Overreach’s Honesty versus Allworth’s Poetry

In A New Way to Pay Old Debts, two characters speak with a similar grandeur, yet with different connotations. One character speaks with confidence and snobbery, while the other lacks such confidence and substitutes it with poetic words. Sir Giles Overreach is pompous, ruthless and honest. He speaks in a shameless way as if he lacks a conscience. “Nay, when my ears are pierced with widows’ cries/ and undone orphans wash with tears my threshold/…Makes me insensible of remorse, or pity/ Or the least sting of conscience,” responds Overreach when questioned whether he is affected by his sinister actions (4.1.125-130). It is a poetic speech, filled with statements of arrogance, but concealed by the grandeur of his words. Each of his speeches have these certain points that give such great insight into the mind of Overreach with statements, such as “I am marble” (4.1.133), or when speaking to Lord Lovell about Lovell’s nobility, “the immaculate whiteness of your fame/ Nor your unquestioned integrity…” (4.1.94-95). His speeches are astounding because they exude so much confidence and are so beautifully worded that it takes a few readings to realize that what Overreach is actually saying is completely awful and brutal.

On the other hand, Tom Allworth lacks that confidence, which was on display during his conversation with Lovell in scene 3.1. Allworth feels that he would be unable to woo his love Margaret if Lovell would ever decide to take up Margaret’s father Sir Overreach’s offer to marry her. Allworth speaks with a desperation, yet the choice of words that he uses is mature and poetic, concealing his insecurities of being a young man without much to offer Margaret. Allworth describes Margaret with illustrations of her beauty, such as “Though mounted high, commanding all beneath it/ And rammed with bullets of her sparkling eyes…” (3.1.62-63), and also “But when the well-tuned accents of her tongue/ Make music to you…” (3.1.66-67). He is trying hard to sound wise beyond his years, making it difficult to read into what he is saying. His lack of confidence is masked by the poetic speech, which emits a sense of overreaching, while the character Overreach does not seem to try so hard with brutal words that illustrate how he truly feels. It is contrasting feature that I found interesting in both characters.

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One Response to Overreach’s Honesty versus Allworth’s Poetry

  1. Jillian’s observations are right on target. Overreach is one of the grandest and most articulate of the outsized protagonists that we have met this semester. He has no shame and is bold enough to describe very precisely how his nefarious schemes work. The amusement that all of Allworth’s adult interlocutors express when he launches into his high poetic efforts underscores his youthful insecurity.

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