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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: October ::
Re: More about "Julius Caesar"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2138  Monday, 28 October 2002

From:           L. Swilley <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Oct 2002 09:56:32 -0500
Subject: 13.2121 Re: More about "Julius Caesar"
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2121 Re: More about "Julius Caesar"

To L. Swilley's

"The effect on the audience is one dimension; the consistency of the
argument (that well might - and should - manipulate the audience) is
another - unless we are to conceive of the audience itself as a
character in the play and a factor in the argument of it (But is that
what Mr. Stetner intends us to understand?)."

Clifford Stettner responds,

>Many would argue (though not I) with the proposition that a play is "is"
>an argument however sophisticated and that characters are merely ideas
>employed in it. But at the least, the conflict that makes any drama
>necessarily implies an argument. If JC is an argument, I would
>paraphrase it as one that historical actions are utterly empty of moral
>value until it is assigned to them by writers whose representations
>achieve canonicity.

 [Sorry. My mistake. I use the term "argument" here to refer to the
*plot* or the cause-and-result sequence of actions in a play or story.]

>Shakespeare chose this
>historical context because his culture had not accepted a single view
>either applauding the assassination as a heroic attempt to liberate Rome
>from tyranny or an ignominious sacrilegious regicide. He also chose it
>because this question goes to the heart of contemporary conflicts over
>divine right. And finally because this particular ambiguous event turned
>the entire course of European history.

[Unless we have some record of Shakespeare's intentions apart from the
work itself, I don't know how we can determine with any precision WHY
Shakespeare chose anything whatever.]

>I'm not sure I understand the distinction you're making here, but the
>audience is certainly a character in any play. But Shakespeare makes a
>point of dragging the audience onto the stage. What else is the
>Mousetrap about or the numerous other plays within Shakespeare's plays?
>What else is Christopher Sly about?

[We must distinguish an "audience" that is on the stage and therefore a
character in the plot of the play, from the *audience* that witnesses
the whole play with its internal "audience".  The *audience* cannot be
part of the play *as character* unless the playwright surrenders his
control of the plot to each of the many-minded group that watches his
play and intends that each "reading" given by each member of the
*audience* is to become, itself, a factor to be incorporated into the
work, each separate "reading" to be a proper gloss on each of the play's
events, and that gloss to be understood by all who view this growing
calculus.  This is utterly impossible. (In those silly "performances"
where one or more audience members are drawn onto the stage, the members
immediately become part of some "plot" which the performer hopes to
blend into the "action" he is performing. In these cases, the audience
members drawn into the "plot" have become both actors and *audience* in
a loosely constructed "play", each performance of which is, by
consequence of unknowns, unique.  Meanwhile the *audience* on the other
side of the "wall" are themselves not in the "play" at all.)]

         [L. Swilley]

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