Hyacinth Bucket


Hyacinth Bucket

Infobox character
colour = #99FFCC
name = Hyacinth Bucket


caption = Hyacinth Bucket in "Keeping Up Appearances."
first = "Daddy's Accident" (1990)
last = "The Pageant" (1995)
cause =
nickname = The Bucket Woman
alias = Hyacinth Bouquet
gender =
age = 65 (last appearance)
occupation =
title =
spouse = Richard Bucket
children = Sheridan (son)
relatives = Daisy (sister), Rose (sister), Violet (sister), Father, Stephanie (niece)
episode =
portrayer = Patricia Routledge
creator = Roy Clarke

Hyacinth Bucket, who insists her last name is pronounced "Bouquet", is the main character in the BBC sitcom "Keeping Up Appearances" (1990 to 1995), played by Patricia Routledge.

Personality

Hyacinth is the epitome of a snob, hopelessly trying to climb the social ladder and forever trying to impress her neighbours and friends. Additionally, Hyacinth likes to give the impression she’s of high social standing.

She’s also a character who will look down on others, believing she is incomparably superior to those around her, and is particularly ashamed of her poorer relatives (sisters Daisy and Rose, and brother-in-law Onslow). It "could" be argued that Hyacinth's obsession with appearing socially advantaged and/or enhancing her social status are to compensate for her own insecurities, possibly stemming of her coming from a family she considers common.

Hyacinth is also obsessively house proud, always polishing and perfecting her home, and warning visitors to remove their shoes and not to brush up against the walls. She will pretend items such as statues, cups and sofas are particularly expensive to show off to the neighbours.

Yet despite Hyacinth’s snobbish persona, as husband Richard points out, she is a kind woman, never failing to cook, clean and iron for her husband. It is likely that one of the reasons why Richard stays with Hyacinth is due to such kindness, which could be seen as what makes their relationship plausible. Hyacinth always rushes to her lower-class family's aid when they are having problems, in addition her polite and often cheerful attributes also help in making the character likable.

Nevertheless, it's Hyacinth's high levels of snobbery that provide much of the show’s humour. In the second episode of series one she insists her husband wears a tie to dead head the roses, and in further episodes asks the milkman to find out which cow her milk comes from and resorts to writing to the Postmaster General, to demand that the local Sorting Office attach first-class stamps to all her post. Additionally, she is so afraid of being associated with the lower-classes, she will do anything it takes to avoid her poorer relatives in public, even if it means hiding behind fences or diving into bushes. [Information gathered from Keeping Up Appearances DVDs published by Playback. Evidence in episodes can support all information stated above.]

Writer Roy Clarke stated in an interview for the BBC series Comedy Connections, that: "to live with it must be murder, but to watch it is funny." cite episode|title=Comedy Connections - Keeping Up Appearances|series=Comedy Connections|serieslink=Comedy Connections#Series Two (2004)|credits=|network=BBC|station=BBC One|airdate=2004-07-26]

Hyacinth's commitment to her social ascendancy

Hyacinth will go to great lengths to give the impression she's of high-social standing, or a friend of those in the upper-class circle. For example, in a series one episode, while visiting a stately home, Hyacinth goes to extraordinary lengths in an attempt to convince other visitors that she is a friend of the noble family living there. This desire to associate herself with the upper classes even prompts Hyacinth to rent a tiny, cramped apartment in a Tudor mansion in series four, allowing her to boast about being "the owner" of a country estate. Hyacinth, in a series five episode, tricks her husband, Richard, into "requisitioning" an extremely expensive Rolls Royce at a local car showroom, and driving it to an expensive country estate to show off what she calls "her" Rolls. Her attempt to impress people with the car fails when she and Richard are apprehended at the hotel by the police, accused of stealing the vehicle.

Ironically, the one time Hyacinth is seen mixing with aristocracy, she makes a fool of herself in front of an upper-class member; while attending an auction at the country estate of a local noble (during which her husband, Richard, has to restrain Hyacinth from trying to buy all manner of astronomically expensive goods which she only wants because they were owned by aristocrats). Hyacinth purchases several bottles of wine made by the noble family. When she chances upon the aristocrat in question and accepts an invitation to share a bottle of the wine, she becomes hopelessly drunk.

On another occasion, she and Richard rent out an old boat for a nautical candlelight supper for Liz and Emmett, but it concludes disastrously with both Richard and Hyacinth falling into the river and ending up drenched with water. A similar event happens when Hyacinth tries to host a riverside picnic (to what she calls a "waterside supper with riparian entertainment") to Liz, Emmett, the Vicar and his wife, and they go on the river in three rowing boats, however Hyacinth is drenched by water pouring out of a digger overhead. Soaked and disgruntled again, Hyacinth is further saddened when she sees all her family members, who are greeted warmly by all the other guests (who, ironically, appear to prefer them to Hyacinth), having a picnic on the bank with Hyacinth's wealthy sister Violet. [Information gathered from Keeping Up Appearances DVDs published by Playback. Evidence in episodes can support all information stated above.]

Hyacinth's unpopularity with other characters

Hyacinth frequently invites people to her "candlelight suppers", however these are disliked by her guests, who go to huge lengths to avoid them. The suppers are held in Hyacinth's dining room, decorated in an elaborate and anachronistic Victorian style, which is dominated by a portrait of Winston Churchill glaring down at the diners. Hyacinth has been seen to spend all afternoon arranging her table for a supper, and often recruits her next-door neighbour, Liz, to inspect it, who knows to feign admiration at the elaborate table (an example of this is in the series two episode: "The Candlelight Supper").

Her constant snobbery, boasting about wealth and connections she doesn't have, whilst repeatedly talking about her son Sheridan, all make Hyacinth disliked by almost everyone around her, including brother-in-law Onslow. However, Hyacinth's oblivious to the fact she is despised. For example, whilst on the phone, if a person hangs up, she blames a fault on the line, and cannot understand why so many people fail to covet invitations to her parties.

Hyacinth seems to have very few friends, and those she has in the upper-class circle are in some way corrupt. "The major", a lecherous upper-class gentleman who claims (somewhat unconvincingly) to have served as a high-ranking combat officer in British Army, lusts for Hyacinth but rarely ever speaks to her in a normal fashion. Councillor Mrs Nugent, is a snappy, miserable, and highly disagreeable woman serving on the local council, and repeatedly subjects Hyacinth to lengthy tirades expounding her political views, prompting Hyacinth to shamelessly flatter Mrs Nugent by agreeing with whatever she says. Ironically, many people that Hyacinth would prefer to be seen with, prefer instead to be around Hyacinth's family. Hyacinth's only real friend seems to be her next-door neighbour Liz, who is terrified of her coffee mornings with Hyacinth, as her nervousness in Hyacinth's house always results in her spilling it over Hyacinth's expensive rugs, or smashing one of her prized bone china cups ("Royal Doulton with hand-painted periwinkles"). Hyacinth also considers Liz's divorced brother Emmett to be a friend, whilst in truth Hyacinth drives Emmett to despair and the man lives in constant fear of being "sung at" by her. [Information gathered from Keeping Up Appearances DVDs published by Playback. Evidence in episodes can support all information stated above.]

"Keeping up with the Joneses"

Hyacinth always tries to outdo her neighbours, especially the Barker-Finches of 23 Blossom Avenue, whom seem to be her bitter social rivals. In series three, Hyacinth cannot bear the fact her neighbours get a celebrity to attend their BBQ, thus setting out to do the same for her function. In the same series, Hyacinth becomes jealous of a neighbour holidaying in the Caribbean, and goes to extreme lengths to convince those around her she too is considering going on an expensive holiday. [Information gathered from Keeping Up Appearances DVDs published by Playback. Evidence in episodes can support all information stated above.]

Hyacinth's name

One of the most obvious examples of Hyacinth's snobbery involves her last name. According to her husband Richard, Bucket is pronounced as it is spelled. However for Hyacinth, it is pronounced "Bouquet"," "à la française". Despite her insistence on the more elegant French pronunciation most people usually call her "Mrs Bucket" or more disparagingly "The Bucket Woman," behind her back. The Vicar usually shouts the latter when noticing Hyacinth, then often attempts a speedy getaway before he is collared by the character. Hyacinth's neighbour Emmet is similarly amused by her pronunciation of "Bucket" as "Bouquet"," although his most pressing problem with Hyacinth is that she's desperate to be in his amateur operatic society, and will "sing at him!" frequently.

As well as the surname "Bouquet", Hyacinth's three sisters amplify the floral theme: Violet, Daisy, and Rose. Violet, who is frequently mentioned but only appears as a recurring character in the final series, is married to the somewhat unstable Bruce Paddock, who has provided her with a "large estate with a 'Mercedes, sauna and room for a pony'". He, however, seems to have an unfortunate habit of cross-dressing, randomly appearing on the street in odd costumes and hiding in trees. Such oddities prevent Hyacinth from using the couple to her full advantage; she can't invite them round to hers or vice versa, yet still resorts to boasting about her sister's wealth, whilst keeping Bruce's quirks at bay. Violet eventually wants to leave Bruce, but Hyacinth refuses to lose the last high sociality of her family and pursues Violet down a street to keep her with him (this in the series five episode, "skies"). Daisy, whose singular lack of pretension serves as a foil to Hyacinth's snobbery, communicates genuine compassion. Rose, the fading beauty, craves men's attention. [Information gathered from Keeping Up Appearances DVDs published by Playback. Evidence in episodes can support all information stated above.]

Hyacinth on the telephone

Hyacinth describes her telephone as a "pearl-white slim-line push-button telephone with automatic redial". Her telephone manners vividly exemplify her pretensions. Hyacinth informs anyone within earshot of her ringing telephone that the call is "probably someone important" (from series three onwards), and will answer the phone with "The Bouquet residence, the lady of the house speaking!"

A constant irk to Hyacinth is that her phone number gets confused with the local Chinese takeaway (called the Green Lotus in one episode) as it is one digit different, but Hyacinth makes clear to the wrong caller it's a "a whole other world".

Hyacinth refuses to change her phone number, instead writing to British Telecom demanding that they change the takeaway's number, and makes her husband Richard telephone the Chinese ambassador, but to no avail.

A running gag is when the caller is someone she considers important, and she feels the need to walk backwards with the receiver in her hand, stretching out the extra-long wire, and tell Liz or anyone else in the living-room all about it ("It's my sister Violet! You know the one, the one who married a Turf Accoutant, large house, swimming pool, room for a pony!")

Hyacinth's telephone is only one of many household items to which she attaches immense social prowess, and she is rarely capable of describing her possessions without adding exaggerated detail. For example she cannot talk about her three-piece suite without mentioning that it is "an exact replica of one in Sandringham House". [Information gathered from Keeping Up Appearances DVDs published by Playback. Evidence in episodes can support all information stated above.]

Hyacinth's husband, Richard Bucket

Hyacinth's relationship with her husband Richard can be somewhat strained. Usually Richard acts as a hen-pecked husband, who has been turned into a subservient partner through his marriage to Hyacinth, and he generally indulges Hyacinth's whims. These include opening and closing the car door for Hyacinth in a chauffeur-esque manner, and putting up with Hyacinth in the passenger-seat, who dictates directions and warns of hazards (which to Hyacinth include sheep grazing in fields). Richard is also forced to participate in Hyacinth's contrived schemes to either impress people, or hide from her poorer relations to avoid them in public.

Richard also compares his marriage favourably with his time in the Army, when he never had to make a single decision and his meals were prepared for him. Only occasionally does Richard lose his patience with his wife, and very rarely is affection shown between the pair. [Information gathered from Keeping Up Appearances DVDs published by Playback. Evidence in episodes can support all information stated above.]

Hyacinth's son, Sheridan

Hyacinth receives frequent phone calls from her unseen son Sheridan, who is away at "a polytechnic of university standard" with his roommate Tarquin. It is implied by the subject matter of these phone calls that Sheridan is homosexual, possibly with Tarquin as his boyfriend, but Hyacinth is oblivious to this, unlike Richard, who asks in series three why his son doesn't take any interest in girls. Hyacinth persists in wrapping Sheridan up in cotton wool and tries to meet his every financial demand, yet Richard often refuses to send the large sums his son requests, much to the disapproval of Hyacinth.

It's clear Hyacinth loves Sheridan, yet like everything else in her life, he is used as a tool to try and enhance her social standing, with Hyacinth often commenting on her son's university career. Hyacinth also enjoys showing her guests endless photographs of Sheridan in his infancy. [Information gathered from Keeping Up Appearances DVDs published by Playback. Evidence in episodes can support all information stated above.]

Hyacinth's "Daddy"

Hyacinth's senile father (one of the actors who plays him is George Webb) is never named and referred to as "Daddy" by Hyacinth. She appears to genuinely love him - although not enough to have him live with her. He lives with Daisy, Onslow and Rose, and is another character designed to embarrass Hyacinth (as pointed out in the BBC documentary on the show, part of the Comedy Connections series). Hyacinth's father frequently touches ladies posteriors, and dresses up in costumes (in series one, "Daddy" dresses up as Captain Midnight). [Information gathered from Keeping Up Appearances DVDs published by Playback. Evidence in episodes can support all information stated above.] He is also prone to flashbacks from the war, and has frequently taken it upon himself to "guard" buildings with rifle and fixed bayonet, denying entry to legitimate occupants.

References


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