By Graham Bradshaw
Simply in the mean time while conflicts among severe "isms" are threatening to show the learn of English literature right into a online game park for endangered texts, Bradshaw arrives with a piece of freeing wit and perception. His topic is double: the Shakespeare he reads and the Shakespeare whom critics within the ranks of the recent historicists and cultural materialists are representing (or misrepresenting).
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Additional info for Misrepresentations: Shakespeare and the Materialists
A year later Dollimore and Alan Sinfield essay "History and Ideology: The Instance of Henry V" appeared in John Drakakis collection, Alternative Shakespeares. I consider this essay in some detail in Chapter 1; the point to notice here is that the alternative "Shakespeare" this essay presents could not be more unlike the crypto-materialist "Shakespeare" of Radical Tragedy and is a more alarming version of Tillyard's authoritarian hero. Indeed, Tillyard himself might have shuddered on being told how Henry's speech outside the walls of Harfleur represents Shakespeare's fervently patriotic fantasy about the proper solution to the Irish problem: the solution is so reminiscent of Conrad's Kurtz ("Exterminate the brutes") as to suggest that Shakespeare really was evil.
My reading of Henry V is, like any other reading, "partial," because it cannot exhaust the play's meanings. Olivier's wartime effort and Hawkes's own flamboyant counterinstance are partial in that inevitable sense, but also in another: in each case the "reading" depends upon a very partial sampling of the text, which suppresses or disregards all those parts of the text which show why--although there is no final, authoritative reading--this particular "reading" is simplistic and impossible to sustain.
Of course, if a so-called humanist seems to "elide cultural materialism and post-structuralism" that only shows how the "same misconceptions keep churning on," as Alan Sinfield angrily complains; 30 but when Dollimore explains that "anti-humanism" is the "declared objective" of "Marxist, structuralist and post-structuralist theory" that is alright, and in that sense right, though not all right. When Dollimore and Sinfield assert that cultural meanings are "always, finally, political," they are not challenged from within the ranks to explain why political meanings are not always, finally, cultural meanings.