Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My heart is knit with yours? What does that mean? Behind the scenes discussion

"I do not trust a single one of the Kish clan—not even Jonathan, who declares he loves me. 
I keep him at arm’s length, and give careful thought to what his motives may be when he says things like, “My heart is knit with yours.” Being Saul’s eldest son, he is the heir to the throne, so what does he want with someone like me, an outsider? 
I suspect he knows how ambitious I am. Perhaps he wants to use me to weaken his father for his own purposes."

This narration of the passage happened as a result of discussing the different shades of meaning of the relationship between David and Jonathan. Here is a snapshot of what we said behind the scenes. At first, I thought Jonathan's voice was a bit high, and more than a bit snobby, and so was Michal's voice. Both sounded hilariously funny. I rolled in laughter, but then sobered up and wrote this to my narrator, David George:

This is too funny! But I think I’d prefer that Jonathan not become a caricature of a gay prince, even if that is what he is. His love for David is genuine, to the point that he supports David against his own political interests. So the high-pitched voice can give the listener a hint of his sexual preferences, but lets stop short of mocking him. Lets tone it down a bit... This way, the emphasis is on the political intrigue rather than on his sexual preferences.
This is too hilarious! But once more, I think we should stop short of making her a caricature, because in the next chapter there is a scene where she and Jonathan pull David in opposite directions, because both of them love him in a desperate way. That scene was written after I watched Carmen, where Micaëla and Carmen pull Jose in opposite directions in act 3. For that scene to work, all the characters must be real, lets not flatten them into caricatures. Humor is fine, some sniffing is great, it spices up the reading, but no more than a hint of it

After which David George recorded a second version, and replied:

It wasn't my intention to make him so much "gay" as it was to distinguish him as an upper class snob and since we're going with a British accent for the whole piece I went with a British spoiled aristocratic type of character.

To which I said:

Sometimes it comes across a certain way even if you don’t mean it, because listeners may have a preconceived notion of the character. Also, I am always mindful of certain readers, who may frown if they think it conveys a less than holy relationship. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy a bit of controversy. 

Now, check out these two completely different paintings, depicting the friendship between David and Jonathan. Both of them show David as the younger of the two, and Jonathan as the older, more experienced man with the fame of a war hero. The first painting--drawn with vivid colors and flat surfaces--is by He Qi. He imagines David as a divine musician with the harp by his side, looking away from Jonathan who is there to support him. Notice the red face on his mid-section? Is this the thought about his father, Saul, gnawing at him?

The second painting is by Moroni, Giovanni Batista. He imagines David as the slayer of Goliath, holding the Philistine's head in one hand and his sword in the other, with a determined expression on his face, looking ahead to gain his place in history. At the same time the painter imagines Jonathan as a slightly feminine character, holding a spear (which is more slender than the sword of Goliath) and doting on David.

There are many other paintings where the two man are positioned in a more equal role, as two characters in a sacred bond. I am presenting these images to you, suggesting that in each piece of art, the artist makes specific choices to convey the way he views this relationship, which is also true for writers, actors, narrators, and musicians inspired by the biblical account.

David and Jonathan by He Qi

David and Jonathan by Moroni, Giovanni Batista

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  1. I never considered Jonathan as being gay, nor the love that he and David had between as such - just a strong friendship akin to not only being best friends, but brothers as well. Jonathan married eventually, did he not? I realize that this isn't mentioned in the Old Testament, but he did have Mephibosheth, didn't he? He was the grandson of Saul and son of Jonathan, who no longer had to live in Lodibar, but was always welcomed at David's table.

    1. Great knowledge, Linda! I agree, the love between them in my book is a strong bond. But in some literature it is depicted with a slightly different interpretation, perhaps because of the sentence "your love to me was dearer than the love of women."