The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1941 Friday, 13 October 2000.
Date: Thursday, 12 Oct 2000 10:03:39 -0700
Subject: 11.1925 Re: Holinshed Anecdote
Comment: Re: SHK 11.1925 Re: Holinshed Anecdote
To my doubts about whether the mutilation which Holinshed reports was
simply a propagandistic lie, Terence responds:
> Think again. Some careful symbolic structuring is obviously at work in
> Holinshed's acount of the Welsh women's surgical procedures.
Some of these I noted. But, if the audience couldn't be expected to
fill in the full surgical details, then I can't imagine why somebody
would carefully structure the play around them, any more than they might
want to structure the play around occult references to Hebrew names.
Quite apart from the usual problems with the intentionalist fallacy,
this just doesn't seem calculated to have much of an audience.
The fact that this fits nicely with our ideas of sixteenth-century
English ideas of the Welsh is no reason--in itself--to think that it was
made up by the sixteenth-century English. Perhaps stories of people
being systematically gassed, burned and turned into soap would fit
nicely with 1940s ideas about the Hun, but that doesn't mean such events
All of this symbolism could have been picked up on earlier, by careful
Welshwomen cleverly reacting to attempts to impose the English language
(and perhaps English phalluses) on them. I see Lady Glendower as a sort
of trophy between men, rendered voiceless in all but song. The
treatment of Welshwomen by the English (as sexual trophies, as
voiceless) might call for this sort of mutilation--not as a sort of
repressed fantasy of a demonic other, but as a lashing out by the
repressed themselves. "If I am a dog," says Shylock, "then beware my