The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0697. Saturday, 21 June 1997.
Date: Saturday, 21 Jun 1997 16:23:13 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 8.0597 Re: Stoic
Comment: Re: SHK 8.0597 Re: Stoic
> Date: Saturday, 24 May 1997 11:25:05 +0000
> Subject: Stoic Shakespeare
> 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.
Re: Pulp Fiction: it not only makes a statement about our dehumanized
society; it provides an answer to the dehumanization and that answer has
a profound moral dimension. I refer to the religious conversion of the
protagonist, suggesting that, no matter how hardened the individual
sinner, and it is significant that Tarantino uses a hitman to make his
point, God can change that person in an instant, and, when he does, the
person's behavior will be transformed. In the movie, the hitman
prevents destruction and probably saves lives in the final restaurant
scene, so from one who destroys life he has become one who serves life.
This suggests how a work of narrative art can make a statement,
applicable not only to Tanantino, but to Shakespeare: by what happens in
the narrative. This is not to deny the importance of what you call the
cultural matrix, only to question its centrality.
Some suggestions as to some statements of Shakespeare: Macbeth says that
the wages of sin are death and despair; Hamlet says that one should not
usurp the divine prerogative of rendering justice, but that one might be
an instrument in that rendering; Lear says that one can be purified of
one's self-indulgence through suffering, that it is blessed to forgive,
and that the product of suffering and forgiveness is reconciliation.