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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: October ::
Women, Passion, and Lack of Self-Control
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0514  Thursday, 15 October 2009

[1] From:   Michele Marrapodi <
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     Date:   Thursday, 15 Oct 2009 08:39:21 +0100
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0508 Women, Passion, and Lack of Self-Control

[2] From:   Claire Bowditch <
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     Date:   Thursday, 15 Oct 2009 09:38:56 +0100
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0508 Women, Passion, and Lack of Self-Control

[3] From:   Maurizio Calbi <
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     Date:   Thursday, 15 Oct 2009 12:45:03 +0200
     Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0508 Women, Passion, and Lack of Self-Control


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Michele Marrapodi <
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Date:       Thursday, 15 Oct 2009 08:39:21 +0100
Subject: 20.0508 Women, Passion, and Lack of Self-Control
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0508 Women, Passion, and Lack of Self-Control

Unhae Langis says:

 >I would like to solicit your help for an article that I need to
 >revise. Here is the excerpt that needs revision:
 >
 >Because women were considered less capable of exercising self-
 >control because through their "loose, soft and tender" flesh, they
 >were humorally "subject to all passions and perturbations" (274, 273)
 >in the words of the Dutch physician, Levinus Lemnius (1658).
 >
 >Can anyone direct me to an early modern source that presents this
 >same idea but from the late 1500s/early 1600s rather than mid-1600s?

One of the most influential early modern sources is surely Castiglione's 
_Il libro del Cortegiano_. I quote a relevant excerpt from my chapter 
"Shakespeare's Romantic Italy: Novelistic, Theatrical, and Cultural 
Transactions in the Comedies" included in _Italian Culture in the Drama 
of Shakespeare & his Contemporaries_ (Ashgate, 2007). I skip the 
original text and quote from Hoby's translation:

"The dispute between the count Gasparo Pallavicino and the Magnifico 
Juliano on the construction of the ideal _donna di palazzo_ in the third 
book of the _Cortegiano_ offers significant cues to detect the kind of 
male fantasy at work in early modern discourses on the nature of women. 
As a defendant of the woman's part, Juliano provides an ideal of 
femininity whose language of sexuality responds to the male's erotic 
desire without losing the virtues of grace and honour. In so doing, he 
fashions a representation of female values as opposed to manly strength 
and valour:

'But principally in her fashions, manners, wordes, gestures, and 
conversation (me thinke) the woman ought to be much unlike the man. For 
right as it is seemely for him to shew a certaine manliness full and 
steadie, so doth it well in a woman to have a tendernesse, soft and 
milde, with a kinde of womanlye sweetenesse in every gesture of hers, 
that in going, standing, and speaking what ever she lusteth, may always 
make her appear a woman without anye likenesse of man.'

Gasparo explains his antifeminism with the old philosophical principle 
of the imperfection of women with respect to men ('when a woman is 
borne, it is a slackenesse  or default of nature, and contrarie to that 
she would doe'), whereas Juliano easily rebuts this accusation, leading 
his defence to the sexual superiority of women:

'In the man overmuch heate doth soone bring the naturall warmth to the 
last degree, the which wanting nourishment, consumeth away: and 
therefore, because men in generation sooner waxe drye than women, it 
happeneth oftentimes that they are of a shorter life. Wherefore this 
perfection may also be given to women, that living longer than men they 
accomplish it, that is the entent of nature more than men.'" (pp. 63-64).

The rise of the new gentlewoman, affirming herself as a new dramatic 
subject in both novelistic literature and drama, can be explained -- in 
fact -- by the influence of female _corteziania_, the (male) 
construction of the perfect lady deriving from the _Cortegiano_'s 
representation of the double power of sexuality and chastity of the 
_donna di palazzo_ and from other misogynist attitudes taken up in other 
Italian conduct books and pamphlets of manners. (The parodic and 
subversive response by Aretino's _La Cortegiana_ is yet another aspect 
of the same topic).

For an extended treatment of the social and political gynaephobia "of 
gender and sex" in early modern England, see Harry Berger Jr., _The 
Absence of Grace: Sprezzatura and Suspicion in Two Renaissance Courtesy 
Books_ (Stanford UP, 2000).

Best wishes,
Michele Marrapodi,
University of Palermo.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Claire Bowditch <
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Date:       Thursday, 15 Oct 2009 09:38:56 +0100
Subject: 20.0508 Women, Passion, and Lack of Self-Control
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0508 Women, Passion, and Lack of Self-Control

Hi, Unhae,

I'm not sure whether it's early-modern Dutch or European medical culture 
that you're working on, but if it's the European(/English?) treatises 
that you're looking at, you're sure to find some stuff of this sort in 
Helkiah Crooke's 'Mikrokosmographia' (extant copies from 1615, 1616, and 
1632 are available on EEBO). There is, though, something that you might 
like to look at along these lines: Thomas Raynalde's 'The Birth of 
Mankind' (in print from 1540-1645). You might find (as I did) that it 
radically -- and gloriously -- disrupts the kinds of things that you 
might've seen in sources such as those that you quote below. As the 
introduction to the recent critical edition of 'The Birth of Mankind' 
says, the publication was originally German ('Der swangern Frauwen und 
hebammen Rosegarten'), and was translated into Dutch ('Den Rosegaert'), 
so hopefully it'll tie in somewhere for you!

The publication details are: Thomas Raynalde, The Birth of Mankind, 
Otherwise Named The Woman's Book, ed. by Elaine Hobby (Aldershot: 
Ashgate, 2009)

Best wishes,
Claire Bowditch

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Maurizio Calbi <
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Date:       Thursday, 15 Oct 2009 12:45:03 +0200
Subject: 20.0508 Women, Passion, and Lack of Self-Control
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0508 Women, Passion, and Lack of Self-Control

I'm sure you'll find many earlier references than this in Gail Kern 
Paster's *The Body Embarassed*.

Maurizio Calbi

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