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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Gary Taylor's Tragedy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0461  Wednesday, 18 February 2004

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 14:12:04 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0448 Gary Taylor's Tragedy

[2]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 17:30:45 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0448 Gary Taylor's Tragedy

[3]     From:   Richard Burt <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 20:22:56 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0448 Gary Taylor's Tragedy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 14:12:04 -0000
Subject: 15.0448 Gary Taylor's Tragedy
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0448 Gary Taylor's Tragedy

 >Perhaps, when Taylor was
 >doing his suicide count in support of the assertion that 'Men also
 >commit suicide much more often than women do. (Witness Romeo, Cassius,
 >Brutus, Othello and Antony.)', he overlooked Juliet, Cleopatra,
 >Charmian, Portia and Ophelia.

Much though I sympathise with Kathy Dent's annoyance at Taylor claiming
Shakespearean Tragedy for men, and agree with her that women spectators
are - in my experience - every bit as involved or uninvolved as their
male counterparts, she is slightly misrepresenting Taylor at this
moment.  His actual argument is that "In every society for which we have
reliable data, men die violently much more often than women do ... Men
also commit suicide much more often than women do".  He does follow on
from this by trying to suggest that this is also true in the
Shakespearean plays, which - as Kathy Dent points out - is much less
clear-cut than he tries to make it.  His first argument, however, is
simply that in real life more men are victims of tragic violent death
than women, whether inflicted by outside agencies or by themselves.  I
don't know about his generalisation to "every society", but this is
certainly true in Britain - not that you would know it from newspaper
coverage, which seems to focus on the deaths of female teenagers, then
the deaths of female children, then the deaths of male children, then
the deaths of older women, and hardly mentions the death of adult or
adolescent males at all.  The message from the media is that "Beautiful
young girl killed in accident" or "Mother of four murdered" is news
while "Adult man beaten to death" might grudgingly be given two lines
somewhere towards the back, unless the story has a topical angle
(football hooliganism, race, police incompetence etc.).

Again, Kathy Dent is right to complain about "a four hundred year old
history of men's readings of Shakespeare" that has, until the last
century-and-a-half or so, more-or-less completely pushed aside women's
readings of the plays, but I hope that she will also realise that the
sexism of both men and women cuts in both directions.  Certain types of
male experience and need are comprehensively ignored by both men and
women within our society, and while the answer is not necessarily to
play up male victimhood and the centrality of a male viewpoint as Gary
Taylor seems to be doing, refusing to acknowledge real facts about our
society because they do not support our stereotyped expectations is bad
in either direction, whether the people it ignores are male or female.

Men are victims of violence more often than women.  Men are more likely
to be so emotionally vulnerable that they successfully kill themselves
than women.  Yet our society concentrates more heavily on defending
female victims of violence or helping women with emotional difficulties
than men, while men are more likely to pay the ultimate penalty for not
having that help.

There is nothing wrong with a new emphasis on the female viewpoint in
Literary Studies and in Society at large, after it has been neglected
for so long, but it is rather sad if we are simply shifting the focus of
discrimination from one gender to the other.  It would be better if we
could fight discrimination wherever it arises, including discrimination
against particular individuals among supposedly privileged groups.  I
certainly wouldn't advocate cutting back on the support services
available to women, but it might be nice to see more services for men
springing up, and some pressure put on society to change so that men
feel able to use them.

Having said all that, I still don't really agree with Gary Taylor's
reading of Shakespearean Tragedy.  It makes an entertaining and
controversial read, however, which I suspect was his main intention.

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"       "British Shakespeare Association"
http://shakespearean.org.uk           http://britishshakespeare.ws

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 17:30:45 -0000
Subject: 15.0448 Gary Taylor's Tragedy
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0448 Gary Taylor's Tragedy

Absolutely agree. Sorry, but I thought the article somewhat vacuous and
tendentious, and predicated on exactly the 'accessory' theory you
outline.  And he took so LONG to say not very much.

[a] If you have boys playing women, maybe you find it very tricky or not
even a challenge that would occur to you in the late 16th / early 17th
century zeitgeist to develop a female tragic vision enough?

[b] maybe men in Shakespeare are just stupider and pigger-headed than
women and do not get themsleves into these situations. AND apart from
Elizabeth - and Shak would NOT attempt this surely!? very few role model
Renaisance women of sufficient power to warrant such tragic analysis?

[c] Greeks got away with it by masking up the actors and making no
attempt to make the women much like men, merely as further / different
human beings ( I await the flak? !)

Most of this seems so blindingly self-evident, I just wonder why The
Guardian thought it important to show case it at all. Most of the
thinking in THIS newsgroup is more challenging or defining than Taylor's
article.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 20:22:56 -0500
Subject: 15.0448 Gary Taylor's Tragedy
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0448 Gary Taylor's Tragedy

To be fair to Gary, the man who brought us (a book on) castration, he is
talking about being a man who Shakespeare makes cries (like his Mom).
Shakespeare isn't enough a feminist, unlike Gary, Gary is seems to be
saying because his tragic (new age avant la lettre) heroes cry to burden
women with caring about or for them:

"That's not the way the gender gap is generally plotted. Women are
"leaky vessels", and tears are "women's weapons". When King Lear breaks
down, he attributes his unmanly loss of emotional self-control to an
attack of "the mother". Real men don't cry . . . Women are supposed to
do men's crying for them. Any woman who won't is not a woman. She's a
bitch. ."
Because Shakespeare remains a male and tragedy remains male, neither is
feminist.  Because Shakespeare's tragic heroes do cry and because they
elicit tears from men (and some women), they are both approaching being
feminist and are better than our present leaders:

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Blair and George W Bush w . .  Osama bin
Laden. . .  are all acting out, with a planet for a stage, the fictions
of Fight Club. They all belong to the first generation after feminism.
They are all trying to reassert the legitimacy and the necessity of
heroic - which means tragic - masculinity.

Sympathetic readers may see Gary as a new age sensitive guy who is
departing from more traditionally masculine (no tears) critics and want
to shed a tear for him; others may regard his feminized masculinity as
patriarchy's latest installment, the lit critic as a version of TV's Dr.
Swill aka Dr. Phil, singing "Don't cry for me, Shakespearina."

By the way, Fight Club is a great film!

R

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