Michael Field, Attila, My Attila! (1900)
What would have been some contemporary influences on the dramatic writings of the Fields? Does Attila, My Attila! show evidence of the influence of Ibsen or Shaw?
The Fields were great admirers of Wagner--can you trace any Wagnerian themes in their writings? (fascination with passion, the rise of barbarism)
What would the Victorians have known and believed about Attila and the Huns? (conventionally he would have been abhorred, but an avant garde believed the destruction of a corrupt Roman empire had replaced civilization with an enlightened barbarism)
Would the Victorians have identified the situation of the late Roman empire with that of their own society?
What would have been their most influential sources? (Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire mentions Ildico as possibly Attila's murderess)
What purpose is served by the play's prologue? Are the Fields correct that their play is ironic? Tragi-comic? Are these useful terms for discussing the play?
Is Honoria in fact "the new woman of the fifth century"? Does she have traits not identified with the "New Woman"? Can she be viewed as an extreme case or parody?
To what extent is Honoria a feminist? Is a new woman always a feminist, and the reverse?
What is the effect of choosing for the play's title the name of a character who never appears in person? (he becomes a symbol; viewer waits to see his significance)
How would you characterize the play's tone? Is it always clear how the viewer should respond to characters, incidents, or proclamations (e. g., to Honoria's desire to wed Attila?) In these cases is ambiguity a flaw or a merit?
How are we expected to respond to Honoria? Is she presented as an entirely moral heroine, and if not, why?
What is added to the play by its setting in a historical past?
In what forms of social critique do the Fields engage? What aspects of Victorian social reality are presented as oppressive? (parental control, restrictions on women, repression of sexuality for the purpose of gaining power, mistreatment of subordinates, the absurdities and restraints of convention in general)
What are some similarities as well as differences in the fates of Placida and Honoria? Are their names ironic?
What purpose is served by the play's subplots? By the introduction of characters such as Pulcheria, Marsa, Theodosius, and Valentinian?
How is humor employed throughout the play?
What purpose is served by introducing Pulcheria's attraction to Honoraria? (the enforcement of chastity intensifies repressed desires) How is Pulcheria viewed? Since Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper were a lesbian couple, how do you interpret this seemingly negative portrayal of a lesbian advance?
Can you think of similar scenes in the drama of the time? (seems quite unique)
Is the play's ending successful? What is indicated by Honoria's claim that Ildico is her sister? (understands the nature of Attila's violence) What final fate befalls her?
Is the death of Attila at the play's conclusion to be applauded or regretted by the audience?
What fates do women seem to suffer throughout the play? Men? (either rule or suffer arbitrary injustice) In what way is Theodosius's life also constrained? (wants to be an artist, not a ruler)
Does the four act structure serve the play's plot well?
Is this a well-written play? Which scenes or speeches seem most important? What are some of its unusual features?