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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: June ::
Re: Similarities
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0567.  Friday, 24 June 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Gregory McSweeney <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Jun 1994 13:34:48 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   'The Juice' gone sour
 
(2)     From:   Harry Hill <HILHAR@CONU2.BITNET>
        Date:   Thursday, 23 Jun 1994 14:48:26 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0562  Re: Similarities
 
(3)     From:   Naomi Conn Liebler <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Jun 94 16:35:31 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 5.0557 Re: Similarities
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gregory McSweeney <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Jun 1994 13:34:48 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        'The Juice' gone sour
 
I find Robert George's post eminently reasonable; noting the parallels between
a current news story (along with its background and context) and a
Shakespearean play is hardly tantamount to racism. To make assumptions about an
individual based on her skin colour is racist; to pretend that everyone's skin
is the same colour is simply an affectation - and one of which its proponents
are quickly disabused outside of the academic community. Those who believe that
a reference to an individual's status as a non-Caucasian is an insult had
better examine their own innate racism, rather than projecting it onto others.
 
The Simpson story *is* a tragedy, of course, though I'd substitute 'celebrity'
for 'hero', and 'monomania' for 'hubris'; its context of power, gender,
aggression, and guilt are not in the least race-related - it just so happens
that some of the superficial details of the Othello story parallel those of
Simpson's. So what?
 
No, the Simpson thread is not going to enrich Shakespearean study by one iota,
and as such may be considered an estival digression; but to chill the
discussion based on its potential for veering into racist territory seems to me
unnecessarily cautious. Racists, like ragweed, are everywhere, and some of them
are involved in the study of Shakespeare. When they make racist statements they
expose themselves for the idiots they are, whether on this conference or
elsewhere. I fail to comprehend the atmosphere of censure and
self-righteousness that has surfaced occasionally in connection with this
thread.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <HILHAR@CONU2.BITNET>
Date:           Thursday, 23 Jun 1994 14:48:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0562  Re: Similarities
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0562  Re: Similarities
 
A story Robert George will appreciate, I should think:
 
When Johnston Forbes-Robertson was playing Othello at the Lyceum early this
century -- considered a highly naturalistic performance -- he had the
misfortune to be so good one night when he came to kill Desdemona a gentleman
in the front row of the Dress Circle jumped down into the Orchestra Stalls
aisle, ran up the steps at the side of the small orchestra pit, proceeded
onstage, rushed the famous actor, grabbed him by his white gown and shook him,
saying savagely "Leave her alone, you big black brute!"
 
An inappropriate response to art, as Arthur Koestler who relates the incident
would say.
 
When I told this story to a Shakespeare class as part of an explanation of some
of the conventions of the theatre, they laughed as all the other drama classes
had. Afterwards, however, a young girl from the Caribbean came up to me and
said, "I hope you won't tell any more racist stories like that."
 
"Racist?" I asked her, taken aback.
 
"Yes," she replied. "I'll have you know that black men are not brutes."
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Naomi Conn Liebler <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 24 Jun 94 16:35:31 +0100
Subject: Re: Similarities
Comment:        SHK 5.0557 Re: Similarities
 
How appropriate that Martin Green should sign his missive thus: "Sadly." His
comments made me sad too. "Everyone who's ever read Othello"? No room for
alternative readings in THAT pronouncement. "My way or the highway," eh,
Martin? So Bravissimi to Cary Mazer for calling what he saw--and he's right.
With all due appreciation to Mr. Robert George at his H.R. e-mail address, one
(among many) of the problems with the quick and easy O.J.-Othello link is that
it is fair to neither O.J. nor the representation that is Othello. It is
simplistic, reductive, categorical--i.e., yep, racist. Even if we (God forbid)
set aside such tired old assumptions as the assumption of innocence pending
proof to the contrary, what Othello and O.J. have in common is-- what? Go on:
and so what? Like white men don't kill their wives? Or if they do, that's not
the stuff of tragedy? Or maybe it's just not so INTERESTING that way?
 
I've read an awful lot of daft stuff (inter alia) on SHAKSPER lately, and
usually desist/resist/keep quiet in hopes that if I ignore it, maybe the
daftness will go away. But in the tabloid press that SHAKSPER is increasingly
in danger of becoming, it does seem likely that, whereas Othello indicted
himself and for nearly 400 years thereafter reasonable folks have devoted many
words to "explaining" that indictment, O.J. Simpson will get very short
shrift--and not much justice. I guess a fictional representation gets a fairer
deal than a real man does. And frankly, I find that embarrassing.
 
Thanks, again, Cary, for saying what needed to be said.
 
Naomi Liebler
 

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