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Now let’s get onto some of the sexual politics of this play.Garner argues that the renewal at the end of the play depends on a restoration of patriarchal order—on women submitting to male rule, as in the case of Titania and Oberon having to reach an amicable agreement. Look now at the scene in the play where the dispute over the changeling boy first appears. First look at 2.1. from top of scene; next, look at 2.1.115ff—or, that is, first at Titania’s speech on the weather, then on the changeling boy.Notably, Puck describes the child as stolen from an Indian king, whereas Titania emphasizes the child’s link with his mother, her votress (Garner 86). Garner argues that the difference suggests the way in which the women’s exclusion of men threatens the patriarchal order (Garner 86). Oberon humiliates and torments Titania until she gives up the boy to him: “He uses the love potion not simply to divert her attention from the child, so that he can have him, but to punish her as well” (Garner 87). Note the curse that he speaks when he squeezes the juice of the flower into her eyes: see 2.2.33-40. Note also 4.1.47-64. Oberon gains everything—obedience of Titania and the changeling boy he wanted—she loses her autonomy and also the love of her votress and her boy (Garner 88).These events mirror those in the court, where patriarchal power is emphasized from the very opening of the play—note what Theseus says to Hermia about her defiance of her father—
7see 1.1.47-51. Note also her punishment—men or no sex—might there not be another possibility?—see 1.1.67ff. Theseus embodies the law of the father—patriarchal rule—and this rule gives Egeus complete control over his daughter (Garner 89). Meanwhile, Hippolyta is not a traditional woman—she is a warrior and a hunter. As an androgynous woman, Hippolyta satisfies Theseus because she “fulfils his need for the exclusive love of a woman while gratifyinghis homoerotic desires” (90). In Shakespeare’s time, of course, she would be played by a boy, sothe two of them look more like a homosexual than a heterosexual couple (Garner 90). As such, “Hippolyta, like Viola and Rosalind in disguise, fulfils a male fantasy, and more happily so since she is not in disguise” (Garner 90).Garner also argues that “Whereas the separation of Hippolyta and Titania from other women is implied or kept in the background, the breaking of women’s bonds is central in the plotinvolving the four young lovers” (Garner 92). Hermia recalls her longstanding friendship with Helena, and then the play dramatizes the breakup of that friendship (Garner 92-3). Note a coupleof speeches that show this breaking—first, 1.1.219ff and then at 3.2.197. After this speech, we get the fight between the two girls—3.2.296ff. As Garner points out, “In the course of the play, both Hermia and Helena suffer at the hands of their lovers” (Garner 94).