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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: Why Shakespeare Conflicts
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1691  Thursday, 5 July 2001

[1]     From:   R.A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Jul 2001 09:08:10 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 12.1684 Re: Why Shakespeare Conflicts

[2]     From:   Pervez Rizvi <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Jul 2001 12:59:47 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1679 Re: Why Shakespeare Conflicts

[3]     From:   Jane Drake Brody <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Jul 2001 11:20:28 EDT
        Subj:   Universality


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R.A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Tuesday, 03 Jul 2001 09:08:10 -0500
Subject: Re: Why Shakespeare Conflicts
Comment:        SHK 12.1684 Re: Why Shakespeare Conflicts

> validity of logicality

please

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pervez Rizvi <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Jul 2001 12:59:47 +0100
Subject: 12.1679 Re: Why Shakespeare Conflicts
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1679 Re: Why Shakespeare Conflicts

My friend Mike Jensen writes:

>*Dallas* was not *universal* in any way that is meaningful to me.....
>I'll agree that *Dallas* had a wide (I'd stop short of universal) appeal
>for many people, in many parts of the world, for a short several years.
>I don't think this is the same as the goofy claims that everyone at
>every time understands and is moved by Shakespeare's universality, which
>has been demonstrated be false anyway.......
>....*Dallas,* while about the rich and
>their lifestyle, was still about people and behaviors most of us don't
>recognize from life.

I hope my selective quotation above does not traduce your argument.
Usually, when someone says 'X is universal', it's not meant to be taken
literally. It was in this sense that I wrote that Dallas was universal,
though if you don't accept this, it ought to be possible to find another
example of something that has appeal all over the world, in widely
different cultures.  It's more interesting to consider the universality
claim in the sense in which you have understood it: 'everyone, at all
times'. Outside the realm of mathematics, any claim that's made in such
wide terms is almost bound to be refutable, but, in relation to this, my
other point, which I didn't develop last time, goes something like this:

* Whatever it is about Shakespeare that might be universal, it can't be
the language, because that's common only to English-speaking cultures.
So it must be his stories, or characters, or dramatic structures, or
wise observations, or a combination of these.

* Whatever combination we choose, once we have excluded the language
from consideration, what remains? If Hamlet is universal, how much of
that is due to the (English) words Shakespeare wrote? If we replaced the
Q2/F text with a modern-English translation of the kind found in the
'Shakeapeare Made Easy' books, would it still be a universal work?

* A claim for universality that's just based on the observation (not
made by Mike) that Shakespeare wrote about love, hate, power, betrayal
etc. is not at all satisfactory, because almost all writers write about
these things.  One ought to explain what's universal about Shakespeare's
treatment of these, and do so in a way that does not depend on the
actual words used by him.

It's not really important, Mike, but when you say that you find
Shakespeare's plots and characters more lifelike than the ones in
Dallas, you ought to consider what might have happened if Shakespeare
had written Dallas and the scriptwriters of Dallas had written, say,
Macbeth. If Dallas had still turned out to be inferior to Macbeth, then
you'd have to say that there was something special about the story and
characters of Macbeth (something independent of the words because -
don't forget - the words are now different, because written by Hollywood
hacks). You'd then have the task of explaining why this something
special doesn't apply to what is a very similar story in Holinshed.
Conversely, if in this hypothetical example, Dallas had come out to be
superior to Macbeth, then you'd have proof that it's Shakespeare's way
with words that makes the difference, and then your arguments about his
plots and characters being more lifelike than the ones in Dallas would
be wrong anyway (because Shakespeare's words would have made the same
Dallas plots and characters seem more lifelike).

Assuming that Hardy takes a day off for the 4th of July, this message
will appear on Thursday, and any replies to it on Friday. I am off on
holiday early on Saturday for a few days, so this may be my last
contribution (for this relief, no thanks necessary).

P.S. Kristin shot J.R.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jane Drake Brody <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Jul 2001 11:20:28 EDT
Subject:        Universality

I know it is naive of me to say so, but the fact that Shakespeare is
studied, translated, performed, studied and debated in so many cultures
and languages says to me that he is a universal writer.  Does this count
for nothing or is this simply a bi-product of British imperialism?  Or
are we being anal retentive about the need for the word "universal" to
be absolute in its meaning?

Jane Drake Brody

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