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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: October ::
Re: Holinshed Anecdote
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1925  Thursday, 12 October 2000.

[1]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Oct 2000 13:55:48 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 11.1910 Re: Holinshed Anecdote

[2]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Oct 2000 05:12:30 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1910 Re: Holinshed Anecdote


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Oct 2000 13:55:48 -0400
Subject: Re: Holinshed Anecdote
Comment:        SHK 11.1910 Re: Holinshed Anecdote

Sean Lawrence tells us that, in the matter of castration, he

'would tend to think that the fact that no one would talk about it might
indicate that it was more likely to be true.'

Think again. Some careful symbolic structuring is obviously at work in
Holinshed's acount of the Welsh women's surgical procedures. A
systematic routine of 'reversal' operates, whereby orifices are
methodically stuffed with members from opposite regions of the body. The
head receives the penis; the 'taile' receives the nose. By this token,
men find themselves turned upside-down and inside-out by agents of a
fundamental disorder, women, just as England finds itself threatened
with subversion by its foreign 'other', Wales. This, surely, is the
wholesale reversal hinted at by the play's reference to the event as a
'beastly shameless transformation'. If we wanted a locus classicus we
would need to look no further than the story of the enchantress Circe.
But we might also take into account the fact that this is a play in
which a non-English British language powerfully and scandalously erupts
onto the stage as one of the Circe-like charms of another female Welsh
emasculator: Glendower's daughter. Her effective unmanning of the
'down-trod' Mortimer, a serious pretender to the English throne,
'proclaimd/ By Richard that dead is, the next of blood', repeats the
pattern. In other words, the play deliberately and recurrently unleashes
that most disturbing of spectres: a  militant feminine and feminizing
force, with a bloody knife in its hand, an incomprehensible tongue in
its head, and with English manhood, the English language, and (on both
counts) English reality in its sights.  The claim of English -then as
now- to be the transparent, fully referential transmitter of a
new-minted Britishness is nowhere more disturbingly sifted.

Terence Hawkes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 11 Oct 2000 05:12:30 EDT
Subject: 11.1910 Re: Holinshed Anecdote
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1910 Re: Holinshed Anecdote

Thomas Pynchon (in "V" I think) attributes the warning practise of
cutting off the balls of the (hopefully dead) enemy and having them sewn
into the corpses' mouths as one developed by early mafiosi supporters of
Mussolini in 1930's Italy. I always wondered whether his version was
truth or idea. Tis an interesting form of Myth. Certainly the Kipling
anecdote is based on reports from the Afhganistan conflict of his day.
 

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