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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: March ::
Tempest & Universals; Renaissance Bookshelf; First
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0222.  Saturday, 12 March 1994.
(1)     From:   Ben Ross Schneider <SCHNEIDB@LAWRENCE.BITNET>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Mar 1994 14:36:30 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Tempest *and* Universals
(2)     From:   Ben Ross Schneider <SCHNEIDB@LAWRENCE.BITNET>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Mar 1994 14:37:44 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Elizabethan Bookshelves
(3)     From:   Nicholas Ranson <R1NR@AKRONVM>
        Date:   Saturday, 12 Mar 94 07:11:48 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0178  Re: First Times with Shakspeare
From:           Ben Ross Schneider <SCHNEIDB@LAWRENCE.BITNET>
Date:           Friday, 11 Mar 1994 14:36:30 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Tempest *and* Universals
Thank you, Terence, for letting us know in no uncertain terms, exactly where
you stand.  Many of us seem to be in the process of finding out.  And all you
are going to get for your plain dealing is the following attack.  You said:
>>Well, call me a sentimental old baggage, Nina, but [anthropology and history]
do offer to tell us a bit about (I wonder if you're ready for this) the
DIFFERENCES between folk. Actually, so (I just KNOW you're not ready for this,
but we champions brook no delays) does the study of SHAKESPEARE.<<<
I am READY for that statement.  I TOTALLY agree that history and anthropology
make a huge difference, even that they are necessary for any sound reading of
Shakespeare, but I don't think you are ready for what I'm going to say next:
Cultural materialists (new historicists, postmodernists, postcolonialists)
don't really have much if any regard for cultural differences.   In fact they
are the worst idealist-universalists you will find anywhere.  I will make my
case in terms of recent Tempest criticism.  Beside the studies by Greenblatt,
Orgel, Brown, Hulme, and Cartelli already cited on SHAKSPER, we also have the
following postcolonial essays on The Tempest:
Curt Breight, "'Treason doth never Prosper': The Tempest and the Discourse of
Treason," Shakespeare Quarterly 41(1990): 1-28.lein
Eric Cheyfetz, The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from
The Tempest to Tarzan (New York: Oxford UP, 1991).
Stephen J. Greenblatt, "Martial Law in the Land of Cockaigne." Shakespearean
Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England
(Berkeley: U of California P, 1988).
Lorie Jerrell Leininger, "Cracking the Code of The Tempest," Shakespeare:
Contemporary Critical Approaches, ed. Harry Garvin (Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell
UP, 1980), 121-131.
Stephen Orgel, "Introduction," The Tempest, The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford:
Oxford UP, 1987), 1-87.
In addition to Russ MacDonald's rebuttal of the postcolonial approach, already
mentioned, there is Meredith Skura's thoroughgoing demonstration that the play
has very little in common with the colonial discourse available to
Shakesapeare: "Discourse and the lndividual:  The Case of Colonialism in The
Tempest," Shakespeare Quarterly 40(Spring 1989): 42-69.
Stripped of all its theoretical gobbledegook, what these postcolonial analysese
of The Tempest come down to is that Caliban is a good guy and Prospero is a bad
guy.  The Tempest doesn't like this a bit, and a sensitive ear can hear it
screaming in agony.  I can, anyhow.  You see, what really happens in The
Tempest is that Prospero reforms, breaks his magic wand and adopts an entirely
different method of administration.  It's clear as anything.  He stops being an
imperialist.  So the deconstructionists have to ignore the climax of the play
and rewrite the last act.
Why?  You would think that cultural materialists would settle for Shakespeare
being a racist, classist, sexist, imperialist, which he is, strictly speaking.
But no, these critics want the text to support their politics.  In order to do
this they tacitly assume the position that Shakespeare is not for an age but
for all time; he had the same attitude toward race, class, and gender as we do,
and so he undermines the conventiuonal surface of his plays.  Or if it's not
that Shakespeare is like us, it's that the class, gender, race struggle is
always going on in history, so it must be going on in the play.  I'd say that
the belief in a universal ongoing and palpable contestation of the status quo
in all ages and cultures is fairly idealistic, don't you think?  This is The
Human Condition.
It would be a tactical mistake for political critics to throw out Shakespeare
on the grounds that he is a hopeless bigot. Therefore critics on the left
recruit him for their side by using the fallacy of universality, imposing an
anachronistic postmodern ideology on his works.  If you object to this they
throw the genius argument at you.  Being omniscient, he sensed the tensions in
his society and let them seep into his plays under the cover of statist
propaganda.  But that's another universalist argument. Nobody ever heard of a
Marxist analysis of society until capitalism created the society and Marx
discovered its basic laws.
I eagerly await your response.  I'm sure it will be pithy and leave me swaying
in the breeze.
Yours ever,

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See also my remarks under >>Renaissance Bookshelf<<.
From:           Ben Ross Schneider <SCHNEIDB@LAWRENCE.BITNET>
Date:           Friday, 11 Mar 1994 14:37:44 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Elizabethan Bookshelves
James McKenna urges Mr Budra to read Seneca's plays and Cicero's works for
style.  Phyllis Rackin doubts that Shakespeare's audience had any bookshelves
to speak of.
JM:  I think that Seneca's moral works and Cicero' De Officiis are even more
PR:  I still need to read Gurr's work on S's audiences, but I think the jury is
still out on Ann Jennalie Cook's findings, which agree with mine.  What are we
to make of Ruth Kelso's monumental works, Doctrine for the lady of the
Renaissance (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1956) and The Doctrine of
the English Gentleman in the Sixteenth Century (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith,
These works comprise almost 1500 titles, about one-third in English.  And
Professor Kelso does not include classical moral- ists in their own or modern
languages, which greatly increase that number.  In her second book she
summarizes her findings as follows:
>>the bulk of all that these treatises contain is made up of commonplaces,
culled mostly from the ancients, whose names besprinkle the pages of all
writers. . . .  There is plenty of evidence that these same commonplaces were
not of mere academic interest, for the letters, speeches, and fiction of the
time are full of the same ideas and rules for conduct.<<
Professor Kelso's list of those ancients most commonly cited in these books is
very short, consisting solely of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Seneca.
Booksellers don't print all these conduct books just for the good of humanity.
There must be a demand.  As we know we are dealing with a period of great
social mobility, in which S participates.  I suggest that new and aspiring
gentlemen and ladies comprise the market, and that they also comprise the
market for plays.  I note that Prof. Robert J Fehrenbach at Wm and Mary
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 ) is building a database of the contents of Private
Libraries in Renaissance England from lists in wills, deeds, and other sources.
 So we are eventually going to know what's on those shelves.  I'm betting that
we'll find a lot of Cicero and Seneca, in translation or boiled down into
conduct books.  My article on MV in the SHAKSPER fileserver or in Restoration
17 (Fall, 1993) gives more details on this topic.
Yours ever,

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From:           Nicholas Ranson <R1NR@AKRONVM>
Date:           Saturday, 12 Mar 94 07:11:48 EST
Subject: 5.0178  Re: First Times with Shakspeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0178  Re: First Times with Shakspeare
I decided I wanted to read and study Shakespeare for life after seeing
Olivier's Richard III in 1953. It was simply the most exciting thing I had ever
seen on  film. Even being made to play Lady Macduff in an all boy's school
production of Macbeth did not long sour me, even though my voice had long left
the treble register. I also had an English (subject) master who read aloud a
lot: I enjoyed the histrionics of it all, and he had us practice too.
Nick Ranson

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