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Ah, the afterthought, women, "but innocent and pure..."

Are women not generally "innocent and pure"?

The line is uttered by Shakespeare's good guy in the Tempest, Gonzalo, a foil to the evil Alonso:

....adviser to King Alonso of Naples. Gonzalo is a kind and charitable, if ineffectual, figure who is a foil to the cynical villainy of Antonio, Duke of Milan, his master's ally. Gonzalo's goodness is an important element in the play.  He persistently takes a generous and optimistic point of view, as in his fantasy of an ideal society ... At the play's close, when Prospero’s schemes result in a final reconciliation and the seemingly miraculous restoration of the king's son, Ferdinand, it is the ageing adviser—called by Prospero 'Holy Gonzalo, honourable man' ... as the king's ship sinks, Gonzalo's calm acceptance of fate contrasts with Antonio's arrogant fury and helps establish our sense of the moral polarities with which the play is concerned... we learn that Alonso assisted Antonio in deposing his brother, Prospero, and abandoning him and his infant daughter Miranda at sea, but that Gonzalo helped the victims by providing them with supplies. The contrast between Antonio and Gonzalo remains throughout the play... Gonzalo is mocked by Antonio and Sebastian for his attempts to cheer the king, and Antonio proposes to kill Gonzalo along with Alonso in his scheme to place Alonso's brother Sebastian on the throne of Naples. At the close Gonzalo's hearty participation in the aura of reconciliation points up Antonio's refusal to accept it.

Damn the man! Written into our damned patriarchal culture by a line in a play of fantasy.

Innocence is overrated. Likewise, purity.

What innocence amounts to is gullibility, naiveté, praised as a sublime virtue. Most likely, submission, obedience, to a user, an exploiter.

Women, children, innocent, gullible, malleable, exploitable in their sweet ignorance. Also, valuable as commodities.

A poem mourns the loss of innocence:

Curiosity grows ...
Temptation breaks all resistance
Dark discoveries flood in
Innocence swept away
Sinful satisfaction ...
Curiosity laughs, temptation has won
... sin remains
Innocence is dead...
Curiosity is the mother of survival. Innocence, so-called "purity" is a gimmick, a commodity that can be sold to the highest bidder, an "innocent and pure" six-year-old girl can be traded as easily as a sheep or a cow:
"I had to sell my six-year-old daughter Naghma to a relative to settle an old debt," Mr Mohammad says, staring blankly at the tattered tarpaulin roof of his small mud shelter.

A shy girl with a smiling face, Naghma is now engaged to a boy 10 years older than her. Mr Mohammad says his daughter may have to leave for the boy's home in Helmand's Sangin district in a year..... "To keep my family alive, I took a loan of $2,500 [about £1,600] from a distant relative," Mr Mohammad says.

Years of war and poverty forced Mr Mohammad to leave his home in the southern province of Helmand and take refuge in Qambar's mud shelters.

Because we were not curious, because we were gullible, stupid, and we swallowed whole the lies of the exploiters, the users, the unholy purveyors of war, aided by religion which praises ignorance and blind belief over curiosity and discovery. and disclosure. Knowledge is dangerous in the eyes of religios and the warmongers.

And innocent little Naghma is just another one of the spoils of war.

Originally posted to Karen Hedwig Backman on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 01:38 PM PDT.

Also republished by Sex, Body, and Gender, Sluts, and DKOMA.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Do you imagine the "men" to be males? (0+ / 0-)

    Do you believe that the allegorical types that inhabit The Tempest are a) supposed authorially, b) received, c) philosophically active c1 then c2 now, as normative values?

    See what Shakespeare has to say about the male sex, and then indict him for misandrony as well. Hamlet, I believe, has a moderate condemnation of the sex, if no one else will suffice but a royal. Falstaff can tell you, too, and Jaques in a comedy, and any Fool will as well.

    Why women, but pure? This is because men "pollute." A virgin is philosophically pure in this discourse because she has not been polluted by semen. The maiden is not a sinner yet, although she is also not an adult; she possesses a purity and innocence the same as the child, in renaissance theology.

    Did Shakespeare believe this? The question is unanswerable. While Greenblatt's position may be too extreme, it's certain that a historical authorial intention is endlessly receding behind a number of performative masks. Shakespeare plays at being a philosopher, a royal theorist, etc. His political theory in his plays is abhorrent to us anyway. He is consistently anti-democratic and consistently a believer in the divine king of strength.

    Everyone is innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 02:07:43 PM PDT

    •  Where, then, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Penny GC, x

      Is the raillery about "pure men and innocent"?

      Men are the owners, the purveyors of the commodity of the purity and innocence of women and children.

      Also, you must be well aware that children were commonly used as sexual vessels in the England of that time  serving primarily the sexual needs of men.

      •  Men CANNOT BE pure (0+ / 0-)

        Men are condemned roundly. They are not wished for "pure," because it is impossible.

        You're being at least a bit churlish. You're reading The Tempest and looking at a speech from a corrupt/human proposing his new kingdom, and regarding it as a statement of Renaissance normative thought.

        As for children and commonly and men using them in the Renaissance, you'd need to define terms and methodology. Historians can't even determine rates of literacy in the period, and yet you know that child "use" was common. I would urge a bit more caution. The more lurid the tale, the more I find skepticism pays off.

        I urge you to read the text first and not abuse it by trying to show how awful it is. In layers of projection, we have Shakespeare projecting a facade by making a play. That play is a political facade intended to serve a personal political purpose. The characters are all isolated symbols in a philosophical discourse.

        Inside that discourse, we have an enunciation of the classic paternalistic (not patriarchical) political philosophy as understood in the English renaissance. In that time, women were not women until sexually active. John Donne would argue, while at college, that women probably did not have independent souls. (And we know that he loved women and considered them equals.) If you want to understand this speech, you need to understand it completely, and not just seize upon it for an indictment you have ready: In their thought, a girl is in a state of innocence because sins are transmitted from the father to the son. Girls are "soft spirits" that receive the imprint of forces around them. (This is also taken from Classical philosophy, and particularly Hellenistic philosophy, where women were said to lack a character.) While maids, they were saved. They could not be responsible for their wrongs.

        This is a very cossetting and insulting point of view, and men like Donne would agree with it publicly while they obviously did not truly agree with it. This is because, as I said, these are projections. Donne was acting in order to get his degree and get a good job and move up. What, then, is William Shakespeare doing?

        Everyone is innocent of some crime.

        by The Geogre on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 05:40:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh good grief! (0+ / 0-)

          Stop being so idiotic. I excuse old Gonzalo as the necessary good guy of The Tempest, although I think Will is having his little joke by portraying Gonzalo as a bit of a fool. I'm just sorry that Gonzalo, the necessary fool, had to mouth that horrific old and tired platitude about women -- even at that time.

          and, you have made an interesting statement: "In their thought, a girl is in a state of innocence because sins are transmitted from the father to the son."

          Where is your documented proof of that?

          And, by the way, what the hell is a "soft spirit"? Did spirits suffer from a certain amount of density at that time?

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