Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Un Sex Me Here

or, 'Too much Freudship but not Jung enough'.

There seem to be a number of confused and confusing issues over the cross gender casting of characters in Shakespeare's plays. It is something of a Gordian knot - and I ain't no Alexander.
The first of these issues for me is a linguistic one, the second gender and the third, cultural.
A great deal of confused debate of the role of women comes, I believe (quite perversly some will say) from the misuse of the word sex.

Sex is a physical act, procreation/recreation.

To refer to a human being's sex, is going to reduce that being to a physical action: And define them by a very limited part of their activities (or their dangly bits).
Gender is the correct word for refering to a person's masculine or feminine identity. This is much more inclusive and incorperates aspects of personality which extend far beyond the physical.
Some of the people seem to be doing precisely that: Males are reduced to Homosexuals or Heterosexuals depending on the charater they are playing in a play. Those elements of themselves which they are using to illustrate female roles, which are held in common between male and female (after all, the word female contains male and there is a man in every woman - or a woman is 40% more extensive than a man) are ignored and the physical act of sex becomes the only issue.
It is worth remembering the Globe theatre wasn't a sex club in Amsterdam. One of the most famous scenes in Shakespere's works is the balcony scene in R and J: Have you ever thought why one of them is on a balcony and the other some distance away on the floor? I suspect it put a jolly good physical barrier between them which meant they could not do what a real pair of teenageers would do: You and me baby we ain't nothing but mammals.

Which brings me to Freud and Jung.

Freud smashed open the subconcious and ever since we have been stuck with it (Shakey didn't have to worry about all this). Essentially (short for over-simplification coming up) Freud saw sexuality in terms of suppression - of darkness of blindness. We repress and hide our physical urges (notice the focus) and this makes us all mad as hatters and in need of a very expensive analyst called Freud. It is interesting he uses Oedipus as his entry point: but that is all Greek to me.

Jung saw the subconcious heading on a journey to light: We ascend and try to comprehend; seek to see what life is for: To understand: This is the animus in all of us (male and female) and is a much stronger drive than the power drive or the sex drive (they do exist but are not dominant).

I find Freud useful some times, Jung most of the time in explaining why Shakespeare was so successful: he manages to hit patterns of behaviour which illustrate our basic drives.
Which brings me to the cultural dimension.

Shakey Baby lived in a world we can never know: No amount of reconstruction can return us to his world. Just think of the effect of now knowing Arabic numbers: We can never go back to a world where we do not know them, the world of Plato or Aristotle or St Paul (an aside, try turning 666 into Roman Numbers).
We are now living in a world of African States being run by elected women presidents. The USA might still be in the Dark Ages in this respect (executing blind old men sounds distinctly babarian to me) but much of the rest of the world recognises there is more to a woman than her sex.

Enough for now: Someone else wants to use the computer and I am getting off the point.

One last Question though: Shakespeare's acting troop is thought to consist of 16 males (12 "men" and 4 "boys"). Did the fact that he had an all male company to write for mean the roles he wrote for the female characters, by including the male elemnets, become fuller more rounded, greater than the sex? We shuld in fact be thankful the boys played the women.

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