Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0467.  Wednesday, 16 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Ben Schneider <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Apr 1997 17:16:32 +0000
        Subj:   WT Ending

[2]     From:   David Evett <R0870%
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Apr 1997 16:52 ET
        Subj:   SHK 8.0458  Re: Ideology: The Ae

[3]     From:   Thomas Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Apr 1997 15:56:41 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 15 Apr 1997 17:16:32 +0000
Subject:        WT Ending

Dear Adrian Kiernander,

Terence Hawkes says, "The past is another country.  They do things
differently there."

You say "My response to the ending of _WT_ is influenced . . .  by my
intense reaction to domestic violence."

If Terence Hawkes is right, and I think he is, what has your "intense
reaction" against the ending got to do with it?  Whose play is it,
anyhow?  Yours or Shakespeare's?  What if the wife's forgiveness was
originally the whole point of the play?

The past is another country.  How do you justify applying (post)modern
attitudes to early modern plays?

Maybe you are an essentialist after all.

I really am puzzled by these apparent contradictions.  They seem
symptomatic of our discipline, and I think we need to resolve them.

Yours ever,
BEN SCHNEIDER

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870%
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 15 Apr 1997 16:52 ET
Subject: Re: Ideology: The Ae
Comment:        SHK 8.0458  Re: Ideology: The Ae

Terence Hawkes assures us that Simon Forman's notes on *WT* "report an
experience" very different from any we Western postmoderns are likely to
have.  But Forman doesn't report an experience, he makes notes in his
commonplace book "for Common Pollicie," which I and divers other
scholars take to mean as possible guidelines for future conduct-a
purpose underlined by the end of the entry, on Autolycus: "Beware of
trustinge feined beggars or fawning fellous." Something as marvellously
_un_common as the statue scene in *WT* may just not offer useful
guidelines.  It's worth noting that other marvels are omitted from
Forman's summaries-his treatment of *Macbeth* notes the first appearance
of "3 women feiries or "Nymphes" and of Banquo's ghost but not the
revelation of Banquo's line or the approach of Birnam wood; that of
*Cym* says nothing about the appearance of Jupiter or the reconciliation
of Posthumus (never named) and Innogen; that of *WT* mentions the oracle
but not the shipwreck or Antigonus' meeting with the bear.

Another way to look at this is to observe that Forman "reports" almost
nothing not directly available from the text as well-an interesting
contrast with the nearly contemporary account by Henry Wotton of the
burning of the Globe during *H8*, "set forth with many extraordinary
circumstances of Pomp and Majesty, even to the matting on the stage; the
Knights of the order, with their Georges and Garter, the Guards with the
embroidered Coats, and the like: sufficient in truth within a while to
make greatness very familiar, if not ridiculous. . .  That is, material
particulars of a specific production, very much more a "report of an
experience" than anything in Forman.

Jacobean ideology certainly did not prevent Shakespeare and the King's
Men from producing *WT* and putting the statue scene at that
traditionally emphatic place, the end.  Indeed, as Tom Bishop has shown
(*Shakespeare's Theatre of Wonder,* whose long last chapter treats this
play), there was a very fully developed tradition of the theatrical
wonderful grounding this scene, within which Simon Forman might
perfectly well have situated himself in "reporting" his experience at
the Globe under some other heading than "for Common Pollicie," and
giving an extensive and appreciative account of just how the actors
stood and moved as they did a magic as lawful as eating.

Wonderfully,
David Evett

P.S.  Quotations from the new Norton Shakespeare, 3336-39.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 15 Apr 1997 15:56:41 -0500
Subject:        Re: Ideology: The Aesthetics of WT

What concerns me in the posts attacking Paul Hawkins is the foreclosing
vehemence with which they are inclined to assert that the imagined
responses of any particular figure in the audience could -without
question-trump the value of anyone else's. Though not always directly
stated, Paul's failure of moral solidarity is the clear import of the
rhetoric which has greeted him. It seems to me dubious to claim that any
single interpretive posture, least of all one claimed in someone else's
name, can definitively release the meaning of the text, and the rage
that greeted Paul smacked for me a little too much of that claim. The
argument is similar to one recurrently used by the right wing here to
close down artistic activity of which they disapprove.  I caught more
than a hint of an assertion that Paul was morally culpable to think and
feel in the way that he did.  In a forum like this, such rhetoric seems
to me very close to a gesture of silencing.  Witness you silent readers
whether this is true.

If it were a matter of  "wondering" what such an imaginary audience
member might think or feel, then fair enough.  But the tendency of these
responses to convert the action of the play into an occasion of real
moral outrage, and to respond  as if to real acts and "two people
actually dead" rather than to the complexity of a theatrical image of
events seems to me indicative of a hasty fervency. I'm by no means
convinced that the possibility of eventually overcoming even deep trauma
is something the representation of which isnt to be welcomed rather than
decried, perhaps most of all by someone who is suffering or has suffered
something similar.  The Winter's Tale is very interested in the complex
uses people make of the stories they tell and the aesthetic objects they
make and present for and to one another. Several times in the play, the
dangers of mistaking a real for a fictive or imaginary object (and vice
versa) are canvassed.  The costs for all concerned of treating another
human as an occasion for one's own  fantasies are devastatingly
displayed. Nor is the difficulty of unlearning that temptation presented
either glibly or self-righteously.  Leontes is not less conscious than
others of the disastrous results of his misprision, and the play insists
that -nothing he can do- can rectify matters.  This doesn't look to me
like getting off lightly, or like a "sugar-coated fantasy" as has been
claimed.

I welcome explorations, on stage or in print,  of the detailed workings
of the play, in terms of exactly how it imagines fictions of trauma,
mental cruelty, repentance, recompense, recovery, restitution and even
perhaps forgiveness. Competing versions of the narrative(s) of trauma
will certainly need to be compared to one another.  But not, if the
conversation is to get anywhere, in the manner of hot denunciations that
give satisfaction to one side only. That is just Leontes' mistake. The
discussion so far doesn't seem to me to lend itself to such an
exploration.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.