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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: October ::
Theseus's Private Schooling
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0613  Saturday, 25 October 2008

[1] From:   Arnie Perlstein <
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     Date:   Thursday, 16 Oct 2008 18:04:55 -0400
     Subt:   Theseus's Private Schooling

[2] From:   Suzanne Westfall <
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     Date:   Sunday, 19 Oct 2008 08:57:44 -0400
     Subt:   Re: SHK 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Arnie Perlstein <
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Date:       Thursday, 16 Oct 2008 18:04:55 -0400
Subject:    Theseus's Private Schooling

Thank you three gentlemen for your very interesting answers. It's fascinating to 
read such well-argued claims for two ostensibly opposite interpretations. But I 
think they are not automatically opposite, but instead can be seen as 
complementary, i.e., a third claim could consist of a combination of the other 
two. We can see Theseus hedging his bets, as a canny politician, giving himself 
two bites at the apple. He simultaneously puts public pressure on Lysander and 
Hermia, but also twists Aegeus's and Demetrius's arms in a private, politically 
savvy way that allows Aegeus to save face.

I think this also ties in very nicely with another idea, i.e., that Oberon and 
Theseus are alter egos (which is famously reflected in the frequent casting of 
one actor to play both Theseus and Oberon). I see, on a metaphorical level, a 
kind of "chain of command" where Theseus wants something to happen, his "monster 
of the id", Oberon, picks it up on his "antennae" and then acts on Theseus's 
wish, and then Oberon gives an explicit command to Puck to carry out that wish. 
Like parallel universes.

Theseus has two problems -- what to do about Hermia and Demetrius, and keeping 
Hippolyta in line. And look at what Oberon orders Puck to do.

First Puck is instructed to cause Demetrius to reciprocate Helena's love (the 
fairyland analog to that "private schooling"). But, tellingly, Puck initially 
follows Neil's solution, by changing Lysander's feelings. Of course, it does not 
take Oberon long to correct that error. So we see both of Theseus's plans for 
resolution in action.

Second, Puck is instructed to take Titania down a peg or two, and this is what 
Puck carries out faithfully. How that relates to Hippolyta's subsequent behavior 
is something someone else may want to take a stab at.

Those familiar with the movie Fantastic Planet will have noticed my usage of 
"monsters of the id", and I think it's very interesting for this thread that the 
movie was based on The Tempest. The parallel between the Oberon:Puck dyad with 
the Prospero:Ariel dyad is obvious, and I think it also points to the kind of 
analysis I have attempted in this message.

Arnie

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Suzanne Westfall <
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Date:       Sunday, 19 Oct 2008 08:57:44 -0400
Subject: 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0595 Theseus's Private Schooling

In regard to Theseus' "private schooling": both Theseus and Egeus have to get 
offstage and change, since both are doubling. Theseus has to dress for Oberon, 
which might take a bit of time. That's the actor's answer.

This reminds me of one of my favorite moments of theatrical text /dramatic text 
discord. A roomful of academics were contemplating how three murderers could 
kill Banquo, one of the finest soldiers in the land. Some suggested he was 
distracted by defending his son. Some went with the "Macbeth is the third 
murderer" theory. Others mused long and hard about the effects of the 
supernatural on the play. When asked about his theory, the actor playing the 
murderer replied, "we have to get the torch out, kill him, and get the body 
offstage, and we've got 15 seconds."

'nuff said!

And "heroes?" I nominate Hardy for tilting at the SPAM windmills, and coming to 
class even though we haven't got our papers. I'd call both actions selflessly 
heroic!

Cheers,
Suzanne

[Editor's Note: Thank you, Suzanne. How kind. Welcome and appreciated words, 
these are. Yoda]

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