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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: October ::
Re: Eunuchs and Castrati
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1753  Monday, 18 October 1999.

[1]     From:   Martine van Elk <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Oct 1999 10:47:10 +0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1743 Q: Eunuchs and Castrati

[2]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Oct 1999 10:02:09 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1745 Re: Eunuchs and Castrati

[3]     From:   Dana Shilling <
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        Date:   Saturday, 16 Oct 1999 20:37:19 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1745 Re: Eunuchs and Castrati


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martine van Elk <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Oct 1999 10:47:10 +0600
Subject: 10.1743 Q: Eunuchs and Castrati
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1743 Q: Eunuchs and Castrati

With reference to Yvonne Bruce's questions and specifically to Twelfth
Night: it may be obvious to everyone, but I thought I'd point out that
the line in the play is there perhaps not so much to establish
connections with actual historical eunuchs, as a reference to Terence's
The Eunuch. The scene complexly and delicately reverses the situation in
that play, which features a young citizen entering an all-female
household and brothel disguised as a eunuch, in order to rape a virgin.

Yvonne, you might want to check out Keir Elam's interesting essay, "The
Fertile Eunuch: Twelfth Night, Early Modern Intercourse, and the Fruits
of Castration," which traces the figure from Terence through Italian
comedy to Shakespeare. It's in Shakespeare Quarterly 47.1 (1996).

Best,
Martine van Elk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Oct 1999 10:02:09 -0500
Subject: 10.1745 Re: Eunuchs and Castrati
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1745 Re: Eunuchs and Castrati

See also Kingsley Amis's novel The Alteration, in which, in addition to
the chop, the Reformation never happened (as I remember many years after
reading it).

Frank Whigham

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <
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Date:           Saturday, 16 Oct 1999 20:37:19 -0400
Subject: 10.1745 Re: Eunuchs and Castrati
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1745 Re: Eunuchs and Castrati

It should be noted that once Viola says that she will list "eunuch" on
her resume "because she can sing," it is never referred to again, and
Feste has to sing "O Mistress Mine" (what is he doing chez Orsino
anyway?).  Furthermore, Olivia thinks of Cesario as an eminently virile
male, and Viola never says, "Too bad, lady, I'm a eunuch." Orsino
considers Cesario a suitable recipient of a man-to-man talk, and teases
"him" about his unmanly physique-which would be pretty tasteless if he
thought he was talking to a castrato.

Dana (Shilling)
 

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