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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: May ::
The Big Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0509  Friday, 26 May 2006

[1] 	From: 	Stephen Rose <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 25 May 2006 08:38:36 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0500 The Big Question

[2] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 25 May 2006 11:57:59 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0500 The Big Question

[3] 	From: 	Bob Rosen <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 25 May 2006 11:59:13 EDT
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0500  The Big Question

[4] 	From: 	Bob Grumman <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 25 May 2006 18:48:20 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0500 The Big Question

[5] 	From: 	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date: 	Friday, 26 May 2006 11:37:25 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0500 The Big Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Stephen Rose <
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Date: 		Thursday, 25 May 2006 08:38:36 -0700
Subject: 17.0500 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0500 The Big Question

You need not publish this but the notion that all artists are moralists 
or even that they should be ignores a broad channel of thought that 
suggests that only by moving beyond notions of what is good and what is 
not can one begin to articulate the truth one sees from a perspective 
that makes the product of artistic value. The last people I knew who 
were seriously contending that artists should be moralists were walking 
around with little red books. Best, S

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Thursday, 25 May 2006 11:57:59 -0400
Subject: 17.0500 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0500 The Big Question

 >John Kennedy declares: "it is aesthetics, and not morality,
 >that is the proper concern of the artist..."
 >
 >But John, "Could beauty have better commerce than with
 >honesty?"

Ay, truly, for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from 
what he is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into 
his image.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bob Rosen <
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Date: 		Thursday, 25 May 2006 11:59:13 EDT
Subject: 17.0500  The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0500  The Big Question

 >Mr Kennedy should not chastise our governments (US &
 >UK) by alluding to "moral issues ... ignored".  There is a
 >world of difference between astonishing incompetence
 >and intelligent evil.  Shakespeare had a view on both.
 >
 >SAM SMALL

Sam,

If Josef Goebbels is an example of "intelligent evil" and George Bush 
represents incompetence -- whether you agree or disagree with his 
ideology, then if I had to choose between them, I think Bush is the 
lesser of two evils.

By analogy, Iago represents intelligent evil. Othello an intelligence 
subtracted by jealousy. But it is Othello who commits the actual crime 
and it is Othello who will be punished by a Western jury.
Othello not only had physical power and authority, but he also had 
options. Dramaturgy aside, WS leaves us in no doubt of that!

How WS treated this comparison is probably revealed by his portrayal of 
Richard III. It is a study of the course of personal intelligent evil. 
On the higher political level, WS shows intelligence subtracted by 
ideology in the career of Brutus and his fellow conspirators.

In almost all cases, WS shifts moral responsibility to the character who 
had the unlimited option in the use of power. Where the character 
self-limits his power or uses it to moral purpose, WS brings us his idea 
of a great man. For example, Prospero.

Bob Rosen

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bob Grumman <
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Date: 		Thursday, 25 May 2006 18:48:20 -0400
Subject: 17.0500 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0500 The Big Question

Sam Small <
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 >

 >John W. Kennedy's formative, if a little tetchy, reply still
 >did not answer the question.  I believe all artists are moralists
 >by definition of their life's work.

Then who is not a moralist?  In which case, what is the meaning of the 
word, "moralist?"  I say we should use words to distinguish A's from 
Not-A's, and therefore call someone who, more than anything else, tells 
us explicitly what the Good is and how we should attain it a moralist, 
and one who, more than anything else, attempts to construct an object of 
beauty an artist.

--Bob G.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John W. Kennedy <
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Date: 		Friday, 26 May 2006 11:37:25 -0400
Subject: 17.0500 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0500 The Big Question

Sam Small <
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 >

 >Surely Macbeth is designed to scare the be-Jesus out of the
 >most casual of viewers who might be tempted to stick in the knife.

"Is designed" here can cover a range of meanings, from "While writing 
the Scottish play, Shakespeare made an effort to have his anti-hero's 
fate as horrid as possible," to "Shakespeare heard a report that 
homicide rates in London were on the rise, and determined to write a 
play about the murder of Duncan as a terrifying example." I utterly 
reject the latter, and I don't think much of the former.

I know how strong the fascination of the Ibsen/Archer/Shaw thesis is. I 
myself well remember being taught in school that there was no theatre 
worthy to be named Art before "A Doll's House", and I constantly feel 
the notion tugging at my sleeve, like the "rules" about split 
infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions. But, like them, it 
is a fallacy, and as sterile as the crudest medieval Morality.

What Shakespeare gives us is something far more profound and far more 
difficult to achieve, not Murder:

     Murder I am, to noo man a true frend.
     The innocent I beare to a wrong ende.
     The widowes teers I laugh & mocke to scorne,
     Likewis the orfan beggyng after corne.

etc., etc., ad nauseam,

but a Murderer:

     How is't with me, when euery noyse appalls me?
     What Hands are here? hah: they pluck out mine Eyes.
     Will all great Neptunes Ocean wash this blood
     Cleane from my Hand? no: this my Hand will rather
     The multitudinous Seas incarnardine,
     Making the Greene one, Red.

Something more fundamental, too, for (as Puritans tend to forget) 
morality, like democracy, is only a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Joseph Egert <
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 >

 >John Kennedy declares: "it is aesthetics, and not morality,
 >that is the proper concern of the artist..."
 >
 >But John, "Could beauty have better commerce than with honesty?"

As someone currently being bashed in other venues for his condemnation 
of "The DaVinci Code" (though there is nearly as little beauty as 
honesty in that deplorable piece of hack prose and junk scholarship), 
and as someone, too, who regards his first reading of "Gaudy Night" as 
one of the formative experiences of his life, I can hardly deny it. 
Nevertheless, I do not insist, as others seem to, that every woman in 
the world would necessarily see her beauty increased if she would but 
put her hair in a bun, sport a pince-nez, and wear a hobble skirt.

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