Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Shakespeare's Archetypes - Katarina vs. Tamora

As a boy the movie version of "The Taming of the Shrew" with Elizabeth TAYLOR and Richard BURTON was as enjoyable as "Romeo & Juliet" but in a completely "alternative universe" kind of way. Katerina (Kate) was an intoxicating beauty, scary crazy but somehow instructive on female power. Her headstrong nature presented a gender stereotype of the ultimate challenge and Petruchio her ultimate match and mate. These two archetypes opened up a looking glass view on the nature of male female relationships, respect and romance. Most would recognize the "Intimate Partner Abuse" - mostly by Kate was a big part of it which probably explains why it is not as popular as "The Vagina Monologues" anymore.

This archetype of Kate is evoked in this article1 that explores the strange relationship between famous Christian convert C.S LEWIS and a Mrs. MOORE, the mother of a close friend killed in battle during WWI and who nursed LEWIS back to health after he was wounded. It makes LEWIS (who also wrote the Narnia series) more like Oedipus - and I think to characterize Mrs. MOORE as Kate is quite ridiculous.

Queen Tamora2 in Titus Andronicus maybe, but not the lovely Kate. Yet, Hildebrand calls MOORE:
"a typical virago who is not a literary invention, but a creature of flesh and blood whom the Greeks would have called a fury. [and] ..... he freely accepted to be enslaved by a woman who abused his kindness and generosity."
Indeed. This doesn't sound like Kate to me.

There are so many contradictions between the two: LEWIS converted to Christianity - MOORE steadfastly remained an Atheist; LEWIS's "obsession" vs. MOORE's "selfishness"; LEWIS's devotion is recognized for what it is - emotional slavery (which reminds me of the emotional blackmail common in Parental Alienation).

What I find important in this reveal of personal relationship is the unmasking of the feminist ideal of ever-virtuous womanhood. LEWIS was the chump - a loyal but willing henpeck. Pitied by his brother and "step-sister" for his self-imposed servitude. If LEWIS's relationship with MOORE was more than slave and enabler we shall never know, but I feel certain Kate and Petruchio lived a much better life.

1) "C. S. Lewis and Mrs. Moore" by ALICE VON HILDEBRAND, Inside Catholic
(February 2009). Literature offers us a rich panorama of marriages in which the woman is a shrew and the husband a victim.

2) Queen Tamora was the blood-curdling and ruthless women - a Lady MacBeth on crystal meth - who exacted horrific retribution on Titus's children for his challenge to her authority.