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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: December ::
Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2377  Wednesday, 27 December 2000

[1]     From:   Monica Chesnoiu <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Dec 2000 06:43:58 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 11.2365 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[2]     From:   David Knauer <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Dec 2000 09:21:03 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2348 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Monica Chesnoiu <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Dec 2000 06:43:58 -0600
Subject: 11.2365 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 11.2365 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

I completely agree with Mari Bonomi that there is no way of saying what
Shakespeare "certainly knew" or "wanted." He may have been a man of
words, and I suggest we start from one of his own statements about
"literature." In "Henry V, 4.7.137 (Norton Shakespeare) Fluellen speaks
of his captain to King Harry: "Gower is a good captain, and is good
knowledge and literatured in the wars." This is the only use of
"literatured" in the plays (c.f."Homebook of Shakespeare Quotations,"
London, Charles Scribners&Sons, 1937, p. 826, or any concordance). The
word "literature" does not occur at all because, probably, it did not
exist with this meaning. Quotation marks are always necessary with
reference to this concept, especially in early modern situations. In the
play's context, Fluellen's analogical mind suggests that Gower is
learned in matters of war, so he equals "literature" with "learning." We
all know that Fluellen believes "there is figures in all things"
(4.6.32) and he speaks "but in the figures and comparisons of it"
(4.6.42). I don't know about Shakespeare, but Fluellen was certainly a
man of words and original comparisons. After all, the name Gower does
have literary connotations.

I venture to open one of Paul E. Doniger's cans of worms and ask: was
the early modern understanding of the concept of "literature" similar to
what we mean by it? Fluellen, at least, shows it was not. The man of
theater we call "Shakespeare" could have known better, or maybe he could
not. He has let us decide. And we have.

Monica Matei Chesnoiu
Romania

[2] -----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Knauer <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Dec 2000 09:21:03 -0600
Subject: 11.2348 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2348 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

I basically agree with Paul E. Doniger about Shakespeare as man of the
theatre, except:

"The actual publication of his plays might actually have caused an
Elizabethan/Jacobean dramatist more trouble than he would have wanted,
usually through the loss of revenue (rival companies, especially the
'boy' companies, could get their hands on the plays and draw audience
shares away from the Globe in their own productions)."

The idea that printing plays would necessarily make them available for
performance by other companies is a common assumption with very little
proof. As I recall, there are only two documented cases in which a
company performed a play licensed to one of their contemporaries, and
those were loudly protested, suggesting that a tacit agreement existed
not to do so. Evelyn May Albright, in _Dramatic publication in England,
1580-1640; a study of conditions affecting content and form of drama_
(1927), calls this "stage right," although the term is anachronistic. If
someone has a more recent reference for this point, I'd welcome it.

Dave Knauer
 

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