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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Welsh etc.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0423  Thursday, 22 February 2001

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 21 Feb 2001 12:20:23 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0413 Re: Welsh etc

[2]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 21 Feb 2001 17:24:14 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0413 Re: Welsh etc.

[3]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 21 Feb 2001 22:39:05 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0413 Re: Welsh etc.

[4]     From:   Werner Broennimann <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Feb 2001 14:53:07 +0000
        Subj:   Welsh and Bedlam


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Wednesday, 21 Feb 2001 12:20:23 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.0413 Re: Welsh etc.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0413 Re: Welsh etc.

Bill Godshalk sensibly suggests that

> Before we talk about Progress in any field, we have
> to define the word.

Raymond Williams is one starting point for that definition, although
(perhaps) not the last word.  I like his discussion (which is mainly of
the word "progressive" but also touches on "progress") well enough to
type out an excerpt:

"'Progressive' is a difficult term in politics because it has this
history behind it.  It can still be used simply as the term opposite to
'conservative'; that is, for one who welcomes or advocates change.  In
its most general and improving sense it is an adjective applied, by
themselves, to virtually all proposals of all parties.  There is an
important complexity in that, on the one hand, the phrase is used
generally of the Left (by parts of the Left) as in 'progressive-minded
people', but, on the other hand, is used to distinguish supporters of
'moderate and orderly' change..., where the sense of a steady
step-by-step journey in some general direction is called upon, as in 'a
progressive but not a socialist party', or 'Conservatism is orderly
progress; we are the generally progressive party'.  It is certainly
significant that nearly all political tendencies now wish to be
described as 'progressive', but for the reasons given it is more
frequently now a persuasive than a descriptive term." (*Keywords*,
Fontana 1976, p. 245)

Williams, of course, did not live to see New Labour (for which I am sure
he is grateful each night as he rolls over in his grave), but even 25
years later his definition has some relevance, not only to politics, but
perhaps to this discussion.

Cheers,
Karen E. Peterson

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 21 Feb 2001 17:24:14 -0500
Subject: 12.0413 Re: Welsh etc.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0413 Re: Welsh etc.

The notion of progress is probably one of the most difficult of all
subjects to discuss objectively.  Bill Godshalk's example of the new,
improved version of a concealed weapon illustrates that even
scientific and technical progress is difficult to assess. As for proof,
suppose that mutual assured deterrence (MAD) has NOT worked, and the
West and the Soviet Bloc had blown each other up.  If  there were any of
us left to hold this conversation, would we think that science  had led
to progress?  Probably not. So, even scientific and technical progress s
a contingent value, not an absolute one.

As for Larry Weiss's stone age tribe that treats you well and then chops
off your head, well, it's tempting to agree with Larry that here is a
difference that leads to an absolute moral judgment about that tribe's
ethical "inferiority." But I don't agree because it was judgments such
as these that once led us to colonize Africa and assume "the white man's
burden." When we did that, we exploited the continent and treated the
natives shamefully. What we proved is that our initial judgment of our
own superiority was in error.

I think that the difficulty with using differences to reveal moral or
ethical superiority is that we are always looking at a part and then
extrapolating to the whole.  So we get a false sense of a culture's
worth and very easily fool ourselves into thinking that we are superior
when we are not.  Evil doesn't pop out in the same place in every
culture, but (and this is my bias), it pops out everywhere, but
differently in different times and places and cultures.

--Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 21 Feb 2001 22:39:05 -0600
Subject: 12.0413 Re: Welsh etc.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0413 Re: Welsh etc.

Terence Hawkes wrote:

>>Don Bloom mentions what he takes to be the early modern practice of
>>'visiting the inmates of Bedlam to have a good laugh'. Is there any hard
>>evidence that this took place?

And Don Bloom replied:

>Curse Terence Hawkes. He so often sends me scrambling around to try and
>find what I base my points on. In the case of touring Bedlam, I can only
>fadge up the following (I haven't time for more). From Hazleton
>Spencer's introductory note to "The Changeling": "[It] is sadly marred,
>to a modern taste, by the lunatic divertissements which were always
>acceptable to Elizabethan audiences." My recollection is that I did a
>bit of background reading on the treatment of lunatics when I was in
>graduate school, but any notes I took are long gone. They were still
>doing this (giving tours of Bedlam) into the 18th Century, as a variety
>of references could show.
>
>Surely there have been books written on the subject. I would welcome
>some good references either to reassure me of my point or (even) to
>correct a misapprehension.

The fifth act of Thomas Dekker's *The Honest Whore, Part 1* depicts a
duke and his entourage visiting Bedlam and viewing the inmates for
entertainment.  (The play is nominally set in Italy, but several of the
characters specifically refer to being "here in Bedlam".)  The Duke is
trying to prevent his daughter's secret marriage, which is not scheduled
to happen for a few hours.  The Duke asks, "How shall the interim hours
by us be spent?" and Fluello responds, "Let's all go and see the
madmen," to which everyone replies, "Mass, content!"  They encounter a
sweeper from the asylum, who they engage in comic dialogue until Father
Anselmo from the asylum arrives.  Castruchio asks him, "Pray may we see
some of those wretched souls / That here are in your keeping?"  Father
Anselmo agrees to show them some madmen, but first they must surrender
their weapons for safety's sake.  He then parades a number of madmen
before them in succession, and much Jacobean hilarity ensues before the
Duke's daughter and her lover show up disguised as friars, reveal
themselves, and melt the Duke's resistance so that everybody lives
happily ever after.

Dave Kathman

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[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Werner Broennimann <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 Feb 2001 14:53:07 +0000
Subject:        Welsh and Bedlam

Terence Hawkes and Don Bloom want proof of Elizabethan and Jacobean
abuse of mental patients as objects of popular entertainment.  Michael
MacDonald, in his "Mystical Bedlam: Madness, anxiety, and healing in
seventeenth-century England" (Cambridge History of Medicine, 1981),
writes pp. 121f.:

"In the greatest age of English drama, the longest running show in
London was Bedlam itself.  Small and squalid, the asylum housed fewer
than thirty inmates during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth
centuries.  The offal that shocked inspectors did not deter the public
from coming to gawk at the small company of lunatics.  The audience grew
so large and mindless of the inmates' interests that Sunday closing had
to be ordered in 1657.  Fifty years later, in new and larger
accommodation, the hospital entertained as many as 96'000 visitors a
year."  M. MacDonald at this point cites Robert R. Reed, "Bedlam on the
Jacobean Stage" (Cambridge, Mass., 1952), but no diary entries or
similar sources--as far as I can see.

Best,
Werner
 

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