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CORRESPONDENCE To the Editor: Since Professor Davidson's completely hostile (and I choose my words carefully) "review" of Shakespearean Iconoclasm .[Comparative Drama, 19 ( 1985), 1 89-92] manages in three pages a mere two sentences on my chapter on The Winter's Tale, one parenthetical clause on the style of a portion of my chapter on King Lear, and one clause on the combined subjects of Hamlet, Ophelia, Gertrude, and Lear, the reader will be sur­ prised to discover that over 220 of the book's 307 pages are devoted to analyzing individual works by Shakespeare. The reader will further find it surprising that the object of a lengthy paragraph in the review is a single minor footnote in my book and that Professor Davidson refutes points not to be found in the book. Granting that Professor Davidson read Shake­ spearean Iconoclasm, his misrepresentation of the book's substance, style, and scholarship can perhaps best be understood as an extension of Profes­ sor Davidson's previous polemical reactions to what he perceives as a "methodological crisis that the study of drama as literature is now exper­ iencing" (On the Use of Iconographic Study: The Example of the Sponsus from St. Martial of Limoges," in Clifford Davidson, ed., The Drama in the Middle Ages .[1982], 44; original italics) . Thus, it would seem useful to respond not only to the specifics of the attack on my book but as well to the critical stance that seems consistently to underlie his polemic. Let us begin with substance. Professor Davidson accuses Shake­ spearean Iconoclasm of providing only a "few" remarks concerning previous criticism to support the "misleading accusation" that "critics who have probed the visual aspects of Shakespeare have been princi­ pally interested in 'unity' and with abstract principles as opposed to concrete reality." The interested reader will be surprised to find that the book's "few" remarks about previous criticism-which include but are not limited to a discussion of the one line of critics Professor David­ son names-constitute the subject for much of the argument of the first 42 pages. It might also surprise the reader that the argument which Professor Davidson terms "misleading" is buttressed by quotations from Bridget Gellert Lyons, Wolfgang Clemen, Dieter Mehl, John Doebler, and others. But besides the instances of primary interest in unity and abstract principles adduced in the book's survey of criticism interested in visual and verbal imagery, one might easily add numerous repre­ sentative examples from criticism of diverse persuasion and method. In analyzing Shakespeare's verbal imagery, for example, Wolfgang Clemen claims "the imagery, in lending a unifying colour and 'key' to the tragedies, helps to create an organic unity which makes us forget the lack of classical unities of time and action" (The Development of Shakespeare's Imagery [second edition, 1977], 224) . Alan C. Dessen, discussing the theatrical benefits of the Elizabethan bare stage, praises its capacity (in Riobard Southem's terms) to stage moments free "from 284 Correspondence 285 the fetters of the trivial, the factual and the irrelevant, which exist in natural surroundings." He then suggests a blocking for the blinding of Gloucester that would intensify its "symbolic rather than physiological" aspects in keeping with the idea that visual images in Shakespeare are "linked to other moments in the play" and "can generate meanings and associations that inform the entire tragedy"-i.e., what he also terms "the major themes of the play" (Sidney Homan, ed., Shakespeare's More than Words Can Witness, [1980], 94-95) . Ann Haaker, in an account of the "emblematic method" in dramatic criticism, describes the critic as stopping the flow of action to search for ''the icons and symbolic representations (or allusions to such) which identify ideologi­ cal concepts and carry the meaning beyond the dramatic action itself," and she exemplifies this approach in an analysis of Titus as "a series of 'speaking pictures' which gradually unfolds for an alert audience the unified and total conception" of the play (Research 0pportunities in Renaissance Drama 13114 [1970-71], 165n and 143 ) . And in an article which Professor Davidson has cited with approval, W illiam S. Heckscher maintains "The entire play of Pericles may be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 284-288
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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