words in performance even if it is not our current practice to cut such bad

Words in performance even if it is not our current

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words in performance, even if it is not our current practice to cut such bad words in our written texts of the Bard. Third – and this comes easiest to a generation of readers trained in reconciling apparent contra- dictions to produce texts and characters that are autonomous and coherent wholes – we can understand Katherine’s words here as sar- casms, so that they register her continuing strength of character, de- fi ance, and rhetorical self-possesion. Of course, if our reading of Katherine’s words and their relation to her character were not condi- tioned by assumptions about Shakespeare’s own exemplary rhetorical control, we might be less inclined to read ironic reversal. It may therefore be useful to recall that the speech is drawn from Holinshed’s Chronicles , where it appears as follows: ‘‘And my lords, I am a poore woman, lacking wit, to answer to anie such noble persons of wisedome as you be, in so weightie a matter, therefore I praie you be good to me poore woman, destitute of freends here in a forren region, and your counsell also I will be glad to heare.’’ ²⁵ It is a fourth alternative that I want to take seriously: that is, to recognize in the discontinuity between  The rhetoric of politeness
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Katherine’s boldness and her self-deferential apologizing the expected discourse of ‘‘the socially de fi ned site from which it is uttered,’’ to use here Pierre Bourdieu’s words. ²⁶ Katherine’s disjunctive language, juxta- posing bold speech and apology, is entirely consistent with the Janus- faced negative politeness that a hierarchically arranged culture makes it her part to use in most of the speech positions she habitually occupies. Her ‘‘character’’ then is, at least in part, an e ff ect of negative politeness. Just as unsettling, I think, to some present-day feminist readers of the play as Katherine’s self-humiliating deprecation of her sex is the meek discourse of religious humility, patience, and obedience she adopts as she awaits her death. To this point, I have tended to write about the language of Henry VIII almost as if it provided direct transcriptions of real social scenes. Much of the language is, in fact, taken over from Holin- shed’s Chronicles and from Foxe’s Acts and Monuments , works that claim to record direct quotations of their speakers, making my blurring of the real and the poetic perhaps less problematic than would be the case for Hamlet or King Lear . Still, it is obvious that the shifted context of the borrowed speeches alters their signi fi cance, that there can be no direct transcriptions of real social scenes into Shakespeare’s plays, and that we are looking at at least slightly di ff erent ‘‘textual’’ Katherines in Henry VIII , in Holinshed’s Chronicles , and indeed in a letter purportedly written by the historical Katherine to which I will refer later. Such di ff erences will obtain no matter what the intention or ‘‘private craftsmanship’’ the dramatist strives to e ff ect. Nonetheless, in
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