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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: May ::
Re: Melancholy and Capital Sins; Peripety;
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0582.  Tuesday, 20 May 1997.

[1]     From:   Roger Schmeeckle <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 May 1997 12:50:12 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Melancholy and Capital Sins

[2]     From:   Jeff Barker <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 May 1997 16:39:33 CST
        Subj:   Peripety

[3]     From:   Juul Muller-van Santen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 May 1997 12:52:09
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0579  Re: Music/Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Schmeeckle <
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Date:           Monday, 19 May 1997 12:50:12 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Melancholy and Capital Sins

Self-correction.  In a previous message, suggesting a correspondence
between Shakespeare's seven mature "tragedies" and the seven capital
sins, I mistakenly attributed melancholy to Hamlet.

Hamlet is, of course, a melancholic person, but the capital sin with
which he should be identified was meant to be acedia (sloth), not
melancholy.

     Roger Schmeeckle

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jeff Barker <
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Date:           Monday, 19 May 1997 16:39:33 CST
Subject:        Peripety

John Velz writes:

> I used to ask my students in class disc. to identify for  me the
> peripety in *The Winter's Tale*.  Three poss. answers would come up, and
> I would have the privilege of pointing out that all were correct, but
> that each of them asked for a different reading of the play.  If, for
> example the peripety is "There is no truth in the oracle; let the
> sessions proceed" Then the play is about Leontes.  If the peripety is
> Time's signalling of a 16 yr gap in 60% of the way through the action,
> then the theme of time is all-important in the play as in Sh.'s source
> "Pandosto: Or The Triumph of Time".  If the peripety is when the
> shepherd exclaims to his son "Thou met'st with things dying; I with
> things newborn" then the tone shifts as the peripety is met and we go
> from a play of death and loss and defiance of the gods to a play of
> life...

I find the concept of peripety to be fascinating, which is why I'm
hoping that John, Julie Blumenthal, and others will keep up this thread
for a bit.

I currently have an understanding of peripety that doesn't fit, John,
with your examples.  I returned to Aristotle's POETICS and looked at his
examples.  His examples include the motivation of the character.  The
reversal is a reversal of what that character expected.  Aristotle's
first example of what he means by peripety is from OEDIPUS.  The
messenger arrives "to cheer Oedipus and free him from his alarms."  He
tells Oedipus about the mixup in parents.  He expects Oedipus to be
pleased.  Instead he has ruined Oedipus.  Peripety.

Back to WINTER'S TALE.  In your second example (Time) and third example
(Shepherd) the character's goals (IF they can be found) play little role
in any peripety that may or may not be present.  In your first example,
Leontes' goal (justice for himself and his son) is not yet reversed,
since he, at that point in the scene is denying the truth of the
Oracle.  The anagnorisis is incomplete since even though the Oracle is
revealed, the revelation is rejected.

Julie Blementhal suggests in a later post that we need to wait until
Leontes' "Apollo's angry" to find the peripety.  Yep.  The discovery of
the oracle is affirmed by that line.  Why?  Because Leontes has just
been told that the opposite of his intent has been achieved:  his son is
dead.  He hoped to achieve justice for himself and his son by casting
aside his wife and daughter, and now he has lost his son.  Peripety.

But wait.  His pursuit of justice continues; he merely turns the sword
of justice upon himself.  It is only until Hermiones' "resurrection"
that Leontes' pursuit of justice results in the opposite:  his wife and
daughter are restored to him, and he receives mercy rather than
justice.  Peripety.

Now, have I misunderstood Aristotle?

Jeff Barker
Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa

P.S.  Thanks, John, by the way, for the tip about the Harbison book.  I
have it on order, in hopes that I can understand more about peripety -
particularly as it relates to my work as a playwright.  By the by, I
just came upon an essay by Max Anderson in which he boils the crafting
of a plot down to this:  "A play should lead up to....a discovery by the
leading character which has an indelible effect on his thought and
emotion and completely alters his course of action."  Anagnorisis and
peripety, no?

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Juul Muller-van Santen <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 20 May 1997 12:52:09
Subject: 8.0579  Re: Music/Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0579  Re: Music/Shakespeare

In answer to Gabriel Wasserman, the Gooch and Thatcher *Shakespeare
Music Catalogue* is just a catalogue, I'm afraid, even if it has five
volumes. It lists all the music from Shakespeare's day until the late
1980's and does this is various ways: by play, by composer etc. There
are also very useful comments about the way settings were presented,
including for example the 17th and 18th century Shakespeare adaptations
which were often much more musical than the originals.  The list of
contemporary composers you offer includes the Oxford Professor of Music,
John Wilson. You add "of Iacke Wilson fame", but as far as I know this
is speculative. Or has someone finally PROVED it? That would be lovely.

David Mycoff notes that anachronism in music is no more problematic than
anachronism in costuming or design. Very true. I feel uncomfortable with
both. Of course we can never completely recapture the past, but some of
us are less interested in the tensions between past and present, for
which I read "our own sensibility" than in understanding what the
greatest playwright we know actually meant to put across the footlights
(if there were any).

I am not sure my response to Shakespeare's language can be "educated" by
references to the here and now. On the contrary, I know modern
interpretations often make us miss points Shakespeare was making.  Two
examples will suffice here: the doubleness of the
boy-plays-girl-plays-boy acts in several comedies and the significance
of Osric's hat, so often missing from modern HAMLETs, as discussed by
Andrew Gurr.
 

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