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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: January ::
Re: Tragic Flaw; Dreams (Prep.); Elizabethan Literacy
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0010.  Friday, 6 January, 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Patricia Gourlay <
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        Date:   Thursday, 05 Jan 1995 17:39:35 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0005  Re: Tragic "Flaw" -- Hamartia
 
(2)     From:   E. L. Epstein <epstein@QCVAXA.BITNET>
        Date:   Friday, 06 Jan 1995 00:03:13 EDT
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0007  Re: Education; Dreams (Prepositions)
 
(3)     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 Jan 1995 10:47:05 GMT
        Subj:   Re: Elizabethan literacy
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Patricia Gourlay <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 05 Jan 1995 17:39:35 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0005  Re: Tragic "Flaw" -- Hamartia
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0005  Re: Tragic "Flaw" -- Hamartia
 
All this discussion of fate and hamartia gets tangled in the usual Aristotelian
flypaper, except for Piers Lewis' very sensible look at real tragedies for
guidance. For a good discussion of the way Aristotle and Greek tragedy both
have been misrepresented, see Richmond Lattimore's essay in the Tulane Review
back in '53  and Brian Vickers'TOWARDS GREEK TRAGEDY. Whatever Aristotle meant
by hamartia, it does derive from the verb "hamartano" (to fall short ofthe
target) and refers to an action rather than a moral quality. Aristotle never
uses the word "hubris"; it means "an outrageous  act of violence" (such as
rape, or the destruction of a conquered city) and never in classical Greek to a
moral flaw. Aristotle doesn't talk about fate or irony or nemesis either,
because he is interested in tragedy's action and its effect, not its meaning.
"Irony" in Aristotle refers only to a pretense of ignorance as used by
Socrates. What critical vocabulary he had was his own invention.  It's good to
remember that all the Greek tragedies we have were written before  Aristotle
and that Shakespeare's acquaintance with him would have been minimal, even if
he were inclined to follow anybody's model. A great deal of nonsense about
Greek tragedy (Butcher, Kitto, Frye, Sewell) gets passed on because Greek study
is out of fashion, and scholars are humbled by their inability to read the
original.  But there are good translations out there now, and this is a good
occasion to urge everybody to take a fresh look at all the extant Greek
tragedies. LIke Shakespeare's, they resist any simple formulas.  Every one is
different. As for fate, there are different terms (Moira for "share", Anangke
for "necessity) in Greek but they all refer to what is beyond human control. In
Greek tragedy, they provide the context  in which the protagonists make their
choices. The terms are in general descriptive rather than causative. Romantic
and unclassical as they are, Romeo and Juliet are still closer to Greek tragedy
than to medieval or Roman in this respect. As Piers Lewis suggests, they act
within the given context of a world inimical to youth, to love, etc. where the
jaws of darkness do devour it up. They go for it anyway. The consequence
invites from the audience not necessarily the response "Tsk,tsk" but for some
at least "What a way to go!"
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           E. L. Epstein <epstein@QCVAXA.BITNET>
Date:           Friday, 06 Jan 1995 00:03:13 EDT
Subject: 6.0007  Re: Education; Dreams (Prepositions)
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0007  Re: Education; Dreams (Prepositions)
 
In regard to quibbling over prepositions--I can only say again, can we claim to
love Shakespeare, if we do not care what he said? E.L.Epstein
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Friday, 6 Jan 1995 10:47:05 GMT
Subject:        Re: Elizabethan literacy
 
Dave Kathman makes a number of good points,  but the term 'illiterate' drags in
too many of the prejudices of a highly literate late 20th century culture. How
about 'nonliterate'? How about 'pre-literate'? Cf. the work of Walter Ong (he
of the Numinous Prose).
 
T. Hawkes
 

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