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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Maps; Comedy; Poland; Shrews; Reviews
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1123  Wednesday, 11 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Chris J. Fassler <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 10:28:06 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: Maps of Play Settings

[2]     From:   Ed Pixley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 14:53:16 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1101  Re: Puck and Comedy

[3]     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 11:06:01 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Norway to Poland

[4]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 15:30:35 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1117  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

[5]     From:   Richard A Burt <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 15:56:12 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Chron review of Burt and Bloom

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris J. Fassler <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 10:28:06 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: Maps of Play Settings

Ray Lischner,

I, too, thought of the Asimov book for its maps--the rest is a sometimes
bizarre popularization.

Another book I find useful for Britain and France is Martin Gilbert's
_Atlas of British History_, 2nd ed. (Oxford UP, 1993).

Cordially,
Chris Fassler

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pixley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 14:53:16 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.1101  Re: Puck and Comedy
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1101  Re: Puck and Comedy

Thanks to both David and Skip for sharing the following tragic/comic
concepts. Both of them are extremely useful to me and, though this may
be exposing my ignorance, I don't recall ever seeing them expressed in
quite these ways before. David, if you have it handy, would you mind
sending me the Susan Snyder reference where she provides this
definition.  You may send it off-list.

Unexpected little gems like these help make this list fun to follow.

Ed Pixley
SUNY-Oneonta.

>  The
> operational definitions suggested by Susan Snyder two decades ago seem
> to be to have much more than merely Linnaean usefulness.  Comedies are
> plays in which in important ways causality is relaxed: people get second
> chances.  Tragedies are plays in which it operates with relentless
> rigor: second chances are denied or snatched away.

> Tragically-comically-historically,
> David Evett

> I was taught that comedies end in a marriage-or an imminent marriage-
> and so assure the continuation of the race. Tragedies end with the
> truncation of a family line (Hamlet, Juliet and her beau, Laertes,
> Ophelia, Cordelia and the rest are only children or die with their
> siblings; those already married die childless-Macbeth, Othello,
> Cleopatra...) and imply a lessening of humanity.

> Cheers,
> Skip Nicholson

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 11:06:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Norway to Poland

This talk of maps reminds me, something I've puzzled over for some
time.  When Claudius learns of Fortinbras' intent to march through
Denmark on the way to Poland, he must know this is either a) a stupid
stratagem, since sailing through the strait at Elsinore and into the
Baltic would get him there in no time, or b) a military threat, thinly
veiled as a request for permission to march through.

This scenario  has led me in the past to stage Fortinbras' return to
Elsinore as a full-out attack.  It may have been that, given the theory
of humours, Shakespeare intended the arrival of a red-headed royal as a
happy ending.  But this is a hostile element, taking over the castle.
What gives?

Then again, a third possibility presents itself; knowing much of his
audience wouldn't care if he got his geography wrong, the playwright set
up Norway on the same land-mass as Denmark.  A few hundred years before
Gondwanaland, even ...

Any theories out there?

Cheers,
Andy White
Arlington, VA

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 15:30:35 -0000
Subject: 9.1117  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1117  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

Jean Peterson writes:

>to suggest that modeling your life after a
>Shakespearean character was a pretty bad idea to begin with. So I cited
>the Coriolanus line because it conceptualizes an ideal of
>"self-authorship", self-invention, a concept that has been crucial to my
>development as a thinking, rational, autonomous human being (and don't
>write in to tell me how he fails at it; I've read the play and I know
>how it ends).

I'm not sure that your final remark really gets you out of
de-contextualising the line, as it's not simply the ending which calls
it into question.

The final sentence of the speech (V,iii,34-37) reads:

                                                         I'll never
        Be such a gosling to obey instinct, but stand
        As if a man were author of himself
        And knew no other kin.

Crucially, Shakespeare links self-authorship with the rejection of
kinship-the speech is, after all, provoked by the powerful dramatic icon
of the appearance of Coriolanus' mother, wife, and child.  Removing the
context, both immediate and wider in the play, removes the way in which
Shakespeare is both exploring and challenging it.  I'd also disagree
with the implications of your "don't  write in to tell me how he fails
at it," since I'd see the tragedy of Coriolanus as not his failure to
live up to the statement, but into his falling-back into it at the end.
He dies on the walls of Corioli +rejecting+ the title "boy", which links
him to the rest of humanity.

It's also worth remembering that the first character to come out with
this particular kind of statement is Richard of Gloucester in _Henry VI_
(V, vii, 84):

        I had no father, I am like no father;
        I have no brother, I am like no brother;
        And this word, 'love', which greybeards call divine,
        Be resident in men like one another
        And not in me -- I am myself alone.

Between Richard of Gloucester and Coriolanus, Shakespeare spends quite a
lot of imaginative energy exploring the tension between the idea of the
individual as isolated self-creator, and the impact of such individuals
on wider society.

Also relevant is the context which the idea has at the time that
Shakespeare is writing.  It's being explored by other dramatists than
Shakespeare, and we could maybe see him bracketed by Marlowe, who at
least in _Tamburlaine_ 1 accepts the idea relatively unequivocally, and
Jonson on the other who in figures like Volpone and Epicure Mammon, not
surprisingly given Jonson's general stance, rejects it pretty
completely.

Beyond the dramatists, the poets are at it too-most obviously Donne in
_The First Anniversary_ where "evey man does think that he has got / To
be a phoenix" [probably misquoted-I didn't check the wording!].

Beyond that (and let's make this the furthest I carry it!) there is if
not the origin, at least the most radical expression of the concept in
Pico della Mirandola's _Oration on the Dignity of Man_, where God says
to Adam:

"We have made thee ... immortal ... so that with freedom of choice and
with honour, as though the maker and molder of thyself, thou mayest
fashion thyself in whatever shape thou shalt prefer."

How radical this is around the time Shakespeare is writing can be seen
in the (as far as I know) only [unacknowledged] Anglicisation of this
passage from Pico, the English translation of Romei's _Courtier's
Academie_, where this particular extreme statement of human
self-creation and potentiality is silently dropped.

[To be honest, I'm don't know whether it vanishes when Romei translates
Pico's Latin into Italian, or when Romei's Italian is in turn translated
into English-maybe someone could help me out here?  And I hope the
point, for whatever it's worth, stands either way.]

I'm not making these points to suggest that Shakespeare necessarily knew
Pico's work (tho' there is a _Notes and Queries_ article from, I think,
the late forties, linking Hamlet's 'What a piece of work is man' to
Pico's _Heptaplus_), as to draw attention to the way in which
Coriolanus' words that Jean Patterson quotes-and like her, I find them
fascinating and powerful-touch on what was a live and sensitive issue in
the early seventeenth century.  An issue, moreover, which isn't dead
today, since for Marlowe, Shakespeare and Jonson, in this context, I'd
substitute Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Camus.

All this isn't, I hope, to put Shakespeare is some safe historical
ghetto where we can admire him for his quaint ideas.  Rather, I'd
suggest that whether or not we agree with his ideas, the sense that some
(at the very least) of these ideas were living issues for him as well as
ourselves gives his dramatic exploration of them an immediate
pertinency.

I should point out, in case I'm misunderstood, that this isn't directed
at either Dr. Patterson or Dr. Barton, both of whom, despite their
violent disagreements, treat Shakespeare with a seriousness that I like
to think I share.

>Sigh. It's true what the post-modernists have been saying all along:
>language IS an unreliable conductor of meaning.

I may be old-fashioned, but I'd still say that meaning can't exist
independently of language.  But then I'm an unreconstructed Saussurean,
and I'd date the rot in structuralism/post-structuralism/post-modernism
from the point when Barthes turned from _Elements of Semiology_ and
_Writing Degree Zero_ to the Death of the Author.  Interesting, isn't
it, how those two texts never seemed to get cited by the theorists?

Or is it that the French decided that history began in 1967, when
Derrida Revealed the True Gospel to the worshipping multitudes at Johns
Hopkins?
<sigh>

>I am still curious about why discussions of this play
>tend to invoke such fiercely personal defenses

Two possible reasons:  nobody gets excited over _Two Gents_ or _Comedy_
because neither are as 'engaging' as _The Shrew_; and people get more
+personally+ involved over _The Shrew_ than _Much Ado_ because _Much
Ado_, finally, is a better play, and provokes a cooler response.

Robin Hamilton

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard A Burt <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 15:56:12 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Chron review of Burt and Bloom

The current issue of the _Chronicle of Higher Education_ (November 13)
has a short commentary comparing and contrasting my book, _Unspeakable
ShaXXspeares_, with Harold Bloom's _Shakespeare: The Invention of the
Human_.  It's in the column entitled "Hot Type" and is written by Scott
Heller.

A forthcoming review of my book in _The New York Press_ by William
Monahan also makes the comparison / contrast.

Best,
Richard
 

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