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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: Shakespeare as Bible
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1295  Tuesday, 27 June 2000.

[1]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Monday, 26 Jun 2000 13:58:49 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1281 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

[2]     From:   Sophie Masson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jun 2000 09:19:26 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1281 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 26 Jun 2000 11:24:50 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1281 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

[4]     From:   Abdulla Al-Dabbagh <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jun 2000 04:18:19 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1281 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

[5]     From:   Thomas Cartelli <
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        Date:   Tue, 27 Jun 2000 12:04:39 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1281 Re: Shakespeare as Bible


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Jun 2000 13:58:49 -0400
Subject: 11.1281 Re: Shakespeare as Bible
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1281 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

Ian Munro asked: "Why are we wallowing in William's works?"

Possibly because, despite his depth and breadth, nobody ever did a
15-second sound bite better.

He's killer cool to quote.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sophie Masson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jun 2000 09:19:26 +1000
Subject: 11.1281 Re: Shakespeare as Bible
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1281 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

I think that Shakespeare also represents for many people a kind of
integration of worldview, of apprehension of life: because he had one
foot in the medieval, one foot in the Renaissance worldview; because he
was conscious of the shattering of a world, caused by the Reformation
whilst living within a society which was also starting to see some of
the benefits of that new way of life; because he was a countryman who
came to the city; because his grounding in folk culture was every bit as
important as his reading of the classics and keeping up with new thought
and philosophy; because, though he has such a compassionate and generous
world view(and I think, with Sam, that he was not 'Christlike' in the
sense of not being a sinner--WS was no Galahad, but a deeply flawed
Gawain, if you like--though one could argue that Christ, as depicted in
the Gospels, had many flaws, such as anger, for instance), he is still
clear-eyed about evil: for all of these things, and more, he
isrepresenting to us, in a time when traditional religion, ideology and
materialism all all perceived as having failed, a kind of model for
integration, for the reknitting of community, of society., even of
're-enchantment' within the world and human nature. Not areturn to the
past--but a rethinking of the past, which is then brought into the
present, to make a new future. Within WS's works, religious people can
find validation(because I think there is much that is deeply religious
in his worldview); but so can the secular(because his is very far from
the fanatic's onetrack mind).Because every age, and indeed every
temperament, sees WS in its own image, he has become today that kind of
figure.: because we need him in that way.

As I write for children as well as adults, I go into schools a lot to do
author talks and the like, and I have noticed(here in Australia,
anyway)an enormous upsurge of genuine, spontaneous interest in WS's
works on the part of young people. They are discovering him on their own
terms--and finding much in there for themselves. It is the same with
much traditional material too, such as myths, legends, folk tales, fairy
tales and so on--young people are voting with their feet, with their own
passion. And those of us who are older and have always loved those
things, and never turned away from them, even in the days when it was
seen as old-fashioned or marginal, are now reaping a rich harvest.

Personally, I think in many ways it's a very good thing. A society which
discusses and negotiates its values through the medium of Shakespeare
may very well be a society which is reinvigorating itself!  But then,
I'm an optimist.

Sophie

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Jun 2000 11:24:50 -0700
Subject: 11.1281 Re: Shakespeare as Bible
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1281 Re: Shakespeare as Bible

Sam Small writes:

>I am deeply disturbed by references to Shakespeare as Jesus.  While it
>seems to be politically correct to be so very positive about every-body
>and every-thing I find myself wincing at the "Christification" of our
>favourite poet.  The sonnets show him to be eminently preoccupied with
>sexual activity culminating with a dose of the pox - venereal or Venus
>disease was so ironic, don't you think? - that could have been the
>reason for his fatal demise whilst drinking and reveling with old London
>mates like Ben Johnson.  He loved money, adored social position, was
>snobbish, racist, deeply, suspicious of women and loved toilet humour.
>Not at all like the man from Nazareth - at least, so they tell me.

No, it doesn't sound like him, but then again, comparing the works of
Shakespeare to a secular scriptures doesn't necessarily make their
author God.  In a series of lectures on Mozart, no less a Biblical
scholar than Karl Barth referred to the composer as "human, all too
human".  Applying theological notions and methodologies to art doesn't
mean that we're deifying the artist, or at least it didn't to Barth,
whose authority I will defer to.

In other postings, Hugh Grady writes:

>Ed Taft has hit it on the head (again), but surely Shakespeare's status
>as secular Bible goes back to his apotheosis as British National Poet
>(Michael Dobson's book is wonderful on this) in the mid-eighteenth
>century.

I'm not convinced of this, since it would also make a good reason for
Germans or Russians to excoriate Shakespeare, and they haven't.  Maybe
there is something of an attack on the British generally in Tolstoy's or
Voltaire's famous complaints, but it hasn't been sufficient to really
knock Shakespeare down outside the UK.  The argument, in other words,
seems Anglocentric:  I don't think it explains the reputation which
Shakespeare enjoys in countries other than the UK, and that have
sometimes even been its enemies.  Why, for instance, is the president of
Estonia's father spending his time rendering Shakespeare into Estonian
(as I read in _Shakespeare in the Classroom_)?

Peter Hillyar-Russ's argument, that Shakespeare is taking the place of
dramatic liturgy, goes some way, I think, towards explicating one source
for the importance of Shakespeare within the UK.  If generations of
Britishers found their deepest expressions in scripture or liturgy, then
it is unsurprising to find them clinging to Shakespeare, also written in
16th-century English.  I find questionable, however, the notion that a
style of liturgics would pop up somewhere else, like a return of the
repressed, if abandoned in one sphere.  Leaving that aside, however, we
still haven't really explained the importance of Shakespeare in
societies that haven't abandoned their strongly-wrought liturgics (like
much of the former eastern block, where the Orthodox church is ever-more
powerful) or that were never Christian in the first place, or at least
never much used a sixteenth-century liturgy.

So my question to the global list is this:  is there evidence of
Shakespeare not only proving a popular exotic import, but actually being
treated a little like 'secular scriptures' (however we define the term)
globally, outside the rather restricted world of Anglicans and British
patriots?  If so, then we might wish to abandon local explanations in
favour of something more fundamental, though perhaps retaining local
explanations to account for the exceptions.

Cheers,
Se

 

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