Cosi: Lewis Changes by Directing the Play

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How are ideas about betrayal and loyalty explored through the structure of the play-within-a-play?

The most obvious structural feature is the ‘play-within-a-play’, which highlights the parallels between the characters and themes in Mozart’s opera, and those in Nowra’s play.

Both the opera and play revolve around issues of loyalty, fidelity and betrayal. The backdrop of war is also a significant feature of both texts: the Vietnam War in the 1970s (in Così) and the Albanian battle for independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1790 (in Così Fan Tutte).

Wars also involve loyalties and betrayals, and their chaos on a grand scale underscores the chaos in the lives of the characters in the opera and the play. (Sue Sherman : English for Year 12)

•According to Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, the issue of fidelity is depicted to be an ideal that is never achieved.

•Since ‘women are like that’ – the interpretation of ‘così fan tutte', Mozart encouraged the belief that men should simply accept women are indeed disloyal in relationships.

Nowra illustrates this same idea about women and infidelity through Lewis and Lucy’s relationship. While Lucy is ‘sleeping’ with Lewis, she is also ‘having sex’ with Nick. When Lewis discovers Lucy’s betrayal, she waves aside his shock, defending that ‘it is not as if we’re married.’ The revelation does indeed prove that Così Fan Tutte is correct in stating that, ‘woman’s constancy is like the Arabian Phoenix. Everyone swears it exists, but no one has seen it.’

•Although the women in both Così Fan Tutte and Così are shown to be unfaithful, so are the men. While the men in Così Fan Tutte do not actively participate in adultery, they do fabricate their departure to the war and also disguise themselves as ‘Albanians.’ Their deception is also a betrayal to their wives.

• Meanwhile, Don Alfonso manipulates everyone. As seen in Così, Lewis is unfaithful to Lucy as he kisses Julie during rehearsals.

•Julie later reveals that...
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