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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Re: Elizabethan Feminism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0745  Monday, 26 April 1999.

[1]     From:   Stephanie Cotilla <
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        Date:   Saturday, 24 Apr 1999 11:59:27 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

[2]     From:   Takashi Kozuka <
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        Date:   Saturday, 24 Apr 1999 14:23:38 PDT
        Subj:   Re: Elizabethan Feminism

[3]     From:   Katy Dickinson <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Apr 1999 12:06:19 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Q: Elizabethan Feminism

[4]     From:   Heidi Webb Arnold <
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        Date:   Sunday, 25 Apr 1999 13:52:11 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

[5]     From:   Ron Dwelle <
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        Date:   Sunday, 25 Apr 1999 21:30:28 -0000
        Subj:   Reedeming qualities in Sxpr's men


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Cotilla <
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Date:           Saturday, 24 Apr 1999 11:59:27 -0400
Subject: 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

In response to Bill:

What is perhaps most interesting about feminism in the Elizabethan age
is that the term and concept, as we understand it today, did not exist,
yet a debate on the position of women within society was occurring.
Shakespeare reflects this social question in many of his works.  The
ideal woman, according to the Law's Resolution of Women's Rights, was
"understood either married or to be married, and their desires subject
to their husbands."  As a microcosm of the kingdom, women were expected
to be subservient to their husbands.  Consider the anxieties that
underlay Twelfth Night, when Olivia refuses to marry and independently
governs her household.

"For who can deny but it be repugneth to nature that the blind shall be
appointed to lead and conduct such as do see?. . .And such be all women,
compared unto man in bearing of authority.  For their sight in civil
regiment is but blindness, their strength weakness, their counsel
foolishness, and judgement frenzy. . ." states John Knox in The First
Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.

The gender pamphlet debate demonstrates women replying to the constant
abuses and stereotypes created by male writers at the time.  Hic Mulier
accuses women of wearing masculine attire and wishing to overthrown male
power by becoming men.  In response, Haec Vir counters the assertion
that women sought to become men and declares the independence of women
(although this is later mitigated by an acknowledged acceptance to serve
men, it still represents a revolutionary assertion) by stating: "We are
as freeborn as Men, have as free election and as free spirits; we are
compounded of like parts and may with like liberty make benefit of our
Creations."

I agree that arguing that "putting one up again" and "reminding us that
men haven't changed" is not very academic.  But the issue of male and
female relationships, within the patriarchy and the marriage, were
important at the time, which feminism scholarship seeks to identify and
explore.  What does Shakespeare express when Viola disguises herself as
a man, and how does the way Duke Orsino treat her as Cesario differ from
how he treats Olivia?, for example.

Stephanie Cotilla

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Takashi Kozuka <
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Date:           Saturday, 24 Apr 1999 14:23:38 PDT
Subject:        Re: Elizabethan Feminism

Bill Allard <
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>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.

First, I must admit that I am not an expert on feminism or feminist
criticism of Shakespeare. (My research interests are more towards new
historicism and cultural materialism.) But I believe that it must be
helpful if you read books on French feminism and postfeminism (as did I
a long time ago).

Good introductory books should be: French Feminist Thought ed. by Toril
Moi, Sexual/Texual Politics by Toril Moi, and the illustrated
Introducing Postfeminism by Sophia Phoca and Rebecca Wright (which I am
currently reading/'looking at'). You may also find the books by the
following key feminists interesting: Simone de Beavoir, Helene Cixous
(though she declarers that she is not a 'feminist'), Luce Irigaray,
Julia Kristeva, etc. A good anthology of feminist thoughts is:
Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism (revised edn)
ed. by Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Herndl.

One of the SHAKSPER readers once claimed that posting lists
(bibliographies) of books and/or articles was useless. But I do hope
that this information is helpful/useful to you (as I always find them
useful).

Best wishes,
Takashi Kozuka
PhD Student
Centre for the Study of the Renaissance
University of Warwick (UK)

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Katy Dickinson <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Apr 1999 12:06:19 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Q: Elizabethan Feminism

In response to "Is there any male Shakesperian character who has any
redeeming qualities in his relationship with women?"

There are few mature male-female relationships in Shakespeare's plays
but some which feel positively modern to me, particularly in terms of
the men having a respectful and somewhat-equal standing with the women,
are:

        Antony & Cleopatra
        Beatrice & Benedick
        Hotspur & Kate
        Portia & Brutus
        Macbeth & Lady Macbeth

Antony & Cleopatra:

Cleopatra loves to play games with Antony and that is surely part of her
"infinite variety" and attraction.  The energetic give and take in
Antony and Cleopatra Act I, scene iii shows both to be very intelligent
and strong while demonstrating that under her games is a profound love
("O! my oblivion is a very Antony, And I am all forgotten.")

Beatrice & Benedick:

Despite their verbal sparring, these two clearly enjoy each other's
company and respect each other.  She feels comfortable enough with him
to show her fury ("O God, that I were a man!  I would eat his heart in
the market-place." _Much Ado About Nothing_ Act IV, scene i) and bid
Benedick kill his best friend Claudio after Claudio wrongly shames
Hero.  Benedick respects Beatrice enough to accept and carry out her
evaluation of the situation and its solution ("Think you in your soul
the Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?...  Enough! I am engaged, I will
challenge him.")

Hotspur & Kate:

Hotspur is scornful of his wife in words ("I know you wise; but yet no
further wise than Harry Percy's wife...") but their private talk in
Henry IV, part I, Act II, scene iii is affectionate, funny, gentle
beyond any other interaction shown by Hotspur, and Kate does eventually
get what she wants (which is to spend more time with him).

Portia & Brutus:

Again, there is a fundamental respect and honor between these two noble
Romans: in Julius Caesar Act II, scene ii, Brutus says "O ye gods!
Render me worthy of this noble wife."

Macbeth & Lady Macbeth:

She is the planner and Macbeth the enactor in the relationship.  She
sets him on to murder and usurpation and encourages him beyond what even
he can accept from a woman (_Macbeth_ Act I, scene vii "Bring forth
men-children only: For thy undaunted metter should compose Nothing but
males.")  Her death wrings from him some of the greatest words of
hopeless sorrow in literature "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a
walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the
stage, And then is heard no more..." (Act V, scene vii).

Katy Dickinson  (
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Process Architect
Sun Microsystems Labs

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Heidi Webb Arnold <
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Date:           Sunday, 25 Apr 1999 13:52:11 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0729 Q: Elizabethan Feminism

Bill Allard writes,

>I am a graduate student in California and I need your input. I am
>enrolled in an Elizabethan literature class where we have just finished
>MND. Two female students gave presentations on how Hermia and Helena are
>subjected and commodified by men. A few quotes of the ladies and their
>bibliographic sources: "Patriarchal domination," "putting men one up
>again," and "reminding us that the men haven't changed." 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.

Well you might consider that Oberon seems to direct Puck to make sure
the ladies get their preferred matches in Dream, and that in that sense
Oberon, if dominating, is in a sense honoring the women's choice of
mates.  So the king of the fairies is subverting Theseus' court.  The
women in Dream are not the ones responsible for getting the matchmaking
straight, Oberon is, and that would seem to be a case of positive
patriarchal authority (which existed aplenty in the renaissance.)

Cheers,
heidi

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Dwelle <
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Date:           Sunday, 25 Apr 1999 21:30:28 -0000
Subject:        Reedeming qualities in Sxpr's men

Deborah Reed wrote:

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

Wow!

Must be a different play than I read. Isn't his final request to "speak/
Of one that loved not wisely, but too well" the ultimate statement of
the self-deluded male? Not to mention the little difficulty of his
killing her.

Ron Dwelle
 

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