The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0030  Thursday, 6 January 2000.

From:           Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 05 Jan 2000 09:58:06 -0800
Subject: 11.0027 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0027 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

>>Moreover, the fact that something is in
>>a play isn't simply common sense.  Some people, not to mention whole
>>cultures, may have no concept of play-acting.
>Out of curiosity, which whole cultures? In any case, do any members of
>this list belong to such a culture? A relevant point, I think, if
>culture has any relation to ethics.

Not really.  Just to admit that there might be such cultures makes the
concept of play-acting not explicable on the grounds of common sense.
Unless we make our own culture universal, and claim that what we accept
as normal is simply given, the idea of play-acting still requires an
explanation.  Invoking its name doesn't get us anywhere.

Though an example isn't really necessary, I thought I'd offer one:  in
the film "The Piano", a Maori invited to a production of "Bluebeard"
charges the stage about half-way through, shouting "Wretch!  Taste my
club!". He's unique amongst the male characters in the movie for trying
to protect any of the women around him.  In fact, I fnd him uniquely

>>Everyone's seen a child
>>at a movie who weeps unconsolably for the death of a fictional
>Of course, some (Aristotle, for example) might find such weeping to be
>the point of it all.

Yes, probably.  But what does this show?  That we're to confuse the
stage and the real world?  That we're to care about the play world but
without what the Protestant theologians of the 16th century would call
"lively virtue"?

>>Even if we were to grant the concept of play-acting, it's still not
>>clear why that implies that we shouldn't intervene.
>But the 'concept of play-acting' should make that clear, shouldn't it?
>(Interactive drama aside.)

Interactive drama is a liminal case, but one that I think is
interesting. Still, even if we leave it aside, "the concept of
play-acting" doesn't really explain very much.  It's just a label put on
what we still haven't explained.  Somewhere in his essay on Lear,
Stanley Cavell points out that saying the stage is a "fictional setting"
doesn't get us off the hook because 1) nobody knows what a fictional
setting is; 2) if it means anything, it's that we're not to do anything,
which is just to restate the problem.

>So, is leaving the play a means of facing the problem, a kind of
>protest?  A boycott might be seen as an ethical response to a
>questionable staging of a play, but not as a determinant of Macbeth's
>fate. The idea of assigning to the audience the 'guilt' for the fate of
>a character is daft.

We're guilty, I would say, for his existence, to which we assent by
being there.  This includes both his fate and his freedom.

>Sure, if we've any standards of conduct, we're all guilty, but it's not
>of Duncan's murder.

Don't be so sure.  I mean, don't we come expecting to see a play?  And
would there be a play without Duncan's murder?


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