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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: Dementia
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1302  Wednesday, 28 June 2000.

[1]     From:   Jeannette Webber <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jun 2000 16:12:00 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1199 Postpartum Dementia

[2]     From:   H. R. Greenberg <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jun 2000 19:54:49 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1301 Senile Dementia, Living Art, and Shakespeare as
Religion

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jun 2000 22:54:06 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1301 Senile Dementia, Living Art, and Shakespeare as
Religion


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jeannette Webber <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jun 2000 16:12:00 EDT
Subject: 11.1199 Postpartum Dementia
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1199 Postpartum Dementia

In the debate on Senile Dementia (which I just caught up with), someone
points out that if Polonius suffers from Senile Dementia, he can't be
held responsible for his actions.

Last spring's production of Macbeth at PCPA in Santa Maria, CA, raised a
similar sort of issue about Lady Macbeth.  At the beginning the
physician and house attendents cross the stage with an empty cradle.  On
her first entrance, Lady Macbeth holds her stomach, and the violence of
her "I have given suck . . ." speech makes us question her sanity. Later
when Macbeth says, while holding her and sitting on the edge of the
thrust stage, "Bring forth men children only!" she appears acutely
distressed, which he doesn't see.  Her suffering from the loss of an
infant and some sort of post-partum psychosis changes our sense of her
motivation for the throne--and her responsibility for her actions. This
reading gave added poignancy to later lines and scenes, e.g. Banquo
fathering a line of kings, the slaughter of Lady Macduff's children,
etc.  It's an interpretation I've not before encountered.  Any thoughts?

[Dorothy Dunnett's novel <King Hereafter> gives quite a different view
of Lady Macbeth--Groa, or Gruoch historically who had a son before
marrying Macbeth--and her motherhood--as well, of course, of Macbeth
himself.]

Jeannette Webber

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           H. R. Greenberg <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jun 2000 19:54:49 EDT
Subject: 11.1301 Senile Dementia, Living Art, and Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1301 Senile Dementia, Living Art, and Shakespeare
as Religion

Apropos of mere free association, I am reminded of the last paintings by
Willem De Kooning, which were done when his Alzheimer's disease was
already quite advanced; these are some of the most glorious works of the
20th century, as if he had stripped down his art to the barest, leanest,
and most potent essentials. The articulation between this uncanny power
the neurological status of his brain is puzzling, intriguing, and
profoundly poignant.  HR Greenberg MD endit

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jun 2000 22:54:06 -0700
Subject: 11.1301 Senile Dementia, Living Art, and Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1301 Senile Dementia, Living Art, and Shakespeare
as Religion

Tony Burton writes:

>It is Shakespeare's  depiction of that which escapes the grasp of
>everyday thinking which constitutes the living and eternal in his work,
>or that of any other supreme artist.  It is the same living and eternal
>with which religions are concerned.  And when we cite Shakespeare as if
>he were a religious text, we are recognizing and paying  reverence to
>his capacity to put our own thoughts in harmony with universal thoughts
>that underlie both religion and science.

I'm not sure that most religious people would claim to be all
worshipping the same God, much less studying the same thing as science.
Sir Isaiah Berlin once said that, early in life, the experience of
reading Machiavelli and Vico came as something of a shock, since neither
of these thinkers considered the various possible forms of life and
government which they described to be ultimately commensurable.
Instead, they showed two or more possibilities, and then just left the
reader to choose.  In the post-enlightenment world, on the other hand,
we try to synthesize, or at least paper over the gaps.  I think that
positing "universal thoughts" is a similar effort.

Even if there is a single "living and eternal", I'm not sure that we'd
reach it by a dialectical method, working upwards from works of genius,
as a sort of grand Grand Synthesis of all Religions, Sciences and Arts.
The contradictions are far too large.  Or to put the argument in
different terms, I don't think that we should count on Shakespeare to
depict the living and eternal unless we literally make him God, whose
mind, since the ancients, has been held to contain the "universal
thoughts".  We can consider Shakespeare to be right about many things,
not only about his age, but even possibly for all time, without actually
making him so extra-historical.

I'm not really sure that 'the eternal' is ever described by denizens of
the fallen world; according to Karl Barth, who I seem to be quoting a
lot around here, even God can only speak to man in the languages of man,
which are historically determined, and the struggle of theology to unite
the word and the Word must be unending.

Cheers,
Se

 

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