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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: April ::
Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0298.  Friday, 19 April 1996.

(1)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Apr 1996 16:00:04 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)

(2)     From:   Shirley Kagan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Apr 1996 11:17:50 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0294 Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)

(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Apr 1996 23:02:27 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)

(4)     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Apr 1996 11:28:08 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation)

(5)     From:   Chris Stroffilino <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Apr 1996 07:13:32 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Apr 1996 16:00:04 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)

Thanks to Chris Stroffolino for his interesting remarks but I am not sure what
is meant by MND subverting tragedy.  Whose notion of tragedy? Shakespeare's
(and what is it)?  The "age's notion?" (And what is this)? And, once defined,
how does MND do this?  The play of Pyramus and Thisbe has fun with tragedy
played this way but what does this or MND have to do with subverting Lear?  Is
it the tragic sense of life that is subverted, the genre generally,
Shakespeare's notion?  How?

I also don't understand how Shakespeare generally subverts the claim to
authenticity.  Surely there are claims that are meant to be taken as true
within the play (This is Illyria, lady) and Shakespeare is not always at pains
to point out that this is, in fact, a big lie. Subverting all claims to
authenticity seems to require that one continually repeat "This is only a play
and plays are all lies anyway and can't have a damn true thing to say about
anything in any way nd this is not Illyria and thank God the Bard has cleverly
subverted that notion for me and that there is much truth in feigning is
another big lie."

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Shirley Kagan <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Apr 1996 11:17:50 -1000
Subject: 7.0294 Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0294 Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)

Mr Green recently wrote:

>even if "enforced chastity" is taken to mean compulsory, it seems
>fantastic to imagine that the moon and the little flowers
>weep because men and women are forced to remain chaste until marriage and
>that the audience is meant to view "free love" (or whatever Jan Kott had in
>mind) as a good thing and weep with the little flowers.

I have two questions:

1) Why is it fantastic to believe that forces of nature (the moon and the
flowers) would be upset to look down at the male dominated, sexually and
otherwise restrictive Athenian society and weep at it?  Maybe the division that
is being set up in this play is exactly that one?

2) What's the problem with anything being "fantastic" in a play entitled "A
Midsummer Night's Dream"?

I find myself, once again, jumping to the defense of these plays as PLAYS.
What Shakespeare may or may not have intended is only marginally relevant (and
not very likely to be acurately captured) when one approaches his works as
pieces that are intended for the stage.  Fluidity of meaning and multiplicity
of interpretation is what keeps these plays vital and interesting, and what
keeps the audience returning to the theatre.

Chris Stroffolino;

Thanks so much for that Brecht poem.  I think his (and your) comments regarding
self-consciousness in the process of creating art are particularly compelling.

Shirley Kagan

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Apr 1996 23:02:27 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)

Joseph Green writes:

>It is hard to imagine little Elizabethan flowers
>weeping because maidens and a fairy queens are denied a Kottian coupling --
>unless thay are to be understood as having made the acquaintance of Master
>Mustardseed.

I don't find it hard to imagine.  MND is a comedy, and, of course, I lack high
seriousness.  But then I suspect that many of Shakespeare's original auditors
also lacked high seriousness, but did possess an awareness of comic irony.
I'll bet some of them at least grinned when they watched Titania take the
transformed Bottom off stage and heard her talking about "enforced chastity."
After all, she hasn't been getting any sex from her husband: that's enforced
chastity.  And now I gather she has plans.

Yours,  Bill Godshalk

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Apr 1996 11:28:08 GMT
Subject: 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation)
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation)

Chris Stroffolino is right to refer to Brecht, who also said that 'bad' acting
offers valuable insights into the way drama works. That is exactly what the
'rude mechanicals' are for. Speaking of alienation, did anyone else at the
World Shakespeare Congress have the impression that Los Angeles was closed?

T. Hawkes

(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffilino <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Apr 1996 07:13:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0294  Re: MND (Alienation and Chastity)

Joseph Green---you raise a lot of interesting points, and I can not address
them all right now, but I don't think it makes me a KOTTian to say that
Titania's lament of enforced chastity does seem to be more of a lament against
"NOT having sex" than "having it." Although she wishes to purge Bottom of his
gross physicality so he may like an airy spirit go, she is certainly meant to
be contrasted with the other females in the play (Hermia and Hippolyta and to a
lesser extent Helena) who HOLD OFF from men (Hippolyta in first scene and
Hermia "lie not so near Lysander"). One could say her holding off from Oberon's
will makes her similar to the other two women (PROUD TITANIA etc), but since
they are the only couple that is married, the terms of the "holding off" is
different (enter the changeling child and Oberon's refusal to "dance patiently"
but rather have to plot and scheme---It is this plotting and scheming that
links him with the other men of the play and to a lesser extent Helena). It has
often been commented that the only scene of tenderness in MND is the
Bottom-Titania affair, despite all the talk of love. Perhaps Master Mustardseed
is the HONEST NEIGHBOR than that does away not only with the dualism of
"reason" and "love" but also of "airy spirits" and "sensuality." The reading
you deride IS fantastic, and maybe even unrepresentable on the stage (as
Hazlitt argued)... but I'm glad actors keep trying. Chris Stroffolino
 

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