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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: May ::
Re: Chooseth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0849  Wednesday, 12 May 1999.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 May 1999 16:39:05 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0841 Re: Chooseth

[2]     From:   Peter M. McCluskey <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 May 1999 11:24:32 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: Chooseth


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 May 1999 16:39:05 +0000
Subject: 10.0841 Re: Chooseth
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0841 Re: Chooseth

I'd just like to thank Anthony Burton for his reference to Rudolf
Steiner, whom I hadn't heard of before.  To suppose that generosity
might remain despite an economy of gifts seems merely to point out that
the imterpersonal might not be entirely calculating, or self-interested,
not even subconsciously.  Those who try to show that it is
self-interested are striving, I think, to abolish Martin Buber's
distinction between the "I/It" relation and the "I/Thou" relation.  When
we encounter people, we encounter them as something more than agents in
exchanges and economies.  We might love them, for instance.

Nely Keinanen writes, in the same thread:

>during the wedding sermon, the husband is reminded
>to give "honor unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel" while the wife
>is reminded to "submit" herself to her husband.

I take your point and, yes, women were usually viewed as weaker and in
need of protection.  I'd just like to point that the Homily on Matrimony
(is this the "wedding sermon" you're alluding to?) tells husbands that
they should be more patient than Socrates.  I tend to think that both
spouses are provided with counsels of perfection.  Loving one's wife
unconditionally, as Christ loves the church, is a running theme in both
the prayer book service and the homily.

>Bruce raises the very important point that ideals about marriage were
>changing in the period, but even if a marriage is based on mutual love
>and respect, this still doesn't necessarily mean that the partners
>thought of themselves as equals, and I think this has important
>ramifications for gift-giving.  Ben Schneider will know much more about
>this, but I think that Stoic ideas about gift-giving assume an exchange
>between equals, presumably men (as inferiors, women can't exchange
>"gifts" with men).  Is this true?  Can there be a "pure" gift (in either
>a Hobbesian or Montaignesque view) in a context where the giver is
>socially inferior to the receiver, either in terms of degree or gender?

This would only be an issue if the purity of the gift depended upon the
reciprocity of giver and receiver.  Hobbes would probably hold that such
reciprocity is all-important:  if I haven't been able to pay somebody
back, I'll come to resent my debt.  And gift-giving in (say) the diary
of Anne Clifford obviously has the role of solidifying social relations,
as patronage to an inferior, clientage to a superior, and alliance to an
equal.  (In fact, if memory serves me correctly, Clifford doesn't
dstinguish between pay and gifts in some portions of her diary).

But a pure gift, I would hold, doesn't anticipate reciprocation.  Rather
than being part of an economy of exchange, it offends against the very
notion of an economy, like something falling from heaven.  By the way, I
enjoyed a great deal your summary of changes in the respectful terms
with which people addressed their spouses.  It's enormously interesting,
though I don't think it impacts on whether a gift is possible between
non-equals.

I similarly found very interesting your discussion of Portia's own
status as herself a "gift", though I'd say that she still has choice in
that she can withhold assent to her being given to Bassanio (or Morocco,
or whoever).  She could, after all, go off to the marriage bed with a
grim determination to grit her teeth and think of Belmont, fulfilling
the letter of her bond to her dead father's authority.  One doesn't have
to choose one's circumstances in order to assent to them.  Portia's
giving herself is the necessary complement to her father's giving her,
if the Bassanio marriage is to be anything more than a contractual and
economic relationship.  Her love, like all love, and like Grace, is
given irregardless of the desert of its recipient.

All the best,
Se

 

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