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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: August ::
Re: Generic Expectations
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0681.  Tuesday, 19 August 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Tom Ellis <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Aug 1994 21:07:53 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0678  Re: Generic Expectations
 
(2)     From:   Luc Borot <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Aug 1994 11:37:26 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0680  Re: Generic Expectations
 
(3)     From:   John Cox <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Aug 1994 12:08:05 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   genre and title pages
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Ellis <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Aug 1994 21:07:53 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0678  Re: Generic Expectations
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0678  Re: Generic Expectations
 
In Response to Bill Godshalk's query about Troilus...
 
It seems likely that for Shakespeare and his audience, as for modern audiences,
genre was a "fuzzy set". Hence the ambiguous placement of T & C in F1 may
reflect nothing more than Hemings & Condell's own perplexity about how to
classify the play (something critics have been arguing about ever since!). In
the 16th-17th centuries, the meanings of "history" and of "story" were not as
far apart as they are now (viz. Hamlet's retort "Sir, a whole
history")--especially since both words derive from the same greek root
HISTORIA. And several of the "tragedies", including King Lear, have the words
"tragicall history" on either Q or F title pages. It is the context of the
Folio alone which justifies restricting the dramatic meaning of "history" to
"English Chronicle Play."
 
Furthermore, there is ample evidence of Shakespeare's lifelong interest in
"pushing the envelope" of genre, testing the outer bounds of comic decorum in M
of V, M for M, and All's Well--and more subtly, even in "festive" comedies such
as Twelfth Night Perhaps The Winter's Tale pushes the envelope the farthest,
feigning tragic closure in mid-play, only to bring back the dead queen at the
end and rub the audience's nose in their own presuppositions about the hitherto
inviolate covenant between author and audience (i.e. that the audience will be
able to trust that it is in possession of all the information the characters
are missing--See Bertrand Evans on this). The TIME prologue in W/T could, in
fact, be read as Shakespeare's ironic comment on the whole matter of generic
expectations: "Impute it not a crime...Your patience this allowing..."
 
--Tom Ellis
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Luc Borot <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Aug 1994 11:37:26 +0100
Subject: 5.0680  Re: Generic Expectations
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0680  Re: Generic Expectations
 
Re: Anthony Haigh on generic expectations
 
I agree with Anthony Haigh on the importance of Cicely Berry's reflection on
her practice with the actors; her successor at the RSC, Andrew Wade, has a
similar approach.
 
On the link between social rank and prose/verse language, one must also bear in
mind the shock effect which a breach with the general principle outlined by
Haigh and Berry is likely to produce. Take *R2*, for instance: the garden scene
is spoken in allegorical verse by two 'mechanicals' who debate matters of
state. Allegory and hyperbole are the two rhetorical marks of royal and noble
characters in that play (and in most of the 2nd tetralogy), "in general" as
Anthony says: when mechanicals use the metre and rhetoric of princes, then do
they convey a message worth our notice.
 
The constables in *MM* or *MAN*, who confuse words, cannot convey truths; they
provide 'comic relief', like Macb's porter. Yet, Macb's porter conveys deep
truths, on the theme of equivocation, which is the metaphysical core of the
play; so much for the exceptions to generality: the porter speaks prose. No
obvious comic relief in the garden scene of *R2*; the presence of the
eavesdropping queen casts a shadow over the scene. The allegorical rhetoric of
their verse speeches is more important than the discrepancy between the
nobility of the form and the professional language of the allegory, which
wouldn't be 'proper' to that device which is elsewhere the apanage of princes.
 
        Fare ye well,
                        Luc
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Cox <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Aug 1994 12:08:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        genre and title pages
 
Regarding Bill Godshalk's suggestion that Renaissance title pages might be a
clue to Renaissance generic expectation, I recommend David Kastan's comments in
*Shakespeare and the Shapes of Time*, pp. 38-39.  Admittedly, Kastan focuses
exclusively on "histoy" as a clue to genre, but the wild variation he finds in
the application of that term is not encouraging for the idea that title pages
might be helpful in establishing generic expectation.
 
John Cox
 

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