The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0082 Friday, 14 January 2000.
Date: Thursday, 13 Jan 2000 16:15:13 -0500
Subject: Banquo etc.
Karen Peterson-Krantz may be right in thinking that "individuals who
have no concept of play-acting have existed, and do exist,
everywhere." But such people are not mostly the simpletons she presents
the rude mechanicals of Athens as being, who categorically cannot
distinguish between make believe and whatever it is that we usually call
reality. A great deal of evidence suggests that the ability to image
internally and then to speak and otherwise enact fictive roles and
situations is utterly essential to normal human social and linguistic
development and activity; only our ability to conceive and say the thing
that is not so permits us, for instance, to understand that the person
who just left the room may soon return, or to follow up the memory of
those sweet, cold plums in the refrigerator with a trip down the stairs
to get and eat them. Various kinds of mental illness, from autism to
multiple personality disorder, seem to involve incomplete or improper
functioning of these complex mental abilities. Indeed, Snug and
Starveling and Bottom would not strike us as funny if we did not all
have those abilities to begin with-abilities that all those characters,
at least in their direct dealings with each other, have in perfectly
normal ways; their anxieties about the ladies of Theseus' court arise
from an excess of imagination, not a deficiency of it.
That being the case, however, it is still worth considering deeply, as
Sean has being trying to get us to do, why we find such satisfaction in
imagining for ourselves or hiring authors and actors to imagine for us
the internal lives of antisocial beings like Macbeth.