Thursday, November 09, 2006

Naturalistic unreality

Harold Bloom, in Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human:

It is difficult to describe Shakespeare's mdoes of representation without resorting to oxymorons, since most of these modes are founded upon seeming contradictions. A "naturalistic unreality" suggests itself, to meet Wittgenstein's annoyed comment that life is not like Shakespeare. Owen Barfield replied to Wittgenstein in advance (1928):
...there is a very real sense, humiliating as it may seem, in which what we generally venture to call our feelings are really Shakespeare's "meaning."

Life itself has become a naturalistic unreality, partly, because of Shakespeare's prevalence. To have invented our feelings is to have gone beyond psychologizing us: Shakespeare made us theatrical, even if we never attend a performance or read a play. After Hamlet literally has stopped the play--to joke about the War of the Theaters, to command the Player King to enact the absurd scene in which Aeneas recounts Priam's slaughter, to admonish the players to a little discipline--we more than ever regard Hamlet as one of us, somehow dropped into a role in a play, and the wrong play at that. The prince alone is real; the others, and all the action, constitute theater.

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