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Shakespeare the Grain-Dealing Tax Evader

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0182  Tuesday, 16 April 2013

 

[1] From:        Thomas Davis < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         April 15, 2013 5:02:50 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman 

 

[2] From:        John Drakakis < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         April 16, 2013 6:43:43 AM EDT

     Subject:     RE: SHAKSPER: Businessman 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Thomas Davis < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         April 15, 2013 5:02:50 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman

 

Another example comes to mind that might be off-topic but is, at least, about a writer with a claim to the same exalted level of respect.

 

In a recent biography of James Joyce (another of my literary heroes), the most frequently-occurring word seems to be “evicted.” Mostly what Joyce wrote, besides his literary works, were letters to his long-suffering friends and sponsors, asking for more money—which he immediately went out and spent on booze (or extravagantly-priced hotels).

 

Being a writer of great, humane, insightful, and moving works of literature in no way requires that you be a great, humane, insightful, and compassionate person. Many people at the top of their profession are not nice people. 

 

I have no problem seeing Shakespeare as an ungentle man, to paraphrase Katherine Duncan-Jones. The only question in my mind is, why is this news?

 

Tad Davis

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        John Drakakis < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         April 16, 2013 6:43:43 AM EDT

Subject:     RE: SHAKSPER: Businessman

 

I really have gored Michael Egan’s ox, though let me assure him that that was not my intention. I also think that Harry Berger’s timely admonishment is perfectly in order, and is an invitation to think a little more seriously about this issue.

 

In his most recent posting, I think I now see where Egan is coming from, and I have to say that he is confused. As far as I am aware nobody has said that art was not a serious business, and nobody is impugning those writers of some integrity for whom it has come close to being a matter of life or death. The issue is what WE make of a writer like Shakespeare and how we connect the ‘life’ to the writing. I hasten to add (for the benefit of Hardy’s sanity) that this has nothing to do with the ‘authorship’ question whatsoever. Michael Egan needs to realise that WE impose meanings on Shakespeare’s writings, and that we frequently project onto them our own political, personal, and cultural aspirations. This is something that Terence Hawkes in an excellent book, ‘Meaning by Shakespeare’ analysed in detail some 20 years ago, and his championing of the cause of ‘Presentism’ since has extended further. Once Egan manages to disentangle his own commitments from those of a late sixteenth / early seventeenth century writer in the way that only the best literary criticism does, then we can avoid the kind of misunderstanding that allows him to display and trail his conscience.

 

If we say that Shakespeare was a ‘businessman’ this does NOT mean that he was a businessman in the modern sense. He was a sharer in a successful company, but he was also, as far as we can tell, an actor in the same company. This is not the model of business management that is familiar to us. That he was interested in money is not in doubt, but the claim that he was a ‘capitalist’ is ludicrously anachronistic and is rebutted by what we can speculate about his working relationships with his fellow workers. That he evidently aspired to the status of ‘gentleman’ is hardly surprising, but that we should then proceed to make of him some kind of quasi-Reaganite or quasi-Thatcherite (Ding Dong the witch is dead!) aspirant to neo-liberal bourgeois individualism (with or without a tinge of methodist asceticism) capable of uttering the occasional bon mot is to demean what is a much more complicated and a much more interesting phenomenon.

 

Cheers

John Drakakis

 
 

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