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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Gary Taylor's Tragedy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0482  Thursday, 19 February 2004

[1]     From:   Ros King <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Feb 2004 12:22:34 EST
        Subj:   Gary Taylor and Tragedy

[2]     From:   Kathy Dent <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Feb 2004 18:23:23 +0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0461 Gary Taylor's Tragedy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ros King <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Feb 2004 12:22:34 EST
Subject:        Gary Taylor and Tragedy

Girls, girls! I think he's trying to express his feminist credentials
while being ironic. The poor man has evidently failed miserably on both
counts - an excess of weepiness perhaps? Alternatively (and more likely)
he's now laughing at the poor reading skills and over-seriousness of
Shakespearean academics.

Yours in some exasperation since it was indeed a fatuous article,
Ros

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathy Dent <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Feb 2004 18:23:23 +0000
Subject: 15.0461 Gary Taylor's Tragedy
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0461 Gary Taylor's Tragedy

 >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 have no desire to contest Gary Taylor's statistics about violent
deaths.  What is completely spurious about his argument is the
connection that he makes between modern statistics and the world of
Shakespeare's tragic drama - my argument being that an excess of male
suicide is precisely what we DON'T find in Shakespeare.  I am interested
in Thomas Larque's use of the expression 'outside agencies'.  Does he
mean other men?  That's what the statistics show us: that violence is,
on the whole, perpetrated by men - sometimes on themselves, sometimes on
other men, sometimes on women, sometimes on children.  Shakespearean
tragedy truly reflects these statistics.

 >[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?

In view of the problems inherent in boys playing the parts of women, it
is all the more of an amazing achievement that Shakespeare created
female characters of complexity and depth and was very far from treating
them as props and accessories: is Cleopatra any less tragic than Antony?
or Juliet than Romeo?  I don't think so.

 >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."

I am interested in the picture of a new age sensitive guy like Gary
assuming a feminized masculinity by his admission that he occasionally
cries as a result of suffering from a kind of over-identification with
tragic heroes.  My real worry about his article is that he seems to
imply that it is the Shakespearean drama that constructs his emotional
response.  Taylor's tears are missing the point.  I would argue that it
is equally viable to suggest that Shakespeare invites us to cry about
the victims (not Othello, but Desdemona; not Lear, but Cordelia; not
Macbeth, not Coriolanus, not Hamlet).   There's nothing 'feminist' about
crying, just as there's nothing post-feminist about the posturing of
Blair and Bush.  Their rhetoric is just stereotypically macho (and I
don't mean male) behaviour and an unfortunate throwback to a much more
recent past than that of Shakespearen tragedy: much more like the sounds
of nineteenth century territorial conquest, founded on ideologies of
superiority and 'liberty', than the tragedy of the bedroom and the
family that preoccupies Shakespeare.  Shakespeare's great reckonings
happen in small rooms.

Kathy Dent

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