Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fifth Business

Nice Canadian
Duncan: They’re incredibly nice people you know.

Fiorina: I know. Many years ago, a Canadian friend gave me a Robertson Davies book.

Duncan: What? A Canadian friend also gave me a book by Robertson Davies. Fifth Business.

Fiorina: Do all Canadians give their friends Robertson Davies books? But what does this title mean?
“… you must have a prima donna - always a soprano, always the heroine, often a fool; and a tenor who always plays the lover to her; and then you must have a contralto, who is a rival to the soprano, or a sorceress or something; and a basso, who is the villain or the rival or whatever threatens the tenor.
So far, so good. But you cannot make a plot work without another man, and he is usually a baritone, and he is called in the profession Fifth Business, because he is the odd man out, the person who has no opposite of the other sex. And you must have Fifth Business because he is the one who knows the secret of the hero's birth, or comes to the assistance of the heroine when she thinks all is lost, or keeps the hermitess in her cell, or may even be the cause of somebody's death if that is part of the plot. The prima donna and the tenor, the contralto and the basso, get all the best music and do all the spectacular things, but you cannot manage the plot without Fifth Business! It is not spectacular, but it is a good line of work, I can tell you, and those who play it sometimes have a career that outlasts the golden voices. Are you Fifth Business? You had better find out.”

Robertson Davies, Fifth Business, 5. Liesl.

Heroine prima donna, soprano
Hero, lover of heroine, tenor
Rival to prima donna, contralto
Rival to tenor, villain, basso
Fifth Business, baritone, knows secrets
No opposite number

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