Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: January ::
Re: Shakespeare Usurped
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0101  Wednesday, 22 January 2003

[1]     From:   Karyn White <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 21 Jan 2003 23:05:57 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.090 Shakespeare Usurped

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 21 Jan 2003 11:30:15 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.097 Re: Shakespeare Usurped

[3]     From:   Sam Small <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 21 Jan 2003 22:24:01 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.097 Re: Shakespeare Usurped

[4]     From:   Russell MacKenzie Fehr <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 21 Jan 2003 21:55:20 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Shakespeare Usurped


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karyn White <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 21 Jan 2003 23:05:57 +0900
Subject: 14.090 Shakespeare Usurped
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.090 Shakespeare Usurped

When reading Sam Small's comments I was tempted to reply with words of
my own, but I realized that C. S. Lewis had put it far better than I
could.  I here quote a portion of his review of Tolkien's "The Lord of
the Rings".

"There is, however, one piece of false criticism which had better be
answered; the complaint that the characters are all either black or
white.  Since the climax of Volume I was mainly concerned with the
struggle between good and evil in the mind of Boromir, it is not easy to
see how anyone could have said this. I will hazard a guess. 'How shall a
man judge what to do is such times?' asks someone in Volume II. 'As he
has ever judged,' comes the reply. 'Good and ill have not changed . . .
nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men.'
This is the basis of the whole Tolkienian world.  I think some readers,
seeing (and disliking) this rigid demarcation of black and white,
imagine they have seen a rigid demarcation between black and white
people.  Looking at the squares, they assume (in defiance of the facts)
that all the pieces must be making bishops' moves which confine them to
one colour.  But even such readers will hardly brazen it out through the
two last volumes.  Motives, even on the right side are mixed."

As another Tolkien fan put it upon reading Mr. Small's remarks: "It
isn't error or poor logic that is so infuriating; it is people who make
arguments without knowing what they're talking about. One ought at least
to show some sign of having read and understood a work before expressing
an opinion, much less issuing a condemnation."

I do hope that Mr. Small will actually read "The Lord of the Rings."
The march of the Ents on Isengard has often been considered Tolkien's
revision of Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane.  Tolkien was certainly not
ignorant, and, though he disliked Shakespeare, he was familiar with the
Bard at least.  He read the works before criticizing them.

Karyn White

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 21 Jan 2003 11:30:15 -0500
Subject: 14.097 Re: Shakespeare Usurped
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.097 Re: Shakespeare Usurped

..one could argue the dream is alive in Caesar

Kristen McDermott

While Julius

...doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves,

It's Augustus who finally conquers the world by walking in like
Fortinbras and picking up the pieces of Antony and Cleopatra. Given its
penultimate place in the First Folio, one might conclude that world
conquest is the climax of the whole book, except that it's followed
unaccountably by the untragic "tragedie of Cymbeline" which ends with
the Romans making peace with, rather than conquering, the Britons. Of
course, readers of the Folio would have known that Roman world conquest
didn't end there.

Clifford Stetner
CUNY

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 21 Jan 2003 22:24:01 -0000
Subject: 14.097 Re: Shakespeare Usurped
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.097 Re: Shakespeare Usurped

Thank you all for your robust responses.  It seems this subject troubles
you as it does me.

Bill Arnold writes: "I . . . find that Hamlet rose to the occasion and
became the Good Prince and overcame Evil in a triumph of Good on behalf
of the people of the kingdom."

It seems we read a different play.  I see Hamlet as a failure - note the
last scene full of bodies and the invader victorious.  But the fact that
we can argue about the play means that Shakespeare's portrayal of the
good/evil struggle is never simplistic as in Lord of the Rings and other
popular modern literature.

Kristen McDermott writes: "It's not just dominion that the Saurons and
Voldemorts covet -- it's the ability to remake the world in their own
moral image".

This a good point.  But moral tyranny is more likely to be accomplished
by groups and governments than by a lone madman.

I'm glad Karen Peterson has awakened from her lethargic slumber but not
fully awake, I believe.  By "usurp" I do mean that "Rings and Potter" et
al, have encouraged a perception of evil which is apart from ordinary
beings like you and me.  What makes Shakespeare so powerful is that he
get his hands dirty in putting words into the mouths of the truly
despicable.  Some of those words may ring true. They may be funny.  They
may be a logical and credible alternative to what we all believe to be
good behaviour.  This can be very disturbing.  Lady Macbeth can have
that effect on people.  Tolkein and Rowling never do that.  Imagine
this: "The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler" by William Shakespeare.
Bearing in mind he would never write anything to get himself arrested,
Shakespeare would have attacked that subject with all the belligerent
fair-handedness of old.  Hitler's person would have been seen as a
tragedy of behemoth-like proportions.  Many people would have been upset
- many more amazed.  My guess is that most modern writers would portray
Hitler as a ghastly Aunt Sally dumbly taking easy pot-shots.
Shakespeare is a modern, evolved writer whereas Tolkein and Rowling
belong to the medieval tradition.  It is ironic that tyrannous political
parties like the Nazis and the Communists deal in simple absolutes and
simple solutions.

Ted Dykstra thinks that Shakespeare would have had characters planning
to take over the world.  I don't see that.  Men like Richard III and
Caesar battle to get the kingship - the top job.  They see this as
security from assault.  Men like Macbeth want to be king of their own
people - they think they deserve it and will stop at nothing to achieve
it.  I see gross ambition but not megalomania.

I would argue with Todd M Lidh that biblical evil is complex.  There is
the very human drama of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel as well as the devil
himself being God's favourite son, Lucifer.  Even the half-human Jesus
is tempted in a very human way.

Marcia Eppich-Harris writes: "Shakespeare was writing about historical
figures -- that seems to me to be pretty restrictive writing".

Richard III was pretty terrible history and Shakespeare knew it.  Most
of the others were too.  What he did was to show the inner workings of
dreadful-people-that-cannot-be-named.  It is, to me, tragic that we
don't superimpose those blueprints on our modern despots.  Harry and
Frodo actively discourage it.

Chris Whatmore reminds us that in "Titus Andronicus, we have the hero
refusing the offer "a sceptre to control the world""

Being Roman Emperor is not the fantastical megalomaniac Tolkein had in
mind.  The Emperor would be threatened by his generals, plotted against
by his own family and argued at by the senate.  The responsibility was
huge and the price of failure to great to imagine.  That is the stuff of
Shakespeare not a CGI robot man.

Jan Pick writes: "I suggest Sam Small gets a life."

My point is that if people with votes think like political medievalists
then we will all have the governments from hell.  Bad people are as
complex as good people.  Bad people very often don't think of themselves
as bad but right - the rest weak and silly.  More ink for the
Shakespeare pen.

I bow to Sophie Masson's greater knowledge.

James McNelis writes: ". . . and it is rude impertinence to refer to his
(Tolkein's) massively learned writing (whether his scholarship or his
fiction) as "ignorant""

I used the word 'ignorant' because, as was stated in this thread,
Tolkein was actually describing the real world clothed in fantasy - much
like Shakespeare, in fact.  The great difference is that Tolkein showed
not the slightest notion of the motivation of any of the major political
figures of his time.  All he saw were medieval phantasms.  Shakespeare
understood the psychology of the moral degeneration of the human mind.
Of this, Tolkein was ignorant.

To the incandescent Mr Brian Willis I will reply off-list.

Forgive me if I have said too much.

SAM SMALL
http://www.passioninpieces.co.uk

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Russell MacKenzie Fehr <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 21 Jan 2003 21:55:20 -0500
Subject:        Re: Shakespeare Usurped

(In addition, any regarding of Frodo as "cute" seems to come from a
combination of the stature of  the average Hobbit and as a result of the
casting of a young man playing a character who (in the books, at least)
in 50).

Russell MacKenzie Fehr

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.