Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Want to see a complete misunderstanding of Shakespeare?

I can't help but laugh at this article, which takes the position that Taming of the Shrew is conclusive evidence for Shakespeare's personal hatred of all women.  This one play, out of some 38 or so, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Shakespeare's goal in life was subjugation and inhuman treatment of women.  After all, aren't all his women examples of this?  Lady Macbeth, Gertrude.  There, that must prove it.

I really want to leave a comment but I can't decide whether it would be worth it.  The icing on the cake is when the author invokes the ghost of fictional Anne Wetly, arguing that Shakespeare clearly loved her but was stuck marrying Anne Hathaway instead, and thus forever had a hatred of women that he vented in his plays.  Which would be a valid point, except for that whole "she didn't really exist" thing.

Personally I don't love Shrew.  It's little more than slapstick to me.  I really have no interest in debating the "wink" moment in the final scene, and what it really means.  But I don't know how you meaningfully write a piece that on the one hand points to Katherine as a poor weak creature cowering under her husband's hand, while at the same time using Lady Macbeth as an example of the same point? Lady M clearly wears the pants in her family.  Apparently the author's point is that Shakespeare thinks that men want to ... dominate women, be dominated by them, or, re: Gertrude, marry them.  Yes, that makes a very consistent and logical point?  I suppose perhaps we could take all the girls who dress up as boys and use that as evidence that Shakespeare was into transgender, too?  And all the ones that kill themselves as evidence that Shakespeare wants all women dead?

It'll make you laugh, if it doesn't make you tear your hair out.  Articles like this make you realize where the stereotype of feminists as man-haters comes from.


CSmith said...

That really was laughably bad. It reads like a high school paper that would be read in the break room of that Onion article from a few days ago.
Of course the wildly successful playwright (because ALL 38 plays and sonnets were great successes and everyone knows each of them today!) hated women... that's why he wrote most of the more well-rounded female characters. *facepalm*

JM said...

Thanks for pointing this one up, Duane. Too much of this around, I fear.
Totally agree. So does this guy:

"I just don't think the purpose of literature", said Thomas, pushing through her amusement, "is to explore social hierarchy." --A J Hartley, from "What Time Devours"

The social hierarchy in his case being the modern academician's theoretical bantering on the absolute application of modern ideas to 16th century dramatic situation and theory.

Of course, should the author of the piece you refer to care to explore some of Shakespeare's other women (none of whom are mentioned in the article) they'd see that the majority of them are smarter than the men with whom they deal.
The point missed?: Shakespeare was in fact commenting on HIS OWN TIMES and social situations, not on the subsequent exigencies of some feminist's travails. Katerina is a shrew BECAUSE of the attitude of the very obvious misogyny surrounding her. Shakespeare is clear in showing what idiots they can be, and isn't quite celebrating their misogyny--at all. And the "difficulty" of Katarina's final summation is only present if the attitude approaching the philosophy of her soliloquy is selfishly looked at from someone's "personal" and singular point of view--someone with a modern axe to grind.
Katerina actually wins in the end because she knows how to play the game better than those who invented it. I would argue that in fact, it is she who is in charge at the end of the play. She's too obviously smart to wind up otherwise.

Approaching Shakespeare from a singular point of view (modern or not) is always a very big mistake. Why? Because his point of view is NEVER singular and NEVER simple.

No quick and easy labels need apply.

catkins said...

Agree with JM about Katarina. What is missing from "Taming of the Shrew," but could easily be there, is another scene where the women call for their husbands and only Katarina's comes to answer--because of the mutual respect they have developed. Because she is commanded by him, she, in turn, can now command him. I don't think that is too far-fetched a reading.

GeorgeD said...

I dutifully clicked on the link and tried to read that hogwash. Sorry to say, I was bored to tears by the third paragraph and gave up at the fourth.

Now this is was happens when someone brings themselves to finally read *one* Shakespeare play, which was doubtlessly selected in advance to be disapproved, thanks to the title.

Having read all Shakespeare plays more than once, and watched every single one of the BBC Shakespeare, I came away with the impression that Shakespeare thinks women the better part of humanity. Just think of Cordelia, or of Portia, who runs circles around every male in "The Merchant of Venice" (and marries Bassanio, after she has made a complete fool of him -- love is her undoing, as always), or of Desdemona, who falls a victim to that fool called Othello, and his evil demon Jago, or of Imogen and her idiot of a husband, or of the women in "The Merry Wifes of Windor", and the women in "All's Well That Ends Well", or of heavenly Rosalind...

And nothing will ever -- *ever* -- induce me to think the man a misogynist who was capable of inventing Beatrice.

JM said...

GeorgeD wrote: "Now this is was happens when someone brings themselves to finally read *one* Shakespeare play, which was doubtlessly selected in advance to be disapproved, thanks to the title."

I only wish that were as absolutely true as you make it sound convincing with the rest of what you wrote. Unfortunately, I've read some of the notions of those who are, at this very minute, teaching our children the same type of dross. They celebrate their one-sided theories daily on personal blogs. And the blindness of their zealotry furnishes a seemingly unassailable bulwark for their redoubtable "rightness".

Ah yes, Beatrice...she who will always wear the crown of female (or male, for that matter) wit, intelligence, and ingenuity. One of my favorites, male or female.