The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0651  Friday, 31 March 2000.

From:           Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 18:27:55 -0500
Subject: 11.0604 What is truth in theatre?
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0604 What is truth in theatre?

I find questions like this a little annoying.  They are ostensibly
posted to generate discussion, but more often than not, they generate
frustration.  One wants to respond to a question that seems of great
import, but, because the terms are left vague and general, one hesitates
to offer a long discourse, only to be told: "oh, I really meant the
Elizabethan theater," or "I meant truth in a metaphysical rather than
aesthetic sense."

Such questions require a Socratic dialogue which would begin by a
discussion of the terms.  For instance, isn't 'truth in theatre'
something of an oxymoron?  That being said, if compelled to answer an
oxymoronic question, I would offer a platitude: truth in theater is
found where one looks for it.  I look to the function that it performs
in the culture that stages it.  Elizabethan theater for instance seems
to have inherited the functions of a number of obsolete cultural
institutions like the mystery cycles and the seasonal festivals that
were disappearing largely in the face of Puritan(ist) reforms.  If it
could be demonstrated that the particular staging of a particular play,
regardless of any aesthetic or internal textual (if such a thing really
exists) meaning, performs a specific function in the circulation of
cultural poetics (Greenblatt) then we can determine not only what is
being said, but why it is being said to these people at this time, and
that, for me, is the significant truth of it, because it can then be
used to illuminate analogous functions in our own culture to which our
proximity might otherwise blind us.

Clifford Stetner
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