Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 1, No. 8. Wednesday, 1 Aug 1990.
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 90 21:28:59 EDT
Subject: New discussion
The discussion about the nature of Shakespearian productions
raises the question about the nature of Shakespearian studies. I have
been working on a paper that looks at Charles Kean's and Henry
Irving's productions of *Henry VIII*, and in my research I looked at
19th Century adaptations of Shakespeare for children (the most famous
are Lamb's *Tales*). What struck me was the way that Shakespeare was
held up as a great moral teacher--a sentiment that one finds in most
of the scholarly criticisms of the time. In fact, I have found a book
by Arthur Gilman called *Shakespeare's Morals: Suggestive Selections,
with Brief Collateral Readings and Scriptural References* (New York:
Dodd, Mead & Co., 1880). Besides revealling to the reader "the
alliance of meaning and inference contained in his daily dramas," the
book is supposed to "sharpen the moral sense, quicken the reverence of
thoughtful minds for great historical truths ... and to fortify the
better nature against the assaults of mean, petty, sordid sentiments"
(from the prospectus for the book). Which, after reading the book,
one discovers is "know your place and do not be ambitious."
And while we can snicker at the Victorian predisposition towards
the status quo, critical theory and critical practice tells us that
such prodispositions exist in all criticisms. New Historicism versus
Cultural Materialism, Post-Colonialism, Feminism, Deconstruction--what
baggage are our critical methods carrying? I throw this bit out for
debate since there can never be the definitive answer, but why not get
the ball rolling?