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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: January ::
Re: FE, Tmp., Ven., Luc.
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0038.  Saturday, 13 January 1996.

(1)     From:   Gavin H Witt <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Jan 96 19:42:24 CST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0032 Re: "A Funeral Elegy"

(2)     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Saturday, 13 Jan 1996 10:15:54 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.006  Re: "A Funeral Elegy"


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gavin H Witt <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Jan 96 19:42:24 CST
Subject: 7.0032 Re: "A Funeral Elegy"
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0032 Re: "A Funeral Elegy"

Michael Yogev writes that he finds _Tempest_ not valedictory but "highly
Jacobean...without the transgressive hijinks and sexual fun--a grim affair
altogether."

Well, two comments.

First, I think in this context "valedictory" is usually/traditionally and with
some justice applied to the play in response to a sense that it represents the
authors farewell to the theater.  Prospero's destruction and abandonment of his
means of creating magical art at the play's end is linked for many with
Shakespeare's own retirement from the theater, nearly simultaneous with the
timing of _Tempest_.  Perhaps it seems as much a benediction of art as a
valediction, since it lives on each time the play is performed, but that has
always seemed to me the usual characterization of the piece.

Second, regarding the proposed grimness of the play and absence of "sexual fun"
I'm not too sure what the usual Jacobean sexual fun would be?  _White Devil_?
_Changeling_?  _'Tis Pity_?  _Duchess of Malfi_?  _Volpone_? And the list goes
on--sexuality is painful, distressing, corrupt, filled with disease and madness
and the horrible pains of desire in much of this theater; it represents and
carries forward a number of political and cultural prerogatives, some
transgressive and some extremely orthodox.  But "fun"?  In what sense?  And how
is _Tempest_ justifiably excluded from this; in addition to Caliban's past
attempt to rape Miranda, he then tries to pimp her to Stephano, while Prospero
is busy negotiating her virginity with Ferdinand....

And hijinks there certainly are, with Trinculo and Stephano certainly even if
Ariel is played entirely seriously.  I don't know what productions Mr. Yogev
has had to endure, but "grim" the play should never be.  It has its brutal
side, but the two clowns are among the most accessibly funny in the plays of
the period from my experience--watching, directing, and performing in
productions of the play.  They do more work than simply comic relief, but they
have hijinks.  Falling in puddles of stinking horse-piss certainly counts as
hijinks in my book.

I'm curious as to what other reactions might be, and to get more from Mr. Yogev
about why he finds it grim and what other plays offer in terms of sexual fun,
from the same period.  Restoration, certainly, something else starts to happen.
 But in the Jacobean moment, _Tempest_ has always struck me as remarkably
representative, even to the use of the theatrics of power through the masque
and its vocabulary of sexuality.

Gavin Witt
University of Chicago

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Saturday, 13 Jan 1996 10:15:54 GMT
Subject: 7.006  Re: "A Funeral Elegy"
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.006  Re: "A Funeral Elegy"

I wonder how many would agree with Joe Shea that Shakespeare's poems have
interest only as 'historical oddities'?! I have found both 'Venus and Adonis'
and 'Rape of Lucrece' both fascinating in themselves and, perhaps more
suprisingly, interesting to students.  Moreover, in doing the annual review for
Shakespeare Survey over the last five years it has been noticeable how
scholarly interest in both has grown markedly recently. Students in particular
have found that the ambivalent responses to a predatory female sexuality
elicited by 'Venus and Adonis', and the questions of responsibility and blame
raised by 'Lucrece', for example,  are fascinating both in exploring Early
Modern attitudes to gender and sexuality, and in raising questions that are
still significant in the gender politics of the late twentieth century.
Perhaps their time has now come?

David Lindley
 

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