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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: August ::
Re: Responding to Request; Generic Expectations; *MV*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0674.  Thursday, 11 August 1994.
 
(1)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Aug 94 16:59:52 EST
        Subj:   [Reponding to Request]
 
(2)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Aug 94 17:00:37 EST
        Subj:   [Re: Generic Expectations]
 
(3)     From:   John Gardiner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Aug 1994 15:41:24 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   [*Merchant of Venice]
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Aug 94 16:59:52 EST
Subject:        [Reponding to Request]
 
To those kind SHAKSPEReans who looked up and reported the reference to <H8>
sought by Orlando Paboloy, I propose this question: would it not have been more
truly educational to have sent him on his own to pursue his Angelica through the
pages of one of the concordances?  And in general, to take that approach to
requests on the net for factual information of a relatively accessible kind?
 
                                                 Furiously,
                                                     Dave Evett
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Aug 94 17:00:37 EST
Subject:        [Re: Generic Expectations]
 
We can develop generic expectations on the basis of experience and on the basis
of prescription; that's one of the differences between popular and learned
culture.  Bill Godshalk's son may not have been sure what to expect from <Shr>,
but if he watches commercial TV I bet he could identify most particular shows
as action-adventure or sitcom or soap on the basis of one-minute or even
30-second samples.  On the other hand, the poets I know who use strict forms
usually do the first couple of sestinas or whatever with somebody's
codification at their elbow.  They can then, like Sidney, experiment with
hexameter sonnets and double sestinas.  For, despite Rick Jones' warnings
against imposing late C20 notions of genre on early modern texts and his doubts
that playwrights of the period were much concerned with it, there is plenty of
evidence that both experiential and prescriptive notions of genre were active
in early modern English theatrical culture.
 
On the prescriptive front, Shakespeare himself uses the term "comedy" 10 times,
if my Spevack is to be trusted (ll if you count Sly's "comonty"), and the term
"tragedy" 12; some of the uses are clearly reflexive.  It's true that the
concept gets mocked when Polonius spouts his list, and perhaps mocked in
another way when that old-fashioned instrument <The Murder of Gonzago> creaks
onto the stage identifying its genre in its prologue.  But parody, as we know,
is a form of love, and the presence of the terms on all those title pages, up
through the Folio, surely testifies to a conviction that they have some kind of
value.
 
As to experience, in an article that attracted admiration while still a
conference paper but that editors have so far failed to approve, I argue that
those Shakespearean plays that have pairs of lovers in their titles work with
generic expectations in ways that come close to establishing a new genre, the
comi-tragedy.  <Romeo and Juliet> most obviously and <Antony and Cleopatra>
most subtly start off acting like comedies--I speak here not just of the
presence of funny-ha-ha jokes and character-types but of the activity of
essentially improvisational views of the world--and struggle on in that mode
long after causality begins to overwhelm improvisation and things go sour; I am
persuaded that for early modern audiences as well as for us the sustaining of
hope that strict causality will in the end be suspended is an important part of
most viewers' response to the works.  (I also share with John Drakakis and
others a conviction that the two genres are in important ways structured by
conceptions about gender--in the case of these works summarized in the
male-female pairings of the titles.)  The problem with analysis along these
lines, of course, is that it can prove merely reductive.  But intelligent
criticism, like the work of Susan Snyder on <Rom> that got me thinking about
these things, can remain informative despite the attempts of some poststuctural
theorists to dismiss genre as just another patriarchal straitjacket.
 
                             Comi-tragically,
                                           Dave Evett
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Gardiner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Aug 1994 15:41:24 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        [*Merchant of Venice]
 
I am picking up this thread late, so please forgive me if these ideas have been
previously expressed.
 
The title of "The Merchant of Venice" is purposely vague. It begs the question:
who is the merchant? Both Antonio and Shylock both trade upon the Rialto and
are in the literal sense the most obvious merchants.
 
Yet the play's other figures also engage in various merchandising. Bassanio
seeks Antonio and Shylock's help in his endeavor to wive and thrive. Lorenzo
seeks his own romantic and financial betterment by eloping with Jessica and her
father's fortune.
 
The themes of love and commerce are both juxtaposed and interchangable in the
play. "The Merchant of Venice" is as a title ironic in that there is no one
merchant in the play, but many who employ means of trade to obtain their goals.
The name also leads us to question what it is that is being merchandised. Is it
merely love that Lorenzo is after? Or is love the means to his desired
financial ends? When Shylock cries "My daughter, my ducats", which loss does he
lament the most? Or are they for him one in the same?
 
In "Merchant", the world is a perfect market in which love is exchanged for
money, money is used to obtain love and love and respect are gained and lost as
financial ventures succeed or collapse.
 

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