Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood by Gary Taylor

By Gary Taylor

Castration is a full of life historical past of the which means, functionality, and act of castration from its position within the early church to its secular reinvention within the Renaissance as a spiritualized type of masculinity in its twentieth century place on the middle of psychoanalysis.

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Shakespeare also associated eunuchs with a very specific kind of “voice” in Coriolanus and Cymbeline. But such knowledge was not restricted to Shakespeare. ” In 1598, the poet Francis Rous took it for granted that a eunuch “sweetly sings”; in the same year, the playwright Ben Jonson expected his audience to know that being castrated would qualify someone to “sing ballads” for the rest of his life. ” (Fictional) eunuchs were expected to sing in Robert Greene’s Selimus, Ben Jonson’s Volpone, and Philip Massinger’s Duke of Milan.

46 Castration Castration was not, accordingly, the worst loss that men could imagine. Although Freud considers beheading a symbolic substitute for castration, most men do not regard them as interchangeable; after all, the only really powerless man is a dead one. As the eunuch in Thomas Heywood’s Fair Maid of the West exclaims, “Die? ” In contemporary America, men suffering from testicular cancer often undergo orchiectomy; there are undoubtedly more castrated men in New York City at the beginning of the twentieth-first century than in the whole of Elizabethan England.

This is a claim that will, I suspect, surprise every reader of this book. Even readers who recognize the historical importance of the humanist transition would expect me to focus on Shakespeare, not Middleton. ) But even if you are 32 Castration willing to entertain my high assessment of Middleton’s genius, you might reasonably object that I am attempting to do too much: to change the place of A Game at Chess and of Middleton in our literary and cultural canon, in the course of changing the literal and symbolic place of castration in our models of sexuality and humanness.

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