The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0633 Monday, 4 March 2002
Date: Saturday, 2 Mar 2002 08:39:06 -0500
Subject: Classical Acting: Decline
I recently came across the following in the writings of the late B.H.
Haggin, a well-known music critic:
"[H]uman creative energies have not been equal in all periods, or in all
the arts of any one period. We find no important or even interesting
poetry in England from the death of Chaucer in 1400 to the publication
of Wyatt's poems in 1557; we find only minor poets between Pope and
Blake; we find no painting of any consequence in the eighteenth- and
nineteenth-century Germany that produced the music of Bach, Haydn,
Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and other great composers...."
A salutary corrective to those who strangely doubt the very concept of
decline, or of radical variance in artistic quality from one generation
to another. No doubt the discerning readers of the year 1500 who
claimed that nothing very good had appeared since Chaucer were
cheerfully dismissed by their more complacent neighbors. No doubt the
latter stoutly denied that literature had ever been better than at that
moment. The dissatisfied readers were right; their yea-saying
contemporaries were wrong.
Of course Haggin does not speak of irreversible decline, but of
intermittence. Perhaps, then, the currently-moribund state of classical
acting will improve in another century or so; but that will hardly do me
any good. I want greatness and I want it now; and I won't accept any
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