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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: August ::
Re: Character: Henry V, Thumbs, Chevys, People,
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0675.  Friday, 12 August 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Stanley Holberg <HOLBERMA@snypotva.BITNET>
        Date:   Thursday, 11 Aug 94 22:38 EDT
        Subj:   Henry V
 
(2)     From:   Chris Kendall <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Aug 1994 14:10:17 -0600 (MDT)
        Subj:   Thumb and Chevy
 
(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Aug 1994 22:46:14 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   People!
 
(4)     From:   Pat Buckridge <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Aug 1994 12:32:22 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   Character
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stanley Holberg <HOLBERMA@snypotva.BITNET>
Date:           Thursday, 11 Aug 94 22:38 EDT
Subject:        Henry V
 
Certainly Bill Godshalk's view of Henry V is completely on target.  Doesn't
the process of "blaming this war on everyone (including God) but himself
run through the entire play, starting with Henry's supposedly asking the
Archbishop of Canterbury if his claims against France are legitimate?
 
--stanley holberg
  holberma@snypotva.bitnet
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Kendall <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Aug 1994 14:10:17 -0600 (MDT)
Subject:        Thumb and Chevy
 
>Will we never get over thinking dramatic characters are real people living in
>our time?
 
I doubt anyone on this list is guilty of such a gross fantasy.  On the
other hand, if we cannot compare the characters in these plays to
ourselves, of what value or interest, other than drily academic, are they
to us?  If Shakespeare drove no Chevy, he did cast a keen eye.  You may say
that I cannot borrow it to make sense of my world, but I say I can.  I can
reject Petruchio's stick or Hal's war club without rejecting the author's
work.  By the same token, I can compare Fluellen to my theatre history prof
without having to dress him up in a tweed jacket.
 
Cheers,
Chris Kendall
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Aug 1994 22:46:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        People!
 
William Free asks if we will ever get over (his words -- like getting over a
cold?) thinking of dramatic characters as real people living in our time?
 
My answer: of course not. I have no desire to be cured.
 
I thought Christine Gilmore's attack on Christina Hoff Sommer was a bit mean
spirited. I don't know Hoff Sommer's work, and I do not remember hearing her on
NPR. But she, as a scholar, certainly has a right to her own conclusions, even
if those conclusions are not politically correct. In fact, I would like to
believe that young girls and young women (well, all young people) are not
discrimated against by their teachers. I can't quantify this observation, but I
believe, in my classes, women answer my questions more often than men. And, in
terms of grades, I can make the case that women are consistently my best
students. But, then, I don't teach grade school.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Buckridge <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Aug 1994 12:32:22 +1000 (EST)
Subject:        Character
 
Re-enter Ben Schneider, with all guns blazing!  A few points in reply:
 
On social types/social roles.  Ben is right, I think, that these two concepts
are distinct, and that David Evett was using the latter, not the former in his
comments on _Lear_.  In associating him with John Drakakis, whose comments on
the Manningham description *were* about social types, I was making a broad
distinction between literal and metaphoric representations of persons.  The way
I see it, types and roles are both literal; emblematic representations are
metaphoric.  That's not to say they don't come together in practice.  I suspect
that most examples of emblematic characters one could think of, even from the
morality plays proper, and certainly from the later Elizabethan drama, are
literal as well.  Emblematic effects, it seems to me, are very much a matter of
isolated tableaux and passing resonances, at least in Shakespeare, and it would
seem odd for an actor or director to attempt to articulate a whole major
character in terms of one or another such effect.  With playwrights like Jonson
and Tourneur, I guess the emblematic effects are more systematic and pervasive
than they are in Shakespeare, and the choice might make more sense.
 
On 'universalism'.  Ben should reread some of the responses to his earlier
assertion about how we moderns all agree that war is a bad thing, and how
Shakespeare's apparent approval of Henry V's warmongering marks the great gulf
between him and us.  This really is a bit much.  Forget about the Tudor
pacifists; does Ben's modern 'we' include Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Al
Haig, Oliver North (need I go on) and their millions of admirers?
 
I think the currently fashionable insistence on the radical alterity of the
past is actually a kind of Orientalism, a discovery (but not really a
discovery) of an exotic otherness in the past which is precisely analogous to
the European 'discovery' of exotic otherness in the mysterious East.  It has
little interest, finally, in finding out what these other cultures are, or
were, really like since it has its own models of desirable otherness to which
it will insist they conform.  The truth is, of course, that the past (like the
East) is open to investigation and at least partial understanding.  What
puzzles me about the opponents of so-called 'universalism' is how they explain
to themselves the fact (I presume it's a fact) that they *are* able to
understand and identify with so much of what goes on between people in a
Shakespeare play.  Surely the statistical probability of our being able to
project hundreds of anachronistic understandings onto the text without
producing total incoherence (since the 'misreadings' are presumably not
systematically related to the 'true' readings, whatever they might be) would be
somewhat less than that of Washo the chimp and his friends writing *Hamlet*.
 
One final point.  I'm currently reading Patricia Fumerton's book _Cultural
Aesthetics_(Chicago, 1991), a fascinating exploration of the Renaissance
aristocrat self and its cultural construction of 'privacy' in terms of the
trivial ornaments of court life.  I have no difficulty with, or resistance to,
the degree of otherness she is able to evoke.  The sorts of adjustments to our
reading that her investigation would suggest are not difficult to accommodate
(and quite important, since it is hardly deniable that Shakespeare spent most
of his career dramatising aristocratic characters).  On a related point, her
analysis of the way of representing the elusive private self (in miniatures,
sonnets, and masques) through a series of 'public' frames, might usefully be
applied to Shakespeare's way of representing major characters.  Just a thought.
 
Pat Buckridge.
 

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