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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: July ::
Hamlet's Feminine Endings
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0275  Sunday, 11 July 2010

[1]  From:      Joseph Egert <
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     Date:      July 9, 2010 6:37:02 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0264  Hamlet's Feminine Ending/Doppelganger 

[2]  From:      S. L Kasten <
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     Date:      July 10, 2010 6:50:27 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0249  Hamlet's Feminine Endings 


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Joseph Egert <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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Date:         July 9, 2010 6:37:02 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0264  Hamlet's Feminine Ending/Doppelganger
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0264  Hamlet's Feminine Ending/Doppelganger

>What is the textual basis for Prospero's "incestuous desire for 
>his own daughter"? Granted that he is a control freak and may not 
>like to part from his daughter, it's quite a step from there to 
>incest. We do have a father-daughter incest motif in Pericles, and 
>there are shades of it in The Winter's Tale -- much toned down from 
>its source narrative--but where is it 
in the Tempest?


EVE-LYN CROSS MULWRAY: She's my daughter.
[Gittes slaps Eve-lyn]
JAKE GITTES: I saidI want the truth!
EVE-LYN: She's my sister...
[slap]
EVE-LYN: She's my daughter...
[slap]
EVE-LYN: My sister, my daughter.
[More slaps]
JAKE: I said I want the truth!
EVE-LYN: She's my sister AND my daughter!
 (CHINATOWN, 1974)


Think of the minstrel in blackface, his dark varnish a license to fully express 
his vitality in song and dance. Now picture his counterpart Prospero in 
whiteface, who suppresses those 'black and deep desires' within, unacknowledged, 
yet threatening to erupt out of control at any moment, and who instead projects 
those great Stoic sins of wrath and lust onto his embodied shadow Caliban. Like 
Caliban, the magus wants to nail the heads of his enemies, while asleep and at 
his mercy. Like Caliban (and 'Noah' Cross), he yearns to people his new island 
Eden through his Miranda/Maria, both second Eve and postdiluvian daughter-- 
indeed a (?likely) prospect had the two been alone.

"[A]ny evil impulses, the existence of which is not admitted by consciousness, 
can be dealt with by expelling them through what psychologists call projection 
and on to dark foreigners [...]." (Ernest Jones, 1945)

As Duke of Milan, Prospero refused to acknowledge its fallen nature and so 
continued to eat of the Fruit of Knowledge, while failing to tend his Garden. 
Thus he and child are cast out by their own fallen kin onto anew island-world 
for 're-education'. Now that the wicked old witch Sycorax is dead, Prospero 
assumes custody of her Caliban/Cain, ill-begotten spawn of this first Eve and 
her serpent/devil consort. Yet, are these "devils but expressions of inward 
evils"(Fulke Greville, 1633)? Like Brabantio, the magus brings the dark stranger 
to his table, only to be repaid by the alien's attempt to abduct his daughter. 
After much inner turbulence, Prospero acknowledges the 'thing of darkness' is 
his, but not before torturing this shadow through his sublime airy muse of 
purging fire, Ariel.

"I conceive there is more Barbarity in Eating a Man Alive than when he is 
Dead..." (Montaigne)

Was the triumph of virtue and reason over fury and vengeance so certain in 
Prospero's case, without the intercession of Ariel and Miranda/Maria for fallen 
humanity?

[Permit me one aside: can the solution to the Antiochan riddle be Jesus 
("father, son, and husband mild") and Mary ("mother, wife, and yet his child")?]

In the end, Prospero learns Caliban and he are kin. But does the shadow creature 
also learn they are of his kind? Caliban, now seeking Grace, deserts the would-
be usurpers Stephano and Trinculo, but for whom? For the original usurpers, 
Prospero and company, now decked out in their sumptuous finery.
This brave new world of Miranda's -- 'tis still new to him.

"[W]e are taught to acknowledge every man that beares the Impression of God's 
stampe, to be not only our neighbour, but to be our brother, howe far 
distinguished and removed by Seas or lands soever from vs." (William Strachey, 
1609-1612)

Finally, from 1854:

http://books.google.com/books?id=W2ZCAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA3-PA65&lpg=RA3-
PA65&dq=%22why+does+dat+darkey+follow+me%22&source=bl&ots=HRPUNAzE01&sig=KJHHnU1
39jAtrBmaU7y3vaFv5lU&hl=en&ei=rp43TLXCEsH58Abz05WoBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=resu
lt&resnum=1&ved=0CAYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22why%20does%20dat%20darkey%20follow%20
me%22&f=false

Plus ca change...
Joe Egert

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         S. L Kasten <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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Date:         July 10, 2010 6:50:27 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0249  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0249  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

This is not particularly consonant with the direction taken by the thread, but I 
am surprised that no one has mentioned The Famous History of King Henry the 
Eighth in connection with feminine endings. Others must have written on this at 
greater length and acuity, but for me it was a journey of discovery.

I was directed to Henry the VIII some years ago by the Sunday New York Times 
crossword puzzle whose theme was Shakespeare and the Internet. Buckingham's line 
"The net has fall'n upon me!" will surely resonate with you. In browsing the 
play I was arrested and affected by the sadness in deposed Queen Katherine's 
voice in Act IV. The feminine endings made me wonder fleetingly whether 
Shakespeare was planting a Spanish cadence to her lines, but I rejected this 
idea. Shakespeare may have played with rhythms and usage in the lines of 
identifiable sub-populations, but I can't think of him using gross imitations of 
dialects.

The ongoing thread sent me back to the play to see how Katherine spoke before 
the annulment. Feminine endings are indeed sprinkled here and there, enough to 
convey the reality of her plight, but they are not at all salient. In her 
interchange with Wolsey in Act II scene 4 she was every inch a queen:

Q.Kath. Lord Cardinal ,
To you I speak.

Wol. Your pleasaure , madam?

Q. Kath. Sir,
I am about to weep: but, thinking that
We are a queen, or long have dreamd'd so, certain
The daughter of a king, my drops of tears
I'll turn to sparks of fire.

Wol. Be patient yet,

Q. Kath. I will, when you are humble ; nay, before,
Or God will punish me. I do believe
etc. (in masculine-ending lines).

Noting that the prologue of the play warned the reader (or spectator) that this 
was not going to be a happy play I decided to read the play carefully to see how 
successful the author was in fulfilling this warning and discovered that the 
play was indeed a recounting of serial falls from favour. After his fall each of 
the characters - Buckingham, Wolsey, the Queen and Cranmer spoke in lines almost 
totally feminine, with perhaps a final closed pentameter couplet such as 
Buckhingham's going to his end with a firmly clear conscience.

Katherine's sad tones in Act IV are broken temporarily but clearly following her 
epiphanic dream of redemption. In her dying message to the King through Capucius 
she asks consideration for her daughter, her women and her menservants. In 
speaking for her daughter and the menservants she is a supplicant; in speaking 
for her women she is a queen.

I was impressed at the author's use of this "minor key" in Cranmer's trial. The 
obsequious apologetic tones of the chancellor are followed by the overbearing 
malevolence of Bishop Gardiner to be answered by the barely controlled regal 
anger of the King. The play winds up with Cranmer's prophecy and the King's 
response, both in predominantly in feminine-ended lines, until the 
antepenultimate line split into a feminine first half, a masculine second half, 
and a final strong couplet:

Ye must all see the queen, and she must thank ye;
She will be sick else. This day, no man think
Has business at his house: for all shall stay:
This little one shall make it holiday.

Shakespeare promised us a tear-jerker and he wrote the play in the minor key to 
underscore the action. And if we have forgotten the playwright's intentions he 
provides us with an epilogue that ends.

All the expected good we're like to hear
For this play, at this time, is only in
The merciful construction of good women;
For such a one we show'd 'em: if they smile,
And say 't will do, I know within a while
All the men are ours; for 't is ill hap
If they hold when their ladies bid 'em clap.

Best wishes
Syd Kasten


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