
- innocent to the world
- avoids responsibility and making decisions
- a “mediocre hero”? (Georg Lukács
Rose Bradwardine: (light heroine)
- daughter of Lowland baron Bradwardine
- shares love for poetry with Edward
- kind, caring, gentle, harmless
- beautiful but not exciting
- Edward marries her in the end
Flora McIvor: (dark heroine)
- sister of Highland chief Fergus McIvor
- passionate for the cause of Jacobitism
- does not show any interest in Edward except for political reasons
- exotic and beautiful (waterfall scene!)
- Edward is fascinated by her
The action in Tachmas mainly consists of dialogues held by the characters. It focusses on the love relationship between Tachmas and Negara and the intrigues woven by Allagolikan to manufacture the downfall of Tachmas, his mortal enemy. The last four pages sees the death of all of the characters except Sophy Seliman. Negara poisons herself because she thought Tachmas was already dead. The prince's mother, Begona, had already poisoned herself. Sunamire stabbed herself for her treachery. Allagolikan kills Tachmas before Sophy Seliman can step in to save him, who in turn orders Allagolikan to be strangled on the instant.
As well as in Tachmas, the action in Tudor consists of dialouges held by the characters. It focusses on the liaison between Tudor and Catharine and intrigues and missunderstandings. The plot is rather linear, but to describe how the intrigues are woven and the missunderstandings emerged the actions are sometimes overlapping. "In the meantime the Dolphin had noticed of the missunderstanding that was between these Lovers, and was willing to make advantage of their quarrels; upon which design he managed some secret interviews with Madame de Giack." p.81
The novel is about the character of Charles Dacres and his voyages. The main focus is on the description of the main character's development throughout the novel.
The first novel, Tachmas, was published in 1676, Tudor in 1687, Charles Dacres in 1797 und Waverley 1814. Tachmas and Tudor are written in roughly the same time frame, while Charles Dacres and Waverley were written almost 100 years later. Looking at the four texts, we can see a development in setting description over time. While in Tachmas in Tudor, there is almost no setting description, it is at least sparingly used in Charles Dacres to describe certain character traits (Charles Dacres, p. 35). In contrast, Sir Walter Scott uses rather detailed setting descriptions in Waverley. This development may be part of the general development of “historical novels”. The historical accuracy only plays a minor role in Tachmas and Tudor, while in Charles Dacres it becomes more important and in Waverley it is the main focus. The plot in Tachmas and Tudor can basically be transferred to any court in any place in any time. According to the increased importance of the historical facts, Charles Dacres and Waverley are bound to the their specific setting.
As regarding the introduction of the characters, again it becomes obvious that there is a development from a rather superficial to a more detailed description. In Tachmas and Tudor, the main characters are presented in a static way. The reader is not informed about their past or any development. In Charles Dacres and Waverley, the main characters become more dynamic and beside the historical accuracy, the development of the characters becomes the main focus.
There is also a development in the description of the characters. In Tudor and Tachmas, all the information we get is explicitly supplied by the author. The characters are mostly closed and static characters. In Charles Dacres, we have the same authorial description but we also learn more about Charles Dacres’ character traits through descriptions of other characters. Additionally, the name of the character already hints at his or her outward appearance and his or her character. Most of the other characters in this can be described as types, whereas Charles Dacres is an individual.
In addition to the other techniques of character descriptions mentioned above, Scott reveals information about his characters in letting them talk about each other (Waverley, p. 70). He also uses dialects in order to authenticate the characters.
With regards to action, there is also a development. In Tudor and Tachmas, the main action is talking and discussing. The plots are rather linear although there are some overlapping actions. In Charles Dacres, the whole plot becomes more complex because there are many independent subplots. These subplots are used to describe the character of Charles Dacres. In Waverley these subplots are used to describe history and different perception of the events.
The narrator cannot be identified as a specific person or character. The story is told from the outside. There are no signs of the unreliability of the narrator. Therefore the narrator can be classified as extra- and heterodiegetic, covert and reliable.
In Tudor the narrator cannot be identified as a specific person or character. The story is also told from the outside and there are no signs of unreliability (the narrator neither is personally involved, nor has limited knowledge). As in Tachmas the narrator can be classified as extra- and heterodiegetic, covert and reliable.
The story is seen through the eyes of an omniscient narrator and is therefore a zero-focalisation.
The story is told towards the eyes of an overt narrator and is therefore a multiple focalization.
Aspects of Time
As a recollection of past events the narration is ulterior.
Again, there is a development towards more complex concepts of discourse from the early novels to the later ones. Whereas the narrator in Tachmas and Tudor is unspecific, covert and hetero- and extradiegetic, the narrator is sometimes overt in Charles Dacres (Charles Dacres Vol.2, 9) and Waverley (Waverley, 115). Although the narrator is not part the story, he nevertheless has a kind of benevolent fatherly attitude towards their protagonists, commenting and criticising them on times.
In Waverley the reliability of the narrator can be questioned at times (Waverley, 33)
There is a zero focalisation in Tachmas and Tudor. Due to the partly overtness of the narrator in Charles Dacres and Waverley the focalisation is multiple.
The narration is ulterior in all the novels. There are no ellipses in Tachmas and Waverley, but significant ones in the other novels.
Anonymous. Charles Dacres: or, The Voluntary Exile. 1797 (Volume 1)
Anonymous. Charles Dacres: or, The Voluntary Exile. 1797 (Volume 2)
Anonymous. Tudor, A Prince of Wales - An Historical Novel. London, 1678
Segrais, Jean-Regnauld. Tachmas, Prince of Persia - An Historical Novel which happen'd under the Sophy Seliman, who Reigns at this day. Translation by P. Porter. London, 1676
Scott, Walter. Waverley. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998