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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: March ::
Re: Characters
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0153.  Saturday, 2 March 1996.

(1)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Friday, 01 Mar 1996 07:11:38 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Reply to Drakakis on Character

(2)     From:   W. Russell Mayes, Jr. <
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        Date:   Friday, 01 Mar 1996 09:20:07 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0148  Re: Characters


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Friday, 01 Mar 1996 07:11:38 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Reply to Drakakis on Character

Just rereading John Drakakis's excellant post again... and I'm glad he brings
up questions of ideological assumptions. It seems to me, however, that one need
not appeal to S's different historical period to account for these however. On
one level, it's more of a generic question. The difference between the novel
and plays is precisely the open-ended quality of the form. Of course, saying
that is seems that Shakespeare's work "exploits" the gap (aporia) more than say
Ben Jonson. Another way of saying this is that Shakespeare leaves the "essence"
of his characters to "others"---(a less generous way is that he passes the
buck). But this is what Shakes shares with Brecht in certain ways---yet "the
critical attitude" is often considered less the point about S's plays than
"wonder" (just as "the alienation effect" is often seen as less the point than
"mimesis"---even though the "making nature afraid" aspects of his plays (of
which Jonson spoke) certainly seems to me not only to question the REALITY of
CHARACTERS as PEOPLE, but also the reality and validity of representing
ourselves strictly in terms of the restricted economy of the human. Perhaps
this IS historical, insofar as the novelistic sense of character Drakakis
detects in recent posts is often considered a product of the 19th century
"realism" retrospectively imposed on Shakespeare, and challenged by certain
20th c. trends that in certain ways (certainly not all---especially in respects
to gender) are more like Elizabethan questioning of autonomous or even adequate
individuation.......Chris Stroffolino

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. Russell Mayes, Jr. <
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Date:           Friday, 01 Mar 1996 09:20:07 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0148  Re: Characters
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0148  Re: Characters

I'd like to add a few words to John Lee's post on character.  First, along with
Ferry and Altman's work, I would recommend Katharine Maus' recent _Inwardness .
. . Theatre_.  Maus discusses some of these same issues and addresses the
question of the vocabulary used to describe an inner self in the 16th and 17th
centuries.

Lee also questions:

> As the modern vocabulary of meaning bound up with the modern sense of
> character is absent from Shakespearean plays, the argument for anachronism
> is nice and direct.  To argue the reverse brings us to the question of
> whether a concept can exist before the vocabulary exists to express it.

I believe Patricia Meyer Spacks book on Boredom in the 18th century addresses a
related issue:  how the invention of a new vocabulary might alter ideas about
individuality, society, etc.

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

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