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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: June ::
Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0358  Thursday, 7 June 2007

[1] 	From: 	Abigail Quart <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 16 May 2007 05:25:24 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0341 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

[2] 	From: 	Gabriel Egan <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 15 May 2007 23:00:43 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0341 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

[3] 	From: 	Edmund Taft <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 17 May 2007 10:48:03 -0400
	Subj: 	Distinguishing Goneril from Regan


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Abigail Quart <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 16 May 2007 05:25:24 -0400
Subject: 18.0341 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0341 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

Elliott H. Stone writes:

 >"We all puzzle when
 >we read the Shakespeare plays and poems over the most pleasing and
 >sophisticated thoughts. The depths of the works can never be plumbed in a
 >single performance on the stage. We need to read the works over and over
 >again. Can we honestly believe that Shakespeare was writing just for an
 >uneducated class of yeoman who filled up the yard and rough benches at 
the
 >Globe?"

Spoken words meant more then. All people had back then were words. We 
have a highly visual culture with huge movie screens and vast close-ups 
to give details.  We have photography. They had perhaps, a few paintings 
and sketches, laboriously done. We show, they told. We don't focus on 
words the way they did. Our utterances can afford to lack the depth 
theirs did because we have other ways to convey meaning. We don't 
realize how much that changes us from the people who lived before these 
last few centuries.

We have avalanches of books, newspapers, magazines, and the internet to 
read. Those that could read then had a few precious books and letters. 
We have public libraries. What did they have?

We have freedom of speech. They could be arrested for saying the wrong
thing. Lack of freedom fosters secret languages, codes, levels of meaning we
simply don't bother with because we can come right out and say what we mean.

It's possible that if we could hook up a few Elizabethans to one of our 
modern diagnostic machines, their brains would light up very differently 
from ours, because words were so much more important, and knowing the 
correct meanings of secretive phrases so much more dangerous. They had 
no film techniques like panning, or closeups, or intercutting to make 
things crystal clear. Just words. Only words. The picture that is worth 
a thousand words didn't exist for the common man.

Thus, that "uneducated yeoman" may have understood far more of 
Shakespeare's dialog than we do simply because he had a lifetime's 
experience of getting the most possible meaning from words he heard 
because he had no other way of obtaining information that could be life 
or death. Relaxing at a play would not change the way he habitually 
listened.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Gabriel Egan <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 15 May 2007 23:00:43 +0100
Subject: 18.0341 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0341 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

Elliott Stone asks a familiar question:

 >Can we honestly believe that Shakespeare was
 >writing just for an uneducated class of yeoman
 >who filled up the yard and rough benches at the
 >Globe?

I'll leave the argument from Lukas Erne's work for others to make, and 
just want to comment that it's odd to assume that the Globe was full of 
uneducated yeoman. Writing about Brome and Heywood's play The Witches of 
Lancashire, Nathaniel Tomkyns in August 1634 reported himself surprised 
at the number of "fine folk, gentlemen and gentlewomen" he found 
watching it at the Globe. They were so numerous, he wrote, that he 
thought their number exceeded all that London held of this type at this 
time of year, the summer vacation. The play is considerably less 
poetically complex than any of Shakespeare's. I imagine the benches were 
not rough, since fine folk were content to sit on them.

Gabriel Egan

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Edmund Taft <
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Date: 		Thursday, 17 May 2007 10:48:03 -0400
Subject: 	Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

Elliott Stone asks, "Can we honestly believe that Shakespeare was 
writing just for an uneducated class of yeoman who filled up the yard 
and rough benches at the Globe?"

That's the claim a lot of scholars have made and still make. But it's 
too limiting. There's no reason why Shakespeare didn't have multiple 
purposes in mind:

1. writing for an immediate audience
2. writing for repeat audiences who want to attend the play again 
because it is so fascinating/interesting/puzzling, etc.
3. writing for posterity.
4. writing for himself.

I suspect that Shakespeare had all of these purposes in mind when 
writing some or most of his plays.

Ed Taft

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