The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2153  Tuesday, 29 October 2002

From:           H. R. Greenberg <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 28 Oct 2002 17:52:51 EST
Subject:        Poetics Comedy Et cetera. 10 Percent Shakespeare

I am writing a review of the Larry David show and Paul Schrader's new
film AUTO FOCUS, addressing the empathic response of wincing
embarrassment common to both works. I need to know 1) if Aristotle
addressed this issue in the POETICS -- haven't read it for many years,
and I believe only tragedy is discussed, comedic work not extant or some
such and 2) if any lit crit work has been done on this sort of empathy
with a character who is unknowing, utterly maladroit, and elicits in us
a kind of yeasty meld of anxiety, shame, embarrassment, cringing by
proxy, et cetera. Sort of thing where you shout at the screen or stage
in your mind: "O God, don't do it...please..." Fawlty Towers is
exemplary in this fashion.

Your help greatly appreciated. I wouldn't doubt that somewhere in
Shakespeare scholarship, the issue has been addressed, Malvolio
springing to mind immediately.

I think one does not experience the kind of empathic pity for such
characters noted in high tragedy's response, certainly not terror, but a
great deal of awe about their sheer unknowingness and the trouble they
make for themselves or others there from.

HR Greenberg

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