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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: October ::
Re: Hero's Mother
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 285.  Friday, 30 October 1992.
 
(1)	From: 	Stephen Orgel <
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	Date: 	Friday, Oct. 30, 1992, 9:18:21 PST
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 3.0280  Rs: Hero's Mother
 
(2)	From: 	Thomas G. Bishop <
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	Date:	Friday, Oct. 30, 1992, 15:09:38 -500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 3.0280  Rs: Hero's Mother
 
(1)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		Stephen Orgel <
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Date: 		Friday, Oct. 30, 1992, 9:18:21 PST
Subject: 3.0280  Rs: Hero's Mother
Comment: 	Re: SHK 3.0280  Rs: Hero's Mother
 
THANK YOU, JOHN DRAKAKIS!
 
Stephen Orgel
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		Thomas G. Bishop <
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Date:		Friday, Oct. 30, 1992, 15:09:38 -500
Subject: 3.0280  Rs: Hero's Mother
Comment: 	Re: SHK 3.0280  Rs: Hero's Mother
 
John Drakakis writes:
>
>Tom Bishop's familiar suggestion that the figure of Leonato's wife
>"Innogen" was excluded from performance because Shakespeare lacked "a
>place for her in the developing plot" and that he needed to "exclude
>senior female authorities (sic) from laughing or cursing at Leonato et al
>as they so richly deserve", and that it was this "that kept Innogen on
>the shelf, is of a piece with the Arden editor A. R. Humphreys's assertion
>that Shakespeare regarded her as an "unrealized intention" (Arden ed.,
>p.77).
>
>The point is, surely, that a silent female character in this play --
>and especially a silent WOMAN -- speaks volumes.  "Innogen appears in
>two scenes where Hero (the female character who desires marriage) and
>Beatrice (the female character who refuses marriage) both appear.
>In II.i. Beatrice is described by Benedick as "My Lady Tongue", and
>Claudio, when he realizes that Hero has not been unfaithful to him
>says that "Silence is the perfectest herald of joy" (II.i.288).  One
>of the issues which emerges both in these scenes and in the play as a
>whole has to do with speaking and remaining silent.  Beatrice instructs
>Hero to "Speak cousin, or if you cannot, stop his mouth with a kiss and let
>him not speak neither" (II.i.292-3), almost the very words that Benedick
>uses to SILENCE Beatrice at the end of the play (V.iv.97).  Marriage in
>this play is (I think ironically) offered as a form of SILENCING females,
>and what better way to show this on the stage than to have a silent
>woman -- Leonato's wife.
>
>We should, perhaps, concentrate a little less on irresolvable questions
>of Shakespeare's intentions, whether realized or not, and ask ourselves
>the question: what would Innogen's presence on stage (and in both Q and F)
>signify?  I suggest that the meanings that her stage presence produce
>do much to demystify the institution of marriage especially in those
>areas where the question of who is entitled to speak for whom becomes
>a very real issue, and where the answer to that question is gender inflected.
 
While not disputing any of John Drakakis' claims for what Innogen's presence
on stage would signify, I am not convinced that an argument merely because it
is familiar must necessarily be wrong-headed. The issue of silent women is
indeed a prominent one in the play, though it is Leonato and _not_ Benedick
who offers to silence Beatrice in both Q and F. And perhaps the latter is
the point: that readers have a tendency to wish the texts we have into the
form that they want. I am less interested in Shakespeare's intentions than in
what we can reasonably assume about his theater from the records of it that we
have (which are, among other things, records in shaping which his intentions
played some part).  It is entirely possible that a silent figure DID appear
on the stage - though why she does not appear at her daughter's wedding is
then something of a mystery. But it is also possible that we have here a record
of the generic and ideological constraints on Shakespeare in shaping one
of his plays: that he could make no place for a senior woman. This displaces the
locus of "silencing" from stage to study. What one makes of that displacement
is another question.
 
--
Tom Bishop                   "Poor Tom has been scared out of his good wits"
Dept of English
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH 44106.  (
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