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William Hogarth , Mariage à-la-mode - tasks


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Discussion

  1. Does Hogarth’s work have any relevance for us today? Why or why not? Discuss. (Some hints to start: marrying for money or social position; immoral living, unfaithfulness, greed, overspending, following fashions or trends, keeping up appearances, etc.)
  2. If you were going to make a movie based on the situation in this painting, which actors would you choose to play the husband, wife and steward? Give reasons for your choices. Would you leave the setting to 18th century England, or would you set it in the present? What would you have to change about the situation? What could stay the same?

Writing Exercises

Hogarth’s series is much like a cartoon strip. Can you come up with thought balloons for the three characters in the painting? (Alternatively, you could write a humorous caption to go under the picture.)

Writing a Dialogue

Choose one of the following:

  1. Conversation: Write a dialogue between the husband and wife at the dinner table that evening. What do they say to each other? Then use a paragraph or two to write a parallel text with their private thoughts. What are they really thinking?
  2. Write a dialogue between two of the couple’s friends or acquaintances in which they gossip about the couple.
  3. Choosing one of the three characters - the shameless husband, the immodest wife, or the disapproving steward- write a dialogue in which your character tells a close friend about the night before.

Write an Article for a Tabloid/ Scandal Sheet

The scenario from The Tête à Tête (Breakfast Scene) is obviously scandalous. If the couple had lived today, they might fall prey to the paparazzi, or at least to the gossip magazines. Pretend you are a modern-day reporter going back to the 1740s. Create a tabloid feature for a modern scandal magazine in which you reveal the goings-on in this household. Remember to use the kind of exaggerated, gossipy language that a scandal newspaper, magazine or website would use, with eye-catching headlines, perhaps with a pun (play on words). You can check out gossip pages like those of E!Online, People.com, or the Norwegian Se og Hør for ideas.

Writing a Description

Write a description of the setting – the couple’s house and the things in it – furniture, art, etc. Describe the interior as you see it. You may also do some research on the painting to help you along.

Further Research

  1. Search the Internet for the rest of the six-part series Marriage à-la-Mode and, in your own words, write a text about it, either
    • the story from beginning to end, or
    • write the story behind one or two of the paintings.
      Choose the genre yourself. It can be factual, like an article, or fiction, like a short story, a fairy tale, a comic strip, a song or even a poem.
  2. Hogarth’s many series of paintings telling a story are considered to be a forerunner of the modern-day comic strip. Do some research on the origins of comic strips and find some other forerunners. What are their similarities/ differences?
  3. An arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage. What is the difference?
  4. The practice of arranged marriages has been common in Europe among the royalty and aristocracy. It is still widespread in many parts of the world, like Asia and the Middle East. However, it is easy to forget that historically, it was also common in Norway. Do a little research and find out why.

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