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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: February ::
What Playwrights Do
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 114.  Sunday, 28 February 1993.
 
From:           Tom Loughlin <LOUGHLIN@FREDONIA.BITNET>
Date:           Saturday, 27 Feb 1993 11:13 pm EST
Subject:        What Playwrights Do
 
Gary Goldstein's comments via John Mucci have such an elementary logical
fallacy that I wonder if he knows what exactly it is that a playwright does.
He makes the argument that because several of Shakespeare's characters use
language which is unflattering to Jews (and blacks and many other types of
people) that therefore Shakespeare himself is, nay, must be, a racist.  That
kind of a statement is not only logically incorrect, it betrays that Mr.
Goldstein has little understanding of the creative process of playwrighting.
 
Playwrights write characters which attempt to reflect people as they live
in the real world; reflecting what they say, how they speak, what their basic
attitudes towards life and their surroundings are.  To my knowledge, Shake-
speare wrote next to nothing which is unquestionably reflective of his own
personal ideas or prejudices, nothing which did not contain the mask of the
theatre.  Shakespeare was a master at creating character, but I don't think
anybody has the right to state categorically that because any certain
character speaks or acts a certain way that therefore this is a clear reflec-
tion of the playwright's mind.  It's simply an illogical conclusion.  It is
not the playwright's job to judge the moral or ethical qualities of the
characters she or he creates; it is simply the playwright's job to write
them honestly and truthfully, present them to us, and let us view their
actions and behaviors and reflect accordingly.
 
The effort to demonstrate that Shakespeare "was a (fill in the blank)" by
pointing to his characters and what they say is *ipso facto* a false and
misleading argument, for it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the
nature of the art form and the medium which is theatre.  As clear as it is
that he was capable of putting slanderous speech into the mouths of his
characters, he was also quite capable of putting wisdom, truth and beauty into
the mouths of many others, yet I would not nor could not say that this makes
Shakespeare a wise and truthful man.  Any speculation as to his personal
beliefs are simply that -- speculation.  His very genius lies in the awareness
that he came at every question from every angle he could find, and asked every
question he could think of, while providing few answers.  The pitiful attempts
to reduce his genius to this or that single point of view are disingenuous,
and almost always point to the writer's own personal limitations.
 
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