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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: January ::
Re: Mysticism; Shakespeare Films; Individualism
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0075.  Friday, 26 January 1996.

(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jan 1996 16:33:26 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0067  Qs: Mysticism

(2)     From:   Ellen Edgerton <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Jan 96 10:01 EST
        Subj:   Comment on current/future films

(3)     From:   W. Russell Mayes, Jr. <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Jan 1996 13:30:10 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re:  Development of Individualism


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Jan 1996 16:33:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0067  Qs: Mysticism
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0067  Qs: Mysticism

There is a print journal devoted to medieval mysticism, and the journal is
called *Mystics* or *Mysticism* -- the precise title evades me, though I've
held copies in my hand because my colleague Elizabeth Armstrong is the editor.
I would imagine that journal would be publishing the latest research on this
rather vast topic.  I would think Aldous Huxley would come before W. H. Auden
-- in this case, if not alphabetically!

Yours, Bill Godshalk

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ellen Edgerton <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Jan 96 10:01 EST
Subject:        Comment on current/future films

As I have been off the forum for quite a few months, please forgive me if this
is a topic that has been discussed to death recently.

Reuters/VARIETY is moving an interesting story about the current explosion of
Shakespeare films in release and development (interesting for me at least,
since I find the practical and commercial aspects of Shakespeare on film to be
almost as intriguing as the artistic implications). Among other things, it
reveals that Kenneth Branagh was pressured into casting American stars in his
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING by studio heads at Samuel Goldwyn.  That might explain
why  the cast of his new HAMLET, which supposedly contains many big American
stars, is not quite what it appears to be on a closer look.  (Every single one
of the "big names" is cast in a small role.)  I have seen the complete cast
list for Branagh's HAMLET and it appears to have much more in common with HENRY
V as far as the casting of British stage actors goes.

I have not seen the new RICHARD III but I am looking forward to it. Branagh has
his fair share of abuse but the apparent success of this new and more
adventurous RICHARD film, quite a different approach than the
Branagh/Zeffirelli tack, would seem to me to bear out the hopeful predictions
some of us had made about a film renaissance in the '90s bringing a wider
variety of artistic dividends and not just monetary ones. RICHARD possibly
would have never been made as a major feature film were it not for the
successes and risks taken by Branagh a few years ago, in my opinion.  Much as I
hate to stoop to easy quotes,   I can only say to those who have little
admiration for Branagh and Zeffirelli, "What your wisdoms could not uncover,
these shallow fools have brought to light."

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. Russell Mayes, Jr. <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Jan 1996 13:30:10 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re:  Development of Individualism

I thought I would attempt to pull at least part of this conversation back to
Shakespeare and the Renaissance by responding to Chris Fassler's recent post.
At one point he writes:

> 5)  Is there any good work out there about the evolution of English and its
> effects on the self in language?  (I vaguely remember a job candidate coming
> to my alma mater and discussing the introduction of "was now" into the novel,
> but I can't remember any conclusions or speculations that might be germaine.)

I am not sure that these are exactly what you are looking for, but Anne Ferry's
_The "Inward" Language_ deals with what she claims is a rise in subjectivity as
evidenced in sonnets from Wyatt to Shakespeare.  On your thoughts concerning
Descartes formulation, I'd refer you to Kerrigan and Braden's _The Idea of the
Renaissance._  Both of these books are fairly controversial, but thought
provoking I think.  Katharine Maus also has a new book intitled _Inwardness and
Theater in the English Renaissance_ which I am currently reading.  I find it
quite interesting on the subject as well.

Fassler continues:

> 6)  BTW, while I do not share the reverence for Shakespeare and everything
> Shakespearean that is common on this list, I must question Jonathan Sawday's
> great confidence that "the historical Shakespeare" must have shared Spenser's
> genocidal contempt for the Irish.  The evidence seems to me, at best,
> insufficient with regard to Shakespeare in particular, and the view seems to
> me hardly to have been universal (though perhaps nearly so) in early modern
> England.

I'd have to agree with this.  We should keep in mind that Spenser did not
publish it during his lifetime, so we can hardly see it as run-of-the-mill
Irish hating.  Shakespeare may have shared Spenser's beliefs, but he may not
have either.  Probably, he was somewhere in between our disgust of genocide and
Spenser's consideration of it as a useful option.

But back to Shakespeare.  I think we can at least see a concern with HOW one
defines his or her identity in a play like _C of E_.  Not only are the terms of
"identity" and "identical" played off one another, but the whole idea of what
constitutes a unique individual is put under pressure:  names are not unique,
birth marks are not unique, and the images the characters use to describe
themselves are not unique.  If we think of Antipholus of Syracuse's first
soliloquy (about feeling like a drop of water in the ocean searching for
another--modulated, BTW by Adriana's use of the same image later) we can see a
concern about defining oneself in society and the world.  It seems to me that
this is in some ways different than concerns evidenced in some medieval texts.
For example, Mallory's "Tale of Sir Gareth," define selfhood in different ways.
I am not saying that there is no Medieval subjectivity, but that it might be
distinct from Renaissance ways of talking about the same subject.  I think of a
story told about Robert Frost.  After reading "The Road not Taken" for the
umpteenth time at a public reading, one of the audience members asked, "Oh Mr.
Frost, do you really think it was the better choice?"  "I never said better,"
Frost growled, "I only said different."

W. Russell Mayes, Jr.
Dept. of Literature and Language
University of North Carolina at Asheville
 

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