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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: June ::
Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1201  Monday, 7 June 2004

[1]     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Jun 2004 12:59:38 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates

[2]     From:   Bob Evans <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Jun 2004 12:28:35 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Jun 2004 13:52:57 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates

[4]     From:   Alan Horn <
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        Date:   Saturday, 5 Jun 2004 00:23:50 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates

[5]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Sunday, 6 Jun 2004 15:31:02 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates

[6]     From:   Stephen Dobbin <
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        Date:   Monday, 7 Jun 2004 08:43:48 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   Tectonic Plates


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Jun 2004 12:59:38 +0100
Subject: 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates

I think Jack Heller's question is revealing: should we set a 'base line'
for Shakespeare's audiences.  I think we need to reconsider radically
what a Shakespearean 'audience' was.  Webster complained that the
audiences (possibly of The Red Bull) couldn't understand The White Devil
- though he also complained about the weather!

The issue is, surely, whether an Elizabethan (or Jacobean) audience
could follow what we consider to be the complex wordplay of a play such
as LLL. I suggest that what we know about oral cultures might give us
some help in this direction, indeed, it might (as Robert Weimann has
from time to time suggested in relation to the prose style of writers
such as Thomas Nashe) help us to revise some of our assumptions about
the writing style of the period.

Our obsession with verisimilitude in theatrical (and more importantly
film & TV) representation may make US think that the language of a play
such as LLL is difficult, and our students also find it so. However,
talk to students about popular music and you'll be surprised at what
they keep in their memories and how sophisticated their understanding of
form actually is. I would love to know what an Elizabethan auditor
carried in her/his mind when attending a play?

I suspect that they built up a practical history of forms, expectations,
language that a competent dramatist could rely on for effects. And I
suspect that they might have been able to discriminate between Marlowe,
Kyd, Peele, Shakespeare, Jonson, Marston, Dekker, Heywood, Middleton et
al. Contrast their theatricality with say, Fulke Greville, who wrote
plays that as far as I remember were never performed, and are extremely
difficult for us to read.

Sorry to bang on about this but you've raised an important question
which has to do with the presentism that Terry Hawkes talks about (read
his Shakespeare's Talking Animals (1975) by the way...much overdue for a
reprint I think,) and the conditions under which we write cultural history.

Cheers,
John Drakakis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Evans <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Jun 2004 12:28:35 EDT
Subject: 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates

Perhaps this is relevant to the current discussion: John Meagher's new
book on Shakespeare offers reasons for thinking that Shakespeare
considered the literate portion of his audience (i.e., the ones paying
for the most expensive seats) the group he particularly wanted to appeal
to, especially in the later plays, when competition with private
theaters became most intense.  At the same time, Meagher's book strongly
stresses the dramatic, theatrical aspects of the plays.  He also,
however, has a very fine chapter of the language of the works.

Bob Evans
Auburn U at Montgomery

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[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Jun 2004 13:52:57 -0700
Subject: 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates

Terence Hawkes writes,

 >John Briggs is right about Lukas Erne.  Is it any surprise that, after
 >decades of sifting by ambitious graduate students, Shakespeare should
 >eventually appear in the form of a committed book-worm, anxiously
 >overseeing his work for publication like some academic in peevish
 >pursuit of tenure? All history is the history of the present.

It's not surprising, but it isn't inevitable, either, because not all
history is history of the present, just as not every Other is oneself
and not every lover is Narcissus.

Yrs,
  SKL.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan Horn <
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Date:           Saturday, 5 Jun 2004 00:23:50 EDT
Subject: 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates

If print editions constituted a secondary market for Elizabethan
playwrights like the DVD market for movies today, perhaps the tricky
lines in Shakespeare that require close reading were the DVD extras of
their time.

Alan

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Sunday, 6 Jun 2004 15:31:02 -0400
Subject: 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1192 Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates

If all history is the history of the present, how does T. Hawkes believe
he can so clearly see through some of our present historians? Are his
own glasses fogged with pleasant platitudes, like "all history is the
history of the present"? Rely on that one and you may lose your
inclination to distinguish between historians who are right and those
who are wrong, or more right and more wrong, in certain cases. Or
sometimes right for the wrong reasons.

Incidentally, wasn't LLL written for a houseful of rusticating
aristocrats, sequestered from the plague?

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Dobbin <
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Date:           Monday, 7 Jun 2004 08:43:48 +0100 (BST)
Subject:        Tectonic Plates

Rather than asking how much a non-literate public would have understood
of the verbal sophistication of L.L.L. after seeing only one
performance, perhaps we might more profitably turn the question on its
head and ask to what extent highly literate, text reliant, academics
have lost the ability to retain, assimilate and extract information from
purely verbal input.

A parallel would be the way that becoming over reliant on typing has
left me unable to read my ever more illegible handwriting!

The question, put this way round, not only has the advantage of being
susceptible to research, it has the additional virtue of being asked
from a position of (suitably post-modern?) humility.

Stephen.

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