Monday, February 11, 2008

Marjorie Garber on "Unequal Friends: Antonio, Falstaff, and Orsino"

I attended this Shakespeare Society event tonight, and found Garber thought-provoking on the bard. She is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard, and wrote four books on Shakespeare, including Shakespeare After All (Pantheon, 2004).

In between her discussions with the Society Executive and Artistic Director, Michael Sexton, 4 actors dramatized exchanges from Henry IV, The Merchant of Venice, and Twelfth Night, as well as read sonnets which echo these exchanges, such as Sonnet XX ("master mistress"). Garber talked about the double plot of the sonnets, (they are "about" writing as much as they are about love), the aesthetic functions of reported scenes, the admirable complexity of Hal, the posture of melancholia, the motif of the woman who suffers silently from unrequited love. Throughout, she was incisive yet generous, a very good teacher, as my friend remarked.


A woman's face with nature's own hand painted,
Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion:
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

1 comment:

Eshuneutics said...

Interesting account: her work on the poets of Harlem and gender is fascinating stuff. I see you quote Sonnet XX. Gregory Woods has an interesting reading of this in which he points out that "nothing" was Elizabethan slang for "arse". His argument is that the sonnet gives woman the "prick" but keeps the "arse" for the writer. Shakespeare was not averse to bending straight he banned in Singapore too? :-)