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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0450.  Saturday, 12 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Apr 1997 08:59:33 +0000 (HELP)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0445 Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

[2]     From:   Lee Gibson  <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Apr 97 07:47 CDT
        Subj:   Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

[3]     From:   Mark Mann <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Apr 1997 12:26:40 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0445 Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

[4]     From:   Paul Hawkins <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Apr 1997 12:33:29 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   ideology:  the aesthetics of wt

[5]     From:   Derek Wood <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Apr 1997 13:45:25 -0900 (PDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0445  Re: Winter's Tale

[6]     From:   Joseph "Chepe" Lockett <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Apr 1997 19:46:06 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Leontes' Ailment (Re: SHK 8.0445)

[7]     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Saturday, 12 Apr 1997 01:21:17 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0445 Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Apr 1997 08:59:33 +0000 (HELP)
Subject: 8.0445 Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0445 Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

Ideology: Othello & Sister Mary Ignatius

This week I read an essay by a Roman Catholic student who works
part-time for nuns of Order of St.Anne. She objects to Chrstopher
Durang's *Sister Mary Ignatiuus Explains It All For You* on the grounds
that nuns don't kill, and further that Durang has little right to take
away from the joys and satisfactions of this religion. She was unable to
comment on the play qua play, of course.

I told SHAKSPER two years ago about another student who, upon hearing
the possibly apocryphal story about the theatregoer who was so carried
away by the naturalism of Johnston Forbes-Roberton's acting of Othello
as he came to murder his wife that he lept onstage to take the actor/man
by the nightie and declare "Leave her alone, you big black brute!",
cautioned me, who was RELATING the tale as an illustration of Arthur
Kostler's definition of `appropriate artistic response', to remember
that {to quote her) "Not all black men are brutes."

I myself refused, some years ago, to remain in a satirical revue if a
sketch in which homosexuals were derided were not excised. Yet I can,
because although I am a member of human family I am a Gentile, listen to
the Ride of the Walkuere without accessing the image of the gates of the
dreadful concentration camp that played the piece, read *The Road Not
Taken* without remembering that Frost may well have been the unpleasant
man is reputed to have been. In other words, I choose only sometimes to
tell the dancer from the dance, depending upon my personal closeness to
stances taken. It impossible for me to exercise the cosmic charity shown
by Adrian Kieranander who appears in his latest contribution to worry
about women in a *Winter's Tale* audience who have suffered abuse from
their husbands.

After the death of my father, for a few months, nay not so much, I could
not bring myself to go to a movie that had anything explicitly to do
with dying, but freely acknowledged others' desire and right to do so.
Am I perhaps then not the elitist aesthete I think I am? Is it
especially gracious of me to absorb the work of Picasso although he was
a heterosexual ladykiller and to read my own kind of fleshly love in the
love poems of, say, Donne? Is it homosexual of me to find the love of
Lear's Fool moving? Is it capitalist white patriarchal of me find the
quandaries of a Danish blueblood relevant to this descendant of Border
sheepstealers? Hardly: Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet and Fiona Shaw as
Richard, both born without rank and title, could show me "his" problems
and his mind without frontally bulging tights. I would have to play
Othello with dark makeup to make my pale Scots face appropriate for a
stage rendering; as I am I can play almost any older woman of almost any
ethnic kind, to meet with objection from some members of an audience who
are, as most are, unable to leave all baggage in the cloakroom provided.

Harry Hill

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lee Gibson  <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Apr 97 07:47 CDT
Subject:        Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

A recent contributor writes:

"The juvenile name-calling to which this ideology discussion sometimes
descends ("You're ideological; I'm not") is based upon a false binary
opposition.  We are all ideologically informed: some us own up to this
fact; some of us don't."

And the statement that "we are all ideologically informed" is a simple
categorical assertion.  This is to make life too easy for oneself.

Lee Gibson
Department of English
Southern Methodist University

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mark Mann <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Apr 1997 12:26:40 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0445 Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0445 Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

I find it significant in WT's final scene, that at no time does Hermione
speak to Leontes. Indeed, her only speech begins as an invocation to the
gods, and then she speaks directly to Perdita, saying how she
"preserved" herself to see the completion of the Oracle's prophecy.  In
the 1993 production I directed for Actor's Theatre in Columbus ( a
Shakes. in the Park), our Hermione ( Mary Ann Best, the finest Hermione
I have ever seen), extended her hand to Leontes, he took it rather
tentatively, then helped her from the pedestal, but before they
embraced, there was a long look between them which made it clear that  a
16 year gulf still existed between them, and Leontes in his shame, knelt
before her. The ending of the play is not a happy one, in the classic
sense of "the queen is back and all is forgiven". She forgives, but
cannot forget-it becomes instead, at least for our production's
purposes, merely the completion of a series of events, and the older
generation simply fulfills their part of a grand scheme. Even Paulina
recognizes her part is finished-and we understand that it is to Perdita
and Florizel that this world now belongs. Bittersweet, sad, romantic in
a way that tells us " You must awaken your faith." I believe that it
merely strengthens Shakespeare's conception of Hermione as the perfect
woman, indeed the perfect human-who held fast to her beliefs, both
religious and otherwise, who loved beyond the limits of most. Unreal?
Perhaps, but perfect for a Winter's TALE.............cheers, Mark Mann

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Hawkins <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Apr 1997 12:33:29 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        ideology:  the aesthetics of wt

To Evelyn Gajowski:

I am fully prepared to accept my response as ideological, as I said in a
recent post, and what mostly interests me is the "authority" and "use"
of an ideological description of my (or anyone's) aesthetic response, as
I said at the beginning of the thread.  The problem is that none of the
ideological accounts offered describes my experience, as I have tried to
say.

What's the matter?  Are you not used to academic discussions with people
who don't already agree with you?

Paul

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Derek Wood <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Apr 1997 13:45:25 -0900 (PDT
Subject: 8.0445  Re: Winter's Tale
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0445  Re: Winter's Tale

> If one finds the final scene to be sugar-coated sentimentality,
> identifying Leontes's sickness might make it less nauseating.
>
> Gabriel Egan


That comment prompts me to dare to ask a naive question that falls
infinitely short of the subtlety of the ideological debate. Does
Hermione forgive Leontes? I know she "embraces" him, as Paulina prompts
the motions of reconciliation, and in the eyes of Camillo she "hangs
about his neck." Goodnatured, warmhearted, charitable, reconciling
Camillo: that is how he sees the embrace. But Hermione has words only
for her daughter. "Our Perdita is found" makes her speak. She blesses
her daughter, overwhelms her with a rush of urgent questions and seems
to have lived only in the hope of once again seeing her daughter
("preserv'd Myself to see the issue." She has no words for her husband.
Is this only a token forgiveness? Remember Prospero's forgiveness of his
"unnatural" brother:"For you, most wicked sir, whom to call brother /
Would even infect my mouth, I do forgive / Thy rankest fault...."  I
wonder if this is such "sugar coated sentimentality"?

Derek Wood,
St. Francis Xavier University.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph "Chepe" Lockett <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Apr 1997 19:46:06 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: (Re: SHK 8.0445)
Comment:        Leontes' Ailment (Re: SHK 8.0445)

I've been staying well away from the stench of the ideology arguments
(What does it all matter?  Why argue about it?), but Gabriel Egan makes
the interesting comments:

> >Does anyone else find convincing the argument of B J Sokol (_Art and Illusion in the Winter's Tale_, Manchester UP, 1995) that Leontes is suffering from couvade syndrome...?  If one finds the final scene to be sugar-coated sentimentality, identifying Leontes's sickness might make  it less nauseating.<<

In the Houston production of TWT (at Rice's Baker College) which I
recently directed, the actors playing Leontes and Hermione found most
useful a simple discussion of the two as extrovert vs. introvert in the
context of Myers-Briggs personality profiles.  I.ii shows an obvious
verbal (and, perhaps, social) facility on the part of Hermione-and,
indeed, Polixenes-which Leontes is almost totally lacking.

We played Polixenes' visit as the first since their marriages or
coronations (take your pick) (Camillo mentions gifts and embassages, but
never a previous face-to-face), and the tension of this first meeting in
decades, coupled with Leontes' adult awareness of his "disability",
engendered the jealousy.  My Assistant Director mentioned that
Myers-Briggs INT's (Introverted iNtuitive Thinkers) are apparently wont
to get over-involved in analysis to the point at which they perceive
feelings and motivations on the part of others which are not there.  So
Leontes' jealousy seems to be able to proceed quite naturally from the
"history" and situation of the play and characters, without needing to
graps for couvade syndrome or the previous generation's favorite claim
of schizophrenia (which one blue-haired patron of our performance
insisted was the true key to it all).  And, oddly enough, our homosexual
thoughts tended more towards a Camillo-Polixenes pairing... (we didn't
play it, but it would have made Leonte's jealousy all the more
unreasonable!)

As to the ending?  The script makes clear from every pore of its being
that Hermione is little less than a saint.  I find those moving in
almost any context, dramatic or realistic, no matter what the gender,
ethnicity, or sexual preference of their consorts.  To me, V.iii is as
much about Hermione as Leontes, and we played it as such.  (A comment to
Paulina to justify her extensive catalog of lines calling Hermione down
off the platform-"What if Hermione's not ready yet?  What if she decided
not to go along with it?  What if she thinks you're jumping the gun?")

My thought about Shakespearean plays which I find ethically dubious is
that I just haven't found the right way to "see" the staging or the
characterization.  I've had trouble, but come to artistic/theatrical
grips with many of the comedies and romances that way.  Now if only I
can find a way to enjoy The Two Gentlemen....

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Saturday, 12 Apr 1997 01:21:17 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0445 Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0445 Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

It occurs to me that the question of "ideology" playing a role in the
CONSTRUCTION of Leontes' jealous (or, better, possessive and suspicious)
character is actually addressed IN "the play itself"-in the scene in
which Autolycus is peddling his ballads to the clown and the two women
he's either wooing or being wooed by..."COME TO THE PEDDLER, MONEY'S A
MEDDLER"- A close reading of this scene provides a miscrocosmic
commentary on the ideology that informs Leontes' attitudes and behaviors
towards women and towards his subjects....  and I believe this is its
function. I don't know if anyone else has done any work on this
"analogical scene" (to borrow Joan Hartwig's term) in this play, but I
think it is important to see this use of indirect commentary and
critique on the "forgiven" "wife abuser" is IN the play, and challenges
the simple "miraculous" ending-even as it clears the way for it and lets
us be "taken in" as if such a need is basic, essentially human, or
what-have-you. Of course, we must "awaken our faith" to believe that not
only Hermione but also Leontes IS actually alive, and LARGER THAN LIFE,
unlike the "reductive" or "realistic" clown Autolycus is peddling his
misogynistic (or at least oversuspicious) wares to.....

And, has it occured to anyone else, that Leontes' last lines'---
"HASTILY lead away...." may be INTENDED to indicate that he has returned
to his earlier haste, and inability to "lve in uncertainties without
irritably groping" etc?

--Chris Stroffolino
 

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