The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0788 Tuesday, 1 September 1998.
Date: Monday, 31 Aug 1998 11:07:07 -0400 (EDT)
I want to thank John Velz for his informative post about stoicism and
also respond to two aspects of it. (1) I have a lot of respect for G.E.
Lessing, but, like all generalizations, his is suspect. Is it really
true that "Alles Stoische ist untheatralisch"? Consider the work of John
Ford, for example, whose plays are full of "Sturm und Drang," and yet
many critics perceive him as basically a stoic thinker. His
masterpiece, *The Broken Heart,* moves through violent actions and
emotion to still-ness; indeed, it could be argued that all of his major
plays do the same thing in different ways. I'd even argue that the
endings of his plays are the equivalent of our modern "freeze frame,"
though for much better purposes than we use this technique today. But
there's plenty of action and conflict, isn't there? Just consider
Annabelle and Giovanni in *'Tis Pity She's A Whore*! If the essence of
drama is "the heart in conflict with itself" (another suspect
generalization), then Ford is a master of the genre, his stoicism
(2) The SHK discussion about stoicism suffered, I think, because the
participants assumed a too-restrictive definition of stoicism, as I
myself did in an early July post when I defined it in terms of Marcus
Aurelius, "calmness of mind." Ben Schneider, who initially raised the
subject, was using the term in a much broader sense than I (and others)
realized, perhaps in some of the ways Audrey Chew examines in her work.
At any rate, as I understand it, Ben thinks of stoicism as a way of life
best reflected in the works of Seneca and Cicero, especially the
latter. Used in this way, the term refers to friendship, duty,
responsibility, attitudes of mind, and so forth. Here, it seems, is
abundant scope for plays and playwrights. Ben was nice enough to send
me some of his work-in-progress to read, and while I don't agree with
his notion that the Renaissance can be summed up as "Stoicism vs.
Puritianism," I have come to appreciate his view that there is a lost
world of stoic thought that bears significantly on Shakespeare's plays
-- *MV,* *Ham.,* *JC,* and probably many more.
PS. By the way, John Ford is often thought of as a disciple of