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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Re: Elizabethan Feminisms
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0731  Saturday, 24 April 1999.

[1]     From:   Douglas Lanier <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Apr 1999 12:40:16 -0400
        Subj:   Elizabethan Feminisms

[2]     From:   Tiffany Rasovic <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Apr 1999 13:18:01 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

[3]     From:   Alicia Shank <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Apr 1999 14:05:14 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

[4]     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Apr 1999 14:16:14 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

[5]     From:   Janet Maclellan <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Apr 1999 15:58:12 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

[6]     From:   Deborah L. Reed <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Apr 1999 13:27:11 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Douglas Lanier <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Apr 1999 12:40:16 -0400
Subject:        Elizabethan Feminisms

In reply to Bill Allard:  I would encourage you to bring these issues up
in the class rather than moving the discussion to another forum.  I also
hold to the view that "academia is a marketplace of ideas where opposing
views may be expressed" (though I have my doubts about the metaphor of
the "marketplace") but you must express those views in the classroom,
even if they are unpopular, for them to be discussed in your class.  My
best class discussions often spring from exactly this kind of encounter
of opposing views, and you may be impoverishing your class by not
bringing them up.

Cheers,
Doug Lanier
University of New Hampshire

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tiffany Rasovic <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Apr 1999 13:18:01 -0400
Subject: 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

Hi Bill,

I think your questioning of certain aspects of feminist criticism is
really valuable.  I don't mean to be judgmental, (and I do consider
myself a feminist, although I style it New Humanism), but it seems that
some of your classmates are recycling easy theoretical configurations in
their interpretation of the text.  What I have always found so great
about the 4 lovers  in MND is that the two men are just as insipid and
interchangeable as the women!  One forgets that masculinity can be
"read" just as constructions of femininity can be read.  I think
Shakespeare is showing how competition in love and marriage-especially
in young people-can turn anyone into a fool-certainly, Puck's antics,
and possibly Theseus' and Egeus' rigid, anti-imaginative perspectives,
poke fun at conventions of male power and reason by eliminating the
guise of control or objectivity.

I find many Shakespearean men to be very fascinating and
sympathetic-even ones who say things that might make me bristle at first
read.  The thing that "saves" them in my eyes is the way that
Shakespeare seems to be very conscious of the conventions,
misunderstandings, restrictions, and even the hatreds which exist
between men and women, rulers and ruled,  between siblings, and so
forth.  Shakespeare is no simple misogynist, nor is he totally
supportive of men and various forms of hegemony or control by
hierarchy.  You should certainly trust yourself-read the women in
different ways, don't assume that there is never such a thing as
subjectivity or agency in the woman-they have it, it is simply
thwarted.  Furthermore, don't assume that the men are always the
subjects, agents, or "authors", they too are subject to "forces" beyond
their control-again, a big theme in MND!   Until we read masculinity
with the same scrutiny that we have read femininity, we certainly will
not "solve the problem"!

I am totally behind you, Bill.  Put your readings on the "market."

Yours,
TR

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alicia Shank <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Apr 1999 14:05:14 +0000
Subject: 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

One of my favorite scenes in Much Ado about Nothing is 4.1, where
Benedick declares his love for Beatrice and she responds.  Afterwards,
Benedick bids Beatrice to ask him for anything, but Beatrice's request
surprises him:

BENEDICK: Come, bid me do anything for thee.
BEATRICE: Kill Claudio.
BENEDICK: Ha!  Not for the wide world.  (287-289)

Benedick obviously thinks it would be a bad idea, but after a longer
discussion, for no other motive that I could see than its importance to
Beatrice, Benedick relents.

BENEDICK: Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?
BEATRICE: Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul.
BENEDICK: Enough, I am engaged.  I will challenge him.  (328-330).

This is only one specific example of a male Shakespearean character's
noble relations toward a female.  In my opinion, the form of "love"
portrayed in A Midsummer Night's Dream is immature compared to some of
Shakespeare's other plays, so none of the characters (male or female)
are behaving as honorably as they could.

Alicia Shank
Bethel College

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Apr 1999 14:16:14 EDT
Subject: 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

Here's your can of worms:

We rather like Petruchio in our currently rehearsing production.  He
goes out of his way to open Kate's eyes to her selfish behavior, and
puts himself in harm's/ridicule's way to do so.  I know that the text,
if taken at face value, makes him just as big a pig as Kate, but since
he quite plainly says he's being "politic," then I think we are
justified in taking his "goods and chattels" comments with a grain of
salt.

Both Pete and Kate, in our production, fling societal standards in
everyone's faces.  Their supposed espousal of these standards parallels
Petruchio's action "under the name of perfect love" and are just as
mocking.  Kate's final speech becomes a triumph of ambiguity: the women
she lectures have made their bed and must lie in it
(gender-role-speaking-wise, as Prof. Schickele would say), while at the
same time she recognizes the truth in her comments on what the sexes (at
that time and place) owe each other.

We haven't worked out all the kinks yet, and this structure may collapse
upon our heads in ruin in the coming weeks, but so far we think
Petruchio is pretty worthy of his mate.

Dale

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Janet Maclellan <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Apr 1999 15:58:12 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Q: Elizabethan Feminism
Comment:        SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

Bill Allard writes: "Is there any male Shakesperian character who has
any redeeming qualities in his relationship with women?"

I'd suggest Posthumus in 5.1 of Cymbeline. Prior to this scene he hasn't
done very well: he's fallen for Iachimo's slander of his wife Imogen,
spouted all sorts of misogynist cliches, and ordered his servant to kill
her for her supposed infidelity. In 5.1, however, he admits that he was
wrong to do so-and he makes this admission before he discovers that she
was in fact faithful to him:

You married ones,
If each of you should take this course, how many
Must murder wives much better than themselves
For wrying but a little!  (2-5)

It is a remarkable statement for a Shakesperian male.

Janet MacLellan
University of Toronto

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[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Deborah L. Reed <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Apr 1999 13:27:11 -0700
Subject: 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

>My question is
>this: Is there any male Shakesperian character who has any redeeming
>qualities in his relationship with women? I realize this may open a can
>of worms, but I do cling to what seems like a quickly fading notion that
>academia is a marketplace of ideas where opposing views may be
>expressed.
>
>If men and women are the cause of the battle of the sexes, I do not see
>how this angle of feminist criticism does anything to solve the problem.

"Can of worms" indeed.  Since when is the goal of feminist criticism to
bring an end to the battle of the sexes?  I'm all in favor of analysis
that discomfits.  The playwright, not the feminists, raises the issue of
the commodification of women under a patriarchal system in MND (the
conquered Hippolyta, the bartered daughter), yet the resolution does not
seem particularly revolutionary or liberating.  Marital accord/the end
to the battle of the sexes in this comedy is achieved when the
characters acquiesce to the ultimate patriarch, yes?

As to the question of redeeming qualities, I see them in Othello's
relationship with Desdemona.

Deborah Reed
 

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