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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: March ::
Sidney *Lear*; Ophelia's Contraceptive; Shakespeare &
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0278.  Monday, 28 March 1994.
 
(1)     From:   J F Knight <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Mar 1994 18:26:23 +1000
        Subj:   [Sidney *Lear*]
 
(2)     From:   James Schaefer <SCHAEFEJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
        Date:   Monday, 28 Mar 1994 07:47:22 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Ophelia's Contraceptive
 
(3)     From:   John Collick <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Mar 1994 22:04:06 JST
        Subj:   Shakespeare and Film
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           J F Knight <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Mar 1994 18:26:23 +1000
Subject:        [Sidney *Lear*]
 
*King Lear* has just opened in Sydney. This morning's Sydney Morning Herald
review started off...
 
"This production of King Lear is more of a damned shame than a tragedy."
 
Nice phrase, thought I'd share it with you.
 
John Knight

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Schaefer <SCHAEFEJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
Date:           Monday, 28 Mar 1994 07:47:22 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Ophelia's Contraceptive
 
The following two items may be of interest to SHAKSPERians who do not regularly
read the *New York Times*:
 
The March 8, 1994 "Science Times" section of the NYT contained an article
entitle, "In Ancient Times, Flowers and Fennel for Family Planning." It was
based in turn on an article by John M. Riddle, a historian at North Carolina
State, published in the March/April issue of Archeology.  Riddle's thesis is
that women in the ancient world controlled their fertility by ingesting various
plants -- including silphium (now extinct), pennyroyal, Queen Anne's lace, rue,
and pomegranate -- that had contraceptive and/or abortifacient effects.
 
(Incidentally, while the NYT article notes that Persephone's having eaten six
pomegranate seeds in the underworld resulted in her being condemned to spending
six months in Hades every year, it does not take the next logical step of
speculating about _why_ she ate them, nor does it suggest that she might
actually have _wanted_ to revisit Pluto on a regular basis, leaving us mortals
to our long, cold, lonely winter!)
 
This article was followed by a letter published on the editorial page in the
March 22 issue; the letter is from one Colin Hugh Buckley of Boston. His letter
reads:
 
        The knowledge that rue was widely considered in Renaissance
        Europe both as a contraceptive and an abortifacient newly illuminates
        Ophelia's final scene in "Hamlet."
 
        She addresses the Queen: "There's rue for you, and here's some
        for me -- we may call it herb of grace o' Sundays.  Oh, you must wear
        your rue with a difference."
 
        Perhaps Ophelia's deranged state and subsequent suicide are
        prompted by more than just heartbreak.  Rue is the only one of the
        flowers Ophelia keeps for herself.  The rue the Queen must wear with a
        difference, perhaps referring to its action as a contraceptive,
        suggests her sexual relations with the King, thus continuing the theme
        of Hamlet's Freudian concerns in the play.  Then perhaps Ophelia takes
        rue in her own stead because of its action as an abortifacient.
 
        All of these lends a more somber tone to Ophelia's singing earlier in
        the scene:
 
                Then up he rose and donn'd his clothes
                And dupp'd the chamber door;
                Let in the maid, that out a maid
                Never departed more.
 
Jim Schaefer

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Collick <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Mar 1994 22:04:06 JST
Subject:        Shakespeare and Film
 
Apologies for blowing my own trumpet here. The BBC World Service arts program
_Meridian_ is broadcasting a feature on Shakespeare and film on (I think) the
5th of April. They just interviewed me today in connection with the Japan
section of my book _Shakespeare, cinema and society_ (Manchester Uni. Press,
1988) which is a cultural materialist analysis of Shakespeare films. In any
case, me aside, the program should be of interest to anyone who watches
Shakespeare movies.
 
John Collick
Waseda University, Tokyo

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