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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: August ::
The Image of Woman
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1639  Tuesday, 19 August 2003

From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Aug 2003 14:36:48 +0100
Subject:        The Image of Woman

I just happened across this passage from act 5 of The Taming of the
Shrew - a play I'm not familiar with in detail.

        Fie, fie! unknit that threatening unkind brow,
        And dart not scornful glances from those eyes,
        To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor:
        It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
        Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
        And in no sense is meet or amiable.
        A woman moved is like a fountain troubled,
        Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;
        And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
        Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
        Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
        Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
        And for thy maintenance commits his body
        To painful labour both by sea and land,
        To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
        Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
        And craves no other tribute at thy hands
        But love, fair looks and true obedience;
        Too little payment for so great a debt.
        Such duty as the subject owes the prince
        Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
        And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
        And not obedient to his honest will,
        What is she but a foul contending rebel
        And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
        I am ashamed that women are so simple
        To offer war where they should kneel for peace;
        Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway,
        When they are bound to serve, love and obey.

We cannot prove that it is Shakespeare's voice (it is Katharina's) but
it is seriously spoken by a serious character.  Does this resonate in
2003?  What do the women on this list make of it?  Is the speech purely
ironic in context?  Does it reflect a conservative mind already seeing
the green buds of a new social woman?  Is 2003 all about the current
similar economic performance of men and women?  If Shakespeare is so
universal where does this passage fit in?  Could a modern author write
such sincere material and get away with it?

SAM SMALL

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