Antipholus (E) is NOT a twenty-first century role model – but was he a sixteenth-century one?
… but truly two.’ Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
PTS read through: Comedy of Errors, Act IV
In 2018, the notion of what it means to be a ‘man’ feels ever more opaque, with behaviours and attitudes being scrutinised as never before, perhaps. As a gender, we sometimes appear confused about the path we ought to take to find a satisfying and yet socially acceptable direction or self-definition.
Maybe it was ever thus.
In yesterday’s post on Macbeth I touched upon the fragility of our hero’s notions of himself when his masculinity was challenged by his wife. Macbeth is largely a play about what it means to be a man, but that’s way down the line in terms of my reading schedule. Reading Act IV of Comedy of Errors felt like one of those non-comic interludes towards the end of plays like Much Ado About Nothing, and instead of laughing, I found myself thinking about what Antipholus(E) implies a ‘man’ should be. It’s not an attractive picture …
Ponytail Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV
KATHERINA: ‘And be it moon or sun or what you please,
And if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.
PETRUCCIO: I say it is the moon.
KATHERINA: I know it is the moon.
PETRUCCIO: Nay then, you lie; it is the blessed sun.
KATHERINA: Then God be blest, it is the blessed sun.’
I so often say to students (usually when we’re looking at poetry) that you should ‘bring your baggage’ to a work. It’s one of the things that makes re-reading an unexpected joy, as you arrive at a familiar work with fresh eyes. The ‘baggage’ can, of course, be life experiences, or other works that you’ve read: regular readers will already know that I have a habit of conflating Caliban, Richard III and Frankenstein’s monster, to talk through a sympathetic lens about those three characters and the nature vs. nurture argument.