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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: September ::
Re: Shakespeare's Politics and Wanamaker's Globe
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 540.  Friday, 10 Sept. 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Al Cacicedo <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Sep 1993 21:46:32 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   His Globe/our globe
 
(2)     From:   Michael Sharpston <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Sep 1993 08:17:00 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Shakesp/ Politics/ PC/ Reality etc.
 
(3)     From:   Terence Hawkes <HAWKES%
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Sep 93  13:21 BST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 4.0532  Re: Wanamaker's Globe
 
(4)     From:   James McKenna <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Sep 1993 11:36:27 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0531  Re: Shakespeare's Politics
 
(5)     From:   James McKenna <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Sep 1993 11:54:30 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0532  Re: Wanamaker's Globe
 
(6)     From:   Gareth M Euridge <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Sep 93 13:50:21 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Shakespeare's Politics
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Al Cacicedo <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Sep 1993 21:46:32 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        His Globe/our globe
 
I agree emphatically with Gabriel Egan's point that there is much continuity
between the political and affective worlds of Shakespeare and my/our own.
In some ways, in fact, the difference between then and now is that the
contestation of hegemonic positions in both the affective and the political
realms is explicit.  For instance, recently I have been reading much about
the laws concerning marriage in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
I am absolutely astonished about how undefined the state of matrimony
really is, and indeed how sharply different are the definitions of competing
centers of authority--canon and common laws primarily, but also what social
historians call "the community," particularly in reaction to poor women, doubly
marginalized as they sometimes are.  In any case, one gets the sense that the
possibility of effective contestation is always present in this period.  That's
what makes the plays especially vibrant, for me, at least.
 
Al Cacicedo (
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Albright College
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Sharpston <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Sep 1993 08:17:00 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Shakesp/ Politics/ PC/ Reality etc.
 
I read with great interest and approval Milla Riggio on how to interpret
Shakespeare (SHK 4.0535).  My only additional comment might be that the aims of
a teacher are (legitimately) different from someone who is thinking of the
General Public, whatever exactly that means.  You may wish to educate the
latter also, but they did not specifically sign up for it, and you are probably
going to have to do so more surreptitiously (vide Bernard Shaw, explicit in the
Prefaces, implicit in the Plays).
 
Shakespeare does tend de facto to have a ritualistic quality.  The old lady was
in some important sense right when she complained that "Hamlet" was full of
cliches.  Shakespeare provides commonplaces of the English language, the most
frequently quoted source after the Bible. (Not necessarily with the source
known to the speaker -- say in the case of "More in sorrow than in anger" for
example).  I see it as absolutely appropriate to shake this up, as Milla Riggio
suggests.  The Royal Shakespeare Theatre usually does, (cf. the Comedie
Francaise which at least at one stage used rather to embalm poor Racine).
Alas, sometimes they go overboard, as if RST House Rules on directions to
actors ran:  "You must never say any line with a similar cadence or emphasis to
any known previous production".  Applying this apparent Rule in its full rigour
to say "To be or not to be" or "Now is the winter of our discontent", you end
up with some truly bizarre results, which at their worst destroy both the
poetry and the sense.  Possibly for that reason I have seen wonderful minor
Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, but a better "Hamlet" over here at the
Folger in Washington D.C.  (by the way, I am myself a Brit, to get that on the
table).
 
I certainly do not want to get fully embroiled in the Wanamaker Globe saga, one
would need  a very careful 'take' on all the various contexts involved.  I
sympathize however with the pleas for some restraint in the flaming.  Labelling
a flame a flame also helps.  Clearly however Shakespeare can be used by both
Left and Right for their own purposes,  appropriately or inappropriately viewed
as nefarious by someone sufficiently separated on the Left-Right spectrum.
 
Lastly, reality (to some extent an automatic contradiction in terms, both in
the theatre and in electronic interactions). In one important sense modern
practice is to move AWAY from reality.  Shakespeare has very few parts for
non-White actors or actresses, so now they are accepted in other parts.  We now
have close blood relatives (say two brothers) totally different colours in a
production.  Is this closer to 'reality'? -- clearly not.  Does it require a
new leap in the 'willing suspension of disbelief? -- absolutely.  I admit to
having had serious doubts about this change myself, on precisely those grounds.
 A first class Ghanaian as Mercutio, in the RST Stratford, changed my views:  I
would have been the poorer if he had not been allowed to play that role (and
obviously there are major employment/career implications for any actor/ actress
who is not White).  So here is one way we have recently (last decade, mainly)
moved away from reality, and I applaud it.  And Shakespeare himself clearly
plays with reality, rather than always trying to maximize the audience's sense
of it:  the play within a play in Hamlet, Chorus in Henry V.
 
So much from an amateur: over to the professionals.
 
          Michael Sharpston
          
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          (All views expressed are of course personal ones)
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <HAWKES%
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Date:           Friday, 10 Sep 93  13:21 BST
Subject: 4.0532  Re: Wanamaker's Globe
Comment:        RE: SHK 4.0532  Re: Wanamaker's Globe
 
Gabriel Egan seems to me to be doing a fine job and it's heartening to
have these issues discussed seriously. On a specific matter: don't ANY of
our colleagues in The Republic find it slightly distasteful that an
American citizen should accept the title "Commander of the British
Empire" with an apparently straight face?
 
Terence Hawkes (Poststructuralist to the Queen).
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James McKenna <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Sep 1993 11:36:27 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 4.0531  Re: Shakespeare's Politics
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0531  Re: Shakespeare's Politics
 
In reply to the attack on humanistic reading of Shakespeare: I had wondered
deeply about the value of so-called eternal verities in Shakespeare's work
until I heard Maya Angelou speak, quoting long passages from Shakespeare from
memory, recalling them from her childhood.  Shakespeare had written for her,
she said.  This, too, I pondered, since I was quite sure that, whoever he had
written for, it was not Maya Angelou.
 
Now despite the hefty amount of cultural materialist reading I've done in the
past year, I find myself unable to shake the feeling that seething politics is
an inadequate explanation for Shakespeare's intensity.  Understanding--or at
least being aware of--those politics brings us closer to a literal
understanding of his works, but of what value is that if our souls are unmoved?
 
There are many who will think my position soft, lacking rigor.  Appreciation is
best left to each of us in privacy, I've heard.  But I disagree.  We lose
ourselves if we allow any of us to appropriate Shakespeare for political
purposes, or bog down in disputes over whose appropriation is rightest (or
leftest).  I say, Can you love the man?  If yes, then let's talk.  If no, then
I'm not sure what we can talk about.
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James McKenna <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Sep 1993 11:54:30 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 4.0532  Re: Wanamaker's Globe
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0532  Re: Wanamaker's Globe
 
Dr. Drakakis,
 
Your contributions on the politics of the attempt to reconstruct the Globe have
been exciting and I am grateful for them.  A concern nags at me, though.  I
recall that the goal of politics is not debate itself but the accomplishment of
works in the here and now.  The imperialist goals of further inflating
Shakespeare's memory seem clear enough, and you have convinced me, but I must
ask, what are you doing concretely to right the wrong you've uncovered?  It
seems to me a sterile righteousness that points the finger then rests.
 
Again, my sincere thanks for your insights.  I lood forward to more.
 
Best wishes.
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gareth M Euridge <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Sep 93 13:50:21 EDT
Subject:        Re: Shakespeare's Politics
 
Another votive at the shrine of Bardolatory:  The Ohio State University
Bulletin (description of courses) includes a section on 200 level English
courses which are generally "intro" to this and that.  Amidst the generally
neutral tone (i.e. Intro to fiction: "study . . . of the important themes and
techniques of fiction) we find English 220 (intro to Shakey): "an
interpretation of fundamental human experience."  I did not know as a graduate
teaching associate that the cure of souls fell within my domain!
 
Gareth M. Euridge
 

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