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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Criticism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0148  Tuesday, 22 January 2002

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Jan 2002 16:03:22 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0115 Re: Criticism

[2]     From:   Mari Bonomi <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Jan 2002 17:33:50 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0115 Re: Criticism

[3]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Jan 2002 09:42:27 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0107 Re: Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell Beale

[4]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Jan 2002 21:03:45 GMT0BST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0115 Re: Criticism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Jan 2002 16:03:22 -0500
Subject: 13.0115 Re: Criticism
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0115 Re: Criticism

>  it is worth remembering that many reviewers are encouraged to
> extreme positions or feel validated in their strong opinions because
> their employment depends on it: aggressive reviewing sells newspapers;
> moderate reviewing does not.

What authority is there for this assertion, presented as if it were
tautologically obvious or culturally received wisdom?  In fact, it is
worth remembering that the bulk of a journal's revenues come from
advertisers, not subscribers, and those advertisers include theatre
owners and producers.  Why then aren't reviewers encouraged to hype
shows to enhance those revenues?

Anecdotally, I know of no one who buys a paper to enjoy how a reviewer
savages the latest play.  To they extent that reviews are read at all,
it is as guides to whether it is better to spend one's money on a ticket
to this play or that.  If a reviewer habitually steers patrons away from
laudable plays, no one's interest is served, least of all that of the
publisher who assertedly encourages such conduct.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mari Bonomi <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Jan 2002 17:33:50 -0500
Subject: 13.0115 Re: Criticism
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0115 Re: Criticism

Tell us, C. Weinstein... where can we see your great performances in the
classical tradition you bemoan as lost?  Where is your Hamlet? Your
Othello, your Iago?  Or perhaps you did not play these roles, but
instead directed others in them? Where can we view your directorial
perspectives?  Or read the reviews of perceptive critics?  You present
yourself as a theatre person classically trained and motivated and refer
to productions.  Where can we access them?  What do Brustein and Simon
think of *you*?

Mari Bonomi

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Jan 2002 09:42:27 -0600
Subject: 13.0107 Re: Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0107 Re: Criticism, Authority and Simon Russell
Beale

Ben Fisler denies the idea that Hamlet should be "powerful, intelligent,
funny, tragic and charismatic," and says instead that "[i]f you look at
the humour theory, you'll find that not only should Hamlet not be any of
these things, he should in fact be melancholic, weak, sadly funny, and
inconsistent."

That's  a lot of adjectives, most of them rather imprecise -- as
modifiers, of course, tend to be when not illustrated by examples from
the text. And it strikes me as unrewarding to try and sort them all out.
But the "powerful" vs. "weak" question interests me. While I would not
have used powerful describe the Dane, its opposite puzzles me even more.
Physically weak? He trounces Laertes so thoroughly in their fencing
match that the latter has to attack him when off guard (a truly
despicable thing to do) in order to make sure the prince gets poisoned.
Shakespeare prepares us for this by having Hamlet mention to Horatio
that he's "been in continual practice." (DON'T, please, bring up his
mother calling him fat; we've been through all that very recently.)

Mentally weak? Morally? Spiritually? Psychologically? Something might be
made out of the last, but that requires equating disease with weakness.

Fisler continues: "If he is all the things you and Willis want him to
be, then he'd be suited to rule, and there would be no reason for him to
die and be replaced by Fortinbras.  For the play to operate according to
Elizabeth/Jacobean principles (such as the Chain of Being) Hamlet cannot
be a great noble figure, or so the theory goes."

I seem to be missing something, or several things. I don't know what
"the theory" is, nor what Elizabethan/Jacobean principles the play is
supposed to operate in accordance with, nor what the Great Chain of
Being has to do with it. I've always assumed that Hamlet died for
several reasons, none of them having to do with his fitness for rule.

As for being "moved by a great individual brought down," the "de
casibus" story was a medieval favorite inherited by the Renaissance.
(See Chaucer's "Monk's Tale" for some relentlessly tedious examples that
not even the Knight could stomach forever.)

Don't mean to be critical, but I need more specifics.

Cheers,
don

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Jan 2002 21:03:45 GMT0BST
Subject: 13.0115 Re: Criticism
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0115 Re: Criticism

I've been watching this thread with increasing distress. If a student
expressed opinion in the way Charles Weinstein has done, one would hope
that he or she would grow out of it, and absorb some of the values of
what I (forlornly?) still hope is the study of a subject which
encourages civilised, even if vehement debate, a readiness to examine
oneself as well as the object of that debate, and to recognise the
partiality (in every sense) of opinion.

But clearly this is, in this case at least, an impossible dream. Of one
thing, however, I think one can be sure: if Charles Weinstein produces
his examples of 'great classical acting', a conscientious theatre
historian would easily be able to demonstrate that for any particular
instance he cites there were reviewers who thought one way, others who
dissented. (Not, of course, that this would make any difference
whatsoever to the smug self-satisfaction of the guardian of an imaginary
sacred flame.)

The imperviousness of the self-righteous is a frightening thing.  I
suppose one should be relieved that it is being manifested in the
relatively safe territory of theatrical criticism - there are more
terrifying examples currently around.

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