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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: April ::
Re: How Shakespeare Invented History
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0713  Wednesday, 5 April 2000.

[1]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Apr 2000 20:35:08 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0674 How Shakespeare Invented History

[2]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Apr 2000 18:49:53 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0674 How Shakespeare Invented History

[3]     From:   Brother Anthony <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 05 Apr 2000 09:08:57 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0697 Re: How Shakespeare Invented History


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Apr 2000 20:35:08 GMT
Subject: 11.0674 How Shakespeare Invented History
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0674 How Shakespeare Invented History

Just in case anybody's interested, I hear today that Richard II - which
those who have seen it seem to think wonderful - is totally sold out for
the whole of its run in The Other Place.

David Lindley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Apr 2000 18:49:53 -0500
Subject: 11.0674 How Shakespeare Invented History
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0674 How Shakespeare Invented History

To comment on the Daily Telegraph article outlining the RSC history
project:

<Any presentation of the plays in chronological rather than
<compositional
<order provides a fascinating and politically provocative <challenge.
To
<put it simply, the Shakespearean world we will be <presenting will be a
<progression to the past, an advance to barbarism.

I am afraid that I do not understand why viewing Richard II, is "an
advance to barbarism" when, written later than plays depicting later and
supposedly less barbaric times, it is described in the article in
glowing terms as a "precise manicured text" "sheer political
dynamite-for its subject was deposition and usurpation."  Apparently,
Essex and his followers including Southampton wanted to see it before
their rebellion but as Schoenbaum assures us, the play was performed
against the players' better judgments.  Augustine Phillips testified
that the play was "'so old and out of use' that the players felt 'that
they should have small or no company at it' " (A Compact Documentary
Life  218).

The upshot of this comment is that Southampton, having known Shakespeare
around ten years ago in his youth (Southampton was 27 at the time of the
plot), dredged up Richard II to " 'satisfy his eyes with the sight of
that tragedy which he thought soon after his lord should bring from the
stage to the state' " (218-19)--in other words the deposition of the
Queen Elizabeth.  However, that presumption seems to have been in
Southampton's mind, not Shakespeare's and the Chamberlain's Men amused
the Queen with another play on the eve of Essex' execution (219).  In
contrast to the writer of the article, I do not see that Shakespeare is
developing a "much more sophisticated political mind" (Telegraph review)
or that he was unclear about what prevents the rise of barbarity-it is
not culture.  Richard II is simply better written "captured like an
ostentatiously coloured butterfly in a formal, precise, highly
sophisticated world (Telegraph review).  It is stunning on the stage (I
saw it last weekend), and hard-hitting in its portrayal of Richard's
indecisiveness as a ruler and penchant to prefer flattery over character
in his choice of friends.  The consequences for the state are ruthlessly
drawn out-John of Gaunt's dying lament for England in the first part of
the play is contrasted with the family violence that rips everyone apart
in the last act.  I do not see that Shakespeare is any less moral in his
vision than he was at the beginning; moreover, I believe that the
"theatrical orthodoxy" Telegraph review) that maintains that the two
trilogies are "remarkably homogeneous" (Telegraph review) is correct.
He may have developed as an artist, but I do not believe that his vision
became more chaotic "fragmented kaleidoscopic, highly complicated, [or]
even random at times" (Telegraph review).  His vision to me is always
moral, peppered with incisive vignettes of human frailties and moments
of courage and insight.  The fact that he was not true to the facts of
history should not bother anyone who shares his moral and spiritual
vision of the triumph of courage and sanity over baseness and violence
at any level-familial, political or spiritual.

In short, I think the writer of this article (I don't know who it is) is
confused himself.

Judy Craig

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brother Anthony <
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Date:           Wednesday, 05 Apr 2000 09:08:57 +0900
Subject: 11.0697 Re: How Shakespeare Invented History
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0697 Re: How Shakespeare Invented History

But what a pity that the RSC schedule does not allow those wishing to to
view this year's 4 history plays in proper order on consecutive days
until well into September, since Henry V only starts playing late in
August. Ah well... Not everyone lives on the other side of the globe.
By-the-way, the Royal Shakespeare Company's URL is
http://www.rsc.org.uk/ in case anyone did not know.

Br Anthony
Sogang University, Seoul, Korea
 

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