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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Re: Shakespeare and Sex
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0605  Friday, 1 March 2002

[1]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Feb 2002 12:11:30 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0594 Re: Shakespeare and Sex

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Feb 2002 17:50:26 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0594 Re: Shakespeare and Sex

[3]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Feb 2002 13:31:42 -0500
        Subj:   Shakespeare and Sex


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Feb 2002 12:11:30 -0500
Subject: 13.0594 Re: Shakespeare and Sex
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0594 Re: Shakespeare and Sex

Brandon Toropov writes, among other things, that Shakespeare

>. . . might conclude we had forgotten that his theatrical creations were
>bound by the laws of the theatre, rather than the laws of logic. He
>might even suspect that we didn't fully understand that he wrote the
>plays in order to make a living by entertaining people -- not to provide

>"biographies" with definitive narratives that we could analyze in the
>abstract.

(a) What are the laws of the theatre? Has anyone codified them? Do they
limit creative response to the script?

(b) Yesterday one of my acting students told me that it might be
interesting to play Iago as if he had been the victim of child abuse.
Obviously my student was providing Iago with part of a biography, and he
and I discussed how an actor might use this biographical supposition
onstage.

Were we wrong to entertain this supposition? Were we violating any
theatrical laws in doing so?

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Feb 2002 17:50:26 -0000
Subject: 13.0594 Re: Shakespeare and Sex
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0594 Re: Shakespeare and Sex

Bill Arnold quotes me but then forgets the context of my words, so I'll
quote his entire post if you don't mind:

[ Martin Steward writes, "Sam Small rightly chides me for preferring one
adultery over several. I guess I just wanted to humanize poor old Will,
rather than offering 'quaint justification'.  More substantially, Sam
writes of the "second best bed": "the bed in question was not a
referring to Shakespeare's preference for his mistress over his wife but
that the bed was a certain piece of furniture, rather like a best guest
bed, put in a certain room." I have read, I forget where, that the
adjective "best" was a misreading of the text of Shakespeare's will, and
he actually wrote "brown." Anyone know?  Has anyone looked at the
_actual_ will, and have any Shakespearean scholars made their
determinations?  If so, it would seem to defuse a lot of the negative
interpretation about Shakespeare's morality, agreed? ]

Point 1: My post was meant to suggest that Shakespeare's "second best
bed" reference actually implied that he was a loving husband who enjoyed
a private romantic joke with his wife. Nothing "negative" about that. As
far as I'm aware this is the general opinion concerning this reference.
Wives would have received a statutory inheritance when their husbands
died, so there was no need for WS to make specific arrangements in his
(apparently stock) will.

Point 2: What the hell is "second brown bed" supposed to mean?

m

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Feb 2002 13:31:42 -0500
Subject:        Shakespeare and Sex

David Bishop writes,

"My point is that Shakespeare makes Hamlet a character who changes --who
grows--in a good way, toward greater maturity, which includes a greater
tolerance for human frailty, including his own. For him to change,
Shakespeare has to show him beginning in a place different from where he
ends. One marker of the change is the anti-lust, anti-sex, anti-second
marriage hysteria which Hamlet shows and which is then reinforced by the
ghost."

This is an interesting idea, and very well expressed. I don't think I
agree, but if David is right, two inferences seem to follow: (1) In
part, as the references to Martin Luther stress, the play is about
contemporary religious conflicts.  Does Hamlet "move" in the course of
the play from Catholicism to Protestantism?  from Puritanism to a more
relaxed "Church of England" view? (2) Why is the Ghost such an
extremist?  He's been personally hurt and so reacts excessively? He's
part of the older "Catholic" view?  He's from Purgatory and has yet to
be "refined" out of all of his former extreme views?  He's from Hell and
wants to "rev" young Hamlet up?

That's enough! But David's views suggest a Hamlet that has to be read
like an allegory, with eleven different levels of meaning. It may well
be so.

--Ed Taft

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