Fated Sky: The Femina Furens in Shakespeare

Fated Sky: The Femina Furens in Shakespeare

Fated Sky: The Femina Furens in Shakespeare

Fated Sky: The Femina Furens in Shakespeare

Synopsis

Fated Sky reinvestigates the hypothesis of Senecan influence on Shakespeare's plays. It argues that the 1581 Elizabethan anthology, Seneca His Tenne Tragedies, Translated into Englyshe, was Shakespeare's primary sourcetext and medium for his reception, transmission, and imitation of this ancient author.

Excerpt

Failing in a woman, whether aesthetic or moral, is always easier to
point to than a failure of integration within language and subjec
tivity itself. If we try to read Shakespeare in terms of the second,
however, it might be possible to lift the onus off the woman, who
has for so long now been expected to take the responsibility, and to
bear the excessive weight.

Since gender issues have been prominent in renaissance studies since 1975, any book purporting to discuss women in Shakespeare must be informed, at least in part, by this distinguished scholarship. Fated Sky is not a gender study per se, but it utilizes the considerable work in this area (and its new historicist and psychoanalytic facets). Although little of the new work in Renaissance studies discusses Shakespeare’s Roman inheritance, its ideas about gender and patriarchy have usefully complicated my thinking on imitatio and classical analogues. Shakespeare’s Senecanism may, indeed, support the early theories of Juliet Dusinberre and her successors, who view the playwright as a protofeminist. That the characters I discuss dominate their respective plays, are far from voiceless, and generally avoid the villain/victim dichotomy lends credence to this conception—Shakespeare critiques the oppression that they endure. Yet some, like Lisa Jardine, argue that the Shakespearean corpus simmers with the misogyny common to most medieval and Renaissance literature. Senecanism could be said to be responsible for this, as well. At times, Cleopatra and her predecessors appear to be exactly what the men in the plays describe: deceivers, witches, revengers, or harridans. Or perhaps they serve as Other—the gender outsider whose attempted . . .

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