Creators can dynamically influence the sympathy that the audience feels for characters as the story unfolds rather than simply establish one dominant attitude that remains unvarying. Such shifting opinions will more closely reflect our real-life experience of others. Very rarely will we have a single emotional response to an individual over time. It is part of a person’s depth and complexity. Ultimately, it boils down to demonstrating at different moments a character’s vices or virtues, either revealing new ones or reminding the audience of old ones, and the extent of their suffering. Even a villain will receive our sympathy if we believe his punishment is excessive.
We’ll give three examples from ‘Casanova in Paris’. Casanova is our most complex character. In the Prologue he is in prison, not knowing why he is there or for how long, and we recount aspects of his life that bring out different elements of his personality, good and bad, but overall generating sympathy for him, helped by a taunting second person voice. In Paris, we witness his vanity and pride but at the same time his willingness to help a vulnerable young woman at what could be a considerable cost to himself. We also see that despite his ambition and opportunism he does possess integrity when he rejects a bribe offered by the Southerner on behalf of Bechard. Our sympathy shifts decisively towards him after he is almost killed by the Southerner and we head towards the climax of the story. With Stefano we begin by bringing out his greed, misogyny and general grossness before demonstrating his insecurity and his loyalty and kindness towards Casanova. De Bernis goes in the opposite direction. At the beginning, we show his willingness to help Casanova and to investigate who is trying to destroy Duverney. Later we reveal his self-interested ambition and his cynical opportunism, both sexually and with regards to his career.
‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is freely available here.
27 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
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