Wednesday, March 28, 2012 | By: Brianna

Shakespeare and Boccaccio

Q:  So what are you up to nowadays?

A:  Well.  I'm sitting around worrying about The Future, spending time worrying about my business stats test instead of actually attempting to start studying for it, agonizing over my management "double-weighted" quiz that'll be on the same day as my stats test, and then I'm thinking a lot about Shakespeare.

Q:  That's nothing new, you might as well stop typing now.

A:  Yeah okay.

So I have a paper for my Shakespeare class.  I'm going to write it on Cymbeline, which I'm really excited about because it's a really weird play.  Not even the critics really know what to do with it because no one really knows what genre it belongs in.  Our book classifies it as a romance, so that means there's going to be love and shenanigans, no one's going to die, and everyone's going to live happily ever after.  Right?

Wrong.  There are at least two deaths, one of them being a suicide and the other one featuring a headless body that stays on stage for a little bit to cuddle with the female lead.

I also have a huge problem with the play being called Cymbeline after a secondary character because I'm still trying to figure out what his significance to the play is.  Mostly because I've given myself permission to not think about him up until now.

But I'm writing my paper about women.  And Shakespeare's source material.  Because it's a little known fact to people who know Shakespeare's stories but aren't familiar with the history behind them that Shakespeare never really came up with his own plots.  Due to copyright laws being nonexistent in Shakespearean times, he could pick and choose plots that struck his fancy from other people's works, and no one could say a word about it.  Better than that, if people recognized the source material they could gloat and talk about how clever they were that they actually knew where the plot came from.

A large part of Shakespeare's plot for Cymbeline centers around a wager that Posthumus (what a horrid name) makes with Iachimo based on the chastity of Posthumus' wife.  Because yes, you can be chaste when you're married.  So this plot actually came from Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron, which I learned through a very quick Google search while my school's library website wasn't working for me.  It's interesting that in the original story, the character upon whom Posthumus is based brags about how his wife possesses all of the best virtues that a woman can possess, and additionally the virtues that a knight or squire might possess.  Whoa, crazy!  I'm not sure if Shakespeare keeps this comparison, but if he doesn't, this is going to be perfect for my paper.  It's interesting that Boccaccio would go so far as to allow a character to bestow the virtues of a man upon his wife because I highly doubt that Boccaccio was a feminist in the contemporary sense.  Maybe he's saying that to show how absurd the character's bragging is.  "Anyone who would think to claim that women have the same virtues as men is clearly addled."  This seems plausible.

So it begins.  My lovely to do list unfolds:
- study for business stats in any manner possible
- study and read for management, pray that the questions aren't absurd
- write a paper for Shakespeare
- critique fiction

"I thought her
as chaste as unsunned snow."
- William Shakespeare, Cymbeline, 2.5


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