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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: January ::
Purses
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0149  Wednesday, 21 January 2004

[1]     From:   David Cohen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Jan 2004 13:55:57 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0141 Purses

[2]     From:   Lauri Perkins <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Jan 2004 17:35:32 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0141 Purses


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Cohen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 20 Jan 2004 13:55:57 -0600
Subject: 15.0141 Purses
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0141 Purses

 >I think the purse-identity analogy is very interesting, though, as David
 >Cohen points out, not a simple formula.  In the case of Othello,
 >however, we can't forget that Iago's use of the purse-image is almost
 >invariably sexual as well as financial. He's goading Othello and
 >Roderigo into anxiety over their virility with all the talk of
 >purses/male genitalia that need augmenting or protecting.  "Put money in
 >thy purse" is an obvious exhortation to Roderigo to get some cojones and
 >make another attempt at Desdemona.  Iago's the one that mocks Cassio's
 >high-minded lament over his "reputation" as overly abstract, and then
 >translates it (for Othello's benefit) into a purse-related metaphor.
 >Iago, as a vice figure, always speaks contrarily, so when he admonishes
 >Othello that a purse (sexual ownership of one's wife) is only "trash"
 >(compared to one's good name) he's really manipulating him into thinking
 >it's the most valuable thing he has, and the worst possible thing to
 >have stolen from him.  Of course, at the end of the play, Othello does,
 >in a sense, regain his virility (Desdemona is proved to be chaste after
 >all, and he still manages to penetrate himself in the Roman style,
 >mastering his own destiny through suicide), while what he loses is his
 >name ("that's he that was Othello").  There's Shylock, too, whose
 >ducats, daughter, and stones are all conflated (Solario and Solanio joke
 >about it explicitly).  Allen Dessen mentions Bartholomew Fair as another
 >example, and the reading of Cokes' loss of his purse as a sign of sexual
 >incompetence is a very common one -- in fact, Jonson uses the
 >gold/virility metaphor more frequently than Shakespeare.  Sir Andrew
 >Aguecheek, too, becomes more impotent as Sir Toby drains his purse
 >(although I don't think the term is foregrounded in Twelfth Night).
 >Surely someone in gender studies has elaborated on this topic?
 >
 >Kris McDermott

Could we not say, Occam-wise, that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar?

David Cohen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lauri Perkins <
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Date:           Tuesday, 20 Jan 2004 17:35:32 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.0141 Purses
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0141 Purses

To Kris McDermott, regarding purses,

An interesting thread, but what about Desdemona's reference to her
purse?  When she's searching for the handkerchief, she says she had
rather lose her purse full of crusados than misplace her husband's gift.
  (Forgive me for not quoting perfectly.)

If the purse is a symbol of identity... how does that put a new spin on
Feste's role in Twelfth Night.  As he begs (or earns) coins from each
character, in a way the exchange of coins is acknowledging Feste's wit
and also admitting defeat, but he also forces the characters to open
their purses and expose parts of their identity that they hide from
others in the play.  (well, in the case of Olivia, he points to her
weakness and she opens her house rather than her purse.)

Incidentally, how was the purse usually worn or carried in Renaissance
attire?  Just curious.

Cheers, Lauri

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