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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: February ::
Re: Rosalind and Celia
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0288.  Friday, 28 February 1997.

[1]     From:   David Skeele <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Feb 1997 11:32:15 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0266  Re: Rosalind & Celia

[2]     From:   Steven Marx <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Feb 1997 11:10:31 -0700
        Subj:   Re: Rosalind and Celia

[3]     From:   Sara Vandenberg <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Feb 1997 21:21:19 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: Rosalind and Celia


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Skeele <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Feb 1997 11:32:15 -0500
Subject: 8.0266  Re: Rosalind & Celia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0266  Re: Rosalind & Celia

To Mark Mann:

If I were you, I'd be grateful that Gabriel Egan chose to attack the
speaker rather than the argument - the speaker is undoubtedly the
sturdier of the two.  And though I shouldn't presume to speak for Mr.
Egan, I suspect that the jocularity of his approach arose from boredom
with the ideas he is compelled to refute.  The solipsistic notion that
one's own interpretation is "what's on the page" (and therefore doesn't
constitute an "interpretation" at all), while most others are merely the
maunderings of ego-crazed directors and promotion-hungry scholars, has
been debunked so thoroughly and so convincingly (on this list and
elsewhere) that it should no longer need addressing.  I also suspect
that there are many on this list who are offended by your implication
that homosexual desire is merely some contemporary fashion-one that
could not possibly have been present in "Will's" words.  This assertion
is clearly an interpretive one, though probably not one that would
impress your family with its originality and insight.

Of course you are correct that some interpretations are weaker than
others, and I for one would be happy to hear a reasoned and specific
argument concerning which interpretations (of any Shakespeare play) you
personally prefer.  But when faced with the anti-intellectual posture
which pits "common sense" against radical directors and scholars, I can
only trot out what seems to be our condescending comment du jour:
"Haven't we gotten past that?"

David Skeele

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steven Marx <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Feb 1997 11:10:31 -0700
Subject:        Re: Rosalind and Celia

I have a vague memory of being surprised a few years ago by the
physicality of affection between Roz and Celia in the 1939 Olivier film
of AYLI, especially while they're out in the woods.  At one point, when
a messenger enters, they seemed to be rollicking in bed.

Steven Marx
http://www.multimedia.calpoly.edu/libarts/smarx/

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sara Vandenberg <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Feb 1997 21:21:19 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Re: Rosalind and Celia

Years ago, at the Hollywood Bowl on a lovely summer night, I saw a
production of AYL in which Joan Van Ark played Celia.  What struck me
was the way Celia dominated the play at the start: e.g., it is her idea
that Rosalind and she leave the court and go to the Forest of Arden.
Only then does the character of Rosalind emerge as the main female
character.  It seems to me that Shakespeare frequently does this sort of
thing, shifting the dramatic focus from one character (or more) to
someone who turns out to be the main character.  In the case of Rosalind
and Celia, Celia's assertiveness at the beginning gives added
believability and force to her quick decision to marry, which prompts
Rosalind to move from "thinking" (as Orlando puts it) to doing, from
being a "busy actor" who pretends to someone who commits to the 'real'
act of marrying.

As to the relationship between Rosalind and Celia, people might want to
(re)read Carroll Smith-Rosenberg's classic essay, "The Female World of
Love and Friendship," about female intimacy in the early modern period.
Her argument is based on 18-19th c examples, but seems to me to hold for
the 16-17th c as well (e.g., Katherine Philips' poems to female
friends).  In a society that sets up strong gender roles, intimate
relationships between people of the same gender can be indulged to quite
a degree without seeming as physically consequential as they do in an
era like ours when gender roles are seen as under siege, constructed,
inessential, etc. (I use those adjectives to try to reflect various
assessments and attitudes-i.e., some people endorse the current
situation, while others do not).  It should be obvious that I am
ignoring in this posting the complex play with gender that marks this
play.  It seems to me that Shakespeare's play takes heterosexuality as
its base, and then plays with the gender-bending possibilities his
transvestist theatre makes possible.  So I would argue that any
discussion of Rosalind and Celia should begin with a discussion of what
is possible in female relationships within a heterosexist context.
There is a range of what is possible, and Smith-Rosenberg (as well as
other feminist historical critics) can help clarify that range.
 

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