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22 November 2010 @ 05:40 pm
also, other shakespeare ramblings  
Today I was kind of a flake: I have a lot of school reading and dissertation reading that needs...er, reading, but instead I flaked out and read something for fun during lunch and after office hours were over: the first two chapters of Carol Chillington Rutter's book Enter the Body: Women and Representation on Shakespeare's Stage. I can't remember exactly when I checked this book out (again), but I had plans to read the relevant parts of it over Thanksgiving weekend, but someone has requested it, so. A couple of years ago now I read the chapter on Cleopatra, which I'm still divided about: I think half of it is great, and half of it is totally wrong and actually kind of unnecessary. And I can't remember why I read that chapter instead of the ones that are more relevant to me pretty much all the time, the ones on Cordelia and Ophelia, but I didn't then, so I read them today.

And--you guys. I'm not sure why, exactly, her books make me so happy: it's something to do with performance, and possibility, and the possibility of a criticism that isn't bogged down in demonstrating its own learning to the point of tedium. It's not that I always agree with her points, because I don't. But I read her work and come away energized, reminded of why criticism is supposed to be a good idea, and moved by possibility. And after the Ophelia chapter, I just want to think about the graveyard scene, which is the most unstable part of the play for me, probably: I change my mind about it all the time.

(Also, it reminds me of my recurring dream to teach a class on Hamlet and Hamlet-related stuff. *wants*)

I likely won't have a chance to read the chapter on Troilus and Cressida (which was probably the reason I checked the book out the first time, it occurs to me now: that chapter is about clothing and costume, so it would have possibly been relevant to my vanished dissertation topic), but I do want to read the chapter on Othello now, after rereading the play, because the chapter focuses largely on Zoe Wanamaker's Emilia (in Trevor Nunn's RSC production; I still haven't seen it because I keep forgetting the video exists!). And I adore Emilia. She breaks my heart, more than anything else about that whole play. There's a line that she has, that conjures up whole worlds of suffering worn like a badge, a refusal to break that is always vulnerable, that has nothing in common with stoicism:

Thou hast not half that power to do me harm / As I have to be hurt.

It knocks the wind out of me, you guys. I can only flail about it helplessly in front of my students and look like an idiot. What is her life like, that she can say such things?

So anyway, I'll probably read that tonight instead of something useful, like Thomas Wilson's The Arte of Rhetorique.
La Reine Noire: Wimminz!lareinenoire on November 23rd, 2010 03:04 am (UTC)
I must read that book. But I also sort of want to recommend it to my students, who are submitting proposals for their final research papers tomorrow. Decisions, decisions...

And, oh, goodness, Emilia. That scene is just one of the most wrenching things every written and it gets me EVERY TIME. I think I flailed about it at my students too, but some of them wrote really good short papers about her, so it seems like they got past my flailing. ;)
tempestsarekind: ophelia has so few optionstempestsarekind on November 23rd, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Heh--I've had that quandary. Do I want the book, or do I let my students have it?

For what it's worth, a version of the Ophelia chapter was previously published in Shakespeare Quarterly: "Snatched Bodies: Ophelia in the Grave," 49:3 (Autumn 1998), pp. 299-319. And a version of the Cordelia chapter was published in two parts as "Eel Pie and Ugly Sisters in King Lear," in Essays in Theatre/Études théâtrales 13 (1994-5), pp. 135-58; and 14 (1995-6), 49-63. (I put the latter on the list of King Lear criticism last year, in hopes that someone would write about it and then I'd have an excuse to read it--but no one did, alas.)

Almost all of my students who wrote about Othello wrote about O, for the film paper. Not as much fun. :) But the unpinning scene has probably always been my favorite part of Othello, and Emilia is a major reason why--though it's also that there's this momentary alternate world of women and women's stories that the rest of the play doesn't really have room for.
Danielle_P: orchidsdeleilan on November 23rd, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
Can I just say how much I love all your flailing and babbling and enthusiasms, especially when it comes to Shakespeare?
tempestsarekind: books and flowerstempestsarekind on November 23rd, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you! That's so kind of you.