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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0016  Wednesday, 3 January 2001

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Jan 2001 11:11:47 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0002 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Jan 2001 12:39:48 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0002 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Jan 2001 16:51:36 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 12.0002 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[4]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 3 Jan 2001 06:01:48 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 12.0002 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[5]     From:   Peterson-Kranz Karen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 3 Jan 2001 04:23:45 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0015 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[6]     From:   Yvonne Bruce <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 03 Jan 2001 07:44:30 -0500
        Subj:   literary and theatrical Shakespeare, and some questions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 02 Jan 2001 11:11:47 -0600
Subject: 12.0002 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0002 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

Stephanie Hughes writes:

> Since it's likely that a large
>percentage of the audience couldn't read, this explanation for the long
>wait between writing/production and publication seems questionable.

My impression is that a quite surprising percentage of Elizabethans
could read and write, an idea I derived from reading on the make-up the
Parliamentary Army during the Revolution, which consumed religious and
political pamphlets avidly and debated them so heatedly that Cromwell
and his officers had to suppress these affairs. I was given to
understand that this level of literacy was not confined to Puritans but
was general throughout the English non-peasant classes, and had been so
for several generations.

Perhaps my sources were wrong. Perhaps I misunderstood them. Perhaps we
are talking at cross purposes. But they certainly published a great deal
of books to turn a quick shilling. I don't see why they wouldn't publish
plays for the same reason.

Does anyone have any facts on levels of literacy in general and the
make-up of Shakespeare's audience?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Jan 2001 12:39:48 EST
Subject: 12.0002 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0002 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

Surely the major difference between "literary"and "theatrical"
Shakespeare is time. Once, say, Hamlet has uttered a fairly complex
line, it more or less vanishes in the theatre's air, don't you think? It
creates an impression of a thought; the audience has to be fleet of
brainfoot.

If we as scholars hear lines we know, in the theatre, there is little
time to enjoy the multiplicity of resonances we have brought out of them
in the study.

As with many arts including sculpture and music, we do our best to fill
every moment, loving that well which we must leave ere soon.

I think this is the same for both the aesthetic and political of us.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 02 Jan 2001 16:51:36 -0800
Subject: Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        SHK 12.0002 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

To Monica Matei Chesnoiu,

I misunderstood your message.  Please forgive.

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 3 Jan 2001 06:01:48 -0500
Subject: Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        SHK 12.0002 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

Raymond Williams's account of changes in the use of the term
'literature' is certainly interesting, but far more crucial are the
changes in the use of the term 'play'. It seems to me that 'playing' in
the early modern sense was a much more complex business than we allow,
involving a far broader range of 'performative' activity than that
implied by the term 'acting'.

T. Hawkes

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peterson-Kranz Karen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 3 Jan 2001 04:23:45 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.0015 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0015 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

Don Bloom writes of the Sonnets:

> many (and perhaps
> all) were clearly
> written for manuscript distribution ("My Mistress'
> Eyes" is the easiest
> one to cite).

I am curious about why Don sees Sonnet 130 as more "clearly written for
manuscript distribution" than any of the others.  I hope he, or others,
will enlighten me on this.

I am a bit troubled about the implied authorial intent expressed in
"clearly written for...".  We have as hard evidence only the famous
Meres comment (in 1598) that the sonnets were known "among his private
friends."  To my knowledge (and I stress the "my" -- I have frequently
been proven painfully ignorant by others on the list) we do not have any
textual evidence of the sonnets in circulation.  I have looked (not
exhaustively, I freely admit) for bits and pieces in commonplace books
and other manuscript sources, to date with no results.  It has always
seemed to me that if the Sonnets were in relatively widespread
manuscript circulation that something would have popped up by now.

I offer these musings only because I have always shied away from any
firm conclusions about the intent behind the Sonnets.  What we have is
138 and 144 appearing in The Passionate Pilgrim in 1599, and the 1609
Quarto.  Katherine Duncan-Jones has argued (persuasively, in my opinion)
that the 1609 publication might well have been done with Shakespeare's
cooperation (see her introductory essay to the Arden Sonnets).  If this
is true, it perhaps -- and perhaps should be emphasized -- contributes
to a vision of a Shakespeare concerned with the more "literary" aspects
of his own production. Or, equally likely as a professional writer,
Shakespeare came across all of these miscellaneous sonnets and decided
that he might as well publish them and try to make some money from them,
rather than allowing them to gather dust in his study.  We just don't
know.

Going on, I also hope Don can elaborate on the following:

> What's more, I think anyone with experience of
> writing, whether for the
> theatre or elsewhere, knows that you do not write
> great works with your
> eye on the box office. (snip) ...
> but you write a Hamlet or
> a Macbeth in a white
> heat of inspiration.

You do?  I have experience of writing, but not the experience of writing
a Hamlet or a Macbeth -- not yet, anyway!  Sorry, I am being a bit
sarcastic here, but again, I don't think we have sufficient evidence to
draw that conclusion.  As a small bit of counter-evidence, I suggest
that we only have to look as far as the King James Bible to see that
great, "literary" writing need not come about only as a result of
inspiration.  The latter text was done by a committee, of all
things...certainly the ultimate situation of writing done "in a
conscious fashion."

I hope others wiser than me will take up Dave Knauer's questions:

> Taking the
> discussion back to Shakespearean drama, how might
> the fact that most of
> his audience was illiterate have affected the way
> that they experienced
> the plays? What might that have meant for a
> playwright's sense of
> authorship?

These seem to me to be excellent queries, which I will think about.
Hopefully others on the list will respond.

Cheers,
Karen Peterson-Kranz

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Yvonne Bruce <
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Date:           Wednesday, 03 Jan 2001 07:44:30 -0500
Subject:        literary and theatrical Shakespeare, and some questions

Regarding this discussion about the gap dividing the readers and
auditors of Shakespeare, I recommend Harry Berger's _Imaginary Audition
[at least I think it's "Audition"]: Shakespeare on Stage and Page_, UC
Press, 1989, particularly his introduction and epilogue. The entire work
is excellent.

I have some questions off the subject, however. Feel free to respond
offline.

--In a 1590s play I'm reading, there are repeated to references to a
place called Blanckbourg,  "a Citty neere to Sydon plac'd." Does anyone
know anything about Blanckbourg?

--Can anyone point me to a classical or Renaissance text that discusses
the eagle as a symbol of virtue?

--Octavia, sister to Octavius Caesar, was married to a man named
Marcellus before she married Antony. I can find only a single mention of
this in Plutarch's Life of Marcus Antonius. Does anyone know of another
source that discusses Octavia's previous marriage in detail?

Thanks to all in advance,
Yvonne Bruce
 

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