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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: April ::
Stratford
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0353  Tuesday, 25 April 2006

[1] 	From: 	Cary DiPietro <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 25 Apr 2006 02:28:24 +0900
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0343 Stratford

[2] 	From: 	Gabriel Egan <
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	Date: 	Monday, 24 Apr 2006 20:10:20 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0343 Stratford


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Cary DiPietro <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 25 Apr 2006 02:28:24 +0900
Subject: 17.0343 Stratford
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0343 Stratford

Shouldn't we be drawing a distinction here between the inevitable 
hyperbole of marketing agencies and PR reps, and the theatrical venture 
as an aesthetic act?  Sure, we might bemoan the commodity fetishism of a 
theatrical industry taken to its logical conclusion - both new (never 
done before) and superlative (what will they do next?) - the crass 
materialism of it all mystified (and not very well) by a universalizing 
humanism.  But it's also very cool theatre.  Cynics stay home - I'd love 
to be in Stratford this year.

That aside, the continued momentum of the Shakespeare industry, 
especially for those of us yet to retire, is surely rather comforting - 
at least we'll all have jobs (for the next few years at any rate).

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Gabriel Egan <
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Date: 		Monday, 24 Apr 2006 20:10:20 +0100
Subject: 17.0343 Stratford
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0343 Stratford

Carol Barton wrote of

 >. . . the tackiness of the general Stratfordian "ambience,"
 >Terence--where they have been showing a home as
 >Mary Arden's that's actually down the road from the
 >Arden house, and reporting all sorts of misinformation
 >of other kinds as "fact" to unsuspecting tourists.

That won't do as a critique of Stratford, because there's no one 'they' 
at work here. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust certainly were showing 
the wrong building as Mary Arden's house, but it was an honest mistake 
and moreover the same Trust did much to disseminate the new knowledge 
when it was uncovered. A mark of the Trust's careful custodianship is 
the fact that in the 1960s it had bought the house that turned out to be 
the right one, merely because it was nearby and typical of the period. A 
more cynical approach is easily imagined. There are criticisms to be 
made of the Trust, but this isn't one of them.

I'd like to hear what other "misinformation" Barton thinks the Trust is 
peddling. I'd accept that the private tour guides in Stratford say many 
silly things, but I've no doubt the ones in Florence and Sidney do too.

 >For something I wanted all my life to see, the
 >birthplace was a huge disappointment. I wouldn't
 >have been surprised to learn that the swans were
 >mechanical, or the Arden artificially replicated. This
 >[the complete works season]  promises to be more
 >of the same.

It seems implied here that the birthplace is a fake and that Barton was 
disappointed when she realized that it was. If so, evidence is required. 
If not-if Barton was just disappointed that a 16th-century house isn't 
as she expected-then I'd suggest that this was a valuable learning 
experience. Indeed, that she'd all her life wanted to see the place that 
Shakespeare was born was probably the root of the problem: the house 
itself doesn't explain very much at all about the writing, so the 
experience was bound to be deflating. The attraction of the birthplace 
does tell us quite a bit about the Shakespeare industry, but Barton 
doesn't seem to want to engage with the narrative of commerce's 
intersection with culture that it exemplifies.  Rather, her world has 
turned to trash and even the poor swans are now under suspicion. ("The 
Arden" Shakespeare is of course "artificially replicated", as all 
editions are; if Barton means something else then I'm afraid it's not 
clear what. The forest, perhaps?)

The claims about Shakespeare made by directors are often to be 
discounted; these people's specific professional concerns seldom help to 
enhance their capacities for wider cultural criticism. But Barton's 
'they' just doesn't exist: the RSC isn't the Birthplace Trust isn't the 
replica Globe isn't the Stratford tourist industry. These institutions 
and fields of commercial activity intersect and overlap, but a critique 
of one doesn't touch them all, and only by laying blame at the right 
door is cultural and political criticism performed.

Gabriel Egan

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