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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: June ::
The Big Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0548  Thursday, 8 June 2006

[1] 	From: 	Donald Bloom <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 7 Jun 2006 09:57:31 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0540 The Big Question

[2] 	From: 	Terence Hawkes <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 7 Jun 2006 17:17:40 +0100
	Subj: 	The Big Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Donald Bloom <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 7 Jun 2006 09:57:31 -0500
Subject: 17.0540 The Big Question
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0540 The Big Question

Tony Burton writes: "I'd like to propose that we make a distinction 
between a writer whose work is deeply moral and one who is a moralist. 
I find something inescapably didactic and shallow in the notion of a 
Moralist."

I'm glad he's dragged this out into the light of day. If the term 
"moralist" is used to mean a writer who is "inescapably didactic and 
shallow," then we are not likely to want such a term applied to the IB. 
  If we use the term to mean a writer who writes within (and in reaction 
to) some kind of moral context then he could hardly be anything else. 
Even a psychopath exists in a moral context, though its contents may 
mean nothing to him.

Accepting the latter idea (whether we apply the term "moralist" to it or 
not) we can try to figure out just what the moral content or conflict is 
in a given play. Here our knowledge of the author's whole body of work, 
important critical commentaries, and the history of his time should 
help. Also helpful would be some knowledge of our own moral precepts, 
remembering that what we find in Shakespeare is largely what we are 
looking for in him, that is, what we ourselves believe.

We have been through many of these before (as, for example, if A spits 
on B and calls him nasty names, is B therefore justified in trying to 
have A judicially murdered?). As long as we make clear to ourselves 
individually and collectively what our moral context is, we can argue 
about it quite happily. What screws it up is usually confusing a 
conflict of moral contexts for a conflict of judgments within a given 
context.

In the example cited, within my moral context, no amount of spitting and 
name-calling justifies murder, but others have different contexts and 
thus disagree.

Cheers,
don

P.S. "Didactic" is a troubling word as a pejorative. Why should it be 
bad or inferior as a quality of writing? We clearly haven't gotten to 
the bottom (shallow or otherwise) of what's wrong with "moralism."

PPS. I think the comparison of literature to music and the plastic arts 
should be dropped. On the one hand, although the metaphor is appealing, 
I believe it is literally impossible to react to a work of literature as 
one reacts to the others. Moreover, even the others come out of a 
cultural context that can generate a moral response in those of other 
cultures -- such as fear, anger, hate, and a desire to lash out violently.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Terence Hawkes <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 7 Jun 2006 17:17:40 +0100
Subject: 	The Big Question

'Shakespeare's art is that his stories don't deliver or require any poke 
in the ribs, allowing what you "get" to be very different from what I 
"get."  What nonsense, Tony Burton. Suppose I claimed that 'Hamlet' was 
about football?

T. Hawkes

PS As distinguished from 'King Lear', of course.

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