Tuesday, April 22, 2008
In contrast with the prevailing anthro- and hetero-normativity in the sociocultural location in which A Midsummer Night’s Dream emerged, the text of the play can be possibly interpreted as showing renegade sexuality. While the play may not have been written as one of sexual radicalism, there are gaps in the comedy which point to queerness apart from the more popularly explored homoeroticism.
The abnormal practice of bestiality can be read in Titania’s short-lived affection for the donkey-headed Nick Bottom. Bewitched to fall in love with the first creature she sees upon waking up in the forest, fairy queen Titania indeed becomes enamored with the vile creature to which the originally human Bottom had been magically turned. Her lavish attention and noble treatment for the transmogrified weaver is none other than a case of someone who has gone lovestruck over an animal. This unusual setup upsets the anthro-normativity of the world outside the text, for the social norm allows only the union between humans and not between a human and an animal. Titania’s state of devotion over the assified Bottom proves to be of a bestial nature, something that is queer and impermissible to the society if only for the disgust and horror it generates from the strictly anthrophilic norm before as well as today.
Another queer signification in A Midsummer Night’s Dream includes the obsession of fairy king Oberon over making Titania’s Indian ward of a boy as his page. The epic battle between the enchanted royalties is such that Oberon schemes to have Titania applied to the eyes with a magical flower juice so, as a punishment for her disobedience, the aforementioned falling in love with a despicable being will take place. This exaggerated persistence of Oberon to possess the boy for his use of him as knight begs for a sodomitical reading of the text: with his wife already distracted and with his freedom to own the boy as a page, he seems bent on using him to the extreme point of making a sodomite out of him. Then as now, sodomy in general is a crime, in which case Oberon is committing something that is sexually offensive to the society. Not only does this make him a homosexual but also does this make him a pedophile, cases which may be independent of each other but find tangency in Oberon’s circumstance. Notwithstanding homosexuality’s and pedophilia’s legal difference in most socio-historical locations (the latter being punishable by the written law while the former, by ostracism among other bigotries), both concepts antagonize the normative sphere of the society. Pedophilia, in particular, causes social opposition because somebody of minor age is involved in a practice warranting legal age for consent and recognition.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s queer interpretations communicate sexual ruptures in human civilization which, until now, cannot be socially negotiated. Bestiality and pedophilia are considered sexual anomalies meriting legal punishment. If only for these sexual rebellions, the prevalent social order is being interrogated in the dissidents’ attempt to push legal rigidities to the limit.