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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1136  Friday, 13 November 1998.

From:           Jerry R. Adair <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 18:30:08 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        RE: Shrews behaving badly

Jean Peterson <
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 > writes:

> [...] So I cited
> the Coriolanus line because it conceptualizes an ideal of
> "self-authorship", self-invention, a concept that has been crucial to my
> development as a thinking, rational, autonomous human being [...]

Oh boy. <groan>  Won't go there.  Then follows it up with:

> and I am beginning to suspect that this argument could go around in
> circles forever.

Finally something we can agree on...

> I am still curious about why discussions of this play
> tend to invoke such fiercely personal defenses- [...]

Well, I'll first pose that any interpretation is bound to be utterly
individual by definition; at some level anyway.  No matter how arduously
they labor to attach it to a particular time, place, movement, advanced
thinking/research or cultural/religious marquee.  If the person adheres
to that interpretation with any sense of conviction, then it's bound to
be personal.  When someone comes along and attacks that viewpoint and
labels it as "out of date" or "sexist" or whatever, then if the person
has any sense of self-worth, they're bound to have an adverse reaction.
Exactly *what* they'll do from there varies, as we all realize.

> [...] And if I
> might also problematize the universalizing "we" of Barton's assertions:
> e.g. "isn't that why we prize his work as some of the greatest
> literature ever written in the history of humankind? because it holds a
> mirror up to nature, and reveals to each beholder something about
> himself (or herself)?"  Yes, many have, but some very interesting and
> provocative scholarship has been challenging those traditional readings
> for, oh, about the last 25 or so years.

Look, I don't agree with Carol that much either, but I *do* feel that
she has the correct approach to the problem of interpreting and
presenting Shakespeare (that is, it's only the content of her views that
I disagree with).  And that leads me to ask: does anyone else see that
this "challenging" is doing exactly the same thing as those "readings"
are doing?  That is, reflecting one's viewpoint through the expression
of individual opinion (which is usually based on something that is
happening in *their* time)?  This type of hypocrisy is a big part of the
problem I have with the feminist movement; but don't get me started.

I was really having a difficult time reading some of the postings on
this subject; then came Cora Lee Wolfe <
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 >:

> A teacher of some 35 years, I have been disappointed in the direction
> the feminist movement has taken.  Women want it all, but they don't want
> to pay the price.  We cannot have it both ways.

Was I ever pleasantly surprised to see a woman actually say something
like this!  I was amazed to read that a woman sees this for what it is.
Stunned is more like it.  Thank you, Cora, you're reaffirmed some faith
in the women that exist today.  However, it wasn't long before that
astonishment was quickly extinguished by the ever-so-lucid retorts of
Frances, Jean and most notedly Neth Boneskewy <
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 >:

> This is neither damnable nor gender-specific.  It is a propensity of
> human nature to acquire what is desired at a bargain price, or to get it
> for free.  It is the art of the deal, and the talent for shrewd dealing
> is much admired throughout most (all?) of this world's societies.
> [...] The automatic rejoinder to this is "Why not?"  "We cannot have it both
> ways" is not a sacred commandment or a law of physics, and even if it
> was, sacred commandments and laws of physics were only made to be
> amended or superseded.  Since I was a child I have never seen the point
> in having your cake if you cant eat it too.

Another oh boy. <shudder><groan>  I must admit that I find these
comments difficult to take seriously because they are so extreme and
unreasonable in nature; it makes me wonder if the author really isn't
some twisted youth in some dimly-lit, back corner of his/her parent's
house trying to see what kind of trouble they can stir up.  However,
I'll play and take them on face value: no, Neth what is admired
"throughout most (all?) of this world's societies" is honor, truth, and
being a man/woman of your word, at least by those whose judgement is
worth the breath they use to articulate that judgement in words.  You
can't escape this.  Noone really respects ol' Joe down at the
used-and-beat-up-as-heck car lot, no matter how well he can make a
"shrewd" deal.  What Cora was trying to say, in part, is that wanting it
both ways/having your cake and eating it too is hardly a quality that
anyone will admire.  Anyone worth having around that is.

This notion brings me back to the point I made in my original reply to
the subject: the passionate, unselfish love between two strong,
fundamentally good people.  Kate and Petruchio.  Neither of them are
perfect and both of them do certain things that are reproachable, but
this isn't important, to do so is human.  What *is* important is the
type of love that they discover both in themselves and in each other.
It is the nature and the spirit of that love that embodies the
aforementioned personality attributes that I advocate: truth, honor and
the concept of what I call "doing the right thing at every turn in
life."  It is *this* *spirit* that I, as I've said, is at the heart of
SHREW and his other romantic comedies; particularly LLL and MAAN as
others have pointed out.

Could we ever have imagined the sparks this whole Shrew thing would have
touched off??

I'll leave you with a classic from Jean Peterson <
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 >:

> Just to set the record straight, I don't hold any men
> presently living responsible.

Tell me no.  Please.  I simply cannot believe statements like this.  The
hypocrisy and double-standard nature of the women of today (and yes, I
know there are exceptions) never ceases to amaze me.  And then these
same women wonder why we men tend to date those who don't have such
troublesome ways (and who just happen to be minorities)?  Yes, all
caveats taken into consideration.  I can't count the number of times me
and a minority girlfriend have been scoffed at in public by these types
of people.  They aren't the only ones, mind you, just to be fair...

***jra
 

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