The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0169  Thursday, 13 March 2008

From:		Sam Small <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Thursday, 13 Mar 2008 15:15:44 -0000
Subject:	American and English Eyes

As an Englishman who thinks of himself as culturally 100% American, I 
have tried to fathom the difference in social sensibilities between the 
two countries when considering the great plays of Shakespeare. America 
was founded on the sweat, blood and tears of the unlettered working 
classes of Europe. Later banks and other corporations exploited this 
amazing achievement. To this day there is fond deference to any working 
class origin when expressed by most middle or upper class Americans.

In England it is the exact opposite. The Norman invasion, the foundation 
of the modern English state, murdered and exiled the rightful English 
ruling class. The English working classes were losers and were deeply 
ashamed of their rout. They have never recovered. In time the French 
aristocracy became the British gentry creating the industrial revolution 
and social disaster.  To this day there is fond deference to any 
aristocratic origin when expressed by most working or middle classes 
from the UK.

Given the surprising differences between the two histories are there 
distinctive American or English views of the plays? Is Othello, Richard 
III, Henry V or Macbeth viewed more sympathetically on one side of the 
pond or the other? Or any differences?

Clearly there is the unfortunate "Archers syndrome" in most of 
Shakespeare plays. That is, royalty and the middle classes are often 
intelligent, chase love, are taller, often gullible with little humour. 
The working classes are often dim, chase sex, are shorter, often very 
cunning and given to much wise cracking.

So how do Americans view this? Is it foreign to them? Or English quaint?

Stars and Stripes forever


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