The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0823  Monday, 17 April 2000.

From:           Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 15 Apr 2000 17:06:14 -0400
Subject: 11.0761 Re: How Shakespeare Invented History
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0761 Re: How Shakespeare Invented History

 Tony Burton says:

>So as I read the sequence, the direction of growth is from a group
>mentality to an individual mentality, which I think can be described
>loosely speaking, as progress.  Granted, the excesses of untutored
>individualism were, as they still are, grievous and noticeable,

David Riesman would attribute this "progress" to the printing press,
which turned reading into a universal activity.  It is in reading, he
argues, that we develop "inner-direction," and this process allowed the
culture to progress from the "tradition-direction" of pre-modernity.
Marx, on the other hand, would attribute it to the rise of primitive
accumulation (i.e.  incipient capitalism) whose growing influence
contributed to an individualistic world view for reasons that should be
obvious.  The Merchant speaks "alwey th'increas of his wynning."  Since
we have yet to witness the consequences of global climate change brought
about by the excesses of untutored individualism, I think we must
suspend judgment as to whether this change can in any way be considered

>This is not to say that the barons themselves might not have agreed with
>the "advance to barbarism" description of the tetralogy sequences, but I
>wouldn't saddle Shakespeare with that point of view.  He seems usually
>to be one step ahead of his readers, not behind them

I think his views developed over the course of his career, and that the
principles he embraced during the early period of comedies, he came to
revile in the middle period of his tragedies.  I certainly don't think
he was unambiguously in favor of the progress to individualism.  The
Edmund/Goneril/Regan faction has been used as evidence of a certain
antipathy, while Lear's retainer problem is evidence of some sympathy
with the Barons.


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