Tuesday, 13 March 2012

21. Queen Vashti - early Middle Eastern women's lib

During some very long ago, youthful and enthusiastic marriage preparation classes in our local Anglican church I seem to remember agreeing to 'love, honour and obey' during the wedding liturgy. I figured if someone was prepared to 'love, honour and WORSHIP' me (traditional male equivalent) it was the least I could do. 

In all these years it hasn't honestly been a problem, but then I've never been maritally summoned to appear in front of a lot of drunk male guests during a seven day long banquet (TBH we don't have many dinner parties in our house - we're too busy playing on our iPhones...)

Queen Vashti was lucky in the jewellery department but unlucky in the 'tyrant for a husband' department. At the beginning of the fascinating book of Esther, the ruling Persian King gives a luxurious banquet for all residents of the citadel of Susa. Wine is flowing freely - one is reminded of a similar banquet given by Herod where John the Baptist's head ends up on a plate. Testosterone, power, wealth and alcohol: always a bad mix. 

But there's something missing from this awesome display of the King's possessions - one more beautiful 'thing' to bring in and parade in front of all and sundry. Ah, that'll be the wife.

Unfortunately 'the wife' has also been having a banquet for the women. You know what it's like when women get together...'Did you hear how he treats her????????????'

Perhaps newly empowered, Vashti is in no mood to be bossed around. When summoned to appear before her husband, she simply says no. And all hell breaks loose. This is a scandal! We must have female submission!! POWER TO HUSBANDS!!! MARITAL OBEDIENCE IN ALL PERSIAN HOUSEHOLDS!!!! Etc. etc.

Whatever the culture, whatever her motive, I can't help feeling sympathetic. A stand for women's liberation?

The interesting thing from a narrative point of view, is that the stage is now set for a new Queen....To be continued...

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