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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: July ::
Re: Character
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0614.  Thursday, 14 July 1994.
 
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jul 94 11:55:00 BST
Subject: Re: Character
Comment:        SHK 5.0608 Re: Character
 
OK Bill,
 
So far so good.  BUT I think you're allowing your imagination to run away with
you if you have to speculate that Manningham "after hearing the play once
during a night of revels (was he drunk?), had forgotten the names Malvolio and
Olivia" in order to account for his description.
 
On the one hand, you want to modernize this evidence in every respect,
regardless of any scholarly protocols for validating it, but on the other you
want to ask what I think are more interesting questions about mimesis.  Let's
leave aside the formalist stuff about "the drmatic function of dramatic
figures", since I don't think that's an issue.
 
I think the key feature about emblems is that they need to be read
symbolically.  Also, your example of "emblem books" offers us an extreme case,
although in some instances those cases may well have been part of the
Elizabethan psyche.  That is to say, I am speculating that this may have been
one of the main ways in which Elizabethans read/made sense of the world around
them.  Now it may well be that an Elizabethan auditor did what you habitually
do- that is graft onto what you see a whole range of values, motivations,
perceptions, which have their grounding in your own general view of how
individuals live their lives.  So, if you have a night out at the theatre you
view the action through inebriated spectacles, you remember the general jist of
the action but forget the names of the characters.  You and Manningham
together.
 
Let's get back to basics (!)  What do you think was the semiotic significance
of the Elizabethan theatre as a space and as a building.  It was round, had
"heavens", a "hell" etc. The motto of Shakespeare's Globe was "Theatrum orbis
terrarum".  Don't you think that that invites an emblematic reading?  There
was, as I said earlier, no scenery on the stage, so reading space
perspectivally may well have been alien to a spectator.  All this (and more)
begs the question of what MIMESIS would have been for an Elizabethan audience.
You seem to think, Bill, that what mimesis shows is some kind of
transhistorical essence that we can all recognize because we're human.  The
question of what was SHOWN (and also of what was narrated) on the Elizabethan
Stage is far more problematic than you seem to think.  Moreover, caricatures of
materialisms of various kinds won't make this problem go away either.  My point
all along has been that what evidence we have points to DIFFERENCE, not
similarity, and while this frightens universalists who like to imagine that
when they read a Shakespeare play they are getting into an intimate
relationship with some oceanic mind, it does seek to address historical
questions.
 
What Bill Godhalk will need to describe is what precisely was SHOWN on the
Elizabethan stage.  He thinks, persons, who, if I understand him correctly, are
the same throughout time.  My point is that IF "character" is to be regarded as
something more than a formal dramatic category, then we need to be a lot
clearer about what it is that is being represented.  I don't know where he gets
the notion that subjectivity is an anachronistic Freudian category from. I
think he's confusing Freud and the Romantic conception of expressive
individuality.  The point is that this issue isn't one that can be resolved
wholly empirically.
 
In answer to Jimmy Jung: wellies come in different colours, some of them have
different flavours too, and they can be bought in packets of three.
 
Cheers, John Drakakis
 

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