A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Twelfth Night and Roe v. Wade


In Twelfth Night, Viola is obliged to fend for herself on the Illyrian coast after a shipwreck. She dresses as a man and attaches herself to the court of Count Orsino. Now known as Cesario, she is sent to the neighboring court of Olivia to woo Lady Olivia on Orsino's behalf. Viola does this all too well, as Olivia falls in love with her (in the guise of Cesario) instead of Orsino.

Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a foppish figure who has been unsuccessfully courting Olivia, writes a letter of challenge to Cesario, which is delivered by Olivia's mischievous kinsman Toby Belch. Toby has been milking Sir Andrew of his funds for weeks while assuring him of his eventual success in the courtship that Cesario has now jeopardized. Toby approaches Cesario:

Toby: "That defense thou hast, betake thee
to't. Of what nature the wrongs are thou hast
done him, I know not, but thy intercepter,
full of despite, bloody as the hunter, attends
thee at the orchard end. Dismount thy tuck,
be yare in thy preparation, for thy assailant
is quick, skillful and deadly."

Ces: "You mistake sir, I am sure no man hath
any quarrel to me My remembrance is very
free and clear from any damage of offense
done to any man."

Thus does the pro-choice Planned Parenthood provoke its feminist followers as to the demonic, womb-abrogating intentions of the pro-life movement, and indeed for similar fund-raising purposes. But when Toby returns from terrifying Viola and the Feminists to relay her answer to Sir Andrew and the Churchgoers, he proves that he would be equally at home working for the fund-raising component of the pro-life religious right:

Toby: "Why, man, he's a very devil; I have
not seen such a firago, I had a pass with him,
rapier, scabbard, and all, and he gives me
the stuck in with such a mortal motion that
it is inevitable; and on the answer, he pays
you as surely as your feet hits the ground
they stop in."

Andrew: "Pox on 't. I'll not meddle with him."

Toby: "Ay, but he will not now be pacified."

And so the pro-choice / pro-life debate in America progresses. While this twilight struggle is over an issue – the sanctity of life – that is central to any serious mind, the corresponding struggle over Roe v. Wade is by now actually a bit of a stalking horse. It's fairly clear, after all, that abortion would remain broadly legal in America even if Roe were to be repealed. (But of course I should say overturned, repealed being the wrong word for something decided by nine old unelected individuals thirty-two years ago). The only difference is that we the people would be struggling democratically amongst ourselves to develop our own moral vision, rather than having it imposed on us in a manner that is not only aristocratic, but ratifies the concept of aristocracy.

Meanwhile, the champions of each side of yesterday's fight over a mere court case continue inflaming their adherents to defend against their opponent's provocation (Fabian is Toby's assistant):

Viola: "I beseech you, what manner of man
is he?"

Fabian: "….He is indeed, sir, the most skillful,
bloody, and fatal opposite that you could
possibly have found in any part of Illyria."

It is worth noting that in the context of this aging blood feud, the absence of an expected explosion from the left over the pro-life tilting Alito nomination may mark a turning point - as Fabian's conciliatory hint to Viola seems to suggest:

Fabian: "Will you walk toward him, I will
make your peace with him if I can."

Viola: "I shall be much bound to you for 't...."

And here's Toby with Sir Andrew, admitting some confusion on the part of his champion over why he'd thought it so important to stage this generational court vs. legislature struggle in the first place:

Toby: "There's no remedy, sir, he will fight
with you for 's oath's sake. Marry, he hath
better bethought him of his quarrel, and he
finds that now scarce to be worth talking of.
Therefore draw, for the supportance of his
vow; he protests he will not hurt you."
Andrew: "Pray God he keep his oath!"

It is doubtless too soon to know if the fires of adversity have begun to ebb, which is to say to shift to a democratic rather than a judicial dueling-ground, but Toby and Fabian at least appear ready to continue maneuvering to identify the fund-raising possibilities a post-Roe world may have to offer., a recommendable blog, deserves this link in exchange for a link offered to bardseye.

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