The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1844 Friday, 29 September 2000.
Date: Friday, 29 Sep 2000 12:49:15 +1000
Subject: 11.1834 Re: The Power of Words
Comment: Re: SHK 11.1834 Re: The Power of Words
>The fop is laughed at not because he is trying to be something
>in itself contemptible, but rather because he is trying unsuccessfully
>to be something which, if he succeeded, would make him the play's hero.
This is a wonderfully insightful comment of Salgado's; but doesn't it
bring the matter round ALMOST full circle to the question of sexuality?
Sparkish is not Horner (Country Wife) because he doesn't have Horner's
bullish virility. If he did, he'd be as sexually irresistible as
Horner, even with his superficial fopperies - as Horner himself 'proves'
by adopting all the foppish mannerisms (including a lack of interest in
women), while still communicating his intentions and capacities to the
willing wives. In other words, fops are REALLY being ridiculed for their
(assumed) lack of virility, not for their flamboyant manners, even when
it appears otherwise. Which is not the same as ridiculing them for
being gay or effeminate - or at least it wouldn't be the same for us,
but in fact I suspect that at any time prior to the mid-20th century,
homosexuality WAS equated with lack of virility in the popular (and
probably also the medical) mind.
I don't know how much this applies to Osric, who comes very early in the
history of foppery (perhaps preceded only by the Earl of Oxford, as
described by Gabriel Harvey in his Anti-Cicernianus). There was a 1960s
production of Hamlet - it might have been the Nicol Williamson one, I'm
not sure - in which Osric was played as a kind of 'memento mori'
character, almost as Death itself, glaring balefully at Hamlet in a very
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1842 Friday, 29 September 2000.
Date: Thursday, 28 Sep 2000 23:13:54 +0000
Subject: Use of Dialect
Terence Hawkes chides me for suggesting that Glendower may show great
restraint when Hotspur refers to Glendower's native language. Terry
seems to think that such an inference is unsupportable because it deals
with "the inner life" of a character and what s/he does NOT say.
Consider the following:
Mortimer: Shall I tell you [Hotspur], cousin?
He [Glendower] holds your temper in a high respect
And curbs himself even of his natural scope
When you come cross his humor. Faith, he does.
Apparently I am not the only one concerned about Glendower's "inner
life." What characters are thinking when they DON'T speak is often
vitally important to the play and to any full interpretation of it. What
is going through Isabella mind as the end of Act 5 in MM unfolds? What
is Hamlet's real reason for visiting his mother in her bedroom? And on
Terry's brand of cultural materialist fundamentalism ("Characters don't
think"!) limits literary interpretation in much the same way as
religious fundamentalists try to restrict interpretation of the Bible.
Besides, while he is free to subscribe to whatever definition of art
suits him, his views clearly clash with what Renaissance artists
believed they were doing: holding a mirror up to nature. Just as we
often wonder about and try to figure out what someone else is thinking,
we also wonder about and try to figure out what a character in a play is
thinking or feeling. And, as in the example above, Shakespeare often
gives us some help in this endeavor.
People show restraint in life and characters can show it in art. I
thank Terry for his efforts to improve my style. We can all learn from