Seven Holy Virtues and the Seven Deadly Sins

My acting tutor Norman Cooley recommends his students to think about the Seven Holy Virtues and the Seven Deadly Sins when trying to create a rounded and detailed character for performance. I find this tool very useful as even the nastiest of villains can have a glimmer of virtue, which makes them more human and in turn approachable for the audience. It also helps me map out how a character develops during a story. I thought I would share my thoughts on how I used this technique when focusing on the character of Cunegonde, from the operetta “Candide”.  A role that I loved performing.  I included “Glitter and Be Gay” as the last aria on my album: Songs from Our Balcony. I’d love to hear from you, and what you think of this tool. – It’s fun to negotiate these scorings, so please let me know if you agree or disagree. I like to regularly evaluate my character analysis, as sometimes it is easy to miss certain details.

The idea is to split 10 points between each opposing pairing.

Seven Deadly SinsSeven Holy Virtues 
Pride8Humility2
Envy3Kindness7
Wrath5Patience5
Sloth4Diligence6
Greed7Charity3
Gluttony7Temperance3
Lust1Chastity9

At the beginning of the Opera, Cunegonde is extremely happy because she believes that she lives in the best of all possible castles, in the best of all possible countries. It is said that she knows that she is not only the highest born maiden in the land but also the prettiest. This perhaps suggests she is not the humblest amongst her community. Cunegonde is saving herself for marriage, but she does quite fancy Candide and often swoons at his handsomeness. She considers what she would hope for in a marriage, and describes a life of luxury with private yachts, silk and satin robes, and strings of pearls. The fact that she is most looking forward to marriage, as an opportunity to expand her material wealth suggests that she is perhaps a ‘little’ greedy and gluttonous. Cunegonde is quite excitable about her studies, which tips the balance towards a higher score in diligence. I place Wrath and Patience in the middle, as she has not yet had to face many hardships at this point in her life, and perhaps these skills have not yet been put to the test.

End of Act One

Seven Deadly SinsSeven Holy Virtues 
Pride5Humility5
Envy3Kindness7
Wrath4Patience6
Sloth4Diligence6
Greed7Charity3
Gluttony7Temperance3
Lust8Chastity2

Cunegonde starts to show a growing interest in Candide. Inspired by one of Pangloss’ physical experiments, she invites Candide to take part in said experiment with her – after all, it is in the name of Science! Just in the nick of time, they are interrupted by her Brother. However, the future of Cunegonde’s chastity is looking bleak. When war strikes, Cunegonde is captured, raped and then sold to become a courtesan, shared between two men. (It is at this moment, she sings Glitter and Be Gay). Her sins of Greed and Gluttony help her to find the positives in such a gloomy scenario, she chooses to focus on the diamonds and champagne to keep her spirits up. Candide stumbles back into her life by chance and she tries to hide her unfortunate fate and puts on a brave face. Candide duels her captors and after successfully winning, they bravely flee Paris together. During their flight, she wakes up in the middle of the night to check on her valuables and they are all stolen. She immediately panics and cries where will we find other generous and rich men to reimburse them – Showing that she is still struggling with the sins of Gluttony and Greed. They arrive in Cartagena, Columbia and after Candide falls Cunegonde, but their happiness is quickly thwarted as the couple are separated again. Cunegonde then peaks the attention of a wealthy Governor, and she agrees to live in his palace – she is a survivor after all.

End of Act Two

Seven Deadly SinsSeven Holy Virtues 
Pride4Humility6
Envy3Kindness7
Wrath5Patience5
Sloth4Diligence6
Greed9Charity1
Gluttony7Temperance3
Lust9Chastity1

The Governor becomes tired of Cunegonde and she is disposed of in a sack on a boat, which is sailing off to Europe. She arrives in Venice and takes up the work of a scrubwoman. Her path crosses with Candide once more, but on this occasion, she is working in a gambling hall, trying to encourage the attendees to gamble and swindle them of their money. Unfortunately, she tries to Swindell a masked Candide. Candide is disgusted by what she has become. Cunegonde is really hurt by this and recognises that she has lost her youth, beauty and chastity, but she can offer him a happy simple life where she will cook and together they will make their garden grow.

Cunegonde has been on a huge journey in this operetta, perhaps gaining more sins than virtues. But in the end, she learns that humility can cure pride and she can work towards leading a simpler life and being happy with growing flowers, and their own food.

I love to perform Cunegonde’s aria Glitter and Be Gay from “Candide” and included it when I won the Pendine “Voice of the Future” competition at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod on 4th July 2018 and was thrilled when I was invited back the following year to perform alongside Rolando Villazón and Rhian Lois. I have included an excerpt of me singing Glitter and Be Gay with the British Sinfonietta from this gala concert which was conducted by James Hendry.

41 thoughts on “Seven Holy Virtues and the Seven Deadly Sins

    1. Thank you, John, I loved performing this character at the Minack Theatre in beautiful Cornwall and still enjoying singing the central aria.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  1. Of sins and virtues. There never seems to be a good balance between the them. Fun times for the opera. Lovely snippet from “Glitter and Be Gay”.

    1. I do like operetta, it allows performers to explore the lighter side of life 🙂

      Bestt wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you, Cindy. It’s my go-to glitter dress. We bought it from a dress boutique region in a suburb of Paris where they fix the dress to fit you there and then.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you John, I’ve done some great online training courses during the lockdown, but the in-person teaching that Norman and other acting coaches I work with are super and I keep a book of their best techniques.

      Best wishes,
      Charlotte

  2. Yes, very good idea of character encryption of a character. It’s excellent !!!

    And what a fabulous interpretation. Your voice is more and more “detailed” your rainbow widens and takes even more intensity and contrast. And your “body playing”, the expressions on your face, wow wow wow !!!!! You are extraordinary my friend !!!

    1. Thank you Pascal, Merci, the video was from the summer of 2019, I’ve been working on technique a lot this year.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  3. Great character development tool for a great character. I love ‘Glitter’ and you do it so beautifully, Charlotte. Such a pleasure to listen to.

    1. Thank you, Don, the live shows at the clifftop Minack Theatre was a fantastic opportunity. I love the character and the whole story is hilarious in parts.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  4. This is a very detailed and interesting way of assessing a character’s development through the narrative. You sing ‘Glitter and be Gay’ so well, Charlotte – absolutely lovely!

  5. The first list of deadly sins was by Evagrius of Pontus. It had eight sins: lust, gluttony, avarice, acedia/spiritual sloth, sadness (of varying definition, possibly including schadenfreude!), wrath, vainglory, and pride. Another list of eight sins included: gluttony, fornication, avarice, wrath; vainglory, sorrow, pride, and discouragement. I think some need to take another look at sadness, sorrow, and discouragement as potential sins. “Forget your troubles, come on, get happy . . .” Now I shall take my own advice and replay “Glitter & be Gay!”

    1. Very interesting thank you for sharing that with me. I agree with you about sadness, sorrow and discouragement, especially if it is someone that takes their kicks out of making someone else feel that way. I also love the song Forget your troubles, come on get happy, I’m going to be humming that all evening now.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  6. Your expressions and gestures in the video bear out your application of this excellent method of depicting the complexity of character which enlivens performance.

    1. Thank you, Derrick, in the actual stage performance I had to take off all my jewellery item by item, move around the stage and change my dress to reveal my bloomers and corset quite a big showcase hehe.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  7. Dear Charlotte,
    I think you did a good job scoring the seven deadly sins as a minister the book of Proverbs has pride as the number one sin that God hates, and second is a lying tongue. Gal. 5:22 tells us the fruits of the Spirit and Love is number one. I thank the Lord for blessing you in your career and I pray the Lord continues my Beloved.

    1. Thank you for your prayers Rev.Tim I appreciate your friendship and encouragement.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  8. Wonderful character development! Loved the video – your voice is such a treat to hear! And I can see you are also a great actress! Brava!

    1. Thank you Noelle, Stagecoach and High school drama classes from the age of six I love acting, singing and dancing, and I’ve appreciated that so much more this past year.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. She is a right character, there is one song that makes me chuckle a duet between Cuneconde and Candide, ‘O Happy We’, where they each have a version of what happy married life will mean for them. I wish I had a recording of it with Stephen Brown he was a fantastic Candide.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  9. As a writer I find your sins and virtues chart intriguing. I’ve never worked on mapping out these qualities in such a meticulous manner, and I’m interested to see where it leads. Beautiful rendition of “Glitter and Be Gay.” You made me enjoy the song even though I am not a fan of Candide. Wishing you well.

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