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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: Does Goneril Commit Suicide?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2620  Monday, 19 November 2001

[1]     From:   Bonnie Melchior <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Nov 2001 11:50:51 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2613 Re: Does Goneril Commit Suicide?

[2]     From:   R. Schmeeckle <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Nov 2001 13:00:41 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2613 Re: Does Goneril Commit Suicide?

[3]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Nov 2001 16:42:04 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2609 Re: Does Goneril Commit Suicide?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bonnie Melchior <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Nov 2001 11:50:51 -0600
Subject: 12.2613 Re: Does Goneril Commit Suicide?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2613 Re: Does Goneril Commit Suicide?

Bill Godshalk writes,

> Well, Rorschach blots do not mean anything we want them to. They mean
> what we think they mean -- the same as a script or a show. I might
> "want" Macbeth to be a play about Christian salvation, but I "think"
> it means something far different. Do you take my distinction?
>
> I think that character is structured by the auditor or reader, as he
> or she selects information from the script or the show. And I think
> the question of Lady Macbeth's motherhood -- some auditors or readers
> may think that it is implied in the script -- may be important to such
> a character construct.

I would agree that character is structured by the auditor or reader, but
I would add the proviso that we assume important material will be
included in the text. If we make the structuring more open than that,
are not all interpretations not directly contradicted by information in
the text valid?  Such an open stance might well result in a radical
shift away from what is emphasized in the text. For instance, the
primary motivation of Lear's daughters might then be construed as
incestuous abuse by their father (as in Smiley's *A Thousand Acres*).
What basis do you use in deciding whether student interpretations are
valid or invalid? Is anything the student thinks the play means OK?

Bonnie Melchior

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. Schmeeckle <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Nov 2001 13:00:41 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2613 Re: Does Goneril Commit Suicide?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2613 Re: Does Goneril Commit Suicide?

 Bill  Godshalk wrote,

> Well, Rorschach blots do not mean anything we want them to.  They mean
> what we think they mean -- the same as a script or a show.  I might
> "want" Macbeth to be a play about Christian salvation, but I "think" it
> means something far different.  Do you take my distinction?

So what we think can be influenced by what we want.  If it is totally
influenced by what we want, i.e. is a mere function of what we want, we
are probably insane.  Applied to interpretation of Macbeth, as in the
example, it can work either way.  One may want Macbeth not to be about
Christian salvation and interpret accordingly.

Macbeth seems to me to be about rule, the contrast between a good ruler
(Duncan, Malcolm) and an evil usurper, with allusions to Christian
belief that must be factored into a satisfactory interpretation
(explained) or explained away.  It could be plausibly interpreted as a
play based on the idea that the wages of sin are death, which never
explicitly stated, is implicit in the action.

And, since this is a Goneril thread, the suicide of Lady Macbeth in a
play close in time to Lear supports the death of Goneril as a suicide.
Sisters under the skin, by the same author.

     Roger Schmeeckle

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Nov 2001 16:42:04 -0500
Subject: 12.2609 Re: Does Goneril Commit Suicide?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2609 Re: Does Goneril Commit Suicide?

David Bishop writes,

>Yawney's point, I think, was that a play, written to be performed, would
>not rely, as much as a novel might, on extremely delicate and subtle
>hints which could not practically be apprehended in the onrush of
>action, even by that attentive and attuned audience. The fact that in
>practice some members of the audience, or some critics--or even we
>ourselves--sometimes don't get it does not, we hope, permanently
>discourage us from pursuing the ideal through reasoned argument and
>discussion; it's what spurs us on.

Yes, of course, but still and at the same time, I am not happy when one
of us brings in the "audience" -- as if the auditors and spectators were
all listening and watching at the same level of attention or inattention
-- to prove a point.  "The audience would NOT notice that Edmund could
not possibly know that Goneril committed suicide." (I'm not really
quoting anyone here.)  Well, it all depends who the auditor is.  If the
auditor is David Bishop, he might very well notice the problem.  If it's
my tired and somewhat inebriated groundling of circa 1608, he might not
notice that Edmund has no way of knowing.

I think we should rely on the script -- a close reading of the script --
when we discuss problems in the plays, and not rely on what an auditor
may or may not have understood or noticed at some point in history.
Possibly David and I really don't have very much of a disagreement on
this point.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

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