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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: April ::
Re: Exotic Settings
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0366.  Wednesday, 27 April 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Joseph Lawrence Lyle <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Apr 1994 09:45:58 -0400
        Subj:   exotic settings query
 
(2)     From:   Martin Mueller <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Apr 1994 14:07:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0362  Re: Exotic Settings
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Lawrence Lyle <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 Apr 1994 09:45:58 -0400
Subject:        exotic settings query
 
I have no particular erudition to share, but it seems that the past is as
"safe" from censorial wrath as a foreign country would be; in the words of a
recent title, the past _is_ a foreign country.  Even so, the Tudor lineage must
be sanctified: hence Henry IV's (and Henry V's) keenly felt remorse for the
deposition of Richard II; and hence the vilification of Richard III.
 
Jay Lyle
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Mueller <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 Apr 1994 14:07:39 -0500
Subject: 5.0362  Re: Exotic Settings
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0362  Re: Exotic Settings
It may or may not be the case that for prudential reasons Shakespeare chose
"exotic" settings. But at some level the choice of a subject is always an
act of displacement: the audience find out about themselves by watching
another. Strategies of displacement are therefore always part of the
playwright's work, whether or not there is censorship. One might shrug the
choice of locale off as a convenient disguise: from such a perspective
Massinger's Believe as you list or Verdi's Stiffelio and Masked Ball are
the "same" works in their different historical settings. On the other hand,
one might argue that skin deep is very deep indeed, and that the choice of
setting is always a profound choice and one that is not explained (away) in
terms of convenience or prudence. The Rome of Coriolanus, the Dunsinane of
Macbeth, and the Alexandria of Antony and Cleopatra are all deeply exotic
settings, and a desire to experiment with temporal and spatial
displacements of one kind or another seems a relatively deep aspect of the
playwright's craft.
 
Martin Mueller
Northwestern University

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