About the Author, Thomas Hardy

Our play is an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel Far From the Madding Crowd. Hardy was a famous English writer who was born in 1840 in a village called Higher Bockhampton in the county of Dorset. His family had a small construction business, but they did not have much wealth. Thomas had two brothers and one sister with whom he had to share a bedroom in a tiny cottage. Although poor in a material sense, they were rich in all ways that really count: they had a life brimming with the riches of music, poetry, writing, and reading.

Some of Hardy's best loved novels are: The Mayor of Casterbridge, Jude the Obscure, The Return of the Native, and Tess of the D'Ubervilles.
Hardy's grandmother was a poet. His mother, who was very keen on reading and writing, gave him his early education. Perhaps this is why he had such respect and understanding of women. When he was eight years old, he began attending the village school. At sixteen, in order to learn a trade, he was apprenticed to a local architect. In 1861, he went to London to work for a firm that specialized in building churches. His employer sent him to Cornwall to make drawings of a church, and it was there that he met Emma, who would later become his wife. (A romantic guy, he later wrote a novel about her called A Pair of Blue Eyes.) While working in London, Hardy eagerly soaked up all the city had to offer. During his lunch hours and weekends, he visited the many libraries and museums, in addition to attending concerts and plays. Thomas was an avid reader.

Hardy began his literary career as a poet. When he wrote his first novel, Desperate Remedies, he was 31 years old. Seven years later, Far From the Madding Crowd was first published as a serial in the Cornhill Monthly Magazine. When it was published in its entirety in 1878, it was an instant success. Far From the Madding Crowd was to be his most popular work and the one that brought him financial rewards. With the success of this novel, he was able to quit his job as an architect, get married, and move back to his home in Dorset. There, he was able to pursue his first love: writing.

Thomas Hardy called the area in Dorset were he grew up "Wessex," so people often refer to his works as the "Wessex novels." Hardy always wrote about the subjects that he knew best, mainly the trials and adversities of the poor people with whom he had lived as a child and had never forgotten. This drew a lot of criticism in England, as many upper class people of his time did not approve of writing about problems of the poor. Later in his life, Hardy returned to writing poetry. When he died in 1928, at the age of 88, he was honored by his country by being buried in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey in London.

About Victorian England

Hardy was born in England during the Victorian Age. This period was named after Queen Victoria who reigned from 1836-1901. The Victorians were known for their strict moral code, based on their interpretation of the meaning of the Bible. Most people were church goers and few dared to behave in a way that was not approved by the Church of England. British society had little tolerance for anyone who acted in a way that was different. Everyone had their place, they were discouraged from being unique and questioning the rules of society.

The word "literal" means that you interpret what is said by the exact meaning of the words that are spoken. For instance, if you were to take the statement "You're a doll" literally, it would mean that you were a toy. But if you take it "figuratively," it means you are a nice person.
During the Victorian Era, Great Britain was a society divided by class. The classes were separated not only by wealth and birth, but also by education (or lack of it), by the work they did and by the way they spoke. (This is why studying English and learning to read and write well is still important today: your position in life and how people judge you really does depend on the impression you present. And we're not talking about just wearing cool clothes.) During the Victorian era, it was very difficult to move out of a class into which you had been born. Even though Hardy came from a family of extremely hard workers, they were only seen as lower class. It was only through his education that Hardy was able to raise himself from the lower to middle class.

The beliefs of Victorian society were deeply shaken in 1870, when a man named Charles Darwin published a book called The Origin of Species, which suggested that man had evolved from a more primitive form of life. The book created quite a stir in the world, especially Victorian England, because many people saw Darwin's idea as a slap to religion because it went against the literal translation of the Bible. The publication of Darwin's book meant that many long held beliefs were now being questioned, and in some cases, discarded.

Another big change in British society was caused by the Industrial Revolution, which was in full- swing when Hardy was born. The Industrial Revolution refers to the social change that occurred when people started leaving the farms in the country to live in cities and work in factories. The conditions in the factories were usually very
Dorset is a shire or county in the southwest part of England. It is dotted with many small farms and beautiful old farmhouses. In the 19th century, it was outside the factory regions and was occupied almost solely by people engaged in agriculture. Thus, few of the characters in Hardy's novels are rich.
harsh for the adults and children who worked there. The workers weren't paid very much, had to work extremely arduous and long hours with very little time off, and often had to work under unhealthy conditions. Factory owners were becoming rich and had the right to vote; the workers were poor and, without the right to vote, they couldn't change things. But discontentment was growing in society among the general population and writers were starting to express these feelings through their writing.

In England at the time, a woman was a man's property and she didn't have the right to vote. In Far From the Madding Crowd, Hardy politely questions the restrictive roles placed on women, making Bathsheba Everdene a strong woman who owns a farm. Once she marries Sergeant Troy, Troy remarks about the place of a woman and bosses Bathsheba around, even though she is the one with the money. By marrying a man who is selfish and mean, Bathsheba puts herself at his mercy and has no choice but to submit to the bad life he creates with his drinking, gambling, and lying.

During Victorian times, it was normal for children to be used as cheap labor. These children were condemned to a life of poverty and hard work. Nowadays, most western countries have laws to protect children from such exploitation.
During the time that Thomas Hardy lived, thevery structure of society was changing fast. Because of developments like the Theory of Evolution and the Industrial Revolution, everything in society was being questioned. But change often brings pain, and the people who suffered the most at this time, as usual, were the poor. Many were hungry and didn't have proper clothing to wear. Little in the way of medical help was available. Orphans and the elderly were particularly vulnerable, as were women who were on their own. The government created "workhouses" to accommodate the most wretched, but these were such miserable places that many would rather die than go there. In our play, Fanny dies at a poorhouse when Sergeant Troy abandons her.

Professor McNamer Asks&

"What's your opinion of the themes?"
(Act like a reporter, and ask several different people these questions. You'll be surprised at what different answers you'll receive.)

1. The theme of the treatment of the poor and helpless: Do you think that those who are thriving in a society have any obligation to help those who are struggling?

2. The theme of a "Class" society: The Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal." And it is generally believed that every child is given the same opportunities to be successful (or even become President of the United States!). In England, where this novel was written, you would have been born into a very specific class and would have encountered great difficulty if you had tried to advance out of it. Few had the opportunity to be educated and so most remained poor. It was generally believed that some people (the upper class) were just born better than others (the lower class). Which way of thinking is better for a country and why do you think this?

To get an idea of how bad child labor is, picture yourself as a 12 year old working twelve hours a day, virtually every day, at difficult, mindless, sometimes dangerous work. And because you aren't getting an education, you are doomed to work like this as a member of the "lower class" for the rest of your life. So enjoy school it's a sign of privilege to be educated.
3. The theme of morality: In Victorian society and Far From the Madding Crowd, specific moral standards are to be observed and those who fail to follow them pay a price. Everyone in the society must follow the same moral standards (but this standard may vary between men and women, the rich and the poor) this is OBJECTIVE MORALITY. On the other hand& Many people today say that morality is a personal decision. What is good for you may not be good for me. So each person should make up his or her own set of morals this is SUBJECTIVE MORALITY.

If you had your way, which morality would you choose for society and why?

4. The Theme of Love: There are different types of love represented by the three suitors of Bathsheba: Sergeant Troy, Farmer Boldwood, Shepherd Oak. Sergeant Troy is dashing and selfish, and Bathsheba quickly marries him because she feels a passion for him that blinds her to all his flaws. Farmer Boldwood offers a practical almost business type of relationship. But the man she ends up with, Shepherd Oak, offers her unconditional love. At the end of the show. Liddy says, "Slow and steady wins the race." Why is that meaningful advice when looking for the right person to love and marry?

Preston's Travel tips

The people are extremely polite in England. They think you are weird if you don't say "thank you" and "please" for everything and I mean everything. So when you meet a British person, remember to be very polite or they will think you are rude if you don't say "please" and "thank you" often. At first, it seemed silly to say it for every little thing, but after a while, I started to think the other tourists were rude and mean when I would hear them ask for something in a restaurant without saying "please." I know that people must have thought I was rude when I first showed up in London. In England they also say "Cheers" instead of "Hello" and "Good-Bye."