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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Why Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1292  Thursday, 31 May 2001

[1]     From:   Evelyn Gajowski <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 May 2001 10:46:40 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1272 Re: Why Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 May 2001 20:39:01 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 12.1272 Re: Why Shakespeare Public School

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 May 2001 18:21:52 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1180 Why Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Evelyn Gajowski <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 May 2001 10:46:40 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1272 Re: Why Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1272 Re: Why Shakespeare

To Sam Small:

What do you mean when you refer to a person "of true independent
thought"? I don't believe that I've come across such an animal in my
lifetime.

Evelyn Gajowski
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 May 2001 20:39:01 +0100
Subject: Re: Why Shakespeare Public School
Comment:        SHK 12.1272 Re: Why Shakespeare Public School

Karen, you are correct.

I meant it in the UK sense - private, privileged, with a swaggering
assumption of moral right to rule others, and an arrogance that unnerves
many who come across it, or anger sufficiently for them to end up in the
cooking pot.

BUT I also meant it in the vividly pioneering sense - Robert Graves,
Siegfried Sassoon, Winston Churchill, George Orwell / Eric Blair et many
al sense i.e. the wild explorers of planets and mind, the wild sailors
of seas of all kinds who were prepared to fall off the edge of the world
in pursuit of whatever. That persistence, energy, dynamism and
assumption that God was on their side helped shape much of the world -
whatever we may think of them all and /or what they achieved, and who
had, too, that missionary (in all senses) zeal which carried Shakespeare
with them in backpacks, like cultural burrs that you collect on your
school clothes and then carry forward when you pass from one field to
another. And like burrs, in all the civilisations they came to dominate
they seeded, and those already there came to know, love (??) Shakespeare
as true spokesman of the 'master race'? Is that controversial enough?

BTW we have a radio programme in UK called 'Desert Island Discs' and
apart from the records chosen by some self-promoting celeb, a book can
be chosen - apart from The Bible and Shakespeare, which, it is assumed.
'are already on the island.' Make of that what you will as cultural
construct!

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 May 2001 18:21:52 -0400
Subject: 12.1180 Why Shakespeare?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1180 Why Shakespeare?

>But why is it Shakespeare who became the world champion of literature?
>Why not Dante or Moliere or Goethe or Calderon or Camoes or Homer or
>Jonson or Chaucer or Eichendorff or Vergil or Pushkin or Corneille or
>Ibsen or Dickens or Cechov or Woolf or Marlowe or Gryphius or Brecht
>..., all writers who have as much genius as our friend from Stratford?
>Why was it Shakespeare who got idolized and adored? Why Shakespeare?

If we take artistic "genius" to be an invention of romanticism, we can
not say that anyone had as much as Shakespeare, and if we take it for a
real quality, the assertion that these authors had as much would have to
be defended.

I don't think it is precisely "fairness" that accounts for Shakespeare's
preeminence.  I think he played a dirty trick on us by always hiding his
purposes behind irresolvable ambiguity.  As a student of literature
himself, he knew the power of obscurity of meaning to attract close
reading, and he took every opportunity to exploit that power.

I don't buy the Toaist Shakespeare for a minute.  He makes it quite
clear in the sonnets how highly he values the eternal fame that only
literature can provide, and nowhere as in the sonnets does he exploit
the instrument of obscurity so thoroughly.  The uninterest in
publication of one's works was a conventional pose of the literary
culture of the period.  While the disclaimers of some: (I didn't intend
to publish this, but the double dealings of unscrupulous printers forced
my hand) are transparent, Shakespeare the master dramatist played his
part so convincingly that it is commonly accepted today that the author
who wrote Not marble, nor the gilded monuments of princes shall oulive
this powerful rhyme, couldn't care less if his sonnets or Hamlet was
ever published.

The legion of critics who have pulled out their hair trying to identify
WH have simply fallen into a trap laid by the poet himself.  He suckered
us into asking these questions, making sure we would not find
irrefutable answers, and we have accommodated his desire for
immortality.  It is one of the ironies of the sonnets that the fair
young man whose fame he claims to be preserving remains unknown
(although we perhaps remember his patron and other candidates better
than we otherwise would) while the one name he does provide: Will, still
shines bright in black ink. Had his Taoist (or Buddhist or Stoic) pose
been less convincing, his texts would not remain unclosed and
uncloseable, inviting ever new readings.

Clifford

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