Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0523. Thursday, 9 June 1994.
Date: Wednesday, 08 Jun 1994 20:06:37 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Bottom, Titania
Thanks for the comments on MND. Those of Ron Moyer and Bill Godshalk were
especially enlightening. I reckon that since the Athenian wood is
"outside the law," we ought to be prepared for a full exposition of all
the perversities those inside the walls are so terrified of--so much so
that they are prepared for the ultimate perversity of infanticide in order to
preserve their control over the most frightening thing in the
Shakespearean world picture, i.e. the "undisciplined" desires of women.
I think it also enriches our reading of the play to think of the coupling
of Pasiphae with the Minoan Bull to produce the monster who will lurk at
the center of the labyrinth, a labyrinth that only Theseus is able to
penetrate (with the help of a woman). The Athenian wood is the labyrinth
in MND, of course, and it helps if one is to descend into it to face one's
personal beast to have it turn out to be merely Bottom. And as long as I
am free associating here, that's exactly what Hamlet finds when he
descends into the grave, isn't it: that of all the model fathers he has
before him, the one that he instinctively chose to emulate was Yorick.
There are worse things than finding out your father is a fool; but of
course people like Laertes and Fortinbras would't think so.
Enough of that, but I do have something to take up with Ron Moyer:
Wittgenstein, in discussing the limitations of Frazier's *Golden Bough*, says
that the chief defect in Frazier's thinking was his tendency to treat earlier
and less technologically advanced cultures as if they were fumbling, each in
its own benighted way, toward the perfection of 19th Century English society
(and always getting it wrong!) I must say that I feel something like
Wittgenstein's skepticism whenever I read remarks that seem to congratulate
20th C. Western culture for its superior understanding of gender roles and
sexual equality--ESPECIALLY when those remarks represent other periods and
cultures as pathological in their social organization. They weren't sick and we
aren't all that healthy. Shirley Garner's work consistently assumes the
superiority of modern hindsight.
Felicitations to All and Sundry,