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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: November ::
Re: Marriage in Shakespeare
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 791.  Sunday, 14 November 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Peter D. Junger <
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        Date:   Saturday, 13 Nov 93 17:21:14 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Shk 4.0776 Marriage to deceased wife's sister
 
(2)     From:   Martin Green <
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        Date:   Saturday, 13 Nov 93 17:19:57 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0776 Re: Marriage in Shakespeare
 
(3)     From:   Al Cacicedo <
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        Date:   Saturday, 13 Nov 1993 23:29:05 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re 4.0776, Re: SHK 4.0773  Marriage in Shakespeare
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter D. Junger <
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Date:           Saturday, 13 Nov 93 17:21:14 EDT
Subject:        Re: Shk 4.0776 Marriage to deceased wife's sister
 
Doesn't the classic statement of social attitudes--at least those of the
governing classes--regarding marriage to one's deceased wife's sister
appear in Iolanthe rather than in Hamlet?
 
Peter D. Junger
Case Western Reserve University Law School, Cleveland, OH
Internet:  
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  -- Bitnet:  JUNGER@CWRU
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Green <
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Date:           Saturday, 13 Nov 93 17:19:57 -0400
Subject: 4.0776 Re: Marriage in Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0776 Re: Marriage in Shakespeare
 
>While one certainly wants to find clear explanations for events in
>Shakespeare's plays, is it really safe to assume that the connections we find
>so clear cut and obvious (such as Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon
>and Claudius' to Gertrude) were the first things that a member of the original
>audience brought to mind?  To play devil's advocate, let me offer an instance.
>In Shaw's _Major Barbara_ a key plot turn occurs when Cusins reveals that he is
>not legitimate because of his parents' questionable marriage:  "Their marriage
>is legal in Australia, but not in England.  My mother is my father's deceased
>wife's sister; and in this island I am consequently a foundling."  Now can we
>say that because Shaw is so very conscious of Shakespeare and his works
>(easily demonstrated ) that Shaw must have intended us to connect this moment
>to a parallel marriage in _Hamlet_, viz., that Hamlet's mother is his
>stepfather's deceased brother's wife?
 
This question vividly demonstrates exactly how significant to an understanding
of a writer's work are the events of the time in which he lived. _Major
Barbara_ was first produced in 1905. One of the major causes of the time was
the movement for the legalization in England of the marriage of a widower to
his deceased's wife sister; bills for this purpose were introduced in
Parliament from 1851 on, but the Act of Parliament legalizing such marriages in
England was not passed until 1907.  Australia had passed such a bill much
earlier. Shaw was probably not alluding to Shakespeare; he certainly was
alluding to contemporary issues of interest.
 
>I suppose that I may be one of the people you are puzzled about. Yes, you are
>quite right, were I looking for a source or explanation, I would begin with the
>literature of Shakespeare's time. In fact, I do begin there!
>
>My problem is more theoretical. When I write fiction, my imagination (no matter
>how culturally constructed that imagination is) mediates between reality as I
>construct it or perceive it (no matter how culturally constructed that
>perception is) and my fiction (no matter how, etc.). My imagination can distort
>my perception of reality a great deal. I can imagine a reality that I have
>never experienced. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "' Authenticity,' or the Lesson of
>Little Tree," NY TIMES BOOK REVIEW, 24 Nov. 1991, 1, 26ff., asserts: "No human
>culture is inaccessible to someone who makes the effort to understamd, to
>learn, to inhabit another world" (30). Gates's point is that we are not
>culture-bound, that the human imagination does wonderful things.
>
>In other words, is Hamlet's world really just a point by point projection of
>Will's world? Does Will's imagination mediate between the world of physical
>history and the world of fantasy? And, yes, I know that Will has to create that
>world with physical things: pen, paper, actors, a playhouse. But is that world
>in which Hamlet lives in the present tense the same as the world in which Will
>lived in the past tense? The Pope, for example,  doesn't exist in Hamlet's
>world.
 
Well, I don't know how a creative writer transforms the raw material of his
environment and times into a work of art (which often has nothing to do with
the author's environment and times), and this is something I don't attempt to
figure out - nor, I think, can anyone. My sole concern, in my research on
Shakespeare, has been to ascertain, to the extent that one can, just what were
the raw materials with which he worked, and just what were the facts of his
life, and my submissions to SHAKSPER have been precipitated, in part, by my
amazement at how little a matter of interest to so many SHAKSPERians appears to
have been the identification of the raw materials with which Shakespeare was
working: the personages, events, customs, literature, laws, discoveries, etc.
of his time.
 
I realize, sadly, that my approach to Shakespeare is hopelessly out of date,
for the most celebrated contemporary writers on Shakespeare in fact use
Shakespeare as a springboard to write (in often impenetrable prose), not about
the issues of his time, but about the issues of today.  Oh, well, . . .
 
Sincerely,
Martin Green
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Al Cacicedo <
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Date:           Saturday, 13 Nov 1993 23:29:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: SHK 4.0773  Marriage in Shakespeare
Comment:        Re 4.0776, Re: SHK 4.0773  Marriage in Shakespeare
 
The following comes under the heading, "Nothing good or bad, but thinking makes
it so."
 
"In other words, is Hamlet's world really just a point by point projection of
Will's world?" asks Bill Godshalk.  Surely not.  "The moment of transgression
is the key moment of practice," as Julia Kristeva says, and goes on to say that
that's the point at which enjoyment emerges and art is made possible.  But I
wonder whether the passage cited from Henry Louis Gates's article in the *New
York Times Book Review*, that "No human culture is inaccessible to someone who
makes the effort to understand, to learn, to inhabit another world," is the
central element of that transgressive moment.  I wonder in particular because
such a formulation seems to make Will always willing, if you will.  I also
wonder, therefore, whether that approach to imaginative freedom is not a bit
like Sidney's description of how centaurs come to be invented--on the whole, a
bit more mechanical than the zodiac- roving freedom he then affirms.  And so
I'm not sure what to make of Bill's second question, "Does Will's imagination
mediate between the world of physical history and the world of fantasy?"
Kristeva is definite that the point of rupture involves "the speaking subject
as a divided subject," which makes imagination not so much a "faculty" of
Will--that's how I take the idea of "mediation" between history and fantasy--as
a compromise formation, an obviously Freudian point.  Let me then wonder about
Bill's last question, another mapping one:  "is that world in which Hamlet
lives in the present tense the same as the world in which Will lived in the
past tense?"  I guess I'd have to ask, which Will, and which of his worlds?  At
any rate, I suspect that the history in which Will lived must be one of the
terms on which the compromise is built for the nicely circular reason that
that's the world in which Will lived.  That there is transgression, on the
other hand, says to me that the mapping is not and cannot be point by point.
By the way, I've been citing Kristeva from "The System and the Speaking
Subject," reproduced in Toril Moi's *The Kristeva Reader*.
 
Dividedly,
Al Cacicedo

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