Friday, September 26, 2008

Greenblatt around the World

First of all, forgive me for the somewhat far-reaching title of this blog (although I think Stephen Greenblatt would approve of it). I was moved by the increasingly broad geographical trend of the last two blogs on this subject and I wanted to continue with it. It also ties in with what I thought was the most interesting parts of the presentation we saw in Grand Rapids.

I can't really add very much to the two excellent blogs that have already been posted, but I can say a few things.

I would like to give a word of thanks to Marty for letting us know of this opportunity to see Stephen Greenblatt. I only wish we had found out sooner. Perhaps we could have organized a larger Oberon contingent. Perhaps we could have had time to print up our "Holocaust Denial" posters or lapel pins.

Anyway, I had a great time in Grand Rapids and I am glad I went. It's true that it was sometimes hard to follow the details of what Greenblatt was saying, but I liked his general idea. He is interested in how different cultures look at certain "fundamental" ideas or plot points. So his idea was to take a play (or rather a story) and rewrite it to "fit" our cultural ways. Of course, he chose the play Cardenio.

Then he and his collaborator, Charles Mee, sent out their play to other countries along with the basic plot points which it was based on (the original story found in Cervantes) and told playwrights there to write their own version of the story.

Greenblatt shared some of the results of this experiment with us and I found it quite interesting. However, I can't remember enough of the details to include them here in the blog. I guess you will have to wait until Greenblatt's inevitable book on the subject is published.

Of course, I cringed a little when Greenblatt actually got around to talking about the kind of man he imagines Shakespeare to have been, but he is essentially correct in taking him to be interested in other cultures and times and trying to weave plot elements from various sources into his plays (but not, of course, to make a fast buck).

I am quite frustrated to think of Stephen Greenblatt and Marjorie Garber, among others, who purport to be interested in "the man Shakespeare" and what the plays can tell us about him, but then refuse to take their blinders off and really follow the evidence. For years we have been hearing Stratfordians say "Only the plays matter!" and "There is no point in thinking the plays and Sonnets to be biographical!" and now that some of them are willing to look for biographical information, they can only find the most mundane and isolated things like the mention of certain Warwickshire plants in the plays to tie them to Will of Stratford. If only they would open their eyes to the richness to be found when the right person's biography is being matched to the plays.
Well, enough complaining. It was a most enjoyable evening. I have to say, however, that the parts I enjoyed the most were the drive there and back. It's amazing what can be discussed by three Oxfordians!

And thereby hangs a tale.

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