The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0863 Thursday, 20 April 2000.
From: Martin Green <
Date: Wednesday, 19 Apr 2000 10:56:41 -0400
Subject: 11.0827 Is Rubinstein Reliable?
Comment: Re: SHK 11.0827 Is Rubinstein Reliable?
Yes, Frankie Rubinstein IS "reliable" (if by that word is meant that the
sexual meanings she finds in Shakespeare's words are scrupulously
documented from non-Shakespearean sources, and that the examples given
of Shakespeare's use of these words in a way which clearly invites the
imputation to them of the sexual meanings she has identified are almost
always, once she has pointed out the sexual aspect of a pun, not only
irresistible, but often remarkably illuminating, making sense of a word
or phrase which otherwise seems ill-chosen or out of place). So no,
don't trash her work, but trash rather the work of all those
commentators - - unfortunately, the great majority of those now
writing - - who do not take into account her findings and
observations. Why they ignore her, I don't know, but I suspect it is
because so many of their reputations are built upon their
incomprehensible disquisitions on the plays as revelatory of
Shakespeare's supposed political, social, religious and philosophical
notions, that they have a vested interest in Shakespeare's writings not
being infused to so remarkable an extent with references to things so
earthy as the joys and pains of sexual relationships, and the
instruments of those joys and pains.
Which makes Shakespeare more understandable and thus less mysterious,
but not therefore less profound, for sexual needs, thoughts, drives,
etc., are a major component of the lives of almost all human beings, and
insofar as sex, sexual words and sexual thoughts are immanent in
Shakespeare's writings, Shakespeare does indeed hold the mirror up to
nature. Freud employed many of the story lines in Shakespeare's
writings to illustrate his theories and observations about sexual
interactions among people; Frankie Rubinstein has demonstrated - -
absolutely convincingly, in my opinion - - that Shakespeare's very words
and phrases reflect his profound awareness of the basic substratum of
sex in the human mind, and the ever-presence, and thus driving force, of
sexual thoughts and impulses in the words we use and the things we do.
This does not mean that Shakespeare's plays are devoid of religious,
political, philosophical, etc., ideas and perhaps even messages. But it
does mean, I think, that Shakespeare sees sexual impulses and interests
as having a major impact upon our principled ideas and convictions, and
often subverting them. Sonnet 129, it should be remembered, is more
than a meditation upon sex as "before a joy proposed, behind a dreame";
it is a statement that the sexual drive - - lust - - is capable of
anything to achieve satisfaction: it is "perjurd, murdrous, blouddy
full of blame,/ Savage, extreame, rude, cruell, not to trust,/ . . .
Past reason hunted . . . . /Mad in pursut . . . . / . . . the heaven
that leads men to this hell." If there can be any criticism of Ms.
Rubinstein's work, it is not that she is unreliable, but that she is
altogether too reliable, for her acute demonstrations of the sexual
intentions and significance of so many of Shakespeare's words often has
the effect of causing people, when they realize the full implications of
what is being said, not to like what had been some of their favorite
passages. If that is a fault, it is not hers, but Shakespeare's - -
except that, as already stated, I think that Shakespeare's
venereally-infected vocabulary is not a vice, but an oblique verbal
exposition of what motivates so much of what his characters (and we) do