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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Re: Women's Roles
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1719  Tuesday, 12 September 2000.

[1]     From:   Richard Burt <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Sep 2000 10:39:07 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1711 Re: Castration

[2]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Sep 2000 14:13:09 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1711 Re: Women's Roles

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Sep 2000 20:27:57 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1711 Re: Women's Roles


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Sep 2000 10:39:07 -0400
Subject: 11.1711 Re: Castration
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1711 Re: Castration

Michael Keevak has a very interesting discussion of castration in his
forthcoming book, Sexual Shakespeare.  It should be out later this year
(from Wayne State Uni Press).

Stephen Orgel also discusses the topic as it bears on particular scenes
in Sh's plays in fascinating ways in his excellent book Impersonations :
The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Sep 2000 14:13:09 -0400
Subject: 11.1711 Re: Women's Roles
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1711 Re: Women's Roles

>I seem to remember the subject of castration was raised some time ago on
>this list - I know of no evidence that it was ever practised in England
>- though it certainly was in Italy.

writes David Lindley.

It was also notably practised among the Turks, who used various
castration procedures and with whom the Tudors had some intercourse. I
have not seen Dympna Callghan's "The Castrator's Song" in Shakespeare
Without Women, so I look forward to learning more!  I take it that
Terence Hawkes speaks with authority when he tells us not to practice it
at home.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Sep 2000 20:27:57 -0400
Subject: 11.1711 Re: Women's Roles
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1711 Re: Women's Roles

Paul E. Doniger asks:

> See also _A Midsummer ND_: 5.1.44-45(Pelican Edition), "'The battle with
> the Centaurs, to be sung / By an Athenian eunich to the harp.'" But I
> doubt that the Elizabethans engaged in this practice; it was probably an
> 'exotic' idea to them. Does anyone have evidence either way?

In tracing the genealogy of the crucifixion myth, J.M. Robertson in
Christianity and Mythology (406) states that:

"The actual use of the symbolic tree...is best known in connection with
the widespread ascetic worship of the self-castrated God-man Attis, who
was specially honoured in relation to Cybele, the Virgin Mother, from
the 22nd to the 27th march, a date pointing at once to the vernal
equinox and the arrival of spring.  [which he finds in Macrobius'
Saturnalia]  ...Attis, the unsexed youth, though probably in origin a
God of Vegetation, finally represents the combination of sun-worship and
moon-worship, and the transference to the Moon-God, Deus Lunus, of the
sex attributes of the Moon-Goddess." He also quotes Julian referring to
these rites [the felling of the Sacred Tree=Cross of Attis] as including
"'the sacred and ineffable harvest of the God Gallos,' i.e., castratus."

Robertson identifies the links connecting such rites with the mythology
of the early Christians as the ongoing performance and reinterpretation
of mystery plays.

Clifford Stetner
CUNY

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