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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Importance of Shakespeare
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0776. Wednesday, 11 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Oct 1995 18:53:28 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0766 Re: Importance of Shakespeare
 
(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Oct 1995 22:12:03 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0772  Re: Importance of Shakespeare
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Oct 1995 18:53:28 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0766 Re: Importance of Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0766 Re: Importance of Shakespeare
 
From Paul Crowley:
 
1. > The first question is: How did the Brits and then the Americans become the
> world's most powerful nations?  To summarize Western history in two lines we
> could say that they did it by having very stable governments. They got this >
from democracy - in a broad sense (many were excluded or had restricted >
rights).  But within the group recognised as "citizens" the rule of law >
prevailed, rights were respected, freedom and the individual were recognised.
 
However, the sailors who manned the great British Navy were frequently
impressed.  The wealth that the British and Americans acquired during the 18th
century was frequently achieved through the sale and exploitation of slaves
(millions -- literally millions -- of them).  The land the Americans exploited
was literally stolen from the Native Americans, millions of whom died for the
sake of stability of "democracy."  The land the British exploited was literally
stolen from more peoples than I have the space here to mention, millions of
whom died for the sake of "King and Country."  And the violation of the rights
of American and British citizens by the American and British governments is a
central part of British and American history.  Conversely, the Swiss
Confederacy has been practising representative government longer than any
Anglophone nation; and it has never, as far as I know, conquered any foreign
country. Obversely, the Russian nation had a stable government without even the
suggestion of representative democracy; and its own empire, though it collapsed
five years ago, lasted longer than the United States has lasted so far as a
nation.
 
2. > > The recognition of the individual is also the foundation stone of
literature. > Literature and the absence of tyranny (in other words: a broad
democracy) go > hand in hand.
 
This is plain hooey.  There is no record of King James summoning Parliament and
granting it new rights in the aftermath of attending a play by Shakespeare.
There is, however, a record of SHAKSPERians mistaking hegemony for democracy
and conquest for culture; and there is a record of SHAKSPERians dismissing the
dignity of other cultures, other languages, and other peoples in the name of
"literature" and "freedom."
 
Robert Appelbaum
UC Berkeley
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Oct 1995 22:12:03 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0772  Re: Importance of Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0772  Re: Importance of Shakespeare
 
Terence Hawkes asks:
 
>What makes Paul Crowley so sure that Shakespeare produced 'Literature'? He
>didn't. And what makes him so sure that you can't come from a performance of
>most of the plays 'in a mood prepared to tolerate tyranny'? Audiences in Nazi
>Germany did. {Apparently Tudor and Stuart audiences did too!} Finally, who
decides who 'all those who matter' are?
 
I'd say that Shakespeare produced "literature" IF we say he produced
literature.  Each of us can decide what we think Shakespeare produced.  Some
folks may have a cruder noun to described his output!
 
But as Terry suggests, let's not allow our enthusiasm for the Big S to cloud
our vision. The study of Shakespeare will not make students "better people or
citizens."  And most Americans (I wouldn't speak for other nationalities) don't
think of Shakespeare every day, nor do they find his plays essential reading.
Those of us who read, study, and enjoy Shakespeare's poems and plays are in a
distinct minority.  Are we a "culture" onto ourselves?  Can we demand cultural
recognition? Are we culturally better than the Joyceans?
 
Yours, cynically, Bill Godshalk
 

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