The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0782 Sunday, 30 August 1998.
Date: Monday, 24 Aug 1998 16:10:31 -0500
Subject: Stoicism in Shakespeare
"Where is John Velz when we need him?" thus David Evett 17 July '98
On that day I was in the Shakespeare-Bibliothek of the University of
Munich at work on the classical tradition. Have not made a thorough
examination of my huge e-mail backlog since I got back a couple of weeks
ago, so what I have to observe may well have been said by others.
Just two points, though there is a lot more to say than my two.
1) Participants in the debate could do worse than read Geoffrey Miles's
*Shakespeare and the Constant Romans* Oxford: Clarendon, 1996. Not to
be confused with Gary Miles, 'How Roman are Shakespeare's "Romans"' *SQ*
40 (1989): 257-83. Geoffrey Miles chooses to limit his scope to the
"constancy" that Roman Stoics tried to live by, knowing, of course, that
there are further definitions of Stoicism he might have turned to.
Audrey Chew, not discussed by Geoffrey Miles, tries for a more
comprehensive treatment of the philosophy, but excellent as are her
history of Stoicism and her account of the contact between Stoicism and
other philosophies including Christianity, Chew is not the interpreter
of Shakespeare that Miles is. See Chew, *Stoicism in Renaissance
English Literature: An Introduction.* (American University Studies
Series 4: English Language and Lit. 82). N.Y., Bern, and Frankfurt am
Main and Paris: Lang, 1988.) over 300 pp.
2) If I had got in on the debate earlier, I would have reminded
SHAKSPERians of the perception of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing as cited by
Paul Kannengiesser *ShJ* 44 (1908): "Alles Stoische ist
untheatralisch." Stoicism is the antithesis of drama, which is action
and change and emotional conflict. The etymology of "drama" gives us a
clue. The anti-dramatic character of Stoicism, above the fray of
"ignorant armies that clash by night" and make for good drama, is one of
several reasons why Seneca's dramas are not fully dramatic.