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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Shakespeare the Taoist
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1167  Tuesday, 22 May 2001

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 May 2001 07:43:44 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1160 Shakespeare the Taoist

[2]     From:   Kezia Vanmeter Sproat <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 May 2001 11:06:07 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1160 Shakespeare the Taoist


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Friday, 18 May 2001 07:43:44 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1160 Shakespeare the Taoist
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1160 Shakespeare the Taoist

Robert Peters asks,

>I have often wondered why Shakespeare obviously
>didn't care about his
>plays after he had written them.

We don't know enough to know whether he "obviously" didn't care, DID
care, or somewhere in between.

>Wasn't he proud of
>his genius, wasn't
>he proud of his "children"?

Again, we don't know.  "Genius" as used here is a term of the Romantic
period, and thus anachronistic.  The trope of "text as child" does
appear some in Shakespeare.  Some critics have argued that he WAS proud
of at least some of his works (*Venus and Adonis* and *Lucrece* spring
to mind).  There is some evidence that he may have been proud of others,
and interested in promoting them.  See Katherine Duncan-Jones'
biographical discussion, *Ungentle Shakespeare* (2001), as well as
Gordon Williams' *Shakespeare, Sex and the Print Revolution* (1996) for
further discussion of these possibilities.

>Why didn't he keep his
>manuscripts, why
>didn't he care himself for a proper publication?

Again, we don't know that he didn't.  In some cases (the non-dramatic
narrative poems) he did care about "proper publication."  Katherine
Duncan-Jones in her introductory essay in the new Arden edition of the
Sonnets argues that he may have cared about their publication as well.

>We
>could do without a
>lot of this wearisome esoteric scholarly lore about
>publication, foul
>papers, prompt-books, Q1s and Q2s and F1s and F2s.

Such "wearisome esoteric scholarly lore" is the only way we have found
so far, and possibly the only way we will ever have, to get at even
partial answers to the questions Mr. Peters asks.

>So was
>Shakespeare actually a Taoist?

I hope Mr. Peters, in asking this, means "Did Shakespeare's artistic
philosophy resemble what now may be broadly labelled as 'Taoist'?"  In
my more innocent days I would have *assumed* this, but having recently
been exposed to an ostensibly serious paper that argued that Shakespeare
had access to Hindu texts relating tantric sex practices and that those
tantric sex practices inform the sonnets, I will not assume, but only
hope.

>Was there so little
>vanity in him that he
>didn't care about fame?

We don't know.  We probably can't know with certainty.  And again,
"fame" is a concept with multiple meanings and cultural inflections.  As
is "vanity."  If we care to nail down specifically late 16th-early 17th
century definitions for these terms, perhaps some meaningful response
might be made to this last question.

Cheers,
Karen Peterson

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kezia Vanmeter Sproat <
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Date:           Friday, 18 May 2001 11:06:07 EDT
Subject: 12.1160 Shakespeare the Taoist
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1160 Shakespeare the Taoist

He didn't have to be a Taoist not to care. The greatest American poet,
Emily Dickinson, didn't care either, did she? Keats apparently cared
about fame, but was very young. Shakespeare did care when he wrote the
sonnets, apparently.

Older people care less and less. Wisdom of age. Think about it. Look
around you. In our culture, fame is a disease that those who have it
would be happy to lose. In any culture, it's Ozymandias-ville.

Nameless and Happy

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