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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: January ::
Re: Rat Plots
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0060  Wednesday, 12 January 2000.

[1]     From:   Peter Holland <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Jan 2000 15:35:19 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0055 Rat Plots

[2]     From:   Richard Nathan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Jan 2000 16:37:09 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0055 Rat Plots

[3]     From:   Norman J. Myers <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Jan 2000 13:45:51 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0055 Rat Plots

[4]     From:   Tom Reedy <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Jan 2000 15:16:54 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0055 Rat Plots


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Holland <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Jan 2000 15:35:19 -0000
Subject: 11.0055 Rat Plots
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0055 Rat Plots

I'm sure others will answer some of these queries but on the subject of
Troilus, people seem not to notice that Antenor has already been
returned to Troy before Troilus hears of the exchange.  He is in the
entry in Troy at the start of 4.1 and Paris refers to him as 'the
enfreed Antenor' (4.1.39). Now try imagining Troilus proposing that
Antenor be returned to the Greeks so that he can keep Cressida,
especially given the emphasis on Antenor as 'such a wrest in their
affairs / That their negotiations all must slack,  / Wanting his manage'
(as Calchas puts it, 3.3.23-5). The general good versus the individual's
is a bad enough imbalance for Troilus to argue against but arguing for
the re-imprisoning of Antenor is surely a ridiculous idea. Shakespeare's
careful placing of this entry for the silent Antenor back home in Troy
in 4.1 is a brilliant touch.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Nathan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Jan 2000 16:37:09 +0000
Subject: 11.0055 Rat Plots
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0055 Rat Plots

I know that "COMEDY OF ERRORS" is by no means a serious play - but it
always bothers me that Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse
have gone after their identical twins with identical names - that's the
whole purpose of their journey - and yet when they get to a town where
strangers see to recognize them, it never once occurs to them that they
might have finally found the twins they've been searching for.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norman J. Myers <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Jan 2000 13:45:51 -0500
Subject: 11.0055 Rat Plots
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0055 Rat Plots

For that matter, when would Cassio and Desdemona have had time to
consummate their supposed affair (though in the Fishborne/Branaugh film
"Othello" there's no doubt that Othello and Desdemona found time to
consummate theirs!)?

I can't help but wonder, though, since when was Shakespeare ever
primarily about plot?  Most of his plots - and we could find idiocies
abounding in many more than those mentioned above - are mere excuses on
which to hang what seems to him to have been much more important: human
encounters right now in the moment. It was Will Durant, talking about
Schiller's "The Robbers," who noted that all plots are ridiculous.  For
me, the excitement of Shakespeare's plays (and most of the other
Elizabethan/Jacobeans for that matter) arises precisely because the
characters don't behave logically any more than people do in "real
life."  The Elizabethan/Jacobeans were, in many ways, more perceptive
than we are.  They knew that there are causes without effects and, even
more so, effects without apparent causes; they knew that it was entirely
possible for a guy to walk into McDonalds, shoot the place up killing
total strangers and then kill himself for no reason that anyone could
ever hope to discover.

Norman J. Myers, Professor Emeritus
Theatre Department
Bowling Green State University

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Reedy <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Jan 2000 15:16:54 -0600
Subject: 11.0055 Rat Plots
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0055 Rat Plots

Dana Shilling writes:

> I think Roger Ebert coined the useful phrase "idiot plot" for a movie
> that can exist (or be longer than five minutes) only because all or most
> of the characters act like idiots. Many Shakespearean plays rely on a
> corresponding absence of ordinary decent behavior among non-villainous
> characters-not just the play Northrop Frye called "No Gentlemen in
> Verona."
>
> 1. Why didn't Troilus put his foot down and say that Cressida, as his
> fiancee or at least his acknowledged mistress, was not a suitable
> subject for a prisoner exchange?
>
> 2. The whole point of Timon of Athens is that no one in a corrupt Athens
> who took Timon's generosity would help him out-but why wouldn't the
> presumably grateful Christians of Venice, including the "many" whom
> Antonio saved from Shylock, pass the hat before the bond came due?
>
> 3. As Isabella sensibly pointed out, why didn't Claudio just marry
> Julietta when her pregnancy became evident? Where I come from (Brooklyn,
> in the late 1950s), lots of guys got their nice Catholic girlfriends
> pregnant. A week after the rabbit died, they were either newlyweds or
> Merchant Marines.
>
> 4. Which brings up the question of Kate Keepdown. If Lucio is sure that
> he is the one who got her pregnant, then either he is so convinced of
> his virility that he thinks none of her other customers could be
> responsible, or she became a prostitute precisely because she was his
> discarded mistress and unable to support herself and baby otherwise. So
> she is an image of Julietta's case, just as Laertes is of Hamlet's.
>
> Dana (Shilling)

The short answer to all these is that all of the plays are fictional
entertainment, not reality.  Who would go see a Shakespeare play in
which every character acted sensibly?  What would be the point?

You might well ask the same question of almost every movie, television
show, or novel.  There's a reason we call it "suspension of disbelief,"
but sometimes the work demands too much of it.  The worst offender I've
seen in awhile is the movie, A Simple Plan.  The characters so violated
the laws of common sense I walked out.

But entertainment is not common sense.  Real life is tedious, often
boring, and everything takes too long.  Entertainment is quick,
interesting, and fast.  Or at least it should be.
 

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