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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0041  Tuesday, 9 January 2001

[1]     From:   Pat Dolan <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Jan 2001 09:30:38 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0038 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Jan 2001 10:00:30 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0038 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Jan 2001 18:20:39 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0038 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Dolan <
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Date:           Monday, 08 Jan 2001 09:30:38 -0600
Subject: 12.0038 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0038 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

Mike Jensen wrote:

>Just a point of fact, it is widely believed he [John Shakespeare] was
>illiterate.

Park Honan is much more circumspect (pp. 8 & 9 Shakespeare: A Life),
pointing out that making a mark doesn't mean that a person couldn't read
and suggesting that John Shakespeare's Stratford offices imply that he
had at least a rudimentary business literacy. I don't believe we can say
definitively whether Shakespeare's father could read.

In any case, I didn't mean John specifically, I meant someone who had to
work for a living, as an artisan or a labourer. It seems to me that any
discussion of how written texts were read or consumed has to engage the
material conditions. I'll read tonight after the sun goes down, because
I have a break in my teaching schedule and access to lighting. When I
put my son to bed, I'll perform a text for him. Did an artisan who later
went bankrupt have time for this activity? The money to light
"recreational" activity like reading ballads or plays, as opposed to
more edifying reading like religion?

I know that the Reformation ultimately reduced the number of holidays
and increased the number of work days. I'm not sure when or how this
affected reading in the classes from the gentry on down. If there's
someone who knows (or can guess intelligently), I'd love to hear it.

Cheers,
Patrick

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 08 Jan 2001 10:00:30 -0800
Subject: 12.0038 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0038 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

Mari Bonomi points out, quite rightly, that

>is we, the heirs of his brilliance, who see him as
>a great artist.  I am not aware of (and no one has suggested here on
>this list, so far as I've read) any evidence that Shakespeare considered
>himself a "great artist" or writer.

Some of his near contemporaries did, though.  Hence the various
dedications in the folio.

>I am excepting his sonnets and long narrative poems from this statement
>and speaking of Shakespeare as writer of plays for performance.
>
>Can anyone point me to such evidence?  Absent something fairly
>definitive, I don't see how we can postulate what if anything
>Shakespeare wanted done w/ the dramas he crafted... the ideas he cobbled
>together into structures to support his company's performances.

I'm wondering if the debate is somewhat skewed by post-romantic notions
of what makes a 'great' artist.  Could Shakespeare have just considered
himself a highly competent craftsman?  This would still leave him to be
aesthetically involved and invested in the plays as works of 'art' (at
least in the sense that includes crafts), without (1) stopping every so
often to make self-serving classical allusions like Jonson, or (2)
writing to the ratings, like the makers of "Friends".

Cheers,
Se

 

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