February 12, 2007

Fun with Historical Readings

"...The Tempest invited the audience to formulate a critique of political obedience which demurred at the 'obvious' next step of repudiation" (Yachnin 40).

In order to do historical criticism, you have to have two majors- that in English and one in history. You have to know far too much about a time period not to devote another degree to historical study. Also, without a good historical background, you fail to see important elements of a work, such as this one. I can do a fairly good historical reading of a text, but I doubt I would have noticed a political obedience theme in "The Tempest" without prior knowledge.

I can argue for the idea of obedience in "The Tempest"; the play is filled with opression, obedience, and serving one's master. However, political obedience never really came to mind since A) I don't know much about it and B) I don't think about political oppression much. However as Yachnin argues in "Shakespeare and the Idea of Obedience", the audience would have seen this idea of political obedience during the performance of the play, due to the turmoil at the time. And I'm sure some did. But in general, the audience was just looking for a good time. You think the groundlings, while throwing food at the actors, really cared to examine the political meaning behind Gonzalo and his impact on the play as well as provide political commentary? No. Is it possible, when studying literature, to take a historical idea and stretch it a bit, trying to get it to relate to a work just because it "should" fit? Was this a concious meaning by Shakespeare, or was he just trying to get a play out in order to pay his rent that month? Politics may have beent he farthest thing from his mind.

Yachnin, ''Shakespare and the Idea of Obedience: Gonzalo in The Tempest -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by VanessaKolberg at February 12, 2007 9:11 AM | TrackBack

I'm with you Vanessa! I never even thought when studying this for Shakespeare that there were political implications in this play. Like yourself, I saw the obedience, but not the political obedience. Do you think that there could be political obedience in the situation surrounding Ariel and Prospero? I don't want to read more into than I have to, but it is just something that I am curious about since I read Kevin's blog on the subject.

Posted by: Tiffany at February 14, 2007 10:33 AM
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