Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: October ::
Re: Fops
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1896  Monday, 9 October 2000.

[1]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 06 Oct 2000 10:47:36 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1888 Re: Fops

[2]     From:   Tony Burton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 6 Oct 2000 12:44:42 -0400
        Subj:   Fops

[3]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 6 Oct 2000 13:30:25 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 11.1888 Re: Fops


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 06 Oct 2000 10:47:36 -0400
Subject: 11.1888 Re: Fops
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1888 Re: Fops

Don Bloom writes:

>But two other questions immediately arise: the relationship of this
>effeminacy to homosexuality and to gender stereotyping. Now it may be
>that the comic quality of the fop derives from anti-homosexual
>attitudes, but I suspect not. I think it comes from the general
>absurdity commonly found in anyone who violates public expectations (in
>a non-threatening way). Men who have feminine mannerisms appear silly
>and thus become appropriate objects of contemptuous humor - as is the
>invariable case in Restoration comedy as well as these two instances in
>Shakespeare. What they do in bed and with whom does not, it seems to me,
>have anything to do with this case.

Perhaps part of our problem is that we tend to confuse literary
characters with real people.  Literary characters are merely words on
paper (or on the computer screen), and they don't have basic sexual
drives.

But we pretend that they do.  So I can make believe that fops like Sir
Amorous La Foole are gay, and Don can make believe that they are not.
The only thing I'm sure of is that Sir Amorous does not go to bed with
men or boys or girls or women!  He's only words on a page -- until an
actor interprets those words in one way or another.

Yours,
Bill Godshalk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 6 Oct 2000 12:44:42 -0400
Subject:        Fops

I am reluctant to use this site as a ping pong table for endless
corrections and refinements of what was once stated loosely and
conversationally, but in the interest of clarification, let me add to my
last post.   A key point of my 1984 Shakespeare Bulletin article about
Osric was that the "lapwing" reference implied something very different
from foppery or dandification, an implication that Don Bloom (and
probably others, too) seems to take for granted.  Hamlet, already known
to us as "the glass of fashion and the mould of form" is an unlikely
candidate for contrasting in any significant way with a courtier
preoccupied with details of his attire;  that sort of opposition makes
better sense with  non-nonsense martial types like Macbeth, Coriolanus,
or Brutus.

But as early as Chaucer, the lapwing was an emblem of deceit, from its
practice of protecting its nest, eggs, and chicks from predators by
feigning a broken wing and fluttering in apparent helplessness to
distract and draw the predator farther and farther from its nest until,
satisfied that the danger was averted, it could fly away safely.  The
presumed plume of feathers suggested by the name Osric [Ostrich; compare
F1 Osricke] and the by-play about his hat corresponds to the lapwing's
distinguishing feature, a prominent crest; and is therefore symbolic
more of the central lapwing association with deceit than with millinery
styles.  Jenkins's (Arden) note on "waterfly" in connection with
extravagant attire takes the word to signify principally a "trifler" or
someone insignificant and superficial, and only by extension puffed-up
with insubstantial matter and therefore suggestive of either braggadocio
or fanciful attire. I think we might possibly add also "short-lived" or
"seasonal," with respect to any favorites in Claudius's recently
established court.

Osric's jargon is Latinate rather than Frenchified, that being a
familiar affectation for Elizabethans.  Surely there is plenty of room
for cross-over associations between Osric and bona fide fops and
dandies,  but it obscures the entire last scene and Osric's central role
in it, to think of him as primarily a figure of sexual satire.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 6 Oct 2000 13:30:25 -0400
Subject: Re: Fops
Comment:        SHK 11.1888 Re: Fops

The work of Bruce R. Smith makes the case that effeminacy and
homosexuality were not equated in the early modern period. Quite the
reverse. Effeminacy was thought to result from a man taking too great a
sexual interest in women. The association of homosexual activity with
effeminacy seems not to occur until the 18th century. See Bruce R. Smith
'Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England' (University of Chicago
Press, 1991) p. 171 et passim.

T. Hawkes
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.