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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: February ::
Deceitful Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0038  Wednesday, 15 February 2006

[1] 	From: 	Jim Blackie <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 14 Feb 2006 14:10:38 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0030 Deceitful Plays

[2] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 14 Feb 2006 23:22:10 +0000
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0030 Deceitful Plays


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jim Blackie <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 14 Feb 2006 14:10:38 -0500
Subject: 17.0030 Deceitful Plays
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0030 Deceitful Plays

<Arnie Perlstein >

 >It is my opinion that Shakespeare's practice in regard to mysteries in
 >his plays was twofold: (i) he would temporarily mislead the
 >audience/reader by setting up certain apparent circumstances, but then
 >explicitly debrief us/them sometime during the play as to how those
 >apparent circumstances were not actual. Hermione is an extreme example
 >of that; and (ii) he would permanently mislead the audience/reader by
 >setting up certain apparent circumstances, but then not explicitly
 >debrief us, but instead would create leave it to the inquisitive reader
 >to dig deeper and realize that there has been a mystery all along which
 >was solved "offstage".

Being familiar with the plays in questions and having read the responses 
here in the forum, I cannot understand Arnie Perlstein's persistence in 
equating Shakespeare with some cheap plot trickster, busily setting up a 
repetitious series of some strange dramatic shell games with the 
audience. <New points, I hope, follow directly>The examples he provided 
in earlier messages have been ably refuted by others as untrue - the 
audience is never fooled into believing one thing while another is true. 
It is time to become disabused of this notion and stop following this 
notion down some rabbit hole looking for a Deus ex Machina. To accuse 
him of this demeans his writing and suggests his enjoyment of a smug 
superiority over an audience of simpletons. WS never insults his audience.

<Larry Weiss >

 >>"Elsewhere, we see Julia, Portia, Rosalind, Kent, and Edgar disguising
 >>themselves.....His providential escape is announced to Horatio and us 
early
 >>in 4.6."

<Arnie Perlstein >

 >But is it really providential? Is it even real? My point is that all
 >these masqueraders/disguisers/dissemblers in his plays are there for a
 >metadramatic reason, i.e., that they are stand-ins for Shakespeare
 >himself, in relation to his audience.

While I agree that it is always useful to the intellect to question the 
meaning of what we read (or view on stage), there comes a point where 
this examination no longer can bear any decent fruit. The question "What 
is reality?" won't help us out here, neither will ignoring the obvious 
intentions of the author and substituting our own existential 
uncertainties into the play and labeling it something esoteric, such as 
"meta-drama," or some other post Renaissance meta-concept. So let's 
backtrack. --  The point being defended by others is that WS has written 
what he intended, has made it as clear as he was able, and that it 
was/is understandable by his audience. The point being made about a 
disguise seems simple and apparent to me: *the wearer of the disguise is 
not what he seems*. If there is some other point to this, it cannot be 
some Hitchcockian self-revelation of an actor/playwright named Will 
Shakespeare who was familiar but not famous for much of his career.

Would he engage in some self-congratulatory scheme such as this, which 
screams "what a clever lad am I!"?  He clearly was known for his work in 
his "post-early" period, but was by no means some Elizabethan celebrity 
winking at the audience with a self-conscious, self-centered 
"meta-presence" on the stage. He was no Andy Warhol. Is there a need to 
continue to insist on sub-texts when there is no textual support for any 
of this? What would even be the point?

Jim Blackie

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 14 Feb 2006 23:22:10 +0000
Subject: 17.0030 Deceitful Plays
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0030 Deceitful Plays

Arnie Perlstein believes "most of the audience is onstage, but doesn't 
even realize it."

Arnie's emphasis on Shakespeare's pervasive ambiguity rather than 
blatant deception is well-taken.

Let me illustrate. Early in HAMLET, Claudius chastises the inky-garbed 
Prince for his unmanly grief as "a fault to nature...whose common 
theme/Is death of fathers.../From the first corse till he that died 
today..." Did the first corpse Abel die a natural death? Does anyone in 
this tragedy, parent or child, die a natural death? Is this 
Shakespeare's way of slyly reminding us that unnatural manslaughter 
comes naturally to Fallen Man?

Moreover, the young in this play die, like Abel, before they can wed and 
bear fruit in Holy Matrimony. Is the Devil at work here? Christian 
doctrine held that envious Satan strove not only to damn the souls of 
the willing, but to do so before they could partake of the Sacrament of 
Matrimony and reproduce themselves. In HAMLET the possessed elders, 
after sinfully abusing each other, pass on their demons (mouth-to-ear) 
to their young who proceed to sinfully abuse each other in a suffocating 
atmosphere of suicidal distrust and suspicion, all ending in madness and 
fruitless death. The Demonic is not restricted merely to the Ghost. The 
Demonic, allied with the elders, blasts the budding young and blocks 
their attempts at friendship and fertile love. Does Death extend a 
demonic claw to snap the "envious sliver", supplanting any wedding 
procession with one of burial for the possessed Ophelia?

Finally, why does Claudius designate childless Abel as the first 
"father", murdered by his brother Cain, a natural father of children? 
Are we being signaled that Claudius is young Hamlet's true father? For 
that matter, who is young Fortinbras' true sire. Was it his uncle 
Norway, now impotent and bedridden? Or, irony of ironies, had sinful 
King Hamlet partaken of the widow Fortinbras, another of the victor's 
spoils, as was so often the case. Has the true and rightful heir to King 
Hamlet come to power in Denmark at last?

Tis a puzzlement!

Joe Egert

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