Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: July ::
SBReview_9: Shakespeare, Love, and Service
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0271  Saturday, 11 July 2010

From:         Hardy M. Cook <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:         Saturday, July 10, 2010      
Subject:      SBReview_9: Shakespeare, Love, and Service

SBReview_9: 

David Schalkwyk. _Shakespeare, Love, and Service_. Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 2008. ISBN-13: 9780521886390. Pp. x + 317. U.S. $93.

Reviewed by David Evett, Professor Emeritus, Cleveland State University.

David Schalkwyk's book makes a splendid climax to the recent surge of 
publications on Shakespeare and service, following important work by Richard 
Strier, Mark Thornton Burnett, Michael Neill, Linda Anderson, Judith Weil, and 
me. Schalkwyk takes much from his precursors, then adds much of his own. The 
book needs to be read by everybody who wants to understand fully the social and 
emotional relationships that give structure and texture to most of Shakespeare's 
plays. The work has, as well, important implications for the thoughtful 
consideration of service relationships in fields far removed from Early Modern 
English drama.

Indeed, in the aftermath of this study, it becomes difficult to understand how 
service could have gone as largely unnoticed and unconsidered as it did for as 
long as it did, until 1988, when Strier's essay on faithful and disobedient 
service in _King Lear_ (following up, indeed, an earlier but largely disregarded 
essay by Jonas Barish and Marshall Waingrow, 1958) can be said to have peered 
over the wall, and led others to come and look. Before then, across four 
centuries, the people who read and watched Shakespeare took domestic service -- 
the hewing of wood and drawing of water, the carrying of messages and ironing of 
clothes -- more or less for granted. Servants, so called, were by definition and 
in dramatic practice marginal figures: fungible, to use a term important in 
Schalkwyk's analysis, lacking the individuality and self-consciousness so 
crucial to neoclassical, romantic, and modern criticism. (Some comic figures -- 
Juliet's nurse, Feste, Lear's Fool -- did get a little more attention.) Even 
when post-modern Marxist materialism shoved economic and political power 
relationships to the center of critical discourse, the earlier attitudes 
constrained Burnett's pioneering book on service in Elizabethan and Jacobean 
drama (1997) to focus on characters in the lower ranges of the hierarchy. Neill, 
it was, who first strongly showed that ideals and practices of service informed 
relationships within the higher ranks, as well (2000). 

Neill, however, and the three of us who published books in 2005, kept _service_ 
as our defining term. Schalwyck's bunker-busting achievement is to add _love_, 
in all the senses of that complex term to the equation. The word, of course, was 
commonplace in Shakespearean criticism from Dryden on-almost entirely, however, 
with reference to erotically charged relations between men and women. Schalkwyk, 
however, stretches the term to include its other traditional meanings, not just 
_eros_ but _agape_, _philia_, and _nomos_, and then, prompted by the complex 
play of the terms in the _Sonnets_, to explore the wonderfully rich and dynamic 
interaction of love and service in the drama. Love, he proposes, is "a complex 
of interwoven orientations to the self and the world, embodied in forms of 
action rather than confined to the inscrutability of an interior affect . . . 
[and] is not merely a value produced within an abstract system of differences 
but is constituted out of its changing, lived relations with concepts such as 
desire and friendship, as well as tenderness and anger, indignation and 
generosity, want and repletion, satisfaction and resentment, pleasure and pain, 
exultation and grief" (7-8). The treatment of love and service in Shakespeare's 
plays arose out of the fact that Shakespeare and his theatrical associates were 
servants themselves, in a society in which service relationships deeply affected 
virtually everyone (the metatheatrical elements of the book, many of which take 
off from the work of Robert Weimann, are stimulating). This treatment informs 
and is informed by other relationships not established through the formal 
subordination of servant to master. 

Schalkwyk carries forward my own argument that the Protestant ideology of 
service incorporated in dynamic ways the paradox that when undertaken by what at 
least appears inwardly to be free choice, service actually becomes a form of 
freedom. Schalkwyk here calls on Hegel's anatomy of the ineluctable 
interdependence of master and servant. Neither can exist without the other. 
Whereas the master's consciousness only depends on recognizing the servant as a 
reflection of the master, hence remaining inherently dependent, the servant's 
consciousness is, however, truly independent (40). He, or she, is consequently 
enabled to seek elements of freedom from within the subordinate's role.

The argument begins with the recognition that the theology of service expressed 
in a large corpus of early modern didactic treatments of service insisted on 
reciprocity without equality as an essential feature of divinely ordained 
master-servant relationships. In actuality, however, and in that life as 
represented in the drama, there was (and remains) an inescapable central tension 
"between the duties of reciprocal care that were supposed to inform all 
relations between master and servant and the personal demand for _affective_ 
equality in relations of friendship and love that, unfulfilled, could turn to 
resentment. . . ." These feelings are not typically provoked by disparities of 
wealth and power. "Shakespeare seems to be less interested in ambition and 
avarice than in the complexities of abjection that arise from deeper forms of 
personal intimacy: the need for love, friendship, and devotion; willing self-
sacrifice; and the attendant anxieties and forms of resentment that arise from 
feelings of rejection, betrayal, and neglect" (39). 

Having established these principles through a closely reasoned and widely 
supported argument far too rich to be summarize here, Schalkwyk substantiates 
their critical utility through detailed analysis of eleven plays, ranging across 
all four of the traditional generic clusters, plus the sonnets. The organization 
is thematic rather than chronological, although it does begin with an early 
comedy, _Taming of the Shrew_, and ends with _Winter's Tale_. (The relatively 
tight coverage means that readers interested in service aspects of many plays in 
which they are important will want to consult the more comprehensive studies by 
Anderson and me; the tight focus on Shakespeare means that Burnett and Neill 
remain primary sources for non-Shakespearean texts.) The analysis is uniformly 
intriguing, informative, illuminating, with fresh insights on virtually every 
page: even the treatments of _Lear_ and _Othello_, the plays subjected to the 
most extensive study by other scholars, use the focus on love to open new 
perspectives. 

Only in Chapter 5, on the two parts of _1_ and _2 Henry IV_ and _Antony and 
Cleopatra_, does the level seem to me to drop a little; I think this is because 
Schalkwyk fails to perceive how his own emphasis on the tension between 
reciprocity and inequality can lead a reader to see that the desirable state of 
affective reciprocity is rigidly closed off to monarchs, the only members of 
classical and early modern societies who could, by definition, have no equals. 
That fact means that we do not have to fall back on the materialistic emphasis 
on power that has dominated recent criticism of the Henriad, at least, to 
explain why Hal must change his relationship to Falstaff when he is crowned, or 
why Antony can only restore the close affective relationship of the war-leader 
with his band after it is clear that the loner Octavius, who scorns reciprocity 
from his first appearance in _Julius Caesar_ and shows affection for no one but 
his sister, is going to be the emperor. 

The final two chapters, however, are brilliant, and the last one, on _Winter's 
Tale_, opens the lens even wider by its highly persuasive expansion of the 
argument to incorporate matters of gender. The topic is lightly touched in the 
treatments of _Shrew_, _Othello_, and _Twelfth Night_ that precede it. In this 
late play, however, the development of Paulina most perspicuously amplifies the 
profound connections between the dynamics of patriarchy and the dynamics of 
service. She provides "resistance, healing, and restoration . . . the epitome of 
service in the Shakespearean canon", repeating and amplifying the effects of 
Perdita's words and acts on Polixines. (The process provokes a fine irony: the 
brother kings learn the virtues of servants from the women they thought were 
made to serve them.)  Resistance is crucial.  Obedient service to tyrannical 
masters cannot be true service; in crisis, "Disobedience, critical opposition, 
and judicious counsel are . . . the essence of service" (263). For their own 
reasons, the male servants, Antigonus and Camillus, are unable to supply these. 
Paulina, however, remains remarkably faithful to both mistress and master. Her 
counsel leads him a remarkable place, a willingness to let her choose for him a 
second wife; her disobedience and resistance allow her to produce something that 
feels like a miracle. Leontes' decision, Schalkwyk says, uniquely enacts the 
paradox of freedom in service -- nowhere else embodied in a king (285). In the 
domestic setting of the final scene, metatheater reappears: the kings are 
obliged to be spectators as well as actors, "as if the player were to be held 
accountable for his actions in the part" (292-92). At the very end, Paulina 
retreats, as servants are wont to do, to the sidelines. Leontes gets the final 
words. But as Schalkwyk does not go on to notice, most of that speech is given 
to rewarding her with a version of the gift she has just given him, a loving 
spouse, and the final sentence can be read as bestowing on her the first place 
in this society: "Good Paulina, / Lead us from hence . . . lead away" 5.2.152-
56), a final expression, in an act of service, of the abjection that has led him 
back to love and the world.


Together with the pervasive importance in the argument of the interaction of 
love and service within the quotidian work of the theater, this extension of the 
argument into couples and families beckons us to think about service in our own 
lives and work -- as theater people, teachers, children, parents, citizens. When 
I was still teaching, I used to say, sometimes with conviction, that I loved my 
work. David Schalkwyk's book has got me thinking about where and how I found 
love in my work-how in serving my students and colleagues and readers I 
increased the quantity of love in my life, in myself, and in others. I am 
persuaded that the world would be a better place, a more loving place, if 
everybody in it thought about such things.

At the risk of bathos, I want to end with an all too familiar complaint about 
the copyediting of this expensive book. It is littered with errors, mostly 
small, but cumulatively irritating -- misspellings, misnumberings, solecisms, of 
which "Hall" instead of "Hal" is only one of the more obvious. One of our most 
prestigious academic presses should be ashamed. As the absence of any reference 
to the book's copyeditor in Schalkwyk's acknowledgments (especially in the 
Cavellian sense of that word that the book frequently employs) testifies, it is 
hard to love and serve well somebody half a world away with whom your only 
contact is the mechanical exchange of files on the Internet. It would serve us 
all better if publishers took that service more seriously.


_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the opinions 
expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the editor assumes no 
responsibility for them.
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.