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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: March ::
Defects in King Lear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0626  Monday, 8 March 2004

From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Friday, 5 Mar 2004 15:55:53 -0000
Subject: 15.0594 Defects in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0594 Defects in King Lear

Ed Taft writes:

 >I'm afraid I disagree with Robin. When Arthur Kirsch wrote, famously,
 >that Othello's problem is that "he has insufficient regard for himself,"
 >or when Olivier intoned at the start of Hamlet, "This is the tragedy of
 >a man who could not make up his mind," both are deeply indebted to A. C.
 >Bradley, the man who, nearly single-handedly, made such comments possible.

{LATER ADDENDUM  <after I [almost] finished writing this post> -- I'd
add: I think both of these remarks which Ed cites turn on "reading [or
acting] a Shakespearean play as if it were a novel", which to me is as
much an oversimplification of a dramatic text as "reading a Shakepearean
play as if it were a poem".}

Looking over my previous email, I'm not entirely sure I even agree with
myself.

I was (as all-to-often) being over-condensed.

With regard to the specific issue of Shakespeare, the novel, and
Bradley, I think I would want to say that a major component of the
development of the novel in both England and the US (Melville, say, as
the clearest example) drew on the development of character in
Shakespeare's plays and fed this into the novel.  Bradley later
(brilliantly, and with reservations on my part) read this element of the
novel back into the criticism of Shakespeare, in +Shakespearean
Tragedy+, and this has remained a strong (if not always the major)
component of Shakespearean criticism ever since, as many posts on this
list serve to show.

However, by now, it's only *one* component, and a severely-contested one
at that.

I hope that uncrumples one of the much-crumpled things I was trying to
say in my previous post, though I don't suppose it will make anyone
agree with me any the more.  <g>

One of the more devastating and influential (and to a degree unfair)
critiques of Badley was L.C.Knights in "How Many Children Had Lady
Macbeth?" and Knights, though he was linked to them, wasn't (or at least
I wouldn't term him so) a New Critic.

As someone pointed out on another thread, John Sutherland's two
collections of essays -- +Was Heathcliffe a Murderer?+ and the later +Is
Henry V a War Criminal+ -- are marvelously funny.  They also in an odd
way draw on this particular question raised by Knights, so it's still a
live issue.

Like Ed and Don, I actually (though this may not have been apparent)
rate Bradley (with reservations) extremely highly as a Shakespearean critic.

Robin Hamilton

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