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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: July ::
Re: Character
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0608.  Wednesday 13 July 1994.
 
(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 12 Jul 1994 13:23:04 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0605  Character
 
(2)     From:   Jimmy Jung <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 12 Jul 94 14:25:00 edt
        Subj:   RE:  Character
 
(3)     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Jul 94 14:02 BST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.0598 Re: Character
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 12 Jul 1994 13:23:04 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0605  Character
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0605  Character
 
That's very clearly put, John Drakakis. My point about using the term dramatic
figure is that we can then dispense with the inverted commas or quotation marks
(depending upon which side of the pond you are writing from) around
"character." We can then debate the dramatic function of dramatic figures in
Elizabethan and Jacobean plays and/or playtexts. Are dramatic figures
emblematic or mimetic?
 
I assumed that you would interpret Manningham's use of "steward" and "lady
widow" (please excuse my modernizations for the time) as emblematic. But could
it be that Manningham, after hearing the play once during a night of revels
(was he drunk?), had forgotten the names of Malvolio and Olivia -- even though
they are often named in the text? I find that I rarely remember the names of
dramatic figures after hearing a play once.
 
Overbury: yes, Theophrastan types. We in the latter days of the twentieth
century still have types. We in this country have the popular types of the dumb
jock, the silly housewife, the corporate go-getter, the effete artist, and so
on and on. These are often used in contemporary drama. (I can give you examples
if you need them.)
 
Because playwrights use types, does this fact lead inevitably to the audience
interpreting their plays emblematically? I don't think so, and I don't think
Mannigham describes the incident in TN emblematically.
 
Look at an emblem book: emblematic picture plus verbal interpretation. You can
pick up your Whitney and look. I challenge anyone to convince open-minded old
me that Manningham's description is anything like an emblematic interpretation.
Where's the emblematic hook in Mannigham's description?
 
But, John, you really want to get away from emblematic theatre, I think, and on
to the question of individuality in early modern England. You want to deny this
concept to the period; it's anacronistic to project post-Freudian ideas of the
self (i.e., subject) onto early modern plays and dramatic figures. Am I getting
close to the essential point?
 
Let's assume that no one can transcend her or his historical moment. Are you
simply arguing that Shakespeare's sense of selfhood (i.e., subjectivity) would
have been conditioned by his experience of his time, his life, his reading, his
family life, his politics, his religion (if any), his genes?  No, of course,
you are not simply arguing this point; you are arguing that Shakespeare and his
audience were rendered incapable of mimesis because of their historical moment.
Or are you?
 
And, finally, since I assume that John Drakakis cannot transcend his historical
moment any more than I can or Shakespeare could, how can John Drakakis be such
an authority on early modern selfhood and drama? Isn't he also limited,
confined, by our time? Isn't his view of the past as anachronistic as yours or
mine?
 
If anyone has read all or any of this, thanks for your time.
 
Yours,
Bill Godshalk
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jimmy Jung <
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Date:           Tuesday, 12 Jul 94 14:25:00 edt
Subject:        RE:  Character
 
I've no desire to pull on my wellies and wade in the character muck, but
there were two questions I thought might help me follow the conversation.
 
1.  Should I be regarding Godshalk, Hawkes and Drakakis as characters or
dramatic figures?  Without knowledge of any extra-dramatic existence outside
the confines of my computer, I'm not sure I can regard them with any more
realism than Snoopy, Murphy Brown or any other fictional construct that I
enjoy periodically.  I apologize if I'm asking the obvious or if my naivete
slows down the fireworks.
 
2.  What are wellies?
 
Jimmy "never-understood-deconstruction" Jung
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Jul 94 14:02 BST
Subject: 5.0598 Re: Character
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.0598 Re: Character
 
Pat Buckridge's confection "British neo-Brechtian orthodoxy" presents
conspiracy theory at its most flat-footed. The attack on simple-minded
'realistic' notions of character in Shakespeare is emphatically NOT the work of
wild-eyed cultural materialists, and is certainly not of recent origin.
L.C.Knights's essay appeared over sixty years ago. Its conclusions have been
explicitly or implicitly endorsed by scores of entirely respectable scholars
since then. These have included F.R.Leavis, M.C.Bradbrook, S.L.Bethell, G.
Wilson Knight and many more. Brecht himself, as I recall, looked to Elizabethan
drama as the source of his notions of 'epic' theatre. Buckridge, Godshalk et
al. must know this, surely? What's the full SP?
 
T. Hawkes
 

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