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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: August ::
Re: Cardenio; Cultural Construct; "To be or not to be"
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0612.  Sunday, 6 August 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Dave Kathman <
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        Date:   Saturday, 5 Aug 1995 23:11:42 +0100
        Subj:   Humphrey Moseley & Cardenio
 
(2)     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Saturday, 5 Aug 1995 14:03:12 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Shakespeare as a cultural construct
 
(3)     From:   Edna Boris <
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        Date:   Saturday, 05 Aug 95 20:13:00 EDT
        Subj:   To Be Speech
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dave Kathman <
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Date:           Saturday, 5 Aug 1995 23:11:42 +0100
Subject:        Humphrey Moseley & Cardenio
 
In response to Mickie Mosley's query:
 
Humphrey Moseley was a London stationer in the mid-17th century, best known for
publishing (with Humphrey Robinson) the Beaumont and Fletcher First Folio in
1647.  He did indeed enter Cardenio in the Stationer's Register in 1653 as by
Shakespeare and Fletcher, but this is not necessarily proof of anything, as
many of Moseley's attributions are wrong or at least problematic; in the same
list he attributes "Henry the first, & Hen: the 2d" to "Shakespeare, &
Davenport", which is unlikely given that Davenport did not become a playwright
until after Shakespeare's death.  Moseley is not known to have printed most of
the plays he entered in the Stationer's Register, and many of the manuscripts
seem to have passed eventually to John Warburton in the 18th century, when all
but a few were accidentally destroyed by a servant of Warburton's who baked
them into pie bottoms. The most thorough discussion of Cardenio that I'm aware
of is by G. Harold Metz in *Sources of Four Plays Ascribed to Shakespeare*
(1989); he concludes, after weighing all the evidence, that there was indeed a
play of this name written by Shakespeare and Fletcher in 1612, and I'm inclined
to agree with him.  However, that's an entirely separate issue from Charles
Hamilton's claim that The Second Maiden's Tragedy is in fact Cardenio, which
seems to me unlikely in the extreme.
 
Dave Kathman

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Saturday, 5 Aug 1995 14:03:12 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Shakespeare as a cultural construct
 
Since Bruce Young's very thoughtful comments on the constructivist position
have yet to be answered by anyone, and since my own earlier remarks were the
focus of much of what Professor Young had to say, I will take the liberty of
commenting on his comments.  Professor Young specifically takes issue with two
aspects of the constructivist position, 1) that it is frequently applied (at
least in theory) reductively, so that it may be held by a constructivist, for
example, that "politics" is the real topic underlying all human activity," as
if there weren't any other topics of equal significance; 2) that in conjunction
with reductive or totalizing moves like this, constructivists also claim an
ontologicl and epistemological privilege for their position by appealing to the
self-reflexivity of what they do.
 
This is not the place to develop a full-blown defense of constructivism -- that
would require books -- but I would like to indicate at least two ways in which
a full-scale answer might be made to these objections, and to illustrate what I
take to be the urgency of politcally-minded constructivism by way of an
example, an apparently innocent remark made by Prospero in _The Tempest_.
 
The Theory that holds that all cultural expressions can be gathered into a
total framework of understanding, whose basic concern and basic term of
analysis is politics, that is social struggle, so that all literature, when
analyzed to its core, comes to be seen as a mode of participating in social
struggle, and especially but not exclusively class struggle -- this theory is
called Marxism.  One of the problems Professor Young sees with the theory is
perennial.  Professor Young wants to see Marxism as one among many possible
modes of critical analysis; classical Marxism, and even recent revisionist
forms of Marxism such as those of Jameson and Eagleton, wants to hold that if
its own tenets are true, then it cannot simply be another mode of analysis
ALONGSIDE other modes of analysis.  It HAS to be the final mode, the final
synthesis.  Of course, I cannot here (or perhaps anywhere) convince Professor
Young that this is a valid position; but it should be understood that this is
what is at stake -- a rather complex theory, with a long history (some will
add, "a troubled history"), which acknowledges that people have things like
feelings, even aesthetic feelings, and character structures, and so forth, but
which insists that art is always social and always at bottom a form of social
struggle, since in fact humanity itself is constituted by social struggle.
 
Now, Professor Young also raises the question, even if this were so, how would
we KNOW this, and how do would we KNOW that our ways of intepreting literature
are the real ways for getting at that social struggle which we take to be the
core meaning of literary works.  A "Marxist" or a "constructivist" analysis,
for all its intentions, can simply be wrong.  And for a constructivist to hide
behind the idea that he at least knows that he can be wrong, that his
strategies shelter him from analytical error, or from the pitfalls of
anachronism, or even from the idea that it is possible for a reader of one era
entirely to understand a text of another era -- this could be construed as
begging the question, and perhaps even as bad faith.
 
To this objection I will only reply that the idea of "knowing" as Professor
Young has framed it has at least two different meanings, which are related to
one another paradoxically, yet necessarily.  On the one hand, the kind of
knowing that many constructivists claim for themselves, so that they "know"
that they cannot feast at the banquet where Eliot thought that he was stuffing
his face, is actually Socratic: they claim to know only that they cannot know,
or do not know, certain things.  They know that they cannot feast at Dante's
banquet because they "know," no matter what they do, that they are divided from
Dante by huge stretches of time, *constitutive* stretches of time, which force
us to partake of different food, even if we may share certain things with
Dante, like an interest in eating.  But on the other hand, constructivists
might also claim that their purpose in trying to understand the literature of
the past is, precisely, to "know" it, to overcome in some way the very
impossiblity of knowing that they take as their point of departure.
 
Again, I cannot even begin to validate this position here. Interestingly, one
doesn't even have to be a Marxist or post-Marxist constructivist to hold onto
the paradox of historical understanding involved, since it is the position of
continental hermeneutics as well as of more politicized modes of analysis.
Even cultural conservatives like Hirsch have embraced and attemtped to work
through this same paradox of historical understanding. We cannot "know" the
past, and we "know" that. So let us begin trying to recover it and know it.
 
But "political" understanding attempts to go even further; it attempts to do
something with the knowledge of texts which at the very least suggests the
possibility of totalized but non-reductive account of texts of the past, an
account which acknowledges historical difference, and indeed insists on it,
while still trying to get to a knowledge of the feeling (the "structure of
feeling") embedded in texts as works of art, and the social struggles
motivating and contextualizing them.
 
Take the case of the time when Miranda says to Prospero, "Alack, what trouble I
was then to you!"  And Prospero responds, "O, a cherubin/ Thou wast that did
preserve me.  Thou didst smile..." (1.2.152-4) I have always responded to his
interchange as something that breaks through the cracks.  Here is human
feeling.  Here is Shakespeare showing us the touch of sentiment that both
underlies and speaks beyond the realm of things like political agenda, or
social struggle.  I imagine (rightly or wrongly I don't know) tht old Will was
pleased with himself when he wrote those lines.  This is just the kind of
simple thing that people like Marston and Chapman _couldn't_ write.  But yet,
suppose we ask, what is involved in Miranda's expression of guilt at having
been a burden to her father, or Prospero's calling her a "cherubin"?  Do we not
see a relationship of power being rehearsed,processed, and accommodated here?
Why a "cherubin," a little angel, already trivialized in 16th century painting?
 Why is it that the cherubin preserves the man by a smile, while the man
preserves the cherubin by the hard work of setting up an island kingdom, and
enslaving a native, while appealing, all this time, to the idea of Providence
(a jealous Providence at that) as that which has _really_ preserved him?
 
Now, from Professor Young's perspective this kind of analysis is one among many
-- useful perhaps, but not exclusive of others.  And in a practical sense he is
probably right.  Providence forbid that I should ever tell a student that this
kind of analysis is the only analysis, or the only right one.  But the ultimate
stake of this kind of analysis is rather different from the ultimate stake,
say, of a psychodynamic or a New Critical analysis.  This kind of analysis
leads me at once in two directions, both of which are central to the political,
constructivist project as a form of "final" analysis.  On the one hand, it
leads me to question assumptions about "human feeling," and my gut response to
the sentimentality of the father-daughter relationship in the play.  It
demystifies the sentiment.  I see that it is based on certain relations of
power; I see that those relations are invested in other cultural phenomena
(e.g., representations and theories about angels).  Going further, I might take
note both of the fact that a large part of the play is about the problem of
maintaining patriarchal order from generation to generation, and, moreover,
that political theory in 1611 still largely held to the idea that the family --
a social unit presided over by a patriarch -- was both the basic unit of social
order, and the model of all political order.  The king was the father to his
people; and if the smiles of the people motivated him, like the smiles of
cherubim, his direct connection with Providence was what both legitimated and
guided his conduct as a governor.
 
And then again, making the last move common to political hermeneutics, I might
move away from the play and its investment in structures of patriarchy and ask,
what does this mean then to _us_?  How is our behavior, indeed our own range of
deep feelings, a product of the "cultural capital" that Shakespeare too was
drawing upon?  And how do we really feel about that cultural capital today?
How do we want to manage things like father-daughter relationships, and the
problems of dependency and mutuality which both animate us and trouble us, we
being the subjects of a society riven by social conflict over just such issues
as the rights of women and children, and being charged witht he mission of
trying to redefine and reconstruct them?
 
Beginning with the sweet genius of a pair of lines that maybe no one but
Shakespeare could have written, I move then to the social and poltical
framework that makes the genius of the lines work as a reprsentation of life,
capable of moving us.  And I try to grasp the lines in terms of a total view of
history where social struggle is seen as having been waged and resolved (in
favor of the man) on an island in the Mediterranean, on the London stage of
1611, and still in my own mind, as both a reader of the text and a citizen of
the world.
 
The "totalizing" here, I want to suggest, is neither reductive nor circular.
It is a way of getting into the affects of plays as social constructs with
political implications both for the period of the play itself and for the
readers of today.  Underneath it is a master theory which is itself perhaps
somewhat troubled, or incomplete.  But when you read Shakespeare like this, I
maintain, you not only make a point of the inevitable distance between now and
then, and of trying to understand what that distance means.  You also bring
yourself, and maybe even Shakespeare -- well ... to life.
 
Robert Appelbaum
UC Berkeley
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edna Boris <
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Date:           Saturday, 05 Aug 95 20:13:00 EDT
Subject:        To Be Speech
 
Many thanks for the reading suggestions and comments on the "To be" speech as
not being a soliloquy.  Anyone interested in readings in addition to David
Ball's 1983 book Backwards & Forwards (Southern Il. U. P) might look at James
Hirsh's "The 'To Be or Not to Be" Scene and the Conventions of Shakespearean
Drama," Modern Language Quarterly, vol. 42 (June 1981) 115-36 and Linwood
Orange's "Hamlet's Mad Soliloquy" in South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 64 (winter,
1965) 60-71. I've still been unable to learn of any professional productions
(theater or film)that stage the speech with Hamlet's knowing that Claudius and
Polonius are observing him.  Stephen Schultz's report on SHAKSPER of a semi-
professional group in Louisville's so staging it seems to be the lone
exception.  If anyone knows of other examples, I'd be interested in hearing
about them.
 
Polonius are there.  Stephen Schultz's report on SHAKSPER of a
semi-professional group in Louisville's doing it that way seems to be the only
example.
 
[Editor's NOTE: Keep those posting coming; I'm off to pack; in a week, --Hardy]
 

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