Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Cressida
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0320  Friday, 9 February 2001

[1]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 20:39:45 -0800
        Subj:   Fw: SHK 12.0306 Re: Cressida

[2]     From:   David Evett <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 23:58:38 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0306 Re: Cressida

[3]     From:   David Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 9 Feb 2001 08:34:53 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0306 Re: Cressida


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 20:39:45 -0800
Subject: 12.0306 Re: Cressida
Comment:        Fw: SHK 12.0306 Re: Cressida

Hardy M. Cook wrote:

>I am very sympathetic to the argument that Cressida's treatment in the
>play clearly demonstrates the commodification of women. Nevertheless,
>Shakespeare was also clearly familiar with the tradition of what happens
>to Cressida after the events recounted in the play as told in
>Henrysone's THE TESTAMENT OF CRESSEID:
>
><Clo.> The matter, I hope, is not great, sir -- begging
>but a beggar: Cressida was a beggar.
>         (TN 3.1.54-55)
>
>No, to the spittle go,
>And from the powd'ring-tub of infamy
>Fetch forth the lazar kite of Cressid's kind,
>Doll Tearsheet she by name, and her espouse.
>         (H5 2.174-77)

All this is true enough, but Shakespeare might also have noted
Henryson's sympathetic touch at Cresseid's magnanimous gestures before
her death:

"My Cop and Clapper and Myne Ornament
 And all my gold the Lipper folk sall have:
 Quhen I am deid, to burie me in grave" (Testament 580-82).

She follows this with a poignant return of her "dowrie" to Troilus just
before she expires.

Paul E. Doniger

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 23:58:38 -0500
Subject: 12.0306 Re: Cressida
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0306 Re: Cressida

Consideration of Cressida's status might start with Diomedes' diatribe
against Helen to Paris:

    He, like a puling cuckold, would drink up
    The lees and dregs of a flat tamed piece;
    You, like a lecher, out of whorish loins
    Are  pleas'd to breed out your inheritors.
    Both merits pois'd, each weighs nor less nor more,
    But he as thee, each heavier for a whore.

The situations are similar  (Diomedes stands condemned out of his own
mouth for emulating Paris), and the language supports Kahn's argument-I
assume she cites it in the article.

But the situations are also different: Cressida, distinctly young and
inexperienced (Shakespeare's suppression of her widowhood in adapting
the story from Chaucer is important, here), has been thrown without
notice among an army of lusty Greeks, all long separated from their
womenfolk, who assail her sexually on her first arrival in their
camp-five of them kiss her, one after another, without asking her leave
(4.5.18-34)-and I know from directing the play on the stage that it's
quite possible to play the scene so that she's bruised and frightened.
When Menelaus the unassertive cuckold tries to take his turn she is able
to rally a little.  But she is young, inexperienced, and essentially
alone-there is no other woman in the camp, while the man who ought to
look after her, her father, not only declines to act as her guide and
protector but seems from the text to be as much a pander as Pandarus:

    DIOMEDES: . . . Calchas, I think?  Where's your daughter?
    CHALCAS.  She comes to you.  (5.2.3-4)

And the lover who swore he would bribe Greek guards to come to her
skulks voyeuristically in the shadows rather than challenging his rival
man to man: it is quite possible to play 5.2 so that Cressida bandies
words with Diomedes, looking longingly off into the darkness, playing
for time, hoping Troilus will come-and is disappointed.  Her options
might well seem to be either to become the enforced sexual toy of the
whole Greek camp, or to choose one (who has overtly admired her from his
first glimpse) as her lover and protector.

On the other hand, she's no Marina; Ulysses' comments on her flirtatious
behavior (4.5.54-64) are hard to discount.  Indeed, there's a perverse
part of me that's inclined to read her earlier complaint to
Troilus-"Prithee, tarry. / You men will never tarry" (4.2.15-16) as
meaning that like a lot of men he has taken his swift pleasure but not
given her hers in return, arousing an urgent interest that she hopes
Diomedes-notable for his risings-can assuage.

Bemusedly,

Dave Evett

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 9 Feb 2001 08:34:53 -0000
Subject: 12.0306 Re: Cressida
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0306 Re: Cressida

On the question of social perception Laura Gowing's book Domestic
Dangers, 1996, is extremely interesting and valuable.  She charts the
ways in which terms of sexual abuse were used in legal contexts in the
period, and, especially, in a long section on 'the language of insult',
charts the way in which 'sexual insult both reflected and constructed a
set of specific understandings of the different consequences,
implications, and significance of sex and honour for women and for
men.'  And she demonstrates that 'whore' was by far the commonest insult
which provoked women to bring cases of slander in London in the period
1572-1640.  I recommend the book strongly to those who wish to explore
the construction of sexuality in the period, rather than attempting to
judge Cressida's 'whoredom' according to modern understandings of the
term.

David Lindley
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.