Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

Shakespeare and the Domestic: Geraldo U. De Sousa's at Home in Shakespeare's Tragedies and Frederic B. Tromly's Fathers and Sons in Shakespeare: The Debt Never Promised

Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

Shakespeare and the Domestic: Geraldo U. De Sousa's at Home in Shakespeare's Tragedies and Frederic B. Tromly's Fathers and Sons in Shakespeare: The Debt Never Promised

Article excerpt

Shakespeare and the domestic is a dauntingly capacious rubric for a short review essay, and Geraldo U. de Sousa's At Home in Shakespeare's Tragedies and Frederic B. Tromly's Fathers and Sons in Shakespeare: The Debt Never Promised have little in common other than a place within that category. De Sousa's book takes as its topic the material space of the home and, more specifically, the "dramatic function of dwelling places in the tragedies" (3), arguing that "Shakespeare represents domestic space as a web of tragic relations" (9). Tromly, on the other hand, focuses more narrowly on common patterns in the relationships between fathers and sons in Shakespeare's plays, without singling out a specific genre (although, notably, there are no comedies included in his study). Both of these monographs have been preceded by several decades of historicist and feminist literary scholarship crossing what were once traditional disciplinary boundaries between literary studies, history, sociology, and anthropology to creatively explore literary texts as sites of knowledge on the politics and bonds of marriage, family, and the household. Both make contributions to this interdisciplinary pursuit, although neither breaks new ground.

Of studies that fall under the rubric of Shakespeare and the Domestic, articles and books on marital bonds, customs, and hierarchies are by far the most numerous, too numerous to review here in full. Among the most significant studies of marriage from the past thirty years that deserve mention, however, are Linda Fitz's 1980 " 'What Says the Married Woman': Marriage Theory and Feminism in the English Renaissance"; Carol Neely's 1989 Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare's Plays; Mary Beth Rose's 1988 The Expense of Spirit: Love and Sexuality in English Renaissance Drama and her more recent "The Heroics of Marriage in Renaissance Tragedy" (1998); B. J. Sokol and Mary Sokol's 2003 Shakespeare, Law, and Marriage; and Loreen L. Giese's recent contribution, Courtship, Marriage Customs, and Shakespeare's Comedies (2006). Laurie Shannon's "Nature's Bias: Renaissance Homonormativity and Elizabethan Comic Likeness" (2000) also needs to be mentioned, as it offers a crucial corrective to the heterocentric view most modern critics have taken to affective bonds, marriage, and the cultural work of Shakespearean comedy, the genre most often associated with the triangulated nexus of sexual love, romance, and family. Other important queerings of Shakespeare include Mario DiGangi's "Queering the Shakespearean Family" (1996); Julie Crawford's "The Homoerotics of Shakespeare's Elizabethan Comedies" (2006); and Valerie Traub's work, such as "The Homoerotics of Shakespearean Comedy" (1992), "The (In) Significance of 'Lesbian' Desire in Early Modern England" (1992), and Desire and Anxiety: Circulations of Sexuality in Shakespearean Drama (1992). As DiGangi points out, however, "Shakespeare's contemporaries often present a fuller picture [than Shakespeare] of the early modern household and the same sex relations enabled by its particular functioning and composition" (270).

Catherine Belsey's 1999 Shakespeare and the Loss of Eden: The Construction of Family Values in Early Modern Culture is a curious example as a monograph with overt political intentions "to historicize and thus denaturalize family values" (xiv) but which nevertheless maintains heteronormative assumptions and elides any discussion of homoerotic and homosocial ties in the early modern household. It also focuses solely on the nuclear family of husband, wife, parents, and siblings, although an important distinction between the early modern family and the modern family was the presence in the early modern family of "non-kin inmates, sojourners, boarders or lodgers ... as well as indentured apprentices and resident servants" (Stone 26-27). In the introduction to her edited collection, Domestic Arrangements in Early Modern England (2002) (which includes two essays on plays by Shakespeare), Kari Boyd McBride gives attention to the extended nature of the early modern family, particularly to female servants. …

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