Saturday, July 11, 2009

Shakespeare's Wife By Germain Greer

All this, in common with most of this book, is heresy, and probably neither truer nor less true than accepted prejudice. Ann Shakespeare cannot sensibly be written out of her husband's life if only because he himself was so aware of marriage as a challenging way of life, a 'world-without-end bargain'. The Shakespeare wallahs have succeeded in creating a Bard in their own likeness, that is to say, incapable of relating to women, and have then vilified the one woman who remained true to him all his life, in order to exonerate him. There can be no doubt that Shakespeare neglected his wife, embarrassed her and even humiliated her, but attempting to justify his behavior by vilifying her is puerile. The defenders of Ann Hathaway are usually derided as sentimental when they are trying simply to be fair. It is a more insidious variety of sentimentality that wants to believe that women who are ill treated must have brought it upon themselves. The creator of Hero, Desemona, Imogen and Hermonione knew better. Ann might say like Lady Macduff:

I have done no harm
I am in this earthy world, where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly. Why then, alas,
Do I put up that womanly defence
To say I have done no harm? (iv ii 75-80)

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