Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Bloody Beheading?

Shakespeare and the visual arts connect again! 

Judith and Holofernes
I was reading Angela's post about names the other day and it reminded me about a character in Love's Labour's Lost who has an odd name. Holofernes, the school teacher. The name Holofernes is from a character in the Apocrypha. He is a leader of a large army who lays siege to Jerusalem. A ruthless evil man.

The city begins to starve and is about to give in or forsake their God. A young widow named Judith decides to take matters into her own hands. She moves to Holofernes' camp, convinces him she is deserting the city. Holofernes finds himself warm for her form and invites her to dine with him. He gets raging drunk, Judith takes the moment and chops off his head and runs to the city, where she gets the army of Jerusalem and they storm the camp and kill everyone!
This one is my favorite. Painted by Carravagio
(that is his self-portrait as the face of  Holofernes.)

In the art world, there seems to be a period of time to be obsessed with a story and everyone paints it. This same thing happened to the story of Judith and Holofernes.

Now, why did Shakespeare choose this namesake for a schoolteacher in his very light hearted play?

What is going to happen to Holofernes? I'm excited to see this play out.


  1. Hmm... without reading further into the play, do you think that Shakespeare is saying something about schoolteachers? He was obviously powerful, but found his demise in the form of a woman. Hmm...

  2. I have to agree with Angela's line of thinking here, especially in light of having finished the play. No one got decapitated, but the women in the play did come out on top and showed that they could match wits and knowledge on the same level as all the men who fancied themselves scholars.

  3. This is interesting. Maybe, Shakespeare compares this school teacher to the general and is saying that with all of his academic strategy and knowledge he was no match for the logical, blunt thinking of a woman. The women, who destroy the rhetoric with their anti-poetry speaking, come out victors. Just like Judith, without armies and strategy comes out victor by simply walking into the tent and taking care of business.