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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Re: Shakespeare in Schools
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1830  Thursday, 28 September 2000.

[1]     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Sep 2000 12:25:36 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1820 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

[2]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Sep 2000 12:55:32 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1816 Re: Shakespeare in Schools


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Sep 2000 12:25:36 EDT
Subject: 11.1820 Re: Shakespeare in Schools
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1820 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

Everyone keeps talking about how "tiresome" Shakespeare's language is
and what an impediment it is for most people's enjoyment.

Poppycock.  In my theatre, it only takes few sessions and a few
well-thought-out pointers before even the tyros are parsing those
speeches for all they're worth.  So what if we no longer invert word
order or "thee" one another, etc.?  *These things are not hard things,
guys...*

With only a few tools at their disposal, even younger actors are ready
to begin, and I say "begin" advisedly, to explore the plays of
Shakespeare.

Of course, this is not what happens in schools, is it?

Dale Lyles
Newnan Community Theatre Company
http://newnantheatre.com

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Sep 2000 12:55:32 EDT
Subject: 11.1816 Re: Shakespeare in Schools
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1816 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

RE Jensen / Bloom's arguments:

Let us try to be clear about this character /plot business.

(1)     I noted in my last email the wisdom of Johnson /Hazlitt on the
'characters of Shakespeare' - a view which I distinguished however from
an argument about the 'origin' of those characters (and surrounding
plots).

(2) It is no revelation but a mere historical fact that Shakespeare has
never been particularly famous for his plots (see Johnson, Pope,
Hazlitt, Bradley, Empson,  and particularly Robert Greene etc) nor for
the creation of characters per se (out of nothing)  - rather he is
famous for his development of character (this is a big issue so i'm
going to skip) so for example (as even people with weird theories like
Honigmann note) Shakespeare's characters in many cases depend for their
extended subtlety in his texts on their prior existence in less
characterised but closer plotted texts: the list is long (depending of
course on your arguments about who wrote the first texts something about
which I am open to argument):

* The Troublesome Reign of King John....becomes.... King John

* Taminge of A Shrew ....becomes...Taming of the Shrew

*Hamlet (ho ho u all love it)....becomes Hamlet

*Leir .....becomes.... Lear

etc etc....e.g. Titus Andronicus, King John, Henry V, Timon, Romeo &
Juliet, Richard III; and 7 plays more loosely linked through plot -As
You Like It (Lodge's Rosalynd), Twelfth Night (Rich's Farewell to
Military Profession), Troilus and Cressida (Henryson's The Testament of
Cresseid, also the anon.  Plot of a 'Troilus' play),  Measure for
Measure (Whetstone's Promos and Cassandra), All's Well that End's Well
(Painter's Palace of Pleasure), Cymbeline (anon The Rare Triumphs of
Love and Fortune; Sir Clyomon and Clamydes) and The Winter's Tale
(Greene's Pandosto).

(3) Another example of this feature of Shakespeare's characterisation
skill (namely its dependence on rewriting others less heroic efforts) is
revealed in the unfinished or decidedly wobbly plotting in many of his
most famous (folio) plays in comparison particularly with their
(presumably but not necessarily earlier quartos) - a fact which
defenders of the 'bad quartos' are often at pains to point out (e.g.
Stephen Urkowitz). These Shakespearean plot vagaries are perhaps
explicable given Shakespeare's dependence on the pre-existing plots
which most of his potential audience would've known. (Not to mention the
histories..oh there's a can of worms there...however having recently
gone through the folio volumes of Hollinshed/ Hall etc one can only
admire the massive task of turning the chronicles into History
Plays...however we still do not know that Shakespeare was 'the first' to
do so this kind of work...though with some effort one might argue
so....)

(4) Some have already noted on Shaksper that it is the complexity/ depth
of S's language which causes difficulties to students...I tend to agree
however I dare anyone to try teach Nashe, Peele, Greene etc (or plays
such Gorboduc, James IV, King Leir ) to high school students without
finding that their difficulty in understanding (failure to enjoy) these
texts does not lie in their early-modern english and the complexity /
depth (grammatical inversions) of the verse/ prose. Once again I think
scholars must be very careful not to take for granted what distinguishes
one early modern author from another. It is of course of current
interest that Ed. III (long considered only apocryphal) has been treated
by some as a new canonical work.  For years this play would still have
been difficult to teach to high school teenagers irrespective of it's
Shakespearean (or not) status.

(5) I take back nothing about the whole genre of character thing...i.e.
it is never a surprise to find that kids like the comic strutting and
fretting of the Trinculos and Stephanos more than the pained soliloquies
of balding hamlets and ridiculous Lears... The defense of Shakespeare's
characterisation cannot be made on grounds of what have become stock
characters because of his (S's) own popularity. It is a circular
argument. Find something new guys.

Yours in cheerful abandon,
Marcus.
 

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