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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: July ::
Less said the better, it seems
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1229  Wednesday, 20 July 2005

[1]     From:   Kathy Dent <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 16:33:23 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

[2]     From:   Judy Prince <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 11:58:43 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

[3]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 12:46:07 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

[4]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 09:52:30 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

[5]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 13:03:11 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

[6]     From:   S. L Kasten <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 22:47:02 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

[7]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 09:07:33 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathy Dent <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 16:33:23 +0100
Subject: 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

Don Bloom writes:

 >As to my remarks being sentimental, I fail
 >to find that either insulting or critical.  There is bad
 >(inappropriate, forced) sentimentality, but there is also good.

Given that the dictionary definition of sentimentality is "disposition
to wallow in sentiment; self-conscious working up of feeling;
affectation of fine feeling; sloppiness" I find it hard to see what kind
of sentimentality could be defined as good.  _All_ sentimentality is
inappropriate and forced: that is its very essence.

Don Bloom also comments:

 >I am not sure whether by "simple-minded" TH means "simplistic" or
 >"stupid." If the former, then I simply plead guilty.

My dictionary defines simplistic as "tending to oversimplify, making no
allowances for problems and complexities; naive".  Does Bloom really
want to plead guilty to this?  Perhaps all his postings should carry a
health warning: "the following sentiments are naive and
over-simplified".  Then we would know where we stand.

It's a pity that the trenchant insults of Professor Hawkes are wasted
because their recipients are too simple-minded to use a dictionary.
Couldn't Don Bloom have looked up "codswallop" before delighting us with
yet another barrowload of it?

Yours, grinding my teeth at Don Bloom's casual disregard for accuracy
and clarity of language,
Kathy Dent

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judy Prince <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 11:58:43 -0400
Subject: 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

Don,

First, I'm sincerely overwhelmed with your generous response to Terence
Hawkes.  Second, your statement, "WS has lasted through the centuries
because there remain plenty of us who simply love reading and watching
and talking about and teaching his work," requires no defense.  Third,
the statement is sentimental in the sense that it is a view---and it is
a view held by most of us on this List.  It is also sentimental in that
it expresses tender, romantic, and nostalgic feelings---again, feelings
shared by most of us.  If it is mawkish, then so are most of us, and so
was the playwright.

My thanks to you for choosing to be generous and courageous, and my
sadness to think that your statement sparked ridicule.

Best wishes,
Judy

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 12:46:07 -0400
Subject: Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

Addressing the issue of enthusiasm for Shakespeare, Bruce Young claims

'I think the answer has to be something in the work itself '

There is no 'work itself '.

T. Hawkes

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 09:52:30 -0700
Subject: 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

"As to "codswallop," it is a delightful word but I am unclear as to its
precise meaning. Obviously negative. Perhaps suggesting "sentimental
effusions."

I believe a certain Hiram Codd is given credit for the expression
'codswallop' and "sentimental effusions" is a very appropriate
assessment of its meaning; 'balderdash' also seems to fit the bill. Mr.
Codd, as I recall, invented the glass bead, bottle neck to retain the
'fizz' in his sodas. Late nineteenth century drinkers of 'wallop', a
liquid we call beer, thought rather disparagingly of Mr. Codd's
'fizzies' and referred to them as Codd's wallop. The term today is
popular amongst 'Aussies', members of the Cockney fraternity, and fans
of Harry Potter!

Of course, this explanation may itself be a load of codswallop!

Colin Cox

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 13:03:11 -0400
Subject: 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

Even though I consider myself a Shakespeare scholar (i.e., articles get
published - including one that will be in the new Variorum Hamlet - I
get invited to lead workshops, sit on panels, contribute to this and
that) I would gladly describe myself in the words used by Don Bloom and
scoffed at by  Terence Hawkes:

 >"Don Bloom concludes 'WS has lasted through the centuries because there
 >remain plenty of us who simply     love reading and watching and talking
 >about and teaching his work.' . . .
 >
 >At such moments, am I the only person into whose mind words such as
 >'sentimental', 'simple-minded' and 'codswallop' gently drift? So
 >does the word 'circular', but perish the thought."

This is a sad, wet-blanket sort of criticism, and I'm feel confident
that Hawkes brings as much love to his own brand of Shakespeare study as
Bloom, and enjoys talking, too.

For the last two centuries at least, Shakespeare's works have appealed
to deep and sensitive thinkers as a source of nearly ineffable wisdom.
In studying them or trying to convey something of their meaning to
others, they regularly describe new-found insights into the nature of
man and, or in, the world; and many almost as regularly try to "explain"
those points of view in terms of this or that religious orthodoxy.

There are also admirers who drift into incomprehensible effusions of
inarticulate "appreciation" that turn Shakespeare into an object of
blind and superstitious adoration.  They enjoy their swoons more than
their Bard, and Shakespeare is not for them.

On the other hand there are scoffers who deny that superior minds exist,
from whose works one can read with profit.  There are materialists who
believe as a matter of doctrine that spiritual insights, when found, are
all codswallop.  There are also be strait-laced persons of a religious
bent, who don't think spiritual works and activity can be mingled with
any sense of fun and pleasure.   Shakespeare is not for them

What separates Shakespeare and one or two other great writers from the
sentimental triviality of most generalizations is that his works
stimulate thinking and reflection, and reward both by taking one to
places one would otherwise not reach, but from where can be found a
higher, broader, and ultimately more tolerant understanding of the world
in general.  (That's not to deny the existence of those who take the
moral of Romeo and Juliet to be "Obey your parents;" of Hamlet "death
with honor above all"; of Othello, "stick to your own kind."  There's
real codswallop for you, and Shakespeare is not for them, either.)

I may not love reading, watching, or talking about Shakespeare exactly
the same way Don Bloom does, but neither would I look forward eagerly to
talking about Shakespeare with someone who didn't also love to read and
watch with Don's enthusiasm.

Tony Burton


[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           S. L Kasten <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005 22:47:02 +0200
Subject: 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

Terence Hawkes quotes Don Bloom:  '

 >WS has lasted through
 >the centuries because there remain plenty of us who simply love reading
 >and watching and talking about and teaching his work.'

and then remarks:

 >"Oh dear. At such moments, am I the only person into whose mind words
 >such as 'sentimental', 'simple-minded' and 'codswallop' gently drift?
 >So does the word 'circular', but perish the thought

                     ***********************
Don

I think that in using the word "circular" T. Hawkes is pointing out that
the portion of the quote before the word "because" and the portion after
mean roughly the same thing, (has lasted = there remain) or that these
portions could be interchanged, in which case the resulting sentence
would still make sense, albeit a cynical rather than a sentimental sense.

It may be that the use of the word "simply" set him off.  "Shakespeare"
"Simple"?  Would this qualify as an oxymoron?

I personally would question "there remain", feeling that "the passage of
time 'engenders' new populations that ....." might be more appropriate.

Whatever, in view of the fact that most of the extravagances that
sometimes find there way onto the list don't merit a comment from
Hawkes, I would suggest taking his comments as a compliment:  he
presumably thinks you can do better.  He is often right.

Best wishes,
Syd Kasten

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 09:07:33 +0100
Subject: Less said the better, it seems
Comment:        SHK 16.1221 Less said the better, it seems

Neither Bloom nor Young tackle Hawkes's observation that Bloom's initial
assertion was "circular" with anything like sufficiency. The circularity
was of the obvious kind - utterly tautological - and of the kind
characteristic of the modes of power. I believe that this was something
like what Hawkes was drawing attention to.

Young writes, "I don't believe cultural energies attach themselves
simply by chance to a body of work.  The body of work needs to be large
enough and of sufficient complexity that it can do the cultural work it
is called on to do."

Of course these things don't happen by "chance" - adducing and
understanding the reasons they happen is the work of the various forms
of historicism and cultural materialism, after all.

There is plenty of evidence of and scholarly comment on the fact that it
took Shakespeare's reputation an awful long time to take off. I am
currently re-reading Pepys' Diary. I am about halfway through. Pepys
loved the theatre (to the extent that he seems to make a New Year's
resolution to cut down on his attendance every year; but then he also
resolves to stop his extra-marital fumblings), and mentions seeing many
plays. But so far he's only mentioned seeing a couple by Shakespeare,
and the first was A Midsummer Night's Dream, which he said he would
never bother to see again, "for it is the most insipid ridiculous play
that ever I saw in my life." The only pleasure he got from it was seeing
"some good dancing and some handsome women" (Diary, Nov 29, 1662). I'm
sure I recall his making some more positive comments about Shakespeare's
plays later on, but it seems clear that he and the culture around him
regard Jonson as the more likely to enjoy the favour of posterity.

It's not simple "largeness" or "complexity" that makes a particular
culture at a particular time admire a work of art, but rather more
specific attributes answering rather more specific needs. And surely no
one on this list has to be reminded that everyone's needs are not the
same (if that's not a contradiction)?

m

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