The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0169 Thursday, 13 March 2008
Date: Thursday, 13 Mar 2008 15:15:44 -0000
Subject: American and English Eyes
As an Englishman who thinks of himself as culturally 100% American, I
have tried to fathom the difference in social sensibilities between the
two countries when considering the great plays of Shakespeare. America
was founded on the sweat, blood and tears of the unlettered working
classes of Europe. Later banks and other corporations exploited this
amazing achievement. To this day there is fond deference to any working
class origin when expressed by most middle or upper class Americans.
In England it is the exact opposite. The Norman invasion, the foundation
of the modern English state, murdered and exiled the rightful English
ruling class. The English working classes were losers and were deeply
ashamed of their rout. They have never recovered. In time the French
aristocracy became the British gentry creating the industrial revolution
and social disaster. To this day there is fond deference to any
aristocratic origin when expressed by most working or middle classes
from the UK.
Given the surprising differences between the two histories are there
distinctive American or English views of the plays? Is Othello, Richard
III, Henry V or Macbeth viewed more sympathetically on one side of the
pond or the other? Or any differences?
Clearly there is the unfortunate "Archers syndrome" in most of
Shakespeare plays. That is, royalty and the middle classes are often
intelligent, chase love, are taller, often gullible with little humour.
The working classes are often dim, chase sex, are shorter, often very
cunning and given to much wise cracking.
So how do Americans view this? Is it foreign to them? Or English quaint?
Stars and Stripes forever
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