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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Welsh etc.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0391  Friday, 16 February 2001

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 14:18:05 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0355 Re: Welsh etc.

[2]     From:   Richard Nathan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 22:27:14 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0380 Re: Welsh etc.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 14:18:05 -0600
Subject: 12.0355 Re: Welsh etc.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0355 Re: Welsh etc.

Good heavens. I am now guilty of cultural vanity because I have
supposedly forgotten the Holocaust. This is serious! Also slightly
offensive.

I seem to have stepped on some toes here, or at least whacked the
hornets' nest, so I'll attempt to clarify my point.

I suggested that the Renaissance English had different ideas of
acceptable behavior and cited bear-baiting as an example. I might have
cited visiting the inmates of Bedlam to have a good laugh -- or keeping
severely retarded individuals around the palace as "fools" because they
did such risible things. All these things we regard as cruel. (By "we" I
don't mean the American electorate or some such group, which somehow has
been attributed to me; I mean something much vaguer -- perhaps, "all
decent people today.") I believe that there has been a significant
change in what we (see my vague definition above) regard as
unacceptable. We may consider this to be some kind of progress (I do) or
we may not, but I will only defend that proposition, not some other one
that is imposed on me.

As regards American brutality, they seem to be making my point without
realizing it. For instance, my European in-laws periodically pester me
about aspects of American culture like capital punishment. Why do we
still keep it? I have no answer because I am as opposed to it as they
are. So we have two levels of advancement (by that example): we have the
awareness that capital punishment is evil by a fairly large number of
Americans (though not enough to changes the laws); and we have in some
places that awareness translated into law whereby it's ended. If capital
punishment is an example of a brutal culture, then America is at least
somewhat advanced over Elizabethan England both in keeping it from being
a public spectacle and in having a significant minority (ourselves!) who
see its brutality.  Those countries that have seen fit to dispense with
it are more advanced still.

As to hockey and football, they are (to my mind) rough not brutal. No
one is compelled to play them; those who do so like the sports; some of
them are extremely well paid. I am here associating cruelty (the
enjoyment of other people's pain) with brutality to keep it separate
from mere roughness. Of course, others may wish negate that separation,
but then they have to be careful of drifting into snobbery, assuming
that if someone else likes what they dislike the motives of those others
must be evil or at least contemptible.

I make it a habit to try and imagine what earlier cultures were like,
including, for instance, the mind-set that burns people at the stake, or
goes to watch someone burn, screaming in agony,  as an afternoon's
entertainment. I would never --ever --  suggest that we are more moral
than those people, but we are different in some ways. And that seems to
be one.

In hopes that this explains things a bit,
Don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Nathan <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 22:27:14 +0000
Subject: 12.0380 Re: Welsh etc.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0380 Re: Welsh etc.

With respect to Hal's treatment of Francis, it reminds me of King Henry
V's treatment of Williams in Henry V.

King Henry is apparently somewhat offended that Williams thinks it is
the King's responsibility if his soldiers die in a bad cause, so he
decides it will be fun to set up a fight between Williams and Fluellen,
and then watches the fun as Fluellen threatens to have Williams hanged.

True, eventually Henry gives Williams a glove full of money, - but prior
to that his treatment of Williams reminds me of Hal's treatment of
Francis.
 

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