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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: July ::
Re: Shakespeare as Bible
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1335  Tuesday, 4 July 2000.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Jun 2000 10:07:07 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1331 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Jun 2000 08:51:04 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1331 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

[3]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Jun 2000 11:27:46 -0700
        Subj:   SHK 11.1331 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

[4]     From:   Zoltan Markus <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Jun 2000 20:29:58 -0400
        Subj:   Shakespeare as Bible

[5]     From:   Heidi Arnold <
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        Date:   Saturday, 01 Jul 2000 00:56:23 CDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1331 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

[6]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Saturday, 01 Jul 2000 18:05:17 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 11.1304 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

[7]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Monday, 03 Jul 2000 23:59:56 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1304 Re: Shakespeare as Bible


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Friday, 30 Jun 2000 10:07:07 -0400
Subject: 11.1331 Re: Shakespeare as Bible
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1331 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

Terry (in the persona of Ed Taft) writes,

>I think that the focus should be on the
>present, and the question we should ask is, "What purpose or purposes is
>Shakespeare serving so well that he is now receiving special emphasis
>not only in Anglo-American culture, but in other cultures where you
>might not expect it, e.g., Japan and Africa?"  Moreover, why the DEPTH
>of this emphasis? That is, why is he in popular movies (Last Action
>Hero), comic books, etc. -- the whole spectrum of culture from "elite"
>to "popular" to "pornographic"?  It's not happening to Milton or
>Chaucer, is it?

I am going to make a risky statement.

If Shakespeare had not written _Lear_, _Hamlet_, _Macbeth_, and
_Merchant of Venice_ and _R&J_ and _Taming of THE Shrew_, we might not
pay as much attention to _The Tempest_ and _MSN_ and _As You Like It_
and _Troilus_ and _Coriolanus_  and _Timon_ and the as we do.

Milton chose a "fit audience, though few." He was not writing to the
masses, and thus, he has never been received by them. Even modern
"scholars" engage in gross metacriticism of his works (wherein I read
what you said about _Eikonoklastes_ and build my argument on your words,
rather than reading -- analyzing, digesting, determining the meaning of
-- Milton's text for myself), probably because his long periods can be
difficult for modern readers to follow.

Though I love Chaucer, and specifically the Wyf of Bath, there are
antiquities of language and reference and improbabilities of event (the
_Miller's Tale_, for example) that act as barriers between today's
students and the text.

Shakespeare seems to transcend such topical concerns: as productions
like _West Side Story_ and _Kiss Me Kate_ and Ellis Rabb's _Hamlet_ (et
al.) demonstrate, for the most part (with very minor adjustments),
Shylock could just as easily be a Wall Street broker as a gabardined
Renaissance moneylender, Prospero could be George Lucas shutting down
his studios, and on and on.

Shakespeare says something fundamental about the human condition, about
all humans in all conditions (at least in civilized societies) that
helps us recognize and come to terms with who we are, individually and
collectively -- all the world's a stage, and what fools we mortals be.
Somehow, he manages to accomplish that without being pedantic or
judgmental.  Other authors come close . . . but few (not even Milton or
Chaucer or Dickens or Hawthorne or Melville) can do that as painlessly.

Shakespeare (almost uniquely) seems to accept every one of us for who
and what we are, and to love us (villain and paragon) just the same.

That is not bardolatry. The more I consider the observation, the truer
it seems to be.

I offer it more as personal observation than as scholarly pronouncement.

What do others think?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 30 Jun 2000 08:51:04 -0700
Subject: 11.1331 Re: Shakespeare as Bible
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1331 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

Sophie Masson writes:

>How many of us know people who have 'been everywhere, man',
>and come home with all their prejudices miraculously intact? The key to
>all this is imagination, which enables a person to make leaps of
>intuition that the plodder can not even dream about, and which
>transforms even the most unpromising material in what seems like a most
>mysterious manner.

I'll have to remember the example for the next time I teach Ascham and
Montaigne, so thanks for it.

I'm actually not sure if it's imagination that lets someone make "leaps
of intuition" and allows for the sort of true education you're alluding
to.  After all, some pretty ignorant people (like conspiracy theorists,
for instance) make leaps of intuition in the wrong direction.  Instead
of 'imagination', I think that I would substitute "discipline" and
"open-mindedness".  Their dialectic is central, I think, to what it is
we do in the academy.

Cheers,
Se

 

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