Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: July ::
Re: Character
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0622.  Monday, 18 July 1994.
 
(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 15 Jul 1994 20:18:44 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0614  Re: Character
 
(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 16 Jul 1994 11:54:00 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0618  Re: Character
 
(3)     From:   Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 16 Jul 1994 18:51:35 -0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0618  Re: Character
 
(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 16 Jul 1994 17:57:41 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0618  Re: Character
 
(5)     From:   William Proctor Williams <TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET>
        Date:   Saturday, 16 Jul 94 19:19 CDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0618  Re: Character
 
(6)     From:   John Drakakis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 18 Jul 94 13:01:00 BST
        Subj:   SHK 5.0618 Re: Character
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 15 Jul 1994 20:18:44 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0614  Re: Character
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0614  Re: Character
 
For John Drakakis, once more
 
John, I think that you and I are not in total agreement, BUT further I think
that most of our disagreement comes from positions that you and I attribute to
each other, positions that we do not, in fact, hold. I am apparently
caricaturing your position on materialism and historical limitations, and you
are distorting my point about mimesis.
 
I have maintained and will continue to maintain that shit is transhistorical --
if I may use that four letter word. My point is, purely or impurely, there are
certain things that animals do. If your body does not carry out its natural
functions, you are dead. That seems to be the paragmatic view.
 
I do not believe in a transhistorical "essence" nor an "oceanic mind." I gather
that we both feel that humans are a product of their historical moment, that we
can not transcend anything.
 
Of course, emblem books conditioned the sixteenth and seventeenth century
response to life. And, of course, I agree that the sixteenth and seventeenth
century playhouses were "emblematic" in that they suggested that all the world
(the Globe) was a stage. They (and, let's  face it, we) all play roles. They
prepared a face to meet the faces that they met.
 
And in the sixteenth century, those people said many times, "so many men, so
many minds." I think that means -- among other things -- that there is no such
thing as the "Renaissance mind." (And, John, I'm NOT accusing you of suggesting
that there was such a thing!) I gather that in the early modern period there
was a range of possible response to ANYTHING, including a play. I don't believe
that early modern people AS A WHOLE had ONE habitual response. I have plenty of
scholarly evidence (enough to satisfy anyone's protocols) for this statement.
There may have been "main ways," but there were also byways. I like the byways.
 
"The question of what was SHOWN (and also of what was narrated) on the
Elizabethan [and Jacobean and Caroline?] Stage is far more problemtic than you
seem to think," you say, John. Now, this sounds like something I'd like to hear
about. Are you talking about stage directions? Or business that we seem to read
from the words? Not as much animal blood as we've been led to believe? I'd like
to know what I seem to think.
 
And, John, you mention the "scholarly protocols for validating" evidence. Are
these "protocols" like the "canon," impossible to buy at the local bookstore?
Maybe we should decide what evidence will be admitted in this case.
 
Jimmy Jung's wellies, I take to be Wellingtons. What he means is "the bullshit
that John Drakakis and Bill Godshalk have generated is getting too deep for
ordinary shoes." And so, John, you and I even read our own time in different
ways, and I'm sorry to hear that you are a tea-totaller. The French have
conclusively proven that red wine is good for your heart, and --- you've got to
have heart!
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
P.S.  And, John, I'm sorry that I misread your take on sixteenth and early
seventeenth century selfhood or subjectivity. Did those folks develop their
sense of self in the same way we do, perchance?
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 16 Jul 1994 11:54:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0618  Re: Character
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0618  Re: Character
 
Pat Buckridge has done us a service by quoting Nuttall's response of Knights,
and I think Nuttall has the best of this argument. Surely, most of us
distinguish between our real world and fictional worlds. Thomas Pavel in
FICTIONAL WORLDS discusses the possibilities. Playgoers have to make inferences
about the fictional world of the play. Dramatic figures have implied histories;
otherwise, they would know nothing. The playgoer does not know if Lady Macbeth
has had children or, if she has, how many she's had. What the playgoer knows is
that she claims to have given suck, and Macbeth doesn't respond by saying,
"rot."
 
David Evett's examination of LEAR is interesting, but is he confusing the
fictional world or worlds of the play with the real world of early seventeenth
century England? Shakespeare DOES emphasize social roles and role-playing in
his plays. Jaques claims that all the world is a stage, and that all men (not
women, according to him) play similar roles. But Harbage used to claim that
this account was undercut by the appearance of old Adam at the end of his
speech, and Adam does not fit into any of Jaques's categories. But, even so,
the plays recurrently emphasize social roles, and rarely mention physical
attributes, as David notes.
 
But could these facts have more to do with the repertory system than the social
system? The actors had to keep many roles in mind, had little time to rehearse
new plays, and needed some stability of role -- a speciality. They were type
casted. And physical attributes were not emphasized because a different actor
might have to take the role next year.
 
I suspect that these final comments will please John Drakakis!
 
Yours,
Bill Godshalk
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 16 Jul 1994 18:51:35 -0300
Subject: 5.0618  Re: Character
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0618  Re: Character
 
David Evett:
 
Thank God someone is looking at empyrical evidence amongst all these
declarations of creed!
 
I'm wondering, though, where your evidence points us.  Kent may insist on
referring to himself as a "servant," but isn't there an irony in this?  The
fact that people can change roles, or that disjunctions can exist between a
character's (for want of a better word) role and her or his situation seems to
be predicated on an identity that transcends social or metaphysical "role".
 
In one of my few lectures (I'm a grad student) I told my (captive) audience
that Hamlet is fighting the efforts of others such as his mother, Claudius, and
Ophelia, to prescribe his being to him, metadramatically enough.  1.3 seems to
exemplify his difficulty:  as the usurped heir, he either carries far too much
responsibility to "carve for himself, as unvalued persons do," or he's so free
of cares that he can "with a larger teder walk," as Polonius thinks.  In either
case, others take it upon themselves to define him, without much consistency,
and Hamlet himself is left standing beyond these definitions as "courtier,
soldier, scholar."
 
I suppose what I'm saying is that everyone in the plays, as in life, have roles
which they act, but against which they can also rebel, and their ability to
rebel shows that they can, as Pico della Mirandola (or Michel de Montaigne, if
we insist on a reference available to Shakespeare) believed, choose their
being.
 
This is just a few thoughts, of course, but I'll be interested in what anyone
says.
 
        Cheers,
        Sean Lawrence.
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 16 Jul 1994 17:57:41 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0618  Re: Character
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0618  Re: Character
 
I've been thinking more about Dave Evett's comments on LEAR. He comments that
the dramatic figures have "No favorite foods, colors, kinds of music, hobbies."
Now, Lear certainly has a hobby, a hobby that the upper classes have had from
Roman times until the present: hunting. And Gloucester, I believe, has had a
similar hobby: womanizing. Regarding food, Kent claims that eats no fish --
whatever he may mean by that.
 
And I'm wondering if a careful analysis wouldn't uncover other individually
defining characteristics. And I further wonder how many contemporary plays tell
us about the favorite foods, colors, music, and hobbies of the dramatic
figures. Pinter's THE DUMB WAITER does, but there are others that don't.
 
As to plays that are different from LEAR, what about HAMLET where Horatio is
named thirty times (according to the Harvard concordance), and Horatio's social
and family ties are not carefully defined in the play.
 
All in all, I think Dave may be right when he surmises that what he has found
in LEAR helps to define the specific fictional world of the play.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET>
Date:           Saturday, 16 Jul 94 19:19 CDT
Subject: 5.0618  Re: Character
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0618  Re: Character
 
What this exchange demonstrates is that Shakspeareans, without any reference to
having seen the playscripts, "otherwise known as works" cannot shut up their
collective faces.
 
Could we, in future, have only people on this particular net who know something
about the text, the stage, and the meaning of the plays to HIS audience and to
ours.
 
William Proctor Williams
Northern Illinois University
TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET
 
PS: I do not wish to shut +real+ students off from this list, but I am getting
damned tired of writing their term papers for them.
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 18 Jul 94 13:01:00 BST
Subject: Re: Character
Comment:        SHK 5.0618 Re: Character
 
I was wondering when someone would throw into the discussion Hamlet's advice
to the players, though I'm a little surprised to find Pat Buckridge also
throwing in the prologue to EMH. I guess what grabs him here are the lines:
 
                    But deeds and language, such as men do use,
                    And persons such as comedy would choose,
                    When she would shew an image of the times,
                    And sport with human follies, not with crimes.
 
I leave aside the fact that the prologue itself is in couplets, and that in the
1601 quarto version the names are Italian.  Surely the point here is that
Jonson is offering a REPRESENTATION.  Perhaps Pat Buckridge has been influenced
too much by Tony Nuttall's A New Mimesis, and by its dogmatic adherence to a
referential model of language. Hence, of course, his impatience with anything
that might savour of symptomatic reading.  I would want to argue that what I've
just said about Jonson could also apply to HAMLET; suiting the action to the
word etc. holding "as `twere the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her
feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form
and pressure." (III.ii.22-4). The assumption is that what we are looking at
here is an unmediated "showing", whereas a number of details to which I have
already referred militate against this.
 
What Pat Buckridge refuses to entertain is the prospect that Elizabethan
culture in all its diversity and contradictoriness, may well have been very
different from our own.  Perhaps he might kile to ponder some "evidence": that
the majority of Elizabethan auditors were non-literate.  Now it needs no
Levi-Strass to tell us that that "fact" insofar as we can establish it, may
well be critical.  Moreover, what if (and there's plenty of evidence to support
this) we are looking at a conjuncture when the non-literate and the literate
exist side-by side? Now I'm not suggesting that we run headlong into cultural
anthropology to solve these problems, but a cursory look at Goody and Watt's
essay "The Consequences of Literacy" in LITERACY IN TRADITIONAL SOCIETIES
(Cambridge, 1967) might throw some light on the discussion. Buckridge seems
intent, like Godshalk, upon focussing upon WHAT is shown, and they persist in
entangling that with their own expectations and assumptions. I don't expect
either of them to accept my reading of their assumptions and values, just to
entertain the possibility that they might be skewing the evidence in the
direction of an untheorized empiricism.  I don't expect them to accept that
either, but one never knows!  My concern is with HOW that showing takes place,
and I want to treat referential statements of the kind that Buckridge isolates
within plays (and he could have added Heywood's Apology for Actors (1612) to
his list) with some degree of caution.  So much for my "assertions".
 
The mention of L.C.Knights does, I think, at least, focus the history of an
anti-character criticism.  I does, however raise a number of problems,
particularly connected with the notion of "themes" criticism.  I'm afraid that
Buckridge is really clutching at straws if he thinks that either Terry Hawkes
or I raise the L.C.Knights essay as some kind of shibboleth.  I suppose it's
what happens when you don't take the trouble to try to establish some kind of
context for a discussion.
 
Finally, Pat Buckridge is right to pick me up on my uncritical deployment of
the phrase "the Elizabethan psyche".  The only problem is that I don't recall
using the phrase!  I did refer to Elizabethan spectators, and I must confess to
a residual Harbagitis there.  I see no reason to assume that the plays of
Shakespeare and his contemporaries "democratized" theatre audiences.  We do
need another model for this which might have some pretentions to greater
sociological accuracy.
 
That's more than enough from me.
 
John Drakakis
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.