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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: November ::
Re: Cleopatra; Lady Anne
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1173.  Wednesday, 19 November 1997.

[1]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 13:29:33 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1167  Re: Cleopatra

[2]     From:   Jean Peterson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 11:51:47 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: Seduction of Lady Anne


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 13:29:33 -0500
Subject: 8.1167  Re: Cleopatra
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1167  Re: Cleopatra

>Cleo doesn't need nudging; she has recognized her options from the
>moment of military defeat.  And none of them is palatable.  Her death is
>simply the least distasteful.

writes Marilyn Bonomi.

Some of us see the Seleucus episode (Riverside 5.2.140-172) as indeed
staged. Cleopatra is testing the waters, and she finds them frigid. Had
Caesar responded with warmth, I think Cleopatra would have refrained
from suicide. As it is, she realizes that Caesar merely words her. And
she commits suicide as Caesar desires.

Privately, I think that Shakespeare was thinking of Mary, Queen of
Scots, when he was writing about Cleopatra. Neither was the kind of
woman you can keep around after you've captured her. And I'm sure
Elizabeth would have been overjoyed if Mary had taken the honorable way
out.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jean Peterson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 11:51:47 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: Seduction of Lady Anne

Those interested in "why" Shakespeare's Lady Anne succumbs to Richard
III might also consider her actions in reference to early-modern
misogyny.  The scene quite capably demonstrates many of the worst
beliefs about women: that they were carnal, morally frail, deceptive,
easily seduced, and eager to be misled by their inordinate sexual
appetites, and by appeals to their worst vice, vanity.  In fact, Anne's
status as a WIDOW places her firmly in a category of women often mocked,
ridiculed and vilified in Renaissance discourse-the widow, or as popular
belief would have it, the "lusty widow," who, despite quite a convincing
show of grief, is actually hot-to-trot for the first man who ventures
along.  Other dramatic lusty widows are, of course, Gertrude, and the
Duchess of Malfi (although Webster's treatment seems to suggest a more
complex examination of the received stereotype-a"problematizing", we'd
say today).  A comic version is Chapman's "The Widow's Tears," in which
a woman actually DOES do the wild thing RIGHT ON THE COFFIN  of her
presumed-dead husband (of course, the "soldier" she does it with is
actually her husband, who has faked his death and returned in disguise
to test her chastity, with such surprising results...).  My point is
that Anne's easy capitulation would have required no extraordinary leap
of faith for audiences in Shakespeare's time, but rather makes use of
popular conceptions of widows, the depth of their "grief," and their
loyalty to the deceased.  Or as Bob Dylan would say, "just like a
woman."

Cheers,
Jean Peterson
 

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