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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: June ::
Re: Bottom, Titania, Oberon. et al.
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0511.  Wednesday, 8 June 1994.
 
(1)     From:   John Boni <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 7 Jun 1994 11:42:33 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0508 Qs: Titania and Bottom
 
(2)     From:   Ron Moyer <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 7 Jun 1994 17:19:42 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Titania and Bottom
 
(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
        Date:   Tuesday, 07 Jun 1994 21:32:53 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Titania and Bottom, Oberon and the Indian Boy
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Boni <
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Date:           Tuesday, 7 Jun 1994 11:42:33 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 5.0508 Qs: Titania and Bottom
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0508 Qs: Titania and Bottom
 
I, too, have argued in class that Bottom and Titania sleep together (to use our
widespread euphemism).  To me, that experience is at the heart of Bottom's
wonderful dream--a dream far beyond anything he could have *imagined*
experiencing, and thus one that he realizes can be communicated only through a
product of the imagination--art.  (Peter Quince will write a ballad of it for
Bottom.)  And, yes, if not a union of beauty and the beast, it most certainly a
union of the most gross and the most ethereal.  ("Ethereal" does not lack
sexual desire.)
 
As to the other query about sexual desire--Oberon for the boy--several of my
students over the years have intuited that possibility.  Could bisexuality be
an element of the ethereal, as Milton has Raphael inform Adam in Paradise that
angels may change gender?
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Moyer <
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Date:           Tuesday, 7 Jun 1994 17:19:42 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Titania and Bottom
 
For Lonnie Durham, regarding Bottom-Titania and copulation.
 
You might review Jan Kott's essay "Titania and the Ass's Head" in *Shakespeare
Our Contemporary*.  Kott examines MND ("the most erotic of Shakespeare's
plays") in terms of variations on love/eroticism and animal imagery, including
the comment: "The monstrous ass is being raped by the poetic Titania, while she
still keeps chattering about flowers."
 
The program for the Liviu Ciulei-directed production of MND at the Guthrie in
1985 includes a brief quote from Kott and an "abridged version" of a paper by
Shirley Nelson Garner that was published in *Women's Studies* (Vol. 9, 1981).
The gist of the article is that MND "affirms patriarchal order and hierarchy"
by "the breaking of women's bonds with each other and the submission of women,
which the play relentlessly exacts."  Garner suggests that "Titania's
attachment to the boy is clearly erotic" and that Oberon "is both attracted to
and jealous of him."
 
The suggestion of the extraordinary sexual prowess of asses is widely annotated
and has been frequently suggested in production (e.g., Brook's production, with
Bottom riding on fairies' shoulders with a stiff-armed "phallus" protruding
between his legs).  In the Ciulei production, when Oberon awaked his Queen from
the potion, Titania turned, saw the Ass, and screamed, nearly collapsing in
horrified humiliation at the realization of her beastiality.  It was a splendid
coup de theatre that under-scored the dark, anti-female theme in the
production.
 
--Ron Moyer
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
Date:           Tuesday, 07 Jun 1994 21:32:53 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Titania and Bottom, Oberon and the Indian Boy
 
In response to Lonnie Durham's question, I say, "Yes, yes, yes." MND is filled
with kinky sex. Theseus woos Hippolyta with his sword, doing her injuries.
Titania and Oberon accuse each other of various marital infidelities. We get
the idea that Oberon "likes to watch." He sets Titania up for bestialism, and
she goes for it. Gail Paster sees an anal component in: "I will purge thy
mortal grossness" (Riverside, 3.1.160). Oberon has pederastic designs on the
Indian boy. The Wall episode (5.1.174-205) is filled with anal/oral/testicle
suggestions: "My cherry lips have often kiss'd thy stones." Thisby and Pyramus
are talking through Wall's parted legs.
 
This year one of my students told me that Helena and Hermia have had an erotic
relationship pre-play. And why not? This play has something for everybody, an
omnibus of sex. Don Hedrick read a paper on this topic at the Ohio Shakespeare
Conference -- illustrated with pornographic marriage manuals!
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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