On Not Being Deceived: Rhetoric and the Body in Twelfth Night
Lorna Hutson, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London
Elder Loveless. Mistres, your wil leads my speeches from the purpose. But as a man—
Lady. A Simile servant? This room was built for honest meaners, that deliver themselves hastily and plainely, and are gone. Is this a time or place for Exordiums, and Similes, and metaphors?1
"Shakespearean comedy," writes Stephen Greenblatt, "constantly appeals to the body and to sexuality as the heart of its theatrical magic."2 Without wishing to disparage the enterprise of writing histories of the body, or indeed to underestimate what such histories have accomplished in terms of enhancing our understanding of early modern culture , I would like in the following pages to challenge the operation of a certain kind of "body history" within recent Shakespeare criticism. I do not so much want to disagree with Greenblatt's statement as it stands, as to argue that our understanding of how Shakespeare's comedy intervened, both in its own time and subsequently, to modify attitudes to sexuality and to gender has been more obscured than enlightened by the obsession with the "body" as Greenblatt here understands it, and with the kind of body history to which he and others have prompted us to turn.