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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: September ::
Re: Characters (Ethnocentricity); Deaths; PC; Frogs
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0732. Tuesday, 13 September 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Ben Schneider <
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        Date:   Monday, 12 Sep 1994 10:27:02 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Ethnocentricity
 
(2)     From:   Michael Conner <
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        Date:   Monday, 12 Sep 1994 08:44:55 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Natural deaths
 
(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 12 Sep 1994 20:13:46 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0726  Re: Nude Hamlet and PC
 
(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 12 Sep 1994 20:19:36 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Frogs
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Sep 1994 10:27:02 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Ethnocentricity
 
Fellow SHAKSPEReans,
 
My humble apologies for raising the old subject of character again, subheading
ethnocentricity, but I have just now recovered some responses to my comments
that disappeared during an "upgrade" of our computer in late July.  I had said
that our reading of Henry V is colored by our bias against war, not present in
Shakespeare's society, which actually approved of military pursuits.  In
general, the responses accused me of reductivity both with respect to
Shakespeare's plays and to his society.  My comments on the just-recovered
responses follow:
 
Zachary Lesser says that we will never know what the plays really meant to
their original audiences.  We will always impose our own prejudices.
 
Why do we on the one hand insist that all prejudices can be and must be
overcome, and always on the other insist just as loudly that when it comes to
textual interpretation they cannot possibly be overcome?  Zachary, you (and
most postmodernists) insist on either/or logic:  either prejudice colors our
readings or it does not.  Actually isn't it a matter of prejudice coloring our
reading more or less? The way to reduce prejudice, isn't it, is to understand
the other fellow's point of view?  To do one's best to see the world from the
other fellow's side?  How do we do that?
 
Zachary also doubts my hypothesis about the prevalence of pro-war thinking in
Shakespeare's time, or for that matter, of any kind of thinking at any time.  I
doubt that any "society" could exist without a consensus on certain main
principles.  In our society equality might be such a principle.  And I doubt
very much that you will find many Shakespeare scholars today who approve of war
as a character builder. Violence is immoral.  So is racism:  an overtly racist
play or movie is unthinkable today and would be universally condemned by the
critics (though W D Griffiths could get away with one ages ago).  I argue for
the same kind of consensus on basic principles in Shakespeare's time.
 
Ron MacDonald says "_Shakespeare's contemporaries_ comprises a pretty various
group.  I'd want to know _which_ contemporaries before attributing common
attitudes, and even then I'd expect to find many exceptions."
 
All right, let's rule out Quakers and Anabaptists, and puritans in general.
Let's rule out the humanist philosophers.  I'm talking about the main stream,
not the fringes.  And the philosophers are not against the virtues of courage,
constancy, fortitude, generosity, etc, of which war happens be a good test and
which Henry V demonstrates, despite the questionable field of action.  See also
my comments on consensus, above.
 
Sean Lawrence objects that the preponderance of classical opinions in the
conduct books may give a false impression of actual English culture in
Shakespeare's time; much as if I were to propose Oral Roberts as a key to our
time, or any prescriptive work for any time.
 
How about the Declaration of Independence as a prescriptive key to U.S.?  But I
don't propose 16th-century Oral Robertses, I propose the non-fiction best
sellers of the time.  As evidence that this material is main stream I give you
the Augustan Age, which comes close on the heels of Shaakespeare.  But why
don't I just deposit my list of basic books plus annotations on the listserver,
and you can see for yourselves?
 
Chris Gordon brings up Williams again as representing an anti-war position in
Hen V.  But what is more remarkable is that Henry rewards him for his honest
doubts, thus demonstrating how a good king responds to criticism, as opposed to
Lear, for example.  The literature is extensive, and I think we miss the point
of the episode from our ethnocentric point of view.
 
Chris says she belongs "to the contingent that finds us not all that different
from the Elizabethans . . . and that's why I think multiple readings are
inherent in the plays."  I continue to wonder what is the point of having an
opinion if any other opinion is just as good. (Except maybe not mine.)  I
sometimes wonder if the point isn't just belonging.
 
 
Sorry to have been so long in getting back to you.
 
Yours ever
BEN SCHNEIDER

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Conner <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Sep 1994 08:44:55 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Natural deaths
 
I'm new to the mailing list and haven't seen the original post concerning
natural deaths, but it seems to me that John of Gaunt died a natural death in
Richard II.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Sep 1994 20:13:46 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0726  Re: Nude Hamlet and PC
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0726  Re: Nude Hamlet and PC
 
I have long ago deleted the report on nude Ham-Let (as I recall, that is the
spelling), and Harry Hill and Tom Berger may be misunderstanding Barbara
Correll's concerns. But let's not, while defending Barbara Correll, miss the
point made by Harry and Tom. A auditor may be moved by the suicide of Ophelia
(even if she is in a see-through garment) without glorifying female suicides.
Auditors at playshave a freedom of emotion that I might not condone outside off
the theatre, especially when that emotion leads to acts of brutality.
 
Am I opening a can of worms?
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Sep 1994 20:19:36 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Frogs
 
Yes, Luc, I have seen the titlepage, and, yes, on that titlepage, under three
rainbows, are three toads or frogs.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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