The concept of “Yes, and…” is an idea often used in theatre and improv. It essentially describes a situation in which during the scene, what has already been established is accepted and built on. For example, one actor says improvised lines, and the other takes what is said, and according to the concept of “yes, and…,” continues the train of thought. In improv scenes, it allows cohesiveness and the creation of a storyline, as opposed to “disagreeing” with what has already been established. The lines and aspects that have already been created are worked with and built on. Sometimes details of the story shift or change, but there is no drastic redirection. The actors have a more productive dialogue in this sense, and keep the scene going.
This concept is wholly evident in the intertextual dialogue between Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. Jane Eyre was originally published in 1847, and Wide Sargasso Sea was published later, in 1966. Jane Eyre can be seen as the original lines, or established scenes. Wide Sargasso Sea comes in with a “Yes, and…” mindset and builds on the story. In particular, Wide Sargasso Sea focuses on Bertha Mason and her backstory. In Jane Eyre, we lack a lot of her background and what actually happened to her. When Richard Mason, her brother, attempts to interrupt Jane Eyre’s marriage to Mr. Rochester by claiming he is already married, Mr. Rochester angrily presents his “wife.” She is portrayed in this book as a completely mad woman who has to be kept locked away. In addition, no explanation is given for her madness, but she is portrayed as the one doing wrong, and all the blame is thrust on her.
Jean Rhys of Wide Sargasso Sea saw this opportunity to create another narrative that converses with Jane Eyre, and presents the backstory of this mysterious Bertha Mason. The narrative that ensues can be framed in the context of a “yes, and…” scenario. Wide Sargasso Sea changes none of the aspects and scenes that have already been presented in Jane Eyre. They are all included in the book the same as they were originally, just from a different viewpoint. For example, the “burning house” scene is completely unchanged, we just see it from Bertha’s perspective. However, we observe in Wide Sargasso Sea the building and addition of details from Bertha’s backstory that fit naturally with the narrative of Jane Eyre. It is explained how she came to marry Mr. Rochester, and the ensuing events that drove her into madness. It is masterfully crafted to twist the plot just enough so that Mr. Rochester becomes the “bad guy” that drove Bertha into madness, not the other way around. It is revealed that “Bertha” is not even her real name (it was a troublesome name given by Rochester), that she had a troublesome childhood, and that Mr. Rochester cheated on her and played with her emotions. The confines of the already established Jane Eyre are followed. This is the “Yes” aspect. Bertha’s backstory and the addition of new aspects and storylines are the “And” part. They take the already given concepts and build on them, creating a cohesive narrative. Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre fit together perfectly well, and that is the whole idea of “Yes, and…”
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