The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1329 Friday, 30 June 2000.
From: Sean Lawrence <
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
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 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
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.