The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0448  Tuesday, 17 February 2004

From:           Kathy Dent <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 16 Feb 2004 15:31:36 +0000
Subject:        Gary Taylor's Tragedy

For anyone interested, Gary Taylor in Saturday's Guardian has offered a
curiously masculine reading of Shakespearean tragedy (as if we don't
already have a four hundred year old history of men's readings of


Does anyone else, like me, find his reading of female characters as
'props' and 'accessories' rather limited?  Perhaps he's unaware of Henry
Jackson's 1610 account of Othello in which it was clearly the tragedy of
Desdemona that moved contemporary audiences. Perhaps, when Taylor was
doing his suicide count in support of the assertion that 'Men also
commit suicide much more often than women do. (Witness Romeo, Cassius,
Brutus, Othello and Antony.)', he overlooked Juliet, Cleopatra,
Charmian, Portia and Ophelia.  Perhaps he also overlooked that Antony
and Romeo commit suicide because they believe their lovers to be dead,
thus demonstrating that without his woman a man's life isn't worth
living - just as much as the alternative demonstration that Taylor
witnesses.  But the chief paucity in Taylor's reading lies in his
unsubstantiated argument that the female members of the audience don't
'get' Shakespearean tragedy.  Regrettably, it seems that Taylor is
crying about all the wrong stuff.  His confession that 'I am never,
never, never, never, never weeping for Cordelia. I'm weeping for a
father, carrying his dead daughter' and his view that 'Desdemona dies
(twice) so that her tragic husband can suffer, exquisitely, for having
killed his innocent wife' are completely foreign to what moves me.  But
that doesn't mean I'm not moved.  Taylor's conclusion - that 'Morality
begins with compassion' - may have been hard-won through his many years
of labouring in the salt-mines of Shakespearean scholarship, but ! DUR !
  as a female member of the audience, I have always thought that the
precise and obvious invitation that Shakespeare offers all of us is to
emote about the victims of violence, not the perpetrators.  Sorry as I
am that Taylor doesn't 'get' it, he shouldn't be blaming Shakespeare for
creating a series of props, accessories and trophy wives - because I
happen to think that those very female characters are complex, bold and
strong.  But they are portrayed as characters lacking in economic and
social power and it is this tragedy that shapes their end.  Something to
cry about indeed.

Kathy Dent

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.