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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0002  Tuesday, 2 January 2001

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Dec 2000 13:17:49 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Literary Versus Theatrical Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Monica Chesnoiu <
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        Date:   Saturday, 30 Dec 2000 05:39:29 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 11.2382 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Sunday, 31 Dec 2000 09:18:34 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2377 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[4]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Sunday, 31 Dec 2000 16:07:10 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2382 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Dec 2000 13:17:49 -0500
Subject:        Re: Literary Versus Theatrical Shakespeare

As usual, Mike Jensen asks an intelligent question: he wonders why we so
often see a war of words between those who champion reading Shakespeare
and those who insist that he wrote FOR the stage.  Why can't these two
factions get along, as, for example, the feminists and the Marxists more
or less do?

I think the answer is that, historically, the literature crowd and the
theater crowd each believes that the other is fundamentally wrong about
how to interpret Shakespeare.  A few years ago, for example, there was
an SAA seminar during which the new historicists called stage history
"naive realism," and the stage history crowd responded that new
historicists reduced Shakespeare's plays to comic books all conveying
the same adolescent message: power is everything!

More generally, close reading of Shakespeare often seems at odds with
theatrical techniques of interpretation. As a result, performance
critics often think that close readers are building castles in the air,
and close readers think that performance critics simply miss the
subtlety of the text.

Ideally, of course, close reading and performance should reinforce each
other, but in real life they often don't.  The best example of this is
the theory of "Performability" put forth by certain Restoration scholars
that sought to declare as illegitimate all close readings of Restoration
plays that could not be grasped by an average member of the audience
reacting to the broad outlines of the action and the plot of the play in
question.

That approach seems indicative of "common sense" to some, of
"anti-intellectualism" to others.  And on and on it goes.  For my part,
I think that Shakespeare was BOTH a poet and a playwright AT THE SAME
TIME.  So I think that both approaches are valid, and I suspect that
when they seem to clash, the critic has discovered an important
interpretive crux that needs to be further examined by ALL techniques at
his or her disposal.

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Monica Chesnoiu <
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Date:           Saturday, 30 Dec 2000 05:39:29 -0600
Subject: 11.2382 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 11.2382 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

Mike Jensen cautioned against "finding Shakespeare's opinions in the
opinions of his characters." Never did I presume such a thing and I
didn't overlook the comic effect. When I quoted Fluellen I said: "I
don't know about Shakespeare, but Fluellen was certainly a man of
words..." My point was to raise the question of early modern use of the
word "literature."

I placed a search on the Early Modern English Dictionary Database
http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/english/emed/patterweb.html and this is
what it shows:

"literature"
(1) Th. Thomas (Th. Thomas 1587)
Grammer, learning, writing, cunning, literature.
(2) Coote (Coote 1596)
literature learning.
(3) Florio (Florio 1598)
Letteratura, literature, learning, know

 

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