Sometimes I find myself thinking About the blood that ran through me Last Thursday, Piping, boiling hot; And then again, on Monday, Cold, and iced like tea. I find myself thinking about The Children growing inside me, Clawing their way out Like Athena. […]
What needst thou have more covering than a man?
As an actor, usually of Shakespeare’s plays, I am well-acquainted with the patriarchal backdrop of Western literary tradition. Despite Good Queen Bess and her 45-year-reign, Elizabethan England was unquestionably a patriarchal society, one in which Lewd, Idle…and Unconstant Women was the title of a non-fiction bestseller and the reigning monarch’s sex life was a matter for public debate.
It is unsurprising, then, that 16th century literature was a man’s world, fuelled by love poetry in which the speaker compares his virginal, unattainable muse to a series of desirable (and silent) physical objects. As literature students past and present know, John Donne is no exception at first glance. Flicking through a not-yet-well-thumbed anthology of his works for the first time, I distinctly remember raising an eyebrow in equal parts apprehension and mockery, ready to passionately condemn yet more high-profile celebration of a double standard which blighted the lives of women for centuries and continues to do so today (President Trump, I am looking at you). How very wrong I was.
Some male classicists do this thing where they try to be edgy by explaining that Sappho might not have actually liked women. I view this as a prime example of a prototypical privileged man being unable either to fathom a woman not attracted to men […]