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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: August ::
Re: *MV*; *Shr.* and Domestic Violence; Generic
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0680.  Monday, 15 August 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Anthony Haigh <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Aug 1994 12:39:23 -400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0665  Re: Antonio & Shylock
 
(2)     From:   Stefanie DuBose <GPDBLF@UNIVSCVM.BITNET>
        Date:   Monday, 15 Aug 94 12:11:16 EDT
        Subj:   Shrew
 
(3)     From:   Anthony Haigh <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Aug 1994 13:47:46 -400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0656  Re: Generic Expectations
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anthony Haigh <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Aug 1994 12:39:23 -400
Subject: 5.0665  Re: Antonio & Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0665  Re: Antonio & Shylock
 
In reply to Bill G's comments on the relationship between Shylock and Antonio
in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE ... he might be interested in the English/Jewish
playwright Arnold Wesker's 1976 reworking of the story - THE MERCHANT.  He
wrote the play after seeing Olivier's Shylock and being offended by the lack of
understanding of the Jewish character that was shown.  Wesker's comment on
leaving the theatre was "no Jew I know would behave that way..." (or words to
that effect)  His play has Antonio and Shylock as friends.  The bond is made
almost as a joke in mock defiance of the Venetian law that requires any dealing
between Jew and Christian to be written down.  In Wesker's play it is Antonio
who demands the carrying out of the terms of the agreement.
 
I think it is a fine play.  It did not have a long run in New York, partly
because Zero Mostell, who played Shylock, died during the rehearsal process.
 
Has anyone seen it in perfromance?
 
Sincerely,
Tony Haigh
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stefanie DuBose <GPDBLF@UNIVSCVM.BITNET>
Date:           Monday, 15 Aug 94 12:11:16 EDT
Subject:        Shrew
 
I would like to thank everyone who responded to my comments with useful
comments and suggestions regarding _Shrew_.  I do want to respond to some of
William Godshalk's ideas.  He noted, quite correctly, that Kate does tell
Petruchio that "the moon changes even as your mind," and that her submission
occurs only after Hortensio's plea.  True enough, this can be, and is, played
comically with wonderful effects.  But in my work with abused and battered
women, I have heard numerous stories concerning the unpredictable nature of the
abuser, in both his (or her) behavior and expectations (from the victim).
Throughout the play, Petruchio seeks to throw Kate off-balance through his
unpredictable behavior in order to force her submission.  One need look no
further than the wedding scene in which Petruchio manages not only to humiliate
Kate but abuse the minister as well.  This unpredictability is the cornerstone
of the abuser's power.  The victim is forever unable to please because she
never knows what her abuser wants.  With respect to the point of her
submission, many women finally submit to their abusers when someone else
(usually an authority figure) tells them that they have no choice but to do so.
 And truly, Kate has no choice; she has been sold to the only bidder who will
have her.
 
William Godshalk also mentions his belief that Kate is hardly submissive
Petruchio in his insistence that she regard the sun as the moon.  The reason
she tells Vincentio that the sun dazzled her eyes is because Petruchio demanded
that she greet the old man as a fresh, youthful maiden.  When she does so, Pet-
ruchio chastizes her for being "mad" and then demands that she recant her stat-
ment; in doing so, she must assume responsibility for what has become "her
mistake" rather than Petruchio's order.
 
Finally, the argument that Petruchio suffers as much as Kate does or that he
abuses her only because he loves her enough to change her does not excuse his
behavior.  Abuse is abuse, whether it is only a female figure in a comedy or a
poor, drunken tinker simultaneously watching that comedy while unknowingly
acting in another for the benefit of some lords.  Perhaps an underlying
mes-sage can be read here:  there are two distinct social groups who can be
(and are) abused expressly for the purpose of entertaining those exercising
"upper class privilege," who, by the way, are all men.
 
I realize that many people will probably be irritated at my "too-serious"
reading of the play; I am by no means suggesting that this is such a dark play
since there are comments throughout from the characters suggesting the humor of
the situation between Kate and Petruchio.  But since this is an open forum for
debate and discussion, I just thought I'd elaborate on some ideas I've had
during the tenure of this particular subject.
 
One quick question: has anyone read _Queering the Renaissance_, ed. by Jonathan
Goldberg?  I would be interested in hearing your comments.
 
Regards,
Stefanie DuBose (
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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anthony Haigh <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Aug 1994 13:47:46 -400
Subject: 5.0656  Re: Generic Expectations
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0656  Re: Generic Expectations
 
In reply to Gareth Euridge's question about verse and prose... I would
recommend that he read Cicely Berry's book THE ACTOR AND HIS TEXT. Berry is the
vocal director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and I guess knows more about
how Shakespeare's texts work than anyone.
 
Her point is, in general, that the character speaks verse or prose depending on
their mental state.  The general comment about social class being the primary
determiner generally holds true - like all general statements.  But what is
interesting is the way characters loose their control of the verse when they
loose control of their emotions.  The obvious way a character can loose control
is through madness; but love, hate, and anger also play a part here.
 
When a character speaks in verse he/she is not just in control of themselves,
they are also showing us that they are able to function on a number of
different levels.  A complexity of meaning and imagery is available to a verse
speaker in a way that is not available to a prose speaker.  A rude mechanical
will speak in prose because he is saying what he means.  A king will speak in
verse because he is saying what means (or hiding what he means) as well as
showing us what he thinks and feels. He can only do this in verse.
 
It is also interesting to look at who is in control when the metre is split
between two speakers.  The speaker who finishes the metre is in control and, by
definition, is sane.  Look at Hamlet and Ophelia. There should be no question
about who is in control and who is sane.
 
As an actor I find that the text will usually tell me everything I need to know
about my character and his relationships.  All I have to do to get the starting
point or yardstick for my interpretation of the role is to decode the structure
of the text. The clues are all there.
 

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