The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0211  Sunday, 27 January 2002

From:           Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 26 Jan 2002 09:46:21 -0500
Subject:        Critical Principles

An actor who steps onto a stage to perform Shakespeare (or any other
playwright) makes himself part of a living artwork.  He thereby exposes
his entire actor's persona to critical judgment.  This includes not only
his skill, intelligence, imagination and conceptual powers, but also his
face, physique, voice, age, height, weight, race, ethnicity and sexual
orientation.  The critic is free to comment on each and every one of
these attributes, their suitability to the role in question, the ways in
which the actor has used, misused, disguised or flaunted them, and
whether they enhance or compromise the artistic result.  And others, of
course, are free to disagree with him.

As for sexual orientation, this is an age in which criticism in all
fields is obsessed with the artist's sexuality.  Articles, monographs
and entire books have been written about the homosexuality of authors,
painters and composers, and the ways in which their orientation affected
their artistic product.  The idea that drama critics should be debarred
from discussing the same issue is ridiculous.  Perhaps some feel that
the critic should discuss the issue only when his ultimate assessment is
positive rather than negative.  I don't think that a principled argument
can be made in support of such a distinction, but I'm certainly willing
to listen to one.

By "principled" I mean critically principled, i.e, intellectually and
aesthetically justifiable.  It would be relatively easy to make a
political argument in favor of such a distinction, but I don't believe
that political concerns should affect artistic judgment.  Those who wish
to argue that "all artistic judgments are political," etc. etc., are
welcome to do so, but I've never found that convincing either.

--Charles Weinstein

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