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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: May ::
Re: A Dream of Hanoi
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0849  Wednesday, 7 May 2003

[1]     From:   Lois Potter <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 May 2003 10:39:55 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.0847 Re: A Dream of Hanoi

[2]     From:   Keith Hopkins <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 May 2003 16:27:57 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0847 Re: A Dream of Hanoi


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lois Potter <
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Date:           Monday, 5 May 2003 10:39:55 -0400
Subject: 14.0847 Re: A Dream of Hanoi
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.0847 Re: A Dream of Hanoi

I keep hoping that someone is actually going to write about A Dream in
Hanoi instead of Religion and the Rise of Capitalism.  I saw the film at
the SAA in Victoria and found it fascinating. Lorelle Browning, who
spoke briefly afterwards, may not have seen its events with Richard
Burt's eyes, but she was clearly aware that she and some of the other
Americans often appeared in a bad light.  Although the film opened with
the suggestion that Americans and North Vietnamese could forget the past
and be happily united through the mystical religion of Shakespeare -- a
fantasy that might offer some comfort to anyone trying to think what
life will be like thirty years after our current war -- it went on to
show a very painful clash of artistic egos and cultural assumptions.

Yes, the story ended in Hollywood style with enthusiastic audiences,
reconciliation among the actors, and tearful farewells.  Those close-ups
of enraptured spectators reminded me of Branagh's Midwinter's Tale,
another film in which, after a comic and agonized rehearsal process, the
divine Shakespeare brings salvation and reconciliation - on Christmas
Eve, in this case -- through the experience of performance. It's
possible, as Burt says, that at the end the Vietnamese "clearly loathe
the Americans, who mistake their courtesy for affection." It's equally
possible that all the performers, for a short period of time, really did
love each other.  This is a cliche of theatrical plots, but it's a
cliche based on what generally happens at the end of any short-term,
emotionally involving group effort that turns out to be successful.

We don't learn anything about the long-term effect of the experience;
how could we?  Moreover, the story is one-sided and incomplete in even
more ways than Burt says (for instance, we see virtually nothing of the
Pyramus and Thisbe players). But even as it is, there's lots of rich
material that cries out for interpretation. I can see why Burt wanted to
work out his resistant reading, but I'd be interested to know whether
everyone's reactions were so negative.  My impression was that the SAA
audience liked the film a lot.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Keith Hopkins <
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Date:           Monday, 5 May 2003 16:27:57 +0100
Subject: 14.0847 Re: A Dream of Hanoi
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0847 Re: A Dream of Hanoi

To my mind the greatest historian of the recent past (Weber, and Tawny
apart) of the relationship between Protestantism and society (including
politics, economics and the state) has got to be the Oxford Marxist who
recently died, Christopher Hill.

No one I am aware of has described a more powerful model of the impact
of revolutionary protestant thinking on society as a whole.  His basic
thesis was that an abrasive discontented group of refuseniks called the
Puritans in late 16th century England, tore themselves away from the
mish mash of the Elizabethan settlement owing to a unique historical
combination of personal resourcefulness and revolutionary economic
ideology.  Of course a lot of Hill's work reflects a fairly standard
Marxist interpretation of history, whose validity nowadays with the
collapse of Communism is I suppose subject to some re-interpretation (an
understatement of course), but it seems to me that Hills crucial insight
is that the Puritans were in on and really created a whole new set of
economic relations of production through their ideology.  There is a
contradiction here of course which I am not sure however, Hill fully
worked through, which is that according to Marx ideas and culture, etc.
are the super structure of society and are determined by the economic
base of production, distribution and exchange.  Hill tended to see it
the other way round,  ie. an extraordinary group of human individuals
seizing on the revolutionary implications of parts of the bible, set out
self-consciously  to re-make the world around them, fit for a Godly
people.  His work could probably be summed up in the title to one of his
books of essays called 'Puritanism and Revolution'.

Puritanism as a political force was dead by the time of the English
civil war, and which confirmed England as a thoroughly Erastian power.
Hill was particularly fascinated by the more extreme elements in
Puritanism that flourished in the civil war known as the Levellers and
the Diggers, which Cromwell suppressed.  The real legacy in Britain of
Puritanism was in the so called work ethic and the fact that if one
worked hard at ones calling and was a member of the Godly sect, one was
pretty sure of being numbered among the Elect and one would prosper in
the world.  This had profound implications so far as the Industrial
Revolution was concerned , and I suppose it is true to say that were all
other factors equal one could scarcely imagine  the Industrial
Revolution occurring in Medieval England.

There is no doubt that Puritanism played a very important, if not
crucial role in the Industrial Revolution, and its psychological
extremism contributed to that all important sense of economic
dislocation and individualism that was a prerequisite to a burgeoning
market economy.  This was of course once its political pretensions had
been crushed and the world made safe for constitutional Monarchy.  The
emotional baggage of Puritanism lingers on in the regimentation of
modern life in the west, but without its eschatological overtones.

Puritanism as a political force only really established itself in two
places, Calvin's Geneva and the original American Colonies.   Calvinism
can be singled out because it was a theocratic city based on harsh
Puritan lines, ie. Capital Punishment and a pervading sense of sin, but
I am not sure it was a particularly successful economic model.  The
Catholic Netherlands under Philip the Second, was far from being an
economic basket case, which I think proves that Protestantism was not
the only successful model that was available (Philip was shrewdly aware
of the economic potential and success of the Netherlands, that's why he
fought so hard to hang on to it ).

There were also successful Catholic mercantile areas in Italy (Lombardy
particularly).
The United States of course, is the most dazzlingly successful Puritan
society of all, and that is because it has fully absorbed the English
lesson that Puritanism works best in subjugation to the state and
theoretically apart from it and when its emotional and psychological
message has been fully internalized by all the people.

Calvin's Geneva was Puritanism rampant, but it ultimately failed,
because rather like Capitalism it could only succeed fully when the
whole world had gone Puritan.

Regards
Keith Hopkins
London

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