The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 30.048  Friday, 8 February 2019

 

[1] From:        Marilyn A. Bonomi <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         February 7, 2019 at 2:50:11 PM EST

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: News 

 

[2] From:        Robert Appelbaum <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         February 8, 2019 at 7:54:14 AM EST

     Subj:         RE: SHAKSPER: News 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Marilyn A. Bonomi <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 7, 2019 at 2:50:11 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: News

 

The Very Modern Anger of Shakespeare’s Women

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 30.045  Thursday, 7 February 2019

 

From:        Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 6, 2019 at 3:45:06 PM EST

Subject:    What if Shakespeare’s Dark Lady Told Their Love Story? What if It Were a Ballet?

 

https://electricliterature.com/the-very-modern-anger-of-shakespeares-women-9540b1a3198

 

The Very Modern Anger of Shakespeare’s Women

What “Measure for Measure” means to us in 2019

By Laura Kolb

 

 

Hardy, the link was for a ballet story in the NYTimes.  Here's the link for the story you excerpted:

 

https://electricliterature.com/the-very-modern-anger-of-shakespeares-women-9540b1a3198

 

[Editor’s Note: The link has been corrected in the Archive. –Hardy]

 

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Robert Appelbaum <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 8, 2019 at 7:54:14 AM EST

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: News

 

Dear All,

 

Here is the quote, from the Laura Kolb, writing for the New York Times: “’I pray you, sir, is it your will / To make a stale of me amongst these mates?’ A ‘stale’ is a prostitute; ‘mates’ means variously low fellows, or marriage partners, or sexual partners. ‘Are you selling me?’ would be a reasonable paraphrase; ‘Are you selling me for sex?’ a fuller one. Katherine collapses the elite marriage market into the market relations of prostitution, stripping away the symbolic distinctions between these economies and laying bare what’s at stake in both: men profiting — financially and socially, directly and indirectly — from the exchange of women’s bodies. As Lisa Jardine puts it: ‘The Taming of the Shrew is centrally concerned with the marketing of daughters for cash.’

 

And now, here is my response: Really? 

 

First of all, Baptista cannot be “selling” Katherine. He is giving her away with a substantial sum of money. Certainly, there is an element of homosocializing here, in Sedgwick’s sense; surely a form of symbolic exchange is going on, where men form bonds through their traffic in women. But Baptista gets no profit in a literal sense from arranging her marriage with Petruchio. Nor does he or Petruchio get “sex” as a reward for their bargain: what they get is a marriage, with all that means for all the parties concerned. Kate and Petruchio get a dowry, which Petruchio will control, as well as that complex relationship that they will develop over the course of the play. Baptista gets nothing.

 

As for “relations of prostitution,” let’s look again at what Shakespeare may have meant by the word “stale.” Says Adriana, in Comedy of Errors, complaining about her husband’s philandering, “he brakes the pale / And feeds from home; poor am I but his stale.” Complains the abandoned Immogen in Cymbeline, “Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion.” Remarks Henry IV to his son Prince Hal, about his associating in public with commoners, in 1 Henry IV, “Had I so lavish of my presence been, /So common-hackney'd in the eyes of men, / So stale and cheap to vulgar company / Opinion, that did help me to the crown,/ Had still kept loyal to possession / And left me in reputeless banishment.” Complains Saturninus in Titus, Was there none else in Rome to make a stale, / But Saturnine? And then of course there is Hamlet: “How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable / Seem to me all the uses of this world!”

 

My point is that paraphrasing Katherine’s remarks as “Are you selling me for sex?” is both wrong and insidious. The closest we can perhaps come to paraphrasing Katherine’s remarks is probably, “Are you making a laughing-stock out of me?”, though we should probably also think about other available connotations, so that we can also say that Kate protests against being “out of fashion,” “common-hackneyed,” a mere drudge, and, yes, unprofitable. We know that for Shakespeare being profitable can also mean being fertile, that being laughed at can be intolerable, that being passed over for an appointment to an honorable condition can be good grounds for murderous revenge, and that being useless can be worse than death. 

 

My point is that in the face of the profundity of Shakespeare’s polysemic analysis of the condition of a particular fictional being, Laura Kolb has given us a common but stale cliché. Following Lisa Jardine, she mistakes the moral economy of Shakespeare’s world (whatever else you may think of it) for the moral economy of the 19th century under advancing capitalism. Following the extremely stale discourse du jour, where there is nothing worse than to “objectify” a person, and so to turn her into a “commodity,” she fails to see that the struggle over Katherine’s status in the world is neither primarily sexual nor financial. Elements of the sexual and the financial certainly enter into her condition, but there is something much more difficult to negotiate with in Shrew than that. How does one – male or female, but yes here mainly female – not become “stale” in a world where one’s livelihood, as it were, would seem to be preordained?

 

Robert Appelbaum

Professor of English Literature

Uppsala University

 

 

 

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Search

Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.