Ever read Euripides’s Hippolytus?
It’s interesting because Hippolytus is very like a Taliban dude. He loves Artemis and hates Aphrodite, and he keeps telling everyone how pure he is. In short, he hates sex.
It has this one speech of his, starting at line 617…
Oh, Zeus! Why did you bring woman into the light of the sun? Woman, this impure, this evil destroyer of mortals! If you wanted to sow the seeds for the mortal race you should not have done it through women but a price.
Men should be able to just go to some temple or other, put there some piece of bronze or iron, or even some gold –whatever their means would allow- and with that price paid, pick themselves the son they want. Take him home with him and there, the two men could live out their lives, in their house without a woman to be seen anywhere! As it is now, even before we want to bring this… this curse, into our house, we must squander away our whole estate! And here’s what I mean by this. Here’s the clear proof of it: The woman’s father, the man who had begotten that beast and who had raised her -that poor man, not only has to lay a dowry out for her but he must also send her away, so he can shed from himself this unbearable burden!
And then, her husband, the other poor creature, the one who has brought this… fake statue, into his house, this ruinous beast, her husband, the moment he gets her into his house, he begins to happily decorate her! He begins the little game of cajoling her with pretty clothes! Fancy clothes for a worthless, vile statue! And there, you see, there goes, bit by little bit, all the wealth of his estate! And then come the unavoidable choices of his constrains. Either his in-laws are so good that he accepts the burden of having to endure a rotten and painful marriage, or it’s the other way around: he gets a great wife but rotten and painful in-laws, in which case, he’ll need to content himself with the thought that, the good part of this marriage cancels out the rotten part. But the man who gets it the easiest is the one who brings into his house a woman who is totally useless. A nothing. A zero. A simple, simple- minded woman. A useless woman.
But I hate the smart ones! I simply loathe that sort! Oh, Zeus, spare me! I hope I’ll never end up with a woman in my house who’s cleverer than women should be! Aphrodite plants a lot more evil schemes in the minds of those clever ones! The dumb ones are kept on the straight and narrow because of their… rather diminutive wit. And, if you do get a wife, give her no slave. Instead, give her animals. Give her dumb brutes for companions. Wild beasts that you can’t talk to and they can’t talk back. Give a bitch of a wife a servant and what have you got? The two talk together inside, hatch up all sorts of evil plans and then the servant goes off and carry those plans outside the house!
Source. Translation by George Theodoridis.
It made me think of Iago, so I read the opening scenes of Othello again – and my jaw kept dropping with amazement. I’d forgotten how incredibly raw it is, and I didn’t even know before how familiar it is.
In the first scene, Iago and Roderigo come in in mid-conversation, and a strikingly sleazy conversation it is. They both dislike Othello and they talk about it for awhile, then…
RODERIGO What a full fortune does the thicklips owe
If he can carry’t thus!
IAGO Call up her father,
Rouse him: make after him, poison his delight,
Proclaim him in the streets; incense her kinsmen,
And, though he in a fertile climate dwell,
Plague him with flies: though that his joy be joy,
Yet throw such changes of vexation on’t,
As it may lose some colour.
RODERIGO Here is her father’s house; I’ll call aloud.
IAGO Do, with like timorous accent and dire yell
As when, by night and negligence, the fire
Is spied in populous cities.
RODERIGO What, ho, Brabantio! Signior Brabantio, ho!
IAGO Awake! what, ho, Brabantio! thieves! thieves! thieves! Look to your house, your daughter and your bags! Thieves! thieves!
BRABANTIO appears above, at a window
BRABANTIO What is the reason of this terrible summons? What is the matter there?
RODERIGO Signior, is all your family within?
IAGO Are your doors lock’d?
BRABANTIO Why, wherefore ask you this?
IAGO ‘Zounds, sir, you’re robb’d; for shame, put on your gown;
Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul;
Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
Is topping your white ewe. Arise, arise;
Awake the snorting citizens with the bell,
Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you: Arise, I say.
BRABANTIO What, have you lost your wits?
RODERIGO Most reverend signior, do you know my voice?
BRABANTIO Not I what are you?
RODERIGO My name is Roderigo.
BRABANTIO The worser welcome:
I have charged thee not to haunt about my doors:
In honest plainness thou hast heard me say
My daughter is not for thee; and now, in madness,
Being full of supper and distempering draughts,
Upon malicious bravery, dost thou come
To start my quiet.
RODERIGO Sir, sir, sir,–
BRABANTIO But thou must needs be sure
My spirit and my place have in them power To make this bitter to thee.
RODERIGO Patience, good sir.
BRABANTIO What tell’st thou me of robbing? this is Venice;
My house is not a grange.
RODERIGO Most grave Brabantio,
In simple and pure soul I come to you.
IAGO ‘Zounds, sir, you are one of those that will not serve God, if the devil bid you. Because we come to do you service and you think we are ruffians, you’ll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse; you’ll have your nephews neigh to you; you’ll have coursers for cousins and gennets for germans.
BRABANTIO What profane wretch art thou?
IAGO I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.
BRABANTIO Thou art a villain.
IAGO You are–a senator.
See what I mean? Racism and misogyny in the crudest possible terms. It’s vile stuff, and meant to be. Iago is one of the most horrible characters Shakespeare ever came up with, and he reveals him as such right at the beginning. But doesn’t it sound familiar? Iago would have loved Twitter. Think of all the high school girls he could have bullied into suicide.
But what an opening for a play, eh?