Reply
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Shakespeare's portrayal of women

Great thoughts Alfpro. Here is an article on 'Shakespeare's unruly women' which may help your thought process along:smileyhappy:

http://www.folger.edu/html/exhibitions/unruly_women/




alfprof212 wrote:
Upon reviewing my previous message on this topic, I began to look back into my mental history/knowledge of Shakespeare's female characters. It seems that there might have been a pattern in his portrayal of women...to contrast two female characters in certain plays. I have seen this in plays like MND (Titania and Hippolyta vs. Hermia and Helena), Othello (Emilia vs. Desdemona), and Hamlet (Ophelia vs. Gertrude, though that one is not as distinct, I admit). In my opinion, it seems that Shakespeare uses character foils to show two different sides of femininity - strong, opinionated and certainly feminine vs. shallow, silly and "girly." (SIDE-BAR: These are my opinions of these characters after reading and/or teaching these plays, but I am open to other interpretations.) This is stream-of-consciousness flowing from my exhausted brain, so I'm not sure where it's going. If anyone else has an idea, I would love for someone to "finish my thoughts," as it were. Have fun with that one! :smileyhappy:

Message Edited by alfprof212 on 02-15-200710:18 AM




Frequent Contributor
alfprof212
Posts: 82
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Shakespeare's portrayal of women

Thank you for the article! I'm in the process of reading it and figuring out my thoughts. This may also be helpful in the future when I take on teaching MND again. I always love extra class resources!
New User
MsLee
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎02-15-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Act I: The Court

Cheryl_Shell wrote: The two locales are very different, not only in terms of what takes place, but in what each represents. The court is the place of law, stability and reason; the woods, on the other hand, is the place of magic, metamorphosis and madness.

What is the purpose of making this contrast so evident, do you think? What might Shakespeare have been trying to show us?


Even though I am just starting out here, I am anxious to participate and to get as much as I can from reading this play. In reading the first Act in the play, I was pleasantly amused and loved it. It seems to me that Shakespeare is trying to impart the idea that our actual perceptions of what is real and what is fantasy (for us individually) affect our behavior. In essence behavior is an actual mirroring of our emotions or humanism.
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Act I: The Court

Thankyou for a thoughtful post MsLee. Newcomer or not you certainly made a very good start:smileyhappy: Shakespeare is indeed trying to blur the distinctions between reality and fantasy. When you get to Puck's speech at the very end of the play you may have further thoughts about this (dont peep!:smileysurprised:).



MsLee wrote:
Cheryl_Shell wrote: The two locales are very different, not only in terms of what takes place, but in what each represents. The court is the place of law, stability and reason; the woods, on the other hand, is the place of magic, metamorphosis and madness.

What is the purpose of making this contrast so evident, do you think? What might Shakespeare have been trying to show us?


Even though I am just starting out here, I am anxious to participate and to get as much as I can from reading this play. In reading the first Act in the play, I was pleasantly amused and loved it. It seems to me that Shakespeare is trying to impart the idea that our actual perceptions of what is real and what is fantasy (for us individually) affect our behavior. In essence behavior is an actual mirroring of our emotions or humanism.


Distinguished Wordsmith
Carmenere_lady
Posts: 529
Registered: ‎11-05-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Shakespeare's portrayal of women


alfprof212 wrote:
Upon reviewing my previous message on this topic, I began to look back into my mental history/knowledge of Shakespeare's female characters. It seems that there might have been a pattern in his portrayal of women...to contrast two female characters in certain plays. I have seen this in plays like MND (Titania and Hippolyta vs. Hermia and Helena), Othello (Emilia vs. Desdemona), and Hamlet (Ophelia vs. Gertrude, though that one is not as distinct, I admit). In my opinion, it seems that Shakespeare uses character foils to show two different sides of femininity - strong, opinionated and certainly feminine vs. shallow, silly and "girly." class="time_text">10:18 AM





Good point alfprof! When I first read MND many years ago, I thought the banter between Helena and Demetrius was histerically funny (II,1,187) but now, being older and seeing and hearing about so many women make fools of themselves over men, I find these passages quite pathetic. It makes me wonder if Helena's love for Demetrius isn't love at all, only infatuation, just puppy love. Could that be what S wants to imply with a line like H to D: I am your spaniel (II,1,203)? I can see H & D heading to 16th century love court. :smileyhappy:

Carmen
Lynda

"I think of literature.....as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader


"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
The Time Traveler's Wife

It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
Voltaire
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Shakespeare's portrayal of women

You will find plenty of links to resources on these boards! Look on the Moby Dick Pride & Prejudice, North & South boards, for instance.




alfprof212 wrote:
Thank you for the article! I'm in the process of reading it and figuring out my thoughts. This may also be helpful in the future when I take on teaching MND again. I always love extra class resources!


Reader 2
cjmiller1973
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎01-29-2007
0 Kudos

Re: (Off topic) Everyman: Our own judgement?



Everyman wrote:
to say that we make up our own minds is incorrect - our minds have long ago been conditioned to one thing or another.

Obviously every thought we have is based on inputs from somewhere; naked came we into the world.

But nonetheless there is a vast difference between saying that something must be true because a number of critics say it is so, and reading various opinions but trusting your own judgment and treating what the critics say as input, not as authority.

We must beware of the logical fallacy of the appeal to authority. Just because a number of critics may agree on a point doesn't make it true. We have to examine the facts themselves, using critical comments as a resource, but decide for ourselves whether we agree or disagree.

Often enough the critics will agree on A now, but will soon enough agree on not-A, and then before too much longer come back to A again. After all, if you had listened to the critics in the century after Shakespeare's death you would have thought him a mediocre writer at best. And if the anti-DWM scholars get their way, those times will probably return. Already a number of universities will graduate seniors who have never been required to read a single page of Shakespeare.

So I'm not particularly impressed by a viewpoint just because some critics say it. I'm impressed by what intelligent and thoughtful readers say when their views are backed up by references to the text.




I also am new to all of this, and I must admit that as a teenager, I always wondered if we as critical readers, particularly in a more "scholarly" environment, do not read more into these classics than even the author intended (did an author pick a green light because green symbolizes hope or did he just happen to like green lights). I am just trying to peel away one layer of this text at a time, and enjoying your discussions. In the end, we will each find something(s) we will relate to in the story, and isn't that what enjoying a good piece of literature is all about :smileyhappy:

One thing I wish I had done was attempt to read this through the first time before reading all of the critical summaries. I won't make that mistake the next time.
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: (Off topic) Everyman: Our own judgement?

Some folks find reading the Introduction first helps, some find it hinders, so it is always 'horses for courses':smileyhappy: As for reading more into the classics than the author ever intended, I expect we do but IMO that is also what helps to make them classics, that they can be 'peeled away' century after century.



I also am new to all of this, and I must admit that as a teenager, I always wondered if we as critical readers, particularly in a more "scholarly" environment, do not read more into these classics than even the author intended (did an author pick a green light because green symbolizes hope or did he just happen to like green lights). I am just trying to peel away one layer of this text at a time, and enjoying your discussions. In the end, we will each find something(s) we will relate to in the story, and isn't that what enjoying a good piece of literature is all about :smileyhappy:

One thing I wish I had done was attempt to read this through the first time before reading all of the critical summaries. I won't make that mistake the next time.

Reader 2
cjmiller1973
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎01-29-2007
0 Kudos

Re: (Off topic) Everyman: Our own judgement?


Choisya wrote:
...to say that we make up our own minds is incorrect - our minds have long ago been conditioned to one thing or another.






Could we not also say this applies to the "academics" who may have had their own agendas. This is why, as critical thinkers, we not only need to monitor our own preconcieved notions, but also challenge the notions of others. I do appreciate the other perspectives you bring up, and you make some interesting points to consider.
Frequent Contributor
stratford
Posts: 85
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

You are most welcome, Choisya. The Signet Classic I have is not a British edition. The title page has Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc./New York Chicago San Francisco Atlanta. I have been in several book clubs before but this is the first on-line book club I have ever joined. When faced with the choice of a user name I just thought it might be appropriate to use the birthplace of the author if no one else had chosen it. But as you will see when you read my reply to HG_Author it could fairly be said that I support the "Stratford Man." And, no, it is not my real name. That would have been a miraculous coincidence.




Choisya wrote:
Thankyou Stratford. I know that the 'festive theory' is quite a common one over here - is the Signet Classic you have a British edition? Perhaps these ideas are more commonly held by British academics since these beliefs, pageants etc are rooted in our culture? BTW are you called Stratford because you support the 'Stratford Man'? If it is your real name, it is a nice one:smileyhappy:




stratford wrote:
Choisya, the Shakespearean expert who wrote the "Introduction" to my version of MND seems to be completely in agreement with you. The second paragraph from his
Introduction" follows: Some facts about its origin and title may help us better to understand the particular nature of the play. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is clearly related to the practices of midsummer night, the night before June 24, which was the date of Saint John the Baptist’s festival and hence connected with merrymaking, various superstitions and folk customs, dances, pageants, and revels. MORE THAN ANY OTHER NIGHT OF THE YEAR, MIDSUMMER NIGHT SUGGESTED ENCHANTMENT AND WITHCRAFT, something which Shakespeare has superbly embodied in his fairy world. TO AN ELIZABETHAN AUDIENCE, MOREOVER, THE PLAY’S TITLE WOULD HAVE IMMEDIATELY CALLED TO MIND THE SO-CALLED MIDSUMMER MADNESS, WHICH WAS A STATE OF MIND MARKED BY A HEIGHTENED READINESS TO BELIEVE IN THE DELUSIONS OF THE IMAGINATION THAT WERE THOUGHT TO BEFALL THE MINDS OF MEN AFTER DAYS OF GREAT SUMMER HEAT. Thus, by means of his highly suggestive title, Shakespeare has firmly planted the dreamlike action of his drama in the popular beliefs and customs of his time. Furthermore the title gives theatergoers and readers a clue as to how the work should be understood—-namely, as an unrealistic creation of the imagination, a series of dream images containing all the contradictions and inconsistencies that dreams normally possess, but containing too their symbolic content. Indeed, the dreamlike character of what takes place is repeatedly alluded to. In Puck’s Epilogue, for instance, the audience themselves are explicitly addressed: And this weak and idle theme,/No more yielding but a dream,/Gentles, do not reprehend. (V.i.426-28). In short, the play’s title makes significant allusion to the nature and meaning of the work, though it makes no reference to the period of time during which the events of the drama occur. In fact, the action takes place between April 29 and May 1, the latter date, being that of May Day, demanding of course particular celebrations, and for that reason it is perhaps a suitable day for the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. (Capitalized emphasis mine.)

The Complete Signet Classic Shakespeare, HBJ, 1972.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Edited by Wolfgang Clemen, “Introduction,” p. 524.





Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: (Off topic) Everyman: Our own judgement?


cjmiller1973 wrote:
Could we not also say this applies to the "academics" who may have had their own agendas. This is why, as critical thinkers, we not only need to monitor our own preconcieved notions, but also challenge the notions of others. I do appreciate the other perspectives you bring up, and you make some interesting points to consider.


Excellent point.

For many centuries, for example, Aristotle was cited as the authority figure; if you could quote Aristotle on a point, that settled it. During that period there was very little creative thinking, since everything was tested against "what did Aristotle think?"

Intellectual progress only flourished when the concept of deference to authority was overthrown and thinkers started asking "what do I think about this?

The same danger faces us today, with introductions to many editions of books, books about books, Spark notes, Cliff Notes, Monkey Notes, reading notes, web sites galore, et. al. telling us what we should think the are the main themes and character analyses of the book, and the whole panoply of critics opining on what this or that book or passage really means (and often saying something quite incompatible with what other equally learned critics say).

There is a grave danger of not reading the work itself so much as just reading what people say about the work and drawing our opinions about it from that.

This isn't to say that one should never read the critics. They can have useful historical or background information. They can have information about relevant changes in language and society. They offer notes as to what certain references in the text were drawn from, since many modern readers lack the extensive classical background to instantly identify all the references an author might make. There have been, for example, some fascinating comments in the P&P discussion on the travel books Jane Austen was alluding to that are not familiar to the average modern reader. All this background information can add to our understanding of an author's work.

Critical opinions can be useful if they are read for ideas as what a given book might mean. But IMO we should never give them the power of telling us what the book does mean. That is for the reader to decide.

Certainly it's much easier to let the critics tell one what a book means rather than forcing oneself to think it through for oneself. But while I will let someone else cook food for me, it does me little good if I also let them eat if for me.

In the end, what matters is not what the critics say about a book; it is the interaction between the author and the thinking reader. We must never let the profusion of critics, notes, and website references blind us to that.
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: (Off topic) Criticism etc. - a new thread

I have created a new thread for this topic which I realise has been dominating The Court and other threads.




Everyman wrote:

cjmiller1973 wrote:
Could we not also say this applies to the "academics" who may have had their own agendas. This is why, as critical thinkers, we not only need to monitor our own preconcieved notions, but also challenge the notions of others. I do appreciate the other perspectives you bring up, and you make some interesting points to consider.


Excellent point.

For many centuries, for example, Aristotle was cited as the authority figure; if you could quote Aristotle on a point, that settled it. During that period there was very little creative thinking, since everything was tested against "what did Aristotle think?"

Intellectual progress only flourished when the concept of deference to authority was overthrown and thinkers started asking "what do I think about this?

The same danger faces us today, with introductions to many editions of books, books about books, Spark notes, Cliff Notes, Monkey Notes, reading notes, web sites galore, et. al. telling us what we should think the are the main themes and character analyses of the book, and the whole panoply of critics opining on what this or that book or passage really means (and often saying something quite incompatible with what other equally learned critics say).

There is a grave danger of not reading the work itself so much as just reading what people say about the work and drawing our opinions about it from that.

This isn't to say that one should never read the critics. They can have useful historical or background information. They can have information about relevant changes in language and society. They offer notes as to what certain references in the text were drawn from, since many modern readers lack the extensive classical background to instantly identify all the references an author might make. There have been, for example, some fascinating comments in the P&P discussion on the travel books Jane Austen was alluding to that are not familiar to the average modern reader. All this background information can add to our understanding of an author's work.

Critical opinions can be useful if they are read for ideas as what a given book might mean. But IMO we should never give them the power of telling us what the book does mean. That is for the reader to decide.

Certainly it's much easier to let the critics tell one what a book means rather than forcing oneself to think it through for oneself. But while I will let someone else cook food for me, it does me little good if I also let them eat if for me.

In the end, what matters is not what the critics say about a book; it is the interaction between the author and the thinking reader. We must never let the profusion of critics, notes, and website references blind us to that.


Frequent Contributor
cheryl_shell
Posts: 156
Registered: ‎12-08-2006
0 Kudos

True love?


mef6395 wrote:
>As for 'true love' I am not sure that Shakespeare is saying anything about that at all because so much of the play is a debunking of love. Shakespeare seems to be telling us that sexual attraction is not only subjective and irrational but liable at times to take absurd and perverse forms. And it sure does in this play!


I would like to believe that Shakespeare wanted "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to be about love and not just sexual attraction ... that love could be complicated and complex and topsy-turvy; but if it is true it will conquer most odds and differences, and will triumph in the end!




Yes, mef, I think you're right. And part of the reason I think so is the fact that Shakespeare includes mature couples in the mix. Though they are subject to irrational impulses too, they seem to feel something more substantial underneath.
Frequent Contributor
cheryl_shell
Posts: 156
Registered: ‎12-08-2006
0 Kudos

Critics and Other Readers


cjmiller1973 wrote: I also am new to all of this, and I must admit that as a teenager, I always wondered if we as critical readers, particularly in a more "scholarly" environment, do not read more into these classics than even the author intended (did an author pick a green light because green symbolizes hope or did he just happen to like green lights). I am just trying to peel away one layer of this text at a time, and enjoying your discussions. In the end, we will each find something(s) we will relate to in the story, and isn't that what enjoying a good piece of literature is all about :smileyhappy:

One thing I wish I had done was attempt to read this through the first time before reading all of the critical summaries. I won't make that mistake the next time.




I think you're right, cj. In fact, from what I've heard from modern writers, critics almost always see something--many things, in fact--that were never intended by the author. That doesn't mean those things aren't there, or that it isn't fun to find "hidden" treasures. It just means, in my estimation, that excellent writers, in their efforts to be true to their art, create fictional worlds that are rich and complex and ripe for digging!

But it also means, I think, that we shouldn't take our readings and interpretations and critiques too seriously--as in "written in stone"--though they may provide immense satisfaction and insight into not only the text but life!

This debate--between critical readers and readers who just want to enjoy the works--will rage on. But it will never be decided. And that's a good thing! :smileyhappy:
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Critics and Other Readers



cheryl_shell wrote:
In fact, from what I've heard from modern writers, critics almost always see something--many things, in fact--that were never intended by the author.

The problem comes, I think, when people go looking for something to fit their proclivities. Almost no matter what "side" you want to show Shakespeare was on, you can find and interpret passages to "prove" that he was a royalist, a rebel, an atheist, a devout believer, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a proto-Nazi, a Marxist, a nationalist, an internationalist, a nihilist, you name it. Shakespeare is rich and varied enough that I doubt there is a single belief or principle or facet of human nature you could suggest that some scholar somewhere couldn't prove Shakespeare either to possess or to have rejected, as you prefer. Heck, there are even those who will argue that the author Shakespeare, as opposed to the semi-literate chap from Stratford, was actually a woman, and support that view in part with passages from the plays that "prove" the feminine hand at work.

The problem is that when you stop looking at the plays to find out what Shakespeare intended, and look for things that you might want to find there whether or not he intended them, you step off a cliff and may or may not have a functional para glider to bring you back safely to earth.

One classic example is his line from 2 Henri VI 4.2, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

This is emblazoned across sweatshirts, coffee mugs, hats, and all sorts of other items by anti-lawyer contingents to prove that Shakespeare was anti-lawyer. Ask the average person on the street how Shakespeare felt about lawyers, and those who have any response at all will most likely say that he hated lawyers, and cite this line.

But if you attend a lawyers convention and slide the line into the conversation the almost universal response you will get is that read within its context it is a strongly pro-lawyer statement, that the conspirators want to kill the lawyers because lawyers would interfere with or prevent success on their parts.

So here's just one line that can be read in diametrically opposite ways by people promoting opposite points of view who aren't necessarily interested in what Shakespeare intended but want to use him to promote their own point of view.

This is exactly what we get into when we drift away from the lodestar of authorial intent and start looking for support for whatever point of view we happen to be embracing at that particular point.

In the past, there were indeed some critics who at least tried to use a viewpoint-neutral approach when looking beyond the author's intent. But the field of literary criticism has become so fragmented that there are few if any viewpoint-neutral scholars or critics working today. The only fixed point we have any more is the concept of authorial intent. Once that is abandoned, every author can be shown to be anything that a particular scholar or critic wants them to be.

Which IMO is a sad state of affairs.
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Critics and Other Readers

An interesting response Everyman, thankyou. I love the lawyer story:smileyhappy: I don't think it matters that 'every author can be shown to be anything that a particular scholar or critic wants them to be' because we can all choose to see or not to see things within any work. IMO the beauty of an author like Shakespeare and part of his universality and endurability, is that he can be all things to all men/women.



Everyman wrote:


cheryl_shell wrote:
In fact, from what I've heard from modern writers, critics almost always see something--many things, in fact--that were never intended by the author.

The problem comes, I think, when people go looking for something to fit their proclivities. Almost no matter what "side" you want to show Shakespeare was on, you can find and interpret passages to "prove" that he was a royalist, a rebel, an atheist, a devout believer, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a proto-Nazi, a Marxist, a nationalist, an internationalist, a nihilist, you name it. Shakespeare is rich and varied enough that I doubt there is a single belief or principle or facet of human nature you could suggest that some scholar somewhere couldn't prove Shakespeare either to possess or to have rejected, as you prefer. Heck, there are even those who will argue that the author Shakespeare, as opposed to the semi-literate chap from Stratford, was actually a woman, and support that view in part with passages from the plays that "prove" the feminine hand at work.

The problem is that when you stop looking at the plays to find out what Shakespeare intended, and look for things that you might want to find there whether or not he intended them, you step off a cliff and may or may not have a functional para glider to bring you back safely to earth.

One classic example is his line from 2 Henri VI 4.2, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

This is emblazoned across sweatshirts, coffee mugs, hats, and all sorts of other items by anti-lawyer contingents to prove that Shakespeare was anti-lawyer. Ask the average person on the street how Shakespeare felt about lawyers, and those who have any response at all will most likely say that he hated lawyers, and cite this line.

But if you attend a lawyers convention and slide the line into the conversation the almost universal response you will get is that read within its context it is a strongly pro-lawyer statement, that the conspirators want to kill the lawyers because lawyers would interfere with or prevent success on their parts.

So here's just one line that can be read in diametrically opposite ways by people promoting opposite points of view who aren't necessarily interested in what Shakespeare intended but want to use him to promote their own point of view.

This is exactly what we get into when we drift away from the lodestar of authorial intent and start looking for support for whatever point of view we happen to be embracing at that particular point.

In the past, there were indeed some critics who at least tried to use a viewpoint-neutral approach when looking beyond the author's intent. But the field of literary criticism has become so fragmented that there are few if any viewpoint-neutral scholars or critics working today. The only fixed point we have any more is the concept of authorial intent. Once that is abandoned, every author can be shown to be anything that a particular scholar or critic wants them to be.

Which IMO is a sad state of affairs.


Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Critics and Other Readers

Choisya wrote: I don't think it matters that 'every author can be shown to be anything that a particular scholar or critic wants them to be' because we can all choose to see or not to see things within any work. IMO the beauty of an author like Shakespeare and part of his universality and endurability, is that he can be all things to all men/women.

This is a point on which we differ.

I think we owe an obligation of honesty and integrity to artists not to saddle them with view or beliefs which they didn't have.

It could be argued that since they're dead it doesn't matter to them. But I still think that there would be damage done if, say, a cadre of paternalistic scholars were to publish a series of papers proving that Mary Wollstonecraft was in fact strongly committed to the belief that women should be subservient to men, argue that her writings were actually intended to ridicule and show up the absurdity of feminist thought, being a parody in the mode of Swift's solution to the Irish problem, and publish selected excerpts from her writings, with appropriate commentary and interpretation, to prove her a staunch defender and supporter of the principle of feminine subservience and to enlist her name and reputation as an ardent supporter of their beliefs.

Perhaps you would say that since she can be all things to all people this is part of the beauty of her writing. If so, I would disagree with you there, too.

Perhaps I am too wedded to the Greek concept of honor, but to the Greeks the meaning of a person's life is not simply in the life itself but in what was sung (in pre-literate days) about him after his death. I think that simple honesty and fairness to the memory and reputation of the dead demands that we treat their memories with respect and integrity.
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Critics and Other Readers

Respect and integrity don't just come with with the 'simple truths' though. Look at the De Vere, Bacon, Marlowe controversy. Despite the reams of paper and cyberspace devoted to them they have not dented the reputation of Shakespeare who, because of his genius, and his supporters, rides above it all. Mary Wollstonecraft and her supporters IMO could do the same for her feminist beliefs. I am reminded of the discussion that BNU readers had with Carlos Zafon about his bestseller Shadow of the Wind. He was vastly amused by many of our interpretations and when we attempted to rewrite some chapters and suggest he put in more female characters, he joined in the fun. Philippa Gregory had a similar irreverent approach to our own work when we discussed one of her books. J K Rowlings does not seem at all phased by the religious controversies surrounding her books. And so on. It does an author far more harm to say that you 'dislike' them and not to read them at all, than that something controversial or different is being written or read about them.

I think most writers, dead or alive, would have sufficient imagination and faith in their own integrity and genius, to rise above any criticism which might be perceived as adverse - that is if they know anything about it when they are dead:smileyhappy: We can, in fact, be far too 'precious' about this and thereby stifle the very interests which have kept them in the public memory for many years, or centuries in the case of Shakespeare. If everyone since the 16C had just been respectful to Shakespeare and performed his plays as they were written and performed in his day, or had parrotted what had been said about him in his day, he would't IMO be in our canon today.

To the best of my knowledge no writer of any substances has yet been subsumed by what anyone has written about them - the Greek songs of honour are therefore still sung.




Everyman wrote:
Choisya wrote: I don't think it matters that 'every author can be shown to be anything that a particular scholar or critic wants them to be' because we can all choose to see or not to see things within any work. IMO the beauty of an author like Shakespeare and part of his universality and endurability, is that he can be all things to all men/women.

This is a point on which we differ.

I think we owe an obligation of honesty and integrity to artists not to saddle them with view or beliefs which they didn't have.

It could be argued that since they're dead it doesn't matter to them. But I still think that there would be damage done if, say, a cadre of paternalistic scholars were to publish a series of papers proving that Mary Wollstonecraft was in fact strongly committed to the belief that women should be subservient to men, argue that her writings were actually intended to ridicule and show up the absurdity of feminist thought, being a parody in the mode of Swift's solution to the Irish problem, and publish selected excerpts from her writings, with appropriate commentary and interpretation, to prove her a staunch defender and supporter of the principle of feminine subservience and to enlist her name and reputation as an ardent supporter of their beliefs.

Perhaps you would say that since she can be all things to all people this is part of the beauty of her writing. If so, I would disagree with you there, too.

Perhaps I am too wedded to the Greek concept of honor, but to the Greeks the meaning of a person's life is not simply in the life itself but in what was sung (in pre-literate days) about him after his death. I think that simple honesty and fairness to the memory and reputation of the dead demands that we treat their memories with respect and integrity.


Scribe
Laurel
Posts: 5,747
Registered: ‎10-29-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Critics and Other Readers

Choisya and Everyman, I gave each of you ten stars just because you have been so very nice to each other. Keep it up and I might throw in chocolate chip cookies with pecans. For the record, I agree mostly with Everyman on this point.
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Critics and Other Readers

[ Edited ]
LOL. I'l take the low fat, low sugar, chocolate chip cookies please:smileyhappy:

Of course, I do not have any concept of a heaven where writers like Shakespeare might be peering down from to see if their works were being 'honoured' etc. If anything, I would prefer to think of writers being reincarnated and appearing in pubs, coffee shops and lecture rooms, arguing with their critics or even improving on their works themselves through present day interlocutors. I am sure that Shakespeare had plenty of critics around him in the taverns of London who put different points of view to him after a performance, suggested he take out that character, put in that scene etc. Especially as other poets and playwrights were living in London at the time, like Marlowe. And from all accounts the audiences were acting as critics, rather rudely, all the time:smileysurprised:




Laurel wrote:
Choisya and Everyman, I gave each of you ten stars just because you have been so very nice to each other. Keep it up and I might throw in chocolate chip cookies with pecans. For the record, I agree mostly with Everyman on this point.

Message Edited by Choisya on 02-18-200711:42 AM

Top Kudoed Authors
Users Online
Currently online:8 members 277 guests
Please welcome our newest community members: