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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: June ::
Representing Incest in Genealogy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1186  Thursday, 3 June 2004

[1]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Jun 2004 14:14:16 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1174 Representing Incest in Genealogy

[2]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Jun 2004 15:06:29 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1174 Representing Incest in Genealogy

[3]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Jun 2004 23:17:52 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 15.1174 Representing Incest in Genealogy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Jun 2004 14:14:16 +0100
Subject: 15.1174 Representing Incest in Genealogy
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1174 Representing Incest in Genealogy

Larry Weiss writes:

 >Isn't there an Old Testament tale about two sisters who seduce their
 >father into a three-way?  As I recall, it was considered admirable for
 >some reason.

That was Lot and his daughters:

"After leaving Zoar, Lot settled in the hill country with his two
daughters, for he dared not stay at Zoar.  He lived in a cave, he and
his two daughters.

The elder said to the younger, 'Our father is an old man, and there is
no one here to marry us in the normal way of the world.  Come on, let us
ply our father with wine and sleep with him.  In this way we can
preserve the race by our father.'  That night they made their father
drunk, and the elder slept with her father though he was unaware of her
coming to bed or of her leaving.  The next day the elder said to the
younger, 'Last night, I was the one who slept with our father.  Let us
make him drunk again tonight, and you go and sleep with him.  In this
way we can preserve the race by our father.' They made their father
drunk that night too, and the younger went and slept with him, though he
was unaware of her coming to bed or of her leaving.  Both Lot's
daughters thus became pregnant by their father."

The babies (male of course) go on to become the ancestors of the
Moabites and Ammonites.  While there is no criticism of Lot or his
daughters (the girls' motive clearly is to perpetuate the race) it's
interesting how it's the girls who plan the incest and the old man is
entirely blameless.  The Middle East doesn't seem to have changed much.

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Jun 2004 15:06:29 +0100
Subject: 15.1174 Representing Incest in Genealogy
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1174 Representing Incest in Genealogy

 >As a reminder of the relevance of this topic to WS, it has been my
 >feeling that many people have either not understood or not taken
 >seriously enough the incest question with regard to Henry VIII-Katherine
 >and Claudius-Gertrude. If you allow Hamlet the same disgust to the
 >romance of his mother with her brother-in-law as one with her brother,
 >his early attitude seems quite logical and very much to be expected.

Apart from the marriage to a brother's widow, I don't think the
Henry-Katherine and Claudius-Gertrude situations are particularly
comparable.

Katherine's marriage to Henry's older brother Arthur was (at least
officially) not consummated when the consumptive Arthur died.  At his
death Katherine was a pretty 16 year old widow.  When Henry came to the
throne he showed no disgust at all in marrying his brother's widow.  A
papal dispensation was needed but this was a formality only.  There was
no condemnation from bishops (or proto-Puritans) of Henry and
Katherine's marriage, and the court and country were relieved when the
dispensation was given.  The disgust, and the claims of incest, only
came later, after the poor woman failed to give birth to a son.

Peter Bridgman

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Jun 2004 23:17:52 +0100
Subject: Representing Incest in Genealogy
Comment:        SHK 15.1174 Representing Incest in Genealogy

"Yes, the rulers of Egypt seem to have practiced institutional incest
because they were gods and could only mate with other gods. But that
hardly constitutes a major exception. I have only limited knowledge of
this, but my impression is that incest was as tabooed in ancient Egypt
as everywhere else . . . for everyone except the god-kings."

Makes sense - otherwise we'd expect that the culture that produced
Wagner's Ring to be tolerant of incest, too.

m

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