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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: May ::
Hamlet's Feminine Endings

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0205  Monday, 24 May 2010

[1]  From:      Cary Mazer < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      May 20, 2010 2:57:15 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

[2]  From:      Martin Mueller < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      May 20, 2010 3:03:54 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

[3]  From:      Justin Alexander < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      May 20, 2010 3:05:39 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

[4]  From:      John Briggs < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      May 20, 2010 3:28:00 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

[5]  From:      Peter Groves < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      May 21, 2010 2:35:10 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Cary Mazer < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 20, 2010 2:57:15 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

>After questioning Fortinbras's Captain in IV.iiii, Hamlet's 'How
>all occasions do inform against me' speech begins with a feminine
>ending, and has 5 more, by my count. These are all in the first
>half of the speech, as if he then gets a grip on himself.
>
>Does anyone know of any commentary on this, with its possible
>implication that Hamlet feels emasculated? 

Your question is precisely why, when I teach scansion to my students, I prefer to call it an "unstressed ending." I for one see no correlation between stressed and unstressed endings and masculinity or femininity.

Cary
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
http://www.english.upenn.edu/~cmazer/home.html

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Martin Mueller < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 20, 2010 3:03:54 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

'Masculine' and 'feminine' verse endings, like 'male' and 'female' electrical plugs, depend on metaphors that shouldn't be extended from one domain to another without a lot of thought and caution. You would need a lot of carefully weighted statistical evidence before drawing any thematic conclusions from the distribution of stressed and unstressed final syllables in the blank verse lines of a given character. And any plausible argument along those lines would need to involve comparisons between the speeches of different characters in the same play or similar characters in different plays. 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Justin Alexander < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 20, 2010 3:05:39 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

Richard Waugaman wrote:

>After questioning Fortinbras's Captain in IV.iiii, Hamlet's 'How
>all occasions do inform against me' speech begins with a feminine
>ending, and has 5 more, by my count. These are all in the first
>half of the speech, as if he then gets a grip on himself.
>
>Does anyone know of any commentary on this, with its possible
>implication that Hamlet feels emasculated? 

When did the term "feminine ending" actually come into use? I've often tried to find an etymological history of the term, but I've never found one. As a result, I've always been skeptical of theories drawing a connection between verse structure and gender identification because I've never seen an Elizabethan source referring to verse structure in gender-ized terms, but I've also never studied the issue in detail.

Justin Alexander
American Shakespeare Repertory
http://www.american-shakespeare.com

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John Briggs < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 20, 2010 3:28:00 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

Richard Waugaman wrote:

>Does anyone know of any commentary on this, with its possible
>implication that Hamlet feels emasculated?

I think that you ought to first carefully consider when a "feminine ending" was first called a "feminine ending".

John Briggs

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Peter Groves < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 21, 2010 2:35:10 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

As many others will no doubt point out, the word "feminine" in "feminine ending" refers to grammatical gender, not biological or cultural gender -- specifically to the fact that feminine adjectives in French tend to have an extra final schwa that may be pronounced in metred verse (e.g.  "La froid? cruaut? | de ce soleil de glace." vs "Ell? veut de ses chants | peupler l'air froid des nuits").

The point about feminine endings is that they impede the rush from one line into the next and are therefore appropriate to meditative verse:

   To be, or not to be -- that is the question:
   Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
   The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
   Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

Peter Groves
Monash University

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