Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Giordano Bruno's Misogyny

It is truly, O most generous Sir, the work of a low, filthy animal nature to have made oneself the constant admirer, and to have a fixed solicitous attachment upon or around the beauty of a woman's body. Good God! What more vile and ignoble vision can present itself to a clear-sighted eye than a man, brooding, afflicted, tormented, sorry, melancholy; who waxes now cold, now hot, now boiling, now trembling, now pale, now blushing, now in a pose of perplexity, now in an act of decisiveness, a man who spends his best season and the choicest fruits of his life distilling the elixir of his brain towards putting into thought and writ and sealing in public monuments those endless tortures, those grave torments, those reasoned arguments, those laborious thoughts and those bitter desires addressed to the tyranny of an unworthy, imbecilic, foolish and sordid smut?

What tragicomedy, what act, I say, more deserving of pity and laughter could be produced in this theatre of the world, on this stage of our perceptions, than these subjugated men, rendered pensive, contemplative, constant, steadfast, faithful, lovers, devotees, adorers, and slaves of a thing without faith, bereft of all constancy, destitute of intelligence, empty of all merit, void of any acknowledgment or gratitude, where no more sense, intellect, or goodness is to be obtained than might be found in a statue or a painting on a wall? And where there abound more disdain, arrogance, effrontery, vainglory, rage, scorn, perfidy, lust, greed, ingratitude, and other moral vices than the poisons and instruments of death that could have issued forth from Pandora's box, all to have, alas, such expensive accomodation with the brain of such a monster?

Behold, inscribed on paper, enclosed in books, set before the eyes, and intoned in the ears, a noise, a commotion, a clash of devices, of emblems, of mottoes, of epistles, of sonnets, of epigrams, of books, of chattering scribbles, of terminal sweats, of lives consumed, of cries that deafen the stars, laments that make hell's caverns reverberate, aches that strike the living dumb, sights that exhaust the pity of the gods, for those eyes, for those cheeks, for that bossom, for that white, for that crimson, for that tongue, for that tooth, for that lip, for that hair, that dress, that mantle, that glove, that slipper, that high heel, that avarice, that giggle, that scorn, that empty window, that eclipse of the sun, that throbbing, that disgust, that stench, that sepulcher, that cesspit, that menstruation, that carrion, that malaria, that uttermost insult and lapse of nature, that with a surface, a shadow, a phantasm, a dream, an enchantment of Circe plied in the service of reproduction, should deceive in the manner of beauty; which simultaneously comes and goes, issues and flies, flowers and rots, and is somewhat beautiful on the outside, but truly and fixedly contains within a shipyard, a workshop, a customhouse, a marketplace of every foulness, toxin, poison that our stepmother Nature has managed to produce: and once the seed she requires has been paid out, she often repays it with a morass, a remorse, a sadness, a flaccidity, a headache, a lassitude, this and that distemper that are known to all the world, so that every place aches bitterly where it itched so sweetly before.

De gli heroici furori ( The Heroic Frenzies); dedication to Sir Philip Sidney, 1585

1 comment:

  1. Yet "from the invectives against women in his opening letter, Bruno has moved by the end of his dialogue to a vision in which a woman wields power equal to that of any man; like Plato ( Diotima in 'Symposium') and Saint Paul, he occasionally states ,and must have believed at some level, that male and female make no real difference to the potential of an individual soul. Society, however, was another matter."

    Ingrid D. Rowland; "Giordano Bruno; Philosopher & Heretic"; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, N.Y., 2008