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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: August ::
Re: Natural Deaths; Shrew(d)ness
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0704.  Tuesday, 30 August 1994.
 
(1)     From:   David Schalkwyk <
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        Date:   Monday, 29 Aug 94 09:36:57 SAST-2
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0693  Re: Generic Expectations (Death by Natural
 
(2)     From:   David Schalkwyk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Aug 94 10:03:38 SAST-2
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0692  Re: PC and ACT *Shrew*s
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Schalkwyk <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 29 Aug 94 09:36:57 SAST-2
Subject: 5.0693  Re: Generic Expectations (Death by Natural
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0693  Re: Generic Expectations (Death by Natural
 
I think I've got myself into a bit of a mess here, but I'll try to return
Bill's service.   I'm not sure that I would be doing Stephen Greenblatt a
service by trying to recount what I heard in an hour-long lecture some months
ago.  I was simply wondering whether anyone has heard him on the topic of death
in Shakespeare elsewhere. Perhaps we in South Africa were blessed with a
Greenblatt "scoop"! *As far as I remember*, Stephen was suggesting that even
"natural" deaths in Shakespeare are all (or almost all?) presented as being the
outcome of the actions of the person's life.  I've already said too much, and
perhaps should wait until Greenblatt publishes the essay or disseminates the
idea more freely.
 
David
University of Cape Town
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Schalkwyk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 29 Aug 94 10:03:38 SAST-2
Subject: 5.0692  Re: PC and ACT *Shrew*s
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0692  Re: PC and ACT *Shrew*s
 
Kate is, of course, like Beatrice in _Much Ado_ both "shrew" and "shrewd".  I'd
like to think that the latter is the result of the former.  If one takes the
gender-neutrality of "shrew" seriously, then of course Sly is the first shrew
in the play, Kate the second, and Petruchio the third and most consummate one.
What I find interesting about this play is the way in which the notion of
shrew(d)ness, the social nature of comedy and the relations of characters to
their society are interrogated.  Whatever one's view of the psychology of the
action (and I'm entirely sympathetic with those who feel revulsion at the
mental and physical torture that Kate is forced to endure)  the structure of
the play offers a strange view by which shrew(d)ness (being both insight into
the nature of a society and its rejection) offers a way to transcend the kind
of ideological incorporation that comedy as a genre involves. What kind of
ending do we have?  Is there any other Shakespearean comedy in which only two
out of six "city copulatives" make it to bed in the end?  There is nearly a
disaster at the end of _Merchant_, but for at least all the heterosexual
couples consummation as act and symbol is finally achieved.  The point is
surely not that Kate wins out against Petruchio (and men) in the end by only
pretending to acquiesce, but rather that Kate and Petruchio win out against a
society they both despise.  That's the fantasy offered by the strange,
etiolated comic structure of the play.  It may not be any more PC than other
interpretations, but it draws the lines in different places, and is more
interesting (I think) because it circumvents many of the old questions.
 
I'd be happy to have any responses to this very sketchy view, since it is the
basis of an essay I'm writing at the moment, and it would be good to get either
some encouragement or firm indications that it's rubbish.  One is rather
isolated down here.
 
David Schalkwyk
University of Cape Town
 

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