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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: June ::
The Big Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0518  Thursday, 1 June 2006

[1] 	From: 	Bob Grumman <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 30 May 2006 11:58:20 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0513 The Big Question

[2] 	From: 	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 30 May 2006 20:17:10 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0513 The Big Question

[3] 	From: 	Dan Decker <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 30 May 2006 23:43:10 EDT
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0513 The Big Question

[4] 	From: 	Sam Small <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 31 May 2006 15:39:20 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0513 The Big Question

[5] 	From: 	David Basch <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 31 May 2006 11:00:25 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0513 The Big Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bob Grumman <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 30 May 2006 11:58:20 -0400
Subject: 17.0513 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0513 The Big Question

Donald Bloom is "baffled" as to "how an artist can avoid being a 
moralist." One way would be to write music.  But, of course, the problem 
is one of definition.  If you define an artist as one who constructs 
works intended to appeal to our aesthetic sense PRIMARILY, and a 
moralist as one who tells people how to behave PRIMARILY, there's no 
problem.

I have no problem with making artworks a subject of moral study, 
incidentally--but that doesn't make their makers moralists.

--Bob G.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John W. Kennedy <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 30 May 2006 20:17:10 -0400
Subject: 17.0513 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0513 The Big Question

Donald Bloom <
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 >it baffles me how an artist can avoid being a moralist.

Why, in the same way that a gardener can -- by cultivating his garden.

Morality, of course, may still arise as a result. A dear friend, 
recently deceased, once called "Babylon 5" "the most moral show on 
television", and I think she was right to call it so. But the 
inspiration that suddenly struck J. Michael Straczynski so that he 
stumbled out of the shower and scribbled notes in a white heat was that 
his two long-cherished wishes, to do a grand science-fiction epic in the 
manner of the Golden Age, and to show that a science-fiction television 
series could be done on a budget by structuring it along the lines of 
"Hill Street Blues", were one and the same idea.

C. S. Lewis records that the Chronicles of Narnia were written to 
provide a setting for a mental image of a faun (in the Greek sense) 
walking through a snowstorm, carrying Christmas packages.

John W. Kennedy

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Dan Decker <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 30 May 2006 23:43:10 EDT
Subject: 17.0513 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0513 The Big Question

Is all drama allegory? Is there no other form for drama to inhabit?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Sam Small <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 31 May 2006 15:39:20 +0100
Subject: 17.0513 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0513 The Big Question

But what do we all mean by "morals"?  Do we mean right or wrong?  For or 
against the law of our land?  If art, in some way, is to enlighten the 
viewer then what is moral enlightenment?  And is sin universal?

If we broadly deconstruct morality into "good behaviour" and "bad 
behaviour" then the artist is faced with describing either activity in a 
way that will enlighten the viewer.  In condemning "bad behaviour", 
which Shakespeare did constantly, the one sure method is dramatic, 
convincing consequences.  And this is the key to all moral definitions. 
  If a thing is a sin it has harmful consequences - if not it is not a sin.

But un-evolved, naive or plainly arrogant people - like Macbeth, Othello 
or even Hamlet - will never consider consequences of a planned action. 
If Jesus can be considered a moral artist his message of the 
consequences of sin went beyond the grave.  Hamlet's father was perhaps 
in that realm.

And from Jesus onwards philosophers, moralists and artists have grappled 
with the awful consequences of true sin and the identification of 
imaginary sin concocted by people in power for their own gain - or just 
plain delusion.  Some Christians in the 1950s called rock'n'roll sinful. 
  Now many of them use it.  That was plain bad art.

SAM SMALL

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Basch <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 31 May 2006 11:00:25 -0400
Subject: 17.0513 The Big Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0513 The Big Question

Kent Cartwright has a mature view of art as an activity that embodies 
many values. But if we take the central meaning of art as "artistry," a 
product of great skill, which was what the term probably meant at first, 
then this aspect will always be of priority importance.

Meanwhile, consider abstract mosaics of the kind that abounds in the 
Middle East. The artistic product itself is divorced from morality, as 
would be the case of music, which too is an abstract kind of art, though 
each stirs emotions by virtue of their expressive dimensions. Here the 
problem of morality does not come up at all, indicating that artistry 
can be an aspect separate from moral considerations.

On the other hand, in literature dealing with subjects that pertain to 
human life lived within a social context, morality may play an integral 
part in a work's artistry. When the servant is run through in King Lear 
by the master who the servant attempted to restrain from committing a 
cruel, barbarous act, the event has striking moral implications, as do 
events in the entire play. One need only note how many movies today are 
polemics for particular views of morality, with some of these being 
better than others and with some, though having excellent dramatic 
features, putting forth flawed and objectionable moral perspectives. In 
the latter cases, we may find ourselves praising the films' dramatic 
artistry while rejecting their moral stance.

Shakespeare's work tends to give the whole of life, capturing moral 
ambiguities and verities even as it wraps them in dramatic packages that 
are most skillfully realized. So successful has the poet depicted the 
human condition in events that we find that his morality tends to 
satisfy conditions transcending his time and reaching to conditions that 
we find morally pertinent and valid today.

On this point, some may at times disagree, as in the case of The 
Merchant of Venice, where it is alleged that the poet embraced the 
anti-Semitic morality of his time. But then the jury is still out on 
such works as the world tries to catch up with their meaning and the 
poet's depth and moral understanding. For example, in the latter play, 
when Portia makes a world famous plea that Shylock show mercy to Antonio 
but then, moments later when she is in control, she refrains from 
showing mercy to Shylock, the poet is making a moral point about 
hypocrisy. The poet even has characters in the play allude to this issue 
in passing, like Portia and Bassanio, just to make sure the issue it is 
not overlooked by audiences but which, in fact, is indeed regularly 
overlooked.

David Basch

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