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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: October ::
Theseus's Private Schooling
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0603  Thursday, 16 October 2008

[1] From:   William Babula <
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     Date:   Tuesday, 14 Oct 2008 13:41:44 -0700
     Subt:   Re: SHK 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling

[2] From:   Cornelius Novelli <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 15 Oct 2008 00:51:18 -0400
     Subt:   Re: SHK 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling

[3] From:   Donald Bloom <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 15 Oct 2008 11:55:53 -0500
     Subt:   RE: SHK 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       William Babula <
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Date:       Tuesday, 14 Oct 2008 13:41:44 -0700
Subject: 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling

Foreshadowing his position at the end of the play, Theseus may in fact in 
private be scolding Demetrius and Egeus for their forcing an unwanted husband on 
Hermia.

William Babula

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Cornelius Novelli <
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Date:       Wednesday, 15 Oct 2008 00:51:18 -0400
Subject: 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling

I am pretty sure of Theseus' motivation in ordering Demetrius and Egeus to go 
with him. At first, Theseus tries various tactics to persuade Hermia, and none 
of them work. Nor does Lysander show any signs of backing away. Unless Hermia 
relents, Theseus will have the unpleasant job of pronouncing sentence on her, 
and on his wedding day at that.

Amid the growing turmoil, Theseus figures that if he leaves the two alone, 
they'll sort it out.

After all, what kind of cad would press his love claims if they mean his beloved 
will die (or "live a barren sister ")?

Theseus, I imagine, envisions Lysander, alone with Hermia, saying that he will 
always love her, but that he cannot bear for her to die, etc. And Hermia in turn 
will make protestations but, amid tears, finally accede. [Interesting 
conjectural scene to ask students to write dialogue for.] And the two lovers 
will have erased the problem themselves.

So Theseus has to get everybody else out of the way, especially Demetrius and 
Egeus. They don't go willingly -- they both have really strong motivations to 
stay where Hermia is -- but Theseus has given them a specific command (albeit 
one which carries plenty of ego-stroking). As to the "private schooling," the 
"business," and the conferring, Theseus may not have anything specific in mind 
at that very moment; but a ruler as powerful as Theseus usually has missions and 
perquisites to pass out.

Actually, I have never felt at all curious about what Theseus might say to them. 
The emphasis is on his getting them out of there, Demetrius no doubt torn, 
looking back to see what Hermia and Lysander are up to; it's as if Theseus has 
thrown a big lasso around the two men and is dragging them off.

Throughout the play, it's worth noting, Theseus is supremely confident of his 
powers, but Shakespeare has him stumble -- glaringly -- a few times. Theseus is 
confident from the start, I think, that Lysander and Hermia will renounce their 
love. That is one reason, perhaps, that he sets Hermia's deadline for his 
wedding day; her announcement will add to the general celebration. What he 
doesn't foresee is that the two will run away. Another example -- in 5.1, he 
grandly dismisses the lovers' stories as sheer fantasies, lumping lovers with 
madmen and poets. Hippolyta, on the other hand, reasonably points out that they 
all tell the same story, and something unusual must have happened.

Demetrius doesn't need anything apart from his own passion for Hermia to head 
into the forest. Rational? Maybe not, but as Bottom points out, "reason and love 
keep little company together nowadays."  - Neil Novelli

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Donald Bloom <
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Date:       Wednesday, 15 Oct 2008 11:55:53 -0500
Subject: 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling
Comment:    RE: SHK 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling

Arnie Perlstein wonders, in regard to Theseus' promised "schooling" of Egeus and 
Demetrius, and the latter's reappearance trailing Hermia and Lysander through 
the forest, whether "Theseus encouraged Demetrius to jump the gun and go grab 
Hermia, or was Demetrius acting on his own, based only on Helena's lead?"

If I were doing Theseus, I would have him seriously annoyed (even to the point 
of a barely controlled fury) with both Egeus and Demetrius, and thus the 
threatened schooling would be very much of the sort that a schoolteacher of the 
time would have meted out to a bad schoolboy (verbally, of course,  in their cases).

They have put him in a serious bind. The law is on Egeus's side, but Egeus is an 
old fool and Demetrius is a young rat. Hermia, by contrast, is a sweet girl 
who's clearly in love and Lysander a decent young gentleman, ditto. Egeus could 
easily say to her (without going all modern), "My girl, you will marry no one if 
not Demetrius. If you try to elope with Lysander, I will have you brought back 
by force, the marriage annulled and Lysander jailed." He could then wait until 
her patience wore down. But he seems actually to want the sadistic gratification 
of seeing her executed for refusal. Blech.

Beyond that, they have clearly embarrassed Theseus in front of his bride-to-be. 
If he goes along with Egeus he'll seem heartless and unwilling to defend the 
good. If he over-rules Egeus, he'll seem arbitrary and flighty and contemptuous 
of the very laws that made him king. I'd have some serious "schooling" for the 
two of them, I can tell you.

I don't think Demetrius's appearance on the trail of Hermia and Lysander has 
anything more behind it than his determination to possess (literally) the lovely 
maiden, made possible by Helena's disgusting (and stupid) treachery.

Cheers,
don

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