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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: May ::
Re: Bad Lines; Ideology; Skinking; Acting; Stoic
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0597.  Sunday, 25 May 1997.

[1]     From:   Bernice W. Kliman <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 May 1997 10:36:30 -0400
        Subj:   Author of interp of bad line in Ham

[2]     From:   Ben Schneider <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 May 1997 15:35:57 +0000
        Subj:   WT; ideology

[3]     From:   Franklin J. Hildy <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 May 1997 17:00:03 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0590  Re: Staging Sinking

[4]     From:   Steve Urkowitz <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 May 97 23:44:12 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 21 May 1997 to 22 May 1997

[5]     From:   Ben Schneider <
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        Date:   Saturday, 24 May 1997 11:25:05 +0000
        Subj:   Stoic Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bernice W. Kliman <
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Date:           Friday, 23 May 1997 10:36:30 -0400
Subject:        Author of interp of bad line in Ham

Harry Hill  mentions "my" interpretation of a bad line in Hamlet. I
think my message declined to interpret and simply offered AN
interpretation, an 18thc one by Richardson. I think there is a
difference.

But, pressed to the back wall, I think I would say that Richardson's
interpretation IS feasible as a  possibility on stage-though I have
never seen it attempted.

Cheers,
Bernice W. Kliman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <
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Date:           Friday, 23 May 1997 15:35:57 +0000
Subject:        WT; ideology

Dear Robert Applebaum,

I am very interested in your claim that Paul Hawkins is playing a game
of "_I_ am interested impartially in the truth.  _You_ are
ideological."

If, as you imply, neither you nor Paul can make any claim to truth, I'm
curious as to how you would justify such a claim as that WT is a sexist
play?

I'm very glad to know that this is not true.

Yours ever,
Ben Schneider

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Franklin J. Hildy <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 23 May 1997 17:00:03 -0400
Subject: 8.0590  Re: Staging Sinking
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0590  Re: Staging Sinking

Leslie Thomson <
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 > wrote,

"To my knowledge, the most exhaustive, and reasonable study of descent
machinery in the theatres is by John Astington, in *Medieval and
Renaissance Drama in England*, vol. 2."

This may well be the case but the article does not address stage traps
and now that I have checked, neither does Cambell.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Urkowitz <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 23 May 97 23:44:12 EDT
Subject:        Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 21 May 1997 to 22 May 1997

Replay to Harry Hill:

Oops.  Not fair, Harry.  Your complaint about actors who fail to
acrobatically turn quick-as-thought through the possibilities of a line
or phrase ain't properly blamed on "Method."  It's just a serious
problem among all performers (and much of the rest of us human beings,
too).  Those dramatic turns require energy  and attention.  Exquisite
sensitivity and intelligence.  Experience.  Respect for the material.
Bad acting, or a bad patch by a good actor, slides monotonic ally across
the hills and valleys.  Remember Brannaaugh's aria in HAMLET just before
the intermission.  That's called bulldozing in the landscaping trade; a
heavy mechanical shaping of something that once had lots of fine little
details worthy of exclamation and delight.  Ah, well.

Remembering on memorial day,   SteveBulldozerwitz

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <
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Date:           Saturday, 24 May 1997 11:25:05 +0000
Subject:        Stoic Shakespeare

Dear Ron Ward,

Thank you so very much for your good question concerning my hypothesis
that Shakespeare was a Stoic.  The questions are particularly helpful
because they point out lapses in my argument
that I need to deal with.  I take up your questions one by one.

Q. Can we assume any stereotype of Elizabethan morality will be
relevant?

A.  No, not without evidence, but the stereotype of _gentleman_  must
have dominated.  In conscious opposition to _gentleman_, _Puritan_ was
also available, but _Puritan_ was certainly not Shakespeare's cup of
tea.  Some have advocated skepticism, pointing to Montaigne's doubts and
S's practice in _Lear_.  Montaigne went through a skeptic phase, but he
also came down hard, page after page, in favor of Stoic values.  A
person can easily be a skeptic and a Stoic at the same time:  look at
Hemingway.

Q.  Are we of the opinion that S's "morality" followed or even addressed
stereotypes of the day?

A. There's no way a playwright who wants to be successful can avoid
following or addressing a moral stereotype.  Shunning bad reviews,
playwrights generally avoid presenting behavior or ideas
that might dismay the critics.  They seek to please the tastemakers.  In
Shakespeare's time, I argue, the literate gentry called the tune.  In
New York today the liberal intelligentsia call the tune.  If I may be
permitted to use the term without incurring its judgmental connotations,
it is not likely that any "politically incorrect" play will ever succeed
on Broadway.  Nor would any at Shakespeare's Globe.  What was
politically correct at the Globe?  Stoicism.

Q.  Do we distinguish between social morality (defined by human law and
custom) and an absolute morality which some believe lies above that?

A.  In choosing Stoicism, I don't have to worry about a conflict between
divine law and mortal custom.  Shakespeare's well-documented emphasis on
the secular probably occurs because the
Church has coopted Stoicism, having a need for outreach into the world
of affairs, and finding in Stoicism's rejection of material success a
sufficiently Christian approach to civic vocation.  The
coopting process begins in the 4th century and continues until Stoic
virtues promoted by the Church become the basis of Renaissance culture.
--See N. E. Nelson, "Cicero's De Officiis in
Christian Thought, 300-1300," U of Michigan Pub in Lang and Lit 10,
1933, 59-160.  For this reason the average Christian in Shakespeare's
time probably didn't know where religion left off
and Stoicism began.  For example, the Anglican Bishop Hall's _Characters
of the Virtues and Vices_, ca 1600, is thoroughly Stoic in content.  A
century later, another Anglican divine, Jonathan Swift, very probably
owes both his civic concern and his "saeva indignatio" to the Stoic
Seneca.  And when his friend Pope wrote, "The proper study of mankind is
man," he stated the Stoic project.

Q.  If we go by internal evidence of the plays etc., will we not easily
confuse the views of the character with those of the author?

A.  Yes, internal evidence will always be unconvincing, and that's why I
have brought as much cultural material into the picture as length of
life allows.  Without context, we can't certify the meaning of a word.
Without context we can't certify the meaning of a line, or a play.
That, I claim, is why we find so many "problems" in Shakespeare.  Take,
for example, the behavior of the "Christians" in MV.  Their trivial
pursuits seem to deny them the moral high ground.  Do I make a mistake
if I assume that Shakespeare views their shenanigans with approval? The
internal evidence does not support me, if I approach with the moral
presuppositions of USA today.  But if I read the play in the context of
its Stoic moral substrate, our modernist/postmodernist "problems"
disappear:  it's like getting the point of a joke.

Q.  Do we not assume that S had a 'moral' message to convey?  S was the
supreme observer of humanity and could he not have let the doings of
humanity tell its own tale?  Did he have an axe to grind?

A.  You have stated the doctrine of the neutral Shakespeare, very
popular in our non-judgmental postmodern times.  I suppose I would have
to say that all works of art take sides in some way.
Unless the artist tickles our presuppositions about right and wrong, he
makes no impression on us.  When we leave the theatre we say, "What was
he getting at?"  Even the most amoral-seeming
works of art speak to our moral sense:  Jackson Pollock challenges our
partiality for objective realism.  _Pulp Fiction_, by fabricating comedy
out of atrocity, makes a statement about our dehumanized society.
Similarly, Shakespeare cannot have avoided making statements:  what were
they?  Until we study the cultural matrix in which the plays were
written and staged, we cannot answer that question.  As Terence Hawkes
said recently (quoting somebody) "The past is another country; they do
things differently there."  Amen.

Thanks again for your good questions.  I hope I have made some progress
in answering them.  If I haven't done a good job, please come back at me
again.

Yours ever,
Ben Schneider
 

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