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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: February ::
Universality
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0104. Thursday, 10 February 1994.
 
From:           Michael Sharpston <
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Date:           Wednesday, 09 Feb 1994 13:26:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Universality: Changes in What is Perceived
 
I am taking the liberty of submitting a cross-posting from Arthurnet.
 
In the debate on universality, perhaps my error, but I did not see mention of
the fact that different ages can perceive the same material (King Arthur,
Hamlet) differently, and that this can have the effect of *preserving* the
topicality and relevance of such material.  I remember being struck by how
literary criticism of Hamlet in particular tends to tell one more about the
critic than the character in Shakespeare (Bernard Shaw and TS Eliot come to
mind in this connection, but that is from memory).
 
So is the universality of Shakespeare (for the faithful) somehow illusory?  Or
do different facets of the jewel catch the eye of different beholders?
 
          Michael Sharpston
          
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From: 
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  (Lisa Cameron Krakowka)
Date: Thu, 3 Feb 1994 19:34:00 EST
Subject: Re: American Arthuriana
 
>Mark writes: <snip>
>The more important question, it seems to me, is why Arthur and not
>Charlemagne or Robin Hood or Siegfried.  My own view is that Arthur's
>actions can admit of a variety of motives, so that his personality can be
>varied to suit the particular time of the writer.  Thus, Geoffrey wanted
>a military leader, and Arthur fit the bill; T. H. White wanted a
>pacifist, and Arthur fit the bill.  But his actions remained essentially
>the same.  He is a great expression of the culture of a society.  Even
>Marion Bradley's book reflects her own time more than Arthur's own.
 
I'm convinced that Arthur's longevity is directly related to exactly this.
He has a unique ability to span the ages and suit the societal needs of the
times. He's a chameleon of sorts...yet the truly wonderful part of the
legends is that they are "set" (the stories are already defined) but they
too have this ability to span the ages.   Here's this hero who's dated back
to the  (approximate) 5th century, but his problems are the same as those
we're having today..we can relate to them very easily.  They and he appeal
to the common human psyche above and beyond cultural/societal differences
related to the time of publication.
 
Just my two cents...
 
Lisa
 

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