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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: November ::
Re: Ontology, Shakespeare, and History
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 740.  Tuesday, 9 November 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Melissa Aaron <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Nov 1993 09:18:20 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0731 Re: Shakespeare, Ontology, and History
 
(2)     From:   Michael Sharpston <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 09 Nov 1993 13:26:00 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 4.0731 Re: Shakespeare, Ontology, and History
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa Aaron <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Nov 1993 09:18:20 +0200
Subject: 4.0731 Re: Shakespeare, Ontology, and History
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0731 Re: Shakespeare, Ontology, and History
 
>Along the same lines as Bill Godshalk's query about the relationship
>of fictional texts to history, I'm running into a similar difficulty with
>*Measure for Measure*.  Much of the criticism on the play refers to Eliza-
>bethan betrothal and marriage laws, such as those concerning the custom of
>handfasting, to explain various questions, but such a strategy has always
>struck me as not entirely legitimate, for a few reasons:
 
I agree with you about the problematic relationship of this play to English
law.  However, it seems to me that some of the strength of the play lies in the
ability to recognize non-English custom.  For example, Isabella is a novice in
the order of St. Clare.  When she indicates that she would like the rule to be
stricter, the audience reaction is founded upon knowledge that the Poor Clares
have probably the most penetential rule in the Roman Catholic Church--yet this
would hardly fall in the category of English experience after the monasteries
had been dissolved.  The problem with criticizing Measure for Measure in
strictly legal terms is that it leaves out the conceptual struggle of mercy and
justice/justification. Surely it is safer to set a play that displays religious
hypocrisy and smugness in a Catholic country; where the religion is different
and yet (importantly) the parallels are familiar enough to be recognizable and
applicable.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Sharpston <
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Date:           Tuesday, 09 Nov 1993 13:26:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 4.0731 Re: Shakespeare, Ontology, and History
Comment:        RE: SHK 4.0731 Re: Shakespeare, Ontology, and History
 
I agree strongly with Nancy Miller's comment: "the way concepts and ideas are
used (better yet, *taken for granted*) within the literature" [emphasis added].
 Tells us a lot about the other time period -- particularly if we try
consciously not to take our own time or place as an absolute norm.
 
About playwright "realism" in depicting another Time and Place, I suspect (but
others on SHAKSPER would be more learned) that earlier centuries cared less
about that than we often do.  I am thinking of all the Renaissance Madonnas
happily set against Florentine countryside etc. etc.
 
          Michael Sharpston
          
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