2002

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0654  Tuesday, 5 March 2002

From:           Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 4 Mar 2002 18:21:48 -0000
Subject: 13.0633 Re: Classical Acting: Decline
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0633 Re: Classical Acting: Decline

Charles Weinstein teaches us the valuable lesson that quoting something
from somebody else does not necessarily make that something right or
sensible:

"[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...."
- B. H. Haggin, "well-known music critic".

The last of these strikes me as particularly daft; but there is much to
be said of the daftness of the other two as well. It is fundamentally
silly to use specific individuals to make a point about the general
state of a culture: goodness, what if Chaucer had been knocked down by a
haywain when he was five? Would English poetry therefore have seemed
like a wilderness for the half-millennium between "Beowulf" and Wyatt?

The fact is that much of the stuff that is generally forgotten by
proceeding generations was enjoyed immensely by those who got it
first-hand. So, were they just mad? Or do we somehow have better taste
today? No - we just do not have the time to read/hear/see everything
that was produced in the past.  Therefore we create canons, quite
arbitrarily. Nevertheless, there are people around who devote their
lives to studying (and the assumption follows, enjoying), 15th C.
English poetry, 18th C. English poetry, and 18th-19th C. German Romantic
painting (that one really was even more daft than I originally thought).
They are ready to convince anyone who will listen that these things are
far more interesting than popular opinion would have it. One really
should not let one's (understandable) ignorance generate harsh
judgements which consign a goodly proportion of humankind's achievements
to the dustbin of "not important or even interesting". That would be
terribly sad.

m

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