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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: February ::
Re: Ideology
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0170.  Tuesday, 4 February 1997.

(1)     From:   David M. Richman <
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        Date:   Monday, 3 Feb 1997 10:44:05 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0160 Re: Ideology (Various)

(2)     From:   David Evett <R0870%
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        Date:   Tuesday, 04 Feb 1997 12:40 ET
        Subj:   SHK 8.0167  Re: R3/St.Paul; Cord


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David M. Richman <
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Date:           Monday, 3 Feb 1997 10:44:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0160 Re: Ideology (Various)
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0160 Re: Ideology (Various)

Oscar Wilde observed in *The Truth of Masks*, an essay that has interesting
things to say about Shakespearean costume, that"a truth in art in one whose
contradiction is also true."  I have always read Ben Jonson's elegy as
articulating two counter truths about Shakespeare.

        "Soul of an age"
              and
        "He was not of an age, but for all time."

Jonson's imaginative response to the ancient writers was different from
Shakespeare's, as Jonson was the first and last to remind his readers. After
years in academic theatre, I still hold to the notion that Shakespeare's
ability to hold the attention of audiences and readers of many times, places,
cultures, and premises, suggests that there are things in his plays (we can
debate over their nature and number) that do indeed leap beyond his time,
place, and material circumstances.

David Richman
University of New Hampshire

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870%
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Date:           Tuesday, 04 Feb 1997 12:40 ET
Subject: Re: R3/St.Paul; Cord
Comment:        SHK 8.0167  Re: R3/St.Paul; Cord

Paul Hawkins' division of readers into A and B, and even more so Gabriel Egan's
response to it, polarize radically a field that like the iron filings on the
paper above the magnet, has centers of density that are, nonetheless, connected
by lines of force.  There is a substratum of human bio-social uniformity from
which all those infinitely various local inflections arise.  A speech such as
Leontes' "O, she's warm! / If this be magic, let it be an art / Lawful as
eating" works through 5 substantives (she, warm, art, law, eating) that must
have counterparts in any natural language and significance in the constructs of
any human culture; I am nearly convinced that the sixth, magic, also belongs in
the list. There are others (death/life, art/not art, the alienation and
reconciliation of lovers) in the context that must be equally recognizable.
They are grammatically and rhetorically and culturally inflected, of course--in
many cultures there would be no question of the lawfulness of magic.  I see no
way to deny that the emotional force of the line resides chiefly in the
collocation of so many powerful terms, which reach us across 4 centuries with
unabated force--even while its intellectual appeal may reside in the
historically conditioned difference between early modern and later modern
attitudes toward magic, the place of the speech in the complex sexual and
familial and political dynamics of the scene and play as a whole, maybe even
the increasing archaism of "If this be" and "let it be" and the increased
connotations of informality of the contraction "She's" for modern readers and
audiences.  I see no unbridgeable gulf here or elsewhere between transcendental
and historical, but a dispersal of interest and emphasis varying with different
features of the texts.

I am also persuaded that Shakespeare commands our continued attention because
the transcendental elements occur more frequently, and are grouped (as here) in
more deeply urgent sets, than in other writers--which attracts us, then, to
note and become curious about the historically distanced elements.

Dave Evett
 

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