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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
Re: Shakespeare at Stratford
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0520  Tuesday, 18 March 2003

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 Mar 2003 09:13:43 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0492 Re: Shakespeare at Stratford

[2]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 Mar 2003 12:09:09 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0517 Shakespeare at Stratford

[3]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 Mar 2003 17:22:22 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0517 Shakespeare at Stratford

[4]     From:   Peter Holland <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 Mar 2003 14:09:35 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0487 Shakespeare at Stratford

[5]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Mar 2003 08:04:25 -0000
        Subj:   SHK 14.0517 Shakespeare at Stratford


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Monday, 17 Mar 2003 09:13:43 -0600
Subject: 14.0492 Re: Shakespeare at Stratford
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0492 Re: Shakespeare at Stratford

I wish there was some way I could email some grains of salt to those who
take such umbrage at the postings of Charles Weinstein.

For heaven's sake, the man's having fun. He's needling academics,
especially our tendency to take seriously things and people that are
unworthy of it. We need it, whether his particular judgments are correct
or not.

You might say he's simply unstuffing some shirts. And, if his prose
style sometimes reads as if he studied composition under William F.
Buckley, his insights are often quite sound and almost always
entertaining.

Of course, it's been some time since he stomped on any of *my* sore toes
. . . ("Let the gall'd jade wince; our withers are unwrung.")

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Monday, 17 Mar 2003 12:09:09 -0500
Subject: 14.0517 Shakespeare at Stratford
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0517 Shakespeare at Stratford

Charles Weinstein <
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 > writes,

>"The implied position of the people who know about literature (as in
>every other fine art) is simply that they know what they know, and that
>they are determined to impose their opinions by main force of eloquence
>or assertion on the people who do not know."--Edmund Wilson

Et ille respondens ait:  tu dicis.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Monday, 17 Mar 2003 17:22:22 -0000
Subject: 14.0517 Shakespeare at Stratford
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0517 Shakespeare at Stratford

>1. Thomas Larque mentions Gale Edwards' production of Shrew, which I saw
>in 1995.  Politically, I didn't find it offensive, merely familiar.  (I
>had appeared in a similarly-conceived production ten years earlier).
>Artistically, I found it highly offensive:  unimaginative, badly-acted,
>ponderous and dull.  Reason enough for critical vitriol, as far as I'm
>concerned.

Except that the critical vitriol seems frequently to have been aimed at
the production's ideology, not just the quality of its performances.  To
a real academic such ideological issues are important and worthy of
discussion.

I am amused to see that Weinstein has completely ignored the body of my
posting in which I made a variety of arguments against his ridiculous
claims that only one type of book about Shakespearean Performance
History should ever be written, and that nothing except the "best"
productions should be considered.  Would Weinstein let us know, for
example, whether he believes that his "high standards" should be applied
to Elizabethan History (which would ban biographies, social and familial
history, and anything other than general histories about "landmark"
events) or to the study and performance of Shakespeare's plays (in which
case we would never see or study "Titus Andronicus", "Two Noble
Kinsmen", "Cymbeline", "Timon of Athens", "Henry VIII", "Edward III" or
any other play considered minor or inferior, nor - in fact - would we
have been likely to see plays like "Twelfth Night", which were
considered inferior in previous generations, and - by Weinstein's
naturally conservative philosophy - would never have been rediscovered
in performance once having been so branded).  If not, then would
Weinstein like to admit that his idealised image of academia - as a
place that should only and exclusively study "the best" - is deluded
nonsense, which could not be applied to any other academic field in the
form that Weinstein champions.

>(Of course, Mr. Larque is free to limit his reading to the
>"impassionate" [sic] criticism that he prefers.  By the way, did he mean
>dispassionate or passionless?).

I mean "impassionate".  See the Oxford English Dictionary.

"Impassionate.  Free from, or not governed by, passion; calm,
dispassionate".

This is listed as a rare word, but is still perfectly acceptable.  Even
my Microsoft spell-check knows that the word exists.  Perhaps I should
write [sic] after Mr. Weinstein's [sic].

>Ms. Edwards' lifeless Shrew is one of
>the many, many reasons I no longer go to Stratford.  I disagree with
>Robert Brustein fairly often, but when he speaks of "the impoverishment
>of the English stage," as he does in the current issue of The New
>Republic, we're in perfect accord.

I wonder how much English theatre Mr. Weinstein ever actually sees?  In
the articles of Professor Brustein's that are available in the New
Republic website are signs of extravagant praise for such English
theatrical creations as Churchill's "Far Away", albeit in its American
incarnation, so he obviously does not believe that the whole English
theatre world is corrupt.  Mr. Weinstein gives no indication that
Brustein is referring specifically to Shakespearean production.

>2. *Pace* Peter Holland, not a single entry in the Shakespeare at
>Stratford series is "brilliant."  In fact, none is as good or
>interesting as the best volumes in the Shakespeare in Performance series
>published by Manchester University Press.  Now why is that, do you
>suppose?  Could it be because Manchester does not confine its authors to
>a single theatre, and to every production of a given play at that
>theatre?  That the authors are free to choose the productions which
>interest them most, regardless of venue? That they are consequently able
>to write about stagings which they personally believe to be important,
>unusual or emblematic?  That they can express their own opinion of
>success or validity instead of maintaining an absurd pose of
>faux-scientific neutrality?  That as a result their work is thoroughly
>engaged and not just the fulfillment of a commission?
>
>Nah.

Could Mr. Weinstein's view of these books possibly be affected by his
anti-intellectual, anti-historical, anti-academic prejudices, so that
his views are not particularly reliable?  Could it be, in any case, that
it is perfectly reasonable to publish different types of studies even if
some are more likely to be popular successes than others (because they
deal with the "Shakespeare's Greatest Hits" mentality that Weinstein
espouses), but that both types of studies might be equally valuable to a
real academic interested in the totality, not just the section of the
population wearing rose-tinted spectacles?  Obviously I am not
besmirching the Manchester University Press series which follows a
different and equally valid agenda, and does it well.  As I have pointed
out, however, there is room for more than one type of book in academia.

>"The implied position of the people who know about literature (as in
>every other fine art) is simply that they know what they know, and that
>they are determined to impose their opinions by main force of eloquence
>or assertion on the people who do not know."--Edmund Wilson

The implied position of Weinstein, who knows nothing of academic study
of performance, is simply that he knows what he knows, and knows it
better than any of those darned academics, and he then tries to impose
his opinions by main force of assertion on the people who might actually
know what academic study involves, since it is their job.

>"I believe that my perceptions are better than anyone else's.  I may be
>wrong, but I will go to my grave believing that."--John Simon

I am not sure whether this is supposed to be said in the voice of
Shakespeare in Performance academics (implying their self-deluding
ignorance, as far as Weinstein is concerned) or in Weinstein's own voice
(implying implacable superiority), but Weinstein certainly does seem to
believe that his perceptions are better than everybody else's, in which
case he must be constantly surprised by how little the rest of the world
values his maligned majesty.

>"The study of mediocrity, whatever its origins, breeds
>mediocrity."-Harold Bloom

And yet Harold Bloom devotes more pages to "Timon of Athens" in
"Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human" than he does to "Taming of the
Shrew" or "Henry V", and gives no pages at all to such brilliant
non-Shakespearean plays as "Volpone", "The Duchess of Malfi", or "The
Changeling" (all of which are generally accepted to be better than
"Timon").  So obviously study of mediocrity is relative, even for Harold
Bloom.  Weinstein would doubtless argue that nothing Shakespeare wrote
was mediocre, but even if that arguable suggestion was true, how does
that justify studying Shakespeare's worst plays in preference to other
people's best? - something that the Weinstein method, if taken
literally, would reject with contempt.  Of course real scholarship
focuses on the totality - all of Shakespeare's work, not just the best -
all productions of Shakespeare's plays that have something interesting
to say, not just those which received rave reviews.

Apparently even Mr. Weinstein's ideological mentors do not live up to
their own declamations.  How can Mr. Weinstein possibly do so?

Thomas Larque.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Holland <
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Date:           Monday, 17 Mar 2003 14:09:35 -0500
Subject: 14.0487 Shakespeare at Stratford
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0487 Shakespeare at Stratford

Quoting "Hardy M. Cook" <
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 >:

Charles Weinstein commented:

>2.  Peter Holland professes to love my logic.  I would like to
>reciprocate, but I can't figure out what his logic is.  Does he suggest
>that a Stratford venue guarantees a production's quality and
>significance, making it automatically worthy of protracted academic
>analysis?  I suppose he does:  how else could he justify this foolish
>series?

Though I am sure Charles Weinstein has not read my reviews of Stratford
productions, others will know that I find many Stratford productions
poor and tedious. The point is that it is entirely logical for a series
called Shakespeare in Stratford to limit itself in the ways that its
title states. Of course a Hamlet volume would omit many other
productions good and bad but it would have plenty to be going on with.
In any case, I am interested in why productions are bad (as well as
good) and the reasons may well have nothing to do with the kinds of
explanations Charles Weinstein has offered. I am struck, incidentally,
by the way that, though Weinstein repeatedly states that study of bad
productions is a waste of time, he often writes at length to SHAKSPER to
explain why particular productions are bad. Is that illogical or am I
missing something?

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 18 Mar 2003 08:04:25 -0000
Subject: Shakespeare at Stratford
Comment:        SHK 14.0517 Shakespeare at Stratford

"(Of course, Mr. Larque is free to limit his reading to the
'impassionate' [sic] criticism that he prefers.  By the way, did he mean
dispassionate or passionless?)."

My guess is that he meant "dispassionate", as when Robert Burton wrotes
of "impassionate hurt" (Anatomy of Melancholy [1621], I.iii. Mem I.,
Subject iii.); or Joseph Hall wrote that the doctrine of the Stoics was
that "a wise man should be impassionate" (Remains [1660], p.123); or
Robert Leighton wrote about "impartial and impassionate... enquiry" (A
Defence of Modern Episcopacy [1664], Works [1868], p.637).

martin

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