The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0592  Friday, 23 June 2006

From: 		John Crowley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Friday, 23 Jun 2006 07:36:41 -0400
Subject: 	The Small Question

Sam Small is unsatisfied that we have accounted for Shakespeare's moral 
effect in the world that regards him as Top Writer.  Shouldn't we, 
having given out this award, be able to show that Shakespeare has done 
more to improve the world than any other writer?  Or at least that he 
has had a demonstrable effect for the better on human life?  Or at least 
SOME good effect, and if not that, then no bad effect?

Well, if this is a competition, maybe Mr. Small could name a few others 
who have had a good moral influence over the centuries, ones he perhaps 
would consider for top places.  I am trying myself, and wondering what 
measure to use.  There are a few witnesses to the good moral influence 
of WS, but not nearly as many (I would think) as to the Gospel writers, 
say, if they are even to get credit for those works.  George Eliot 
instructed a generation or two in right thinking, Victorian style; 
Dickens can be credited for improving the conditions of prisons and 
workhouses and possibly for the treatment of children, at least in 
English-speaking countries.  I think, though, that a list figured on 
these principles would look a little odd, if restricted to the writers 
of imaginative literatuire and excluding hortatory moralists (Plato, 
Bacon, Confucius).  Strange to have a list that would put -- say  -- 
"All Quiet on the Western Front" or "The Man with the Golden Arm" or 
Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" above -- say -- "Madame Bovary" and 
"Ulysses" and the works of WS.  Hard even to imagine where Marlowe and 
Webster would fall, the bottom I guess, down with pornographers and 
novels by Nazis, though Dante might rank high still.  Something is, 
however, very wrong here, and Mr. Small might look into "The Secular 
Scripture" by Northrop Frye for a sophisticated account of what 
imaginative literature is really about, and what it is not about, and 
how much this has distressed readers who share Mr. Small's apparent view 
of its worth or lack thereof.

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Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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