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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: November ::
Bard Barred For Being Too Boring
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2201  Wednesday, 19 November 2003

[1]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 2003 13:03:08 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2191 Bard Barred For Being Too Boring

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 2003 13:11:18 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.2191 Bard Barred For Being Too Boring

[3]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 2003 18:13:44 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.2191 Bard Barred For Being Too Boring


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 2003 13:03:08 -0500
Subject: 14.2191 Bard Barred For Being Too Boring
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2191 Bard Barred For Being Too Boring

A propos of Richard Burt's intelligence from South Africa, I saw
Greenberg's "The Violet Hour" this past weekend and recall (perhaps
without total accurately) the meditation/set piece over the changed
meaning of the word "gay" between 1919 and the present, the central
observation being to the effect that, once people stop having certain
feelings (here, the experience of pleasurable light-heartedness once
described as "gay") the words to describe those experiences themselves
die out or surrender their meanings.  There are also some entertaining
riffs on the literary-academic habits of identity criticism and thought
in the late 20th c.

Think, then, of how, what the Guardian calls the "official"
determination that Shakespeare is boring and insensitive to what are
presumably the "realities" of life (and South African values) says about
the government of South Africa; now, even after the public has gone
through the well-publicized exercises of confession and reconciliation,
the old habits of thought that arise from ideological narrow-mindedness,
intolerance, and authoritarianism remain in the halls of power.  The
playwright long said to be the most tolerant and sensitive of all to the
various conditions of human life is now redefined is now redefined into
the very opposite.  Orwell would understand, and publish.  I'm just
shaken.

Tony Burton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 2003 13:11:18 -0500
Subject: 14.2191 Bard Barred For Being Too Boring
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.2191 Bard Barred For Being Too Boring

My cousins have a South African education. It's nearly literature-free
in addition to other basic drawbacks.

P.S. Anti-Semitism is never considered a drawback in SA.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 2003 18:13:44 -0000
Subject: 14.2191 Bard Barred For Being Too Boring
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.2191 Bard Barred For Being Too Boring

Dear All,

It sounds like those good folks in South Africa have read Tolstoy but
not Orwell's essay on Tolstoy (Lear, Tolstoy and The Fool) and therefore
have made rather rash judgements on Shakespeare.

A few quotes from that essay are quite sufficient:
(http://whitewolf.newcastle.edu.au/words/authors/O/OrwellGeorge/essay/learto
lstoyfool.html)

"In reality there is no kind of evidence or argument by which one can
show that Shakespeare, or any other writer, is 'good'. Nor is there any
way of definitely proving that-for instance-Warwick Beeping is 'bad'.
Ultimately there is no test of literary merit except survival, which is
itself an index to majority opinion.
...
Shut your eyes and think of King Lear, if possible without calling to
mind any of the dialogue. What do you see? Here at any rate is what I
see; a majestic old man in a long black robe, with flowing white hair
and beard, a figure out of Blake's drawings (but also, curiously enough,
rather like Tolstoy), wandering through a storm and cursing the heavens,
in company with a Fool and a lunatic. Presently the scene shifts and the
old man, still cursing, still understanding nothing, is holding a dead
girl in his arms while the Fool dangles on a gallows somewhere in the
background
...
It is doubtful whether the sense of tragedy is compatible with belief in
God: at any rate, it is not compatible with disbelief in human dignity
and with the kind of 'moral demand' which feels cheated when virtue
fails to triumph. A tragic situation exists precisely when virtue does
not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces
which destroy him.
...
He [Tolstoy] objects, with some justification, to the raggedness of
Shakespeare's plays, the irrelevancies, the incredible plots, the
exaggerated language: but what at bottom he probably most dislikes is a
sort of exuberance, a tendency to take-not so much a pleasure as simply
an interest in the actual process of life."

The reading of Shakespeare is the test (like Rabelais and Chaucer) of a
culture's ability to know itself well enough to make aesthetic
judgements. The judgement of the South African teachers rather reminds
me of Wilde's critique of the 19th century's aesthetic dislikes in the
Preface to Dorian Grey:

The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing
his own face in a glass.

The nineteenth century dislike of romanticism is the rage of Caliban not
seeing his own face in a glass.

Best,
Marcus 'Bring Back Thomas Bernhard' Dahl

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