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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0383  Friday, 8 February 2002

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 14:40:54 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0363 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up

[2]     From:   Jane Drake Brody <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 21:59:11 EST
        Subj:   Reading Backwards


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 14:40:54 -0600
Subject: 13.0363 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0363 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up

Martin Steward offers as a recommendation:

> For goodness' sake, don't try this with Agatha Christie!

Just so, which is the reason why her works, and most other mysteries,
are not literary, but (to borrow from Graham Greene) entertainments.
There are some that transcend the limitations of the form (I re-read
certain works of Sayers, Chandler and Hammett, for example, periodically
just because I like re-entering their fictive worlds), but the majority
live (and die) for the puzzle, and once you know the answer, there's no
other point of interest.

Pardon me for being heavy (or even (Heaven forfend) pompous), when you
are being whimsical, but I think the point is often over-looked. Critics
and directors tend to develop hobby-horses, fall passionately in love
with some brilliant insight they've had, and re-work the text to suit
their own ego-needs

Meanwhile, Anna Kamaralli warns me

> I would be VERY cautious about applying this method to the full play,
> rather than just a speech.  Remember that characters are often not the
> same people at the beginning of the play that they are at the end.

To be sure, caution -- humility is my preferred term but it seems to be
hopelessly out of date these days -- is required with any method,
gimmick, or scheme. Still, it seems to me that where a character ends up
should be implicit in where they start from. Insofar as they are
"human," they have certain tendencies that under stress may lead to
great heroism or disaster or shame depending on the circumstances.

If fully agree that Cressida is not at all "some kind of lascivious
nymphomaniac," but rather a woman who is weak (like Daisy Buchanan and
Clarissa Harlowe's mother (and countless male figures)). Thus, the
degree to which I might (if, say, directing the play) want to emphasize
that weakness early in the play would require far more expertise than I
can claim right now, not having studied it for years beyond number. But
I would not make her seem *strong* unless I saw some good indication of
her falling a much longer distance than I now recollect.

Thanks, in any case, for a healthy reminder to us all not to get too
enamored of any one theory or method of interpretation. They all have
their uses -- but also their misuses.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jane Drake Brody <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 21:59:11 EST
Subject:        Reading Backwards

David Ball's excellent book "Backwards and Forwards" discusses the idea
of reading a play backwards to discover meaning through structure. It is
a very useful and succinctly written text. He uses Hamlet as his case in
point.

Jane Drake Brody

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