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The Silent Woman [Dec. 6th, 2004|08:40 pm]
"Perhaps the most thought-provoking message of “The Silent Woman” is its implicit depiction of gender roles. The men in the movie, though cunning and intelligent, all reveal sexual impotency (in one scene, Dauphine struggles to resist a woman’s advances while Tom Otter does little to stand up to his wife) while the womean are sexually aggressive and domineering. Epicoene, Morose’s silent woman, falls somewhere in the middle, and we discover through her and the other characters that gender, in addition to class, education and social status, really is an arbitrary assumption, as Jonson comically notes.

Thus, the playwright’s characters are strict stereotypes of the flaws he saw in his society and, prophetically, in ours. As director Michael Kahn noted in a New York Times article: “Everyone comes in for their share of kicks.” Indeed, “The Silent Woman” leaves no one with his dignity quite intact, for husbands, hedonistic bachelors, aggressive sorority girls, pretentious aristocrats and spoiled old men all lose the facade of aplomb as they all try to outwit each other. We experience the play in laughter, but afterward, upon second thought, we find that laughter is perhaps not the most appropriate response to Jonson’s glum depiction of humanity."

I learned a new word: "Epicene", which is the other title for "The Silent Woman". It means "Having an ambiguous sexual identity. Having unsuitable feminine qualities." I downloaded the script from the Gutenberg Project.

It is amazing how already in that time they dealt with such problems. Well, not so amazing, considering men used to play the role of women on the stage, in the same way as women are barred from acting in the traditional theatre of many countries. It seems the UK was particularly reluctant to allow women to act, while this was accepted much earlier in France. I will have to go further into the exact chronology.

I am also becoming sick of men describing the thoughts of women, or describing women, or trying to picture what they think of women. And there are so few women authors! The book I am reading now, Gao Xingjian's "Soul Mountain", is full of that, a guy full of himself telling stories to the women he meets, trying to frame them into his own way of thinking. Fantasizing. And he is prefectly conscious of that, I guess, since he often relates how those women protest and tell him he is wrong, wrong, wrong and doesn't get it.

His stories are really cute though. But I don't know how perceptive he really is. How much of it is universal, and how much is merely the vision of a sensitive macho man.