The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0135  Monday, 27 January 2003

From:           David Evett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 25 Jan 2003 22:28:04 -0500
Subject: 14.0124 Re: Shakespeare Usurped
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0124 Re: Shakespeare Usurped

The question Sam Small raises-and it is important-is finally a question
of genre.  The work of epic (from *Gilgamesh* to *The Lord of the Rings*
on film) is to reassert the most deeply held communal values of the
society to which the particular poem belongs.  (I'm aware of the
ambiguities of that last phrase.)  Along the way, the epic text may
question, even challenge, those values.  But it does, finally, enact and
endorse them.  The work of drama (from Aeschylus  to Caryl Churchill) is
to interrogate the most overtly held values of the society to which the
work belongs.  Along the way, the drama may affirm those values.  But it
does not, finally, unequivocally enact and endorse them.

Tolkien, the student and writer of epic, and Shakespeare, the student
and writer of drama, inhabit substantially different esthetic, moral,
and social realms. I have never had the least difficulty in finding
central places for both their ouevres in my own reader's and
theater-goer's life, nor felt the least compunction about introducing
both of them to my children. I hope I have also been wise enough to know
that no work of art by itself (not Shakespeare, not Tolkien, not the
Bible, not the Koran) adequately accounts for all that goes on in the
world in which we have to live.  But I find the visions of Tolkien and
Shakespeare more instructive about that world than many other visions.

David Evett

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