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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: May ::
Re: Tillyard
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0394.  Wednesday, 17 May 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Ron Macdonald <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 May 1995 11:05:41 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Tillyard
 
(2)     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 May 1995 10:19:51 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Tillyard
 
(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 May 1995 22:34:01 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0392  Re: Tillyard
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Macdonald <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 May 1995 11:05:41 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Tillyard
 
I find myself in agreement, at least in part, with Robert Appelbaum AND Robert
O'Connor AND Chris Stroffolino AND Terence Hawkes on the Tillyard question
(Mark Twain somewhere remarked that when you find yourself on the side of a
majority, it is time to stop and reconsider).  But surely Stroffolino is right
to point out pre-Dollimore skepticism in this area. I'd add Louis Montrose, who
in the early '80s (in the pages of _Helios_, as I remember it) pointed out that
if we meet some version of the Elizabethan World Picture so frequently in
Elizabethan documents, it is not because that Picture is manifestly an adequate
representation of the Elizabethan World, but precisely because it is not.  The
lady isn't the only one who doth protest too much.  The Elizabethan World
Picture, Tillyard asserted early on, was part of "a mass of basic assumptions"
which all Elizabethans "had in common," and which, moreover, "they never
disputed and whose importance varied inversely with this very meagreness of
controversy."  Today, I think, we are a good deal more wary about specifying
just what it is everyone believes at any given time, and even in a poll of
contemporaries, the best we can hope to do is establish what anyone says he
believes or is willing to admit he believes, different matters altogether.
Terence Hawkes adverts to the specific historical context of Tillyard's work
and reminds us that Tillyard himself may have protested too much.  In 1943 he
can hardly have been alone in wishing for a lock-step consensus and a
seamlessly united front.
                                     Ron Macdonald
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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 May 1995 10:19:51 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Tillyard
 
My respondents -- Robert F. O'Connor, Chris Stroffolino, and Terence Hawkes --
on the worldview question were all extremely illuminating and I want to thank
them for their remarks.  Professor Hawkes reminds us of something rather
important about Tillyard's position, and all three raise serious questions
about what we do when we do things with Shakespeare's texts.  If it's not too
presumptuous I would like nonetheless to try to clarify a few things:   (1)
About Tillyard's book appearing in 1943, though I am sure that Hawkes is right
about its historico-ideological position, nevertheless we can make such
assessments of Tillyard's work only in part because of our own historical
positions; we also make such assessments based on what we try to fashion as
independent judgment.  I don't think that you can reduce Tillyard's position to
being "dated."  You have to deal with what he says in light of what he says and
how he uses his evidence. Our historical position certainly gives us a certain
perspective on Tillyard which Tillyard couldn't have had; but our knowing this
doesn't release us from responsibility from making our own judgments.  And this
is important to me because although "we critics" might be well past the age of
Tillyard's oversimplifications, a number of historians, our contemporariries,
apparently aren't; and we can't argue away our contemporaries by simply saying
that they are clinging to an old-fashioned point of view.       (2) Concerning
O'Connor's remark that Dollimore and Tillyard have a lot in common, I would
agree, in that Dollimore's book has some serious flaws, it too trying too hard
to come up with a "world picture."  But I don't understand O'Connor's antipathy
to Cultural Materialists en masse. O'Connor's doing to Cultural Materialists
(his caps) what he complains that the materialists are doing to the
Renaissance.  Of course the drama was censored too; and it no more directly
reflects the political experience of the period than any other kind of
document; but the drama had means of indirect discourse that could let a few
things out that otherwise had to be kept in the closet.  Historians like
Sharpe, seeing that no anti-absolutist tracts were published in English during
the first part of James's reign, conclude that there was no anti-absolutist
sentiment; and when J.P.Sommerville points to all those anti-absolutist texts
produced on the Continent, Sharpe responds, Exactly -- they were produced on
the Continent, not in merry England.  I'll  not try to draw any conclusions
about early modern England on the basis of *Troilus,* but I must at least
observe that *Troilus* tells us that something was up, that it was possible to
*try* to have a worldview, and possible to have it thrown back in your face.
        (3) Finally, I agree with Stroffolino's remarks (although I don't see
why he implies that Greenblatt implies that the Elizabethans had a single world
view -- in *Renaissance Self-Fashioning*  Greenblatt highlights at least three
conflicting and self-conflicted Elizabethan views) -- but then, to return to
Hawkes's position (if I'm not contradicting myself here), Dollimore was among
the first to point out persuasively not that there might be flaws in Tillyard's
account, but that the flaws in
 
Tillyard's account, as indicated by his misuse of evidence, were indicative not
only of flawed scholarship but of a flawed ideological impulse, a flawed
appropriation of Shakespeare.  Of course, we all owe a great deal to Hawkes for
this kind insight as well.
 
        Thanks again, everyone.
        Robert Appelbaum
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 May 1995 22:34:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0392  Re: Tillyard
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0392  Re: Tillyard
 
The question of Tillyard seems to lead to a larger and much more vexed
question: the relationship of words on a page or even plays on a stage to the
historical life -- the felt and lived life -- that surrounds them. After all,
there is some reason to believe that Shakespeare was not attempting historical
accuracy even in his history plays. When we take a passage of imaginative (may
I use the word?) writing and read it as historically revealing, are we running
over thin ice?
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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