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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: May ::
Re: Cordelia; Subtext; Ideology
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0516.  Thursday, 1 May 1997.

[1]     From:   Roger Schmeeckle <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 Apr 1997 11:02:50 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0471  Re: Cordelia

[2]     From:   David Jackson <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 Apr 1997 22:04:54 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0496  Re: Subtext

[3]     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 Apr 1997 11:57:04 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0504  Re: Ideology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Schmeeckle <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 Apr 1997 11:02:50 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 8.0471  Re: Cordelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0471  Re: Cordelia

Louis C Swilley wrote:

>Cordelia could say - would be expected to say - that she loves
>everything else because of him.  Not only would this be true, it is the
>last step in the development of any true love (the sisters have given
>the first two steps).

It would not be true.  To love everyone else because of a person is
appropriate language and theology for a Christian's love of God, and
other persons because of God's love for them.  But Cordelia recognizes
that Lear is not God; hence to love him as her sisters have professed,
or to love other persons because of him, would be a form of idolatry.

There exists confusion because this is a very Christian play in a pagan
context.  And pervasive in the pagan world was the divinization of
rulers.  I do not know whether that was so understood and practiced in
pagan Britain, or what Shakespeare might have known about that.  It is
likely that he was familiar with the general custom of divinizing rulers
before the Christian era.  Cordelia does not confuse limited love due to
a human father and worship due to God alone.

>Cordelia should humour the old man and simply lie.  She shouldn't and
>needn't. What does she do instead?  She "cannot heave her heart into
>her mouth",  she says; but then she does.

I suggest that to heave her heart into her mouth means to displace her
heart, a figure for lying.  Truth requires that words and inner
awareness coincide, that the heart be in its right place.

It was asked in another post: "Is there a defense for Cordelia?"  The
answer, perhaps not popular today, is simple: truth is preferable to
lying.

Roger Schmeeckle

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Jackson <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 Apr 1997 22:04:54 -0400
Subject: 8.0496  Re: Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0496  Re: Subtext

As an actor, director, dramaturg and teacher, I am naturally reluctant
(!) to throw in my two cents' worth, but here goes:

I think that both Daw and Lyles are leaning toward extremes. "Subtext"
can be interpreted as only referring to important plot points that are
not expressly mentioned in the dialogue, but this leaves a lot of other
issues that are churining around in any character's mind at any given
time, so what do you want to call THEM?  Similarly, long speeches may be
the most obviously in need of close scrutiny for purposes of acting them
in some way other than boringly general, but does that mean the actor
need not work as hard on the two-liners? (Or even two-worders?)

As far as I am concerned, subtext is what is going on ALL THE TIME when
a character is on the stage (whether speaking or not). When we speak
words, we try to put our thoughts and intentions into a form that will
be received by our intended listener in a particular way. This will be
influenced by the degree at that moment of our articulacy, of our
honesty, and of our need to achieve some objective (to mention just a
few matters). That's subtext. It's there ALL THE TIME. Even when we
"mean what we say" our words only approximate our intentions. That's the
limitation of common language.  So: what the character says is text.
What's going on inside the character is subtext. Even in Shakespeare,
the only time a character has no subtext is when he or she is dead.

David Jackson

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 Apr 1997 11:57:04 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0504  Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0504  Re: Ideology

A brief comment on the sociobabology being introduced as a possible way
of undermining Marxism, constructivism, humanism, poetry, and maybe even
Hamlet's soliloquies.

When evolutionary biologists talk about "selfish" genes or genes
procuring "selfish" behavior surely they are already committing the
error of anthropomorphosis?  How can a gene be "selfish" or not?  Or
again, how can any behavior by man, beast, fish, or amoeba be
characterized as "selfish" or "altruistic" unless so far as the behavior
is already being submitted to a language of ethics-what is "selfish,"
that is, but thinking makes it so?

I've tried reading some evolutionary biologists but what they're saying
is really too hilarious.  In historiography Whiggism is as dead as Lord
Macaulay, but in evolutionary biology Whiggism thrives- what has turned
out to win has always won for the purpose that it was supposed to win,
given the "facts" (hardwiring, etc.)  And although the very distinction
between actions which are "selfish" depends upon a certain range of
human, social experiences which include a sense of what is taken (for
good or ill) to be "moral," evolutionary biologists think they can
project these moral terms in reverse upon non-thinking chunks of matter,
and then claim (with complete circularity) that the exemplification or
non-exemplification of these moral categories in the behavior of chunks
of matter actually tells us something about the moral categories.

I smell a fish.
 

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