Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: April ::
Re: How Shakespeare Invented History
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0761  Tuesday, 11 April 2000.

[1]     From:   Tony Burton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 10 Apr 2000 13:19:57 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0731 Re: How Shakespeare Invented History

[2]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 10 Apr 2000 16:16:05 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0731 Re: How Shakespeare Invented History


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 10 Apr 2000 13:19:57 -0700
Subject: 11.0731 Re: How Shakespeare Invented History
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0731 Re: How Shakespeare Invented History

I consider it rather superficial to treat the sequence of history
plays-in their depiction of treachery, cruelty, and miscellaneous
strife-as raising a question of barbarism versus its opposite (and what:
is its opposite? Civilization, order, authoritarianism, nationalism,
prosperity, or perhaps social unrest: "the inward imposthume of too much
peace"?).   The approach is entirely materialistic and intellectual, and
ignores the likely spiritual climate of four hundred years ago, where
the exciting new game was the awakening of the individual (I'm not
borrowing from Bloom here, more from Luther, Macchiavelli, Descartes and
that crowd).  >From that perspective (not the only alternative, but one
I favor), a fruitful argument can be made that the old kings were
imbedded in their institutions, i.e.., kingship itself, more fully than
later.  But as the individual became more visible, more important, and
more familiar, the importance of individual qualities and virtues as
well as what we know as egoism (perhaps then seen largely as pride), and
the importance of the individual king himself became more significant in
telling the story of the monarchy.   Sort of a progress from low relief
to high relief, as the stony matrix of immemorial institutions yields to
the character of the emerging subject.   I wish more Shakespeareans were
familiar with the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, whose most literary
English-speaking follower was Owen Barfield (whose Romanticism Comes of
Age has a very stimulating chapter on Hamlet).

So as I read the sequence, the direction of growth is from a group
mentality to an individual mentality, which I think can be described
loosely speaking, as progress.  Granted, the excesses of untutored
individualism were, as they still are, grievous and noticeable, and
played themselves out in many social arenas: barons vs kings, Catholic
Rome vs Anglican/Protestant England, academic medicine vs Paracelcean,
inherited degree/feudalism vs personal merit/mercantilism, etc.

This is not to say that the barons themselves might not have agreed with
the "advance to barbarism" description of the tetralogy sequences, but I
wouldn't saddle Shakespeare with that point of view.  He seems usually
to be one step ahead of his readers, not behind them.   The special
quality of his world view, which manages to survive the efforts of every
age and nation toward Procrustean explanation, is best approached
through attention to the inner and spiritual qualities of his time and
the way they evolved into the habits of the present.  The late 20th c.
fascination (obsession?) with theory-and various competing theories take
center stage from year to year-is a consequence of the spiritual
character of our own time; yet, when we look at Ben Jonson or Antonio
Salieri we realize how wide the gulf is between academical competence
and creative genius.  Our children will attend and be nourished by
Shakespeare when those who have deplored his apparent deficiencies are
supplanted by a new generation which finds the same features to be sure
evidence of the highest degree of insight and wisdom.

Tony Burton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 10 Apr 2000 16:16:05 -0500
Subject: 11.0731 Re: How Shakespeare Invented History
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0731 Re: How Shakespeare Invented History

Janet MacLellan writes:

<The plays written earlier (H6-R3) depict later <times that are
presented
<as more rather than less barbaric. As a result, <presenting the series
in
<chronological order (R2-H5, H6-R3) rather than in <order of
Shakespeare's
<composition (H6-R3, R2-H5) "offers us," as the <original article
<concluded, "a chilling and timely challenge to [the] <orthodoxy...that
as
<civilisation develops and culture becomes more <sophisticated, then Man
<becomes better and kindlier to Man."

What I disagreed with in the above review is the notion that Shakespeare
as an artist embodies the same callous Machiavellian view of history as
the kings in his history plays.  Not that I "buy the Tudor myth"
whatever that is:  I just think that he fought with his artistic talent
the notion that nothing can make man any better or teach goodness.

Judy Craig
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.