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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Use of Dialect
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1842  Friday, 29 September 2000.

From:           Edmund M. Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Sep 2000 23:13:54 +0000
Subject:        Use of Dialect

Terence Hawkes chides me for suggesting that Glendower may show great
restraint when Hotspur refers to Glendower's native language.  Terry
seems to think that such an inference is unsupportable because it deals
with "the inner life" of a character and what s/he does NOT say.
Consider the following:

Mortimer:    Shall I tell you [Hotspur], cousin?
                    He [Glendower] holds your temper in a high respect
                    And curbs himself even of his natural scope
                    When you come cross his humor. Faith, he does.
                            (1H4. 3.1.165-168)

Apparently I am not the only one concerned about Glendower's "inner
life."  What characters are thinking when they DON'T speak is often
vitally important to the play and to any full interpretation of it. What
is going through Isabella mind as the end of Act 5 in MM unfolds?  What
is Hamlet's real reason for visiting his mother in her bedroom?  And on
and on.

Terry's brand of cultural materialist fundamentalism ("Characters don't
think"!) limits literary interpretation in much the same way as
religious fundamentalists try to restrict interpretation of the Bible.
Besides, while he is free to subscribe to whatever definition of art
suits him, his views clearly clash with what Renaissance artists
believed they were doing: holding a mirror up to nature.  Just as we
often wonder about and try to figure out what someone else is thinking,
we also wonder about and try to figure out what a character in a play is
thinking or feeling.  And, as in the example above, Shakespeare often
gives us some help in this endeavor.

People show restraint in life and characters can show it in art.  I
thank Terry for his efforts to improve my style. We can all learn from
others.

--Ed Taft
 

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