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TOPIC: Shakespeare Intelligence

Shakespeare Intelligence 8 years 4 months ago #2116

  • akfarrar
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BBA: http://shakespearence.blogspot.com/

(To see the following in context, and with hyperlinks - click on the above link)


Multiple Intelligences has proved illuminating: It is an attempt to define "Intelligence" in a way that recognises the multitudinous and complex nature of the connections the human brain can make, and has provided a basis for explaining why some forms of education are just plain 'dumb-making'. What I really like about it is the fact that it is inclusive - it attempts to explain why there are differences in the way people think and why those differences result in a rich variety of human strengths.

Unfortunately, most Shakespearean scholars (of the old school) don't seem to have been raised in a Multiple Intelligence environment and certainly have never got to appreciate the differences between themselves and other, equally, but differently, 'intelligenced' people. Older, and less enlightened, educational systems - the ones which the 'Shakespeare Wallahs' were successful in - tend to emphasis language and numerical skills - they tend to call them 'standards'. What Multiple Intelligence theory suggests is that this is a very limiting (and ultimately counter-productive) educational endeavour.

Shakespeare's plays, and the massive dislike engendered in school for them, are a case in point. In the theatre, they are popular; in the 'linguistic' oriented, text based school, they are not. If you don't like School Shakespeare, it is your fault - generations have loved the plays - so there is something wrong with your Intelligence.

(I should at this point point out, Dr. Howard Gardner himself sometimes prefers the word talents rather than intelligence - which he sees as too limiting: I'm just being provocative sticking to the 'I' word.)

My main question could be framed, How does Shakespeare manage to survive in the hostile world of ivory towered scholarship and text based examination?

Well, the answer is glaring obvious - Shakespeare wrote plays. They survive in the theatre, on the screen (large and small) in the imaginings of a Multiple Intelligenced world.

(Image: http://www.geography.org.uk/image/page/steelfig2.jpg)


What the plays in performance do is stimulate a whole range of 'intelligence' - in fact, there isn't one which a good production of a Shakespeare play touches on.

Shakespeare has 'coded' into his text a lot of the clues as to what to do - but the spaces are there for the actors, directors, and everyone else, to fill in the gaps - be it music or dance, movement across the stage, or a glance between characters.

There is nothing particularly revolutionary in what I have just said - but, rarely in the 'Literature' classroom is anything other than a nod given to these overwhelmingly powerful factors of the play.

Of course - there have always been teachers who have attempted to bring the plays to life and have treated the texts as a starting point (I was fortunate enough to have been taught by a couple of such teachers) - but the educational systems soon force the written exam and the 'language' focus on to the majority of students.

The Shakespeare 'experts' ,consequently, are selected from the people who perform well in 'Linguistic-Literary' intelligence area. These people define what is good and valuable, make decisions as to text and argue interminably over minute language details which are inconsequential in the extreme.

But the plays actually appeal and stimulate and entertain a much wider range of - Intelligenced - people.

One of the striking things about the Shakes(blogo)sphere is how wide a range of people contribute to it (and why are so many connected to the Logical-Mathematical realm of computers?).

There is another insight to be gained from thinking Multiple Intelligently - individual play popularity.

I happen to think that the best of Shakespeare's plays is 'A Midsummer Nights Dream'. I think Hamlet is a damp squib with a serious need for throwing away and forgetting about until it gets a make-over. I happen to like 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' - thinking it a better play than nearly every scholar who has commented has given it credit for.

Either I am a nut (and I don't come from Brazil) or something is going on here.

One thing worth noting is my Multiple Intelligence profile (as generated by the little quiz linked to at the start of this blog) - my strongest intelligence is Naturalist - no surprise the very 'green' 'The Dream' appeals. But also I notice the images to do with nature - the storms (I Like Lear) and talk of flowers; the cliffs of England, and worms.

The rest of my profile is fairly even - but the weakest area is interpersonal (I'm a Problem Play remember). Now, why don't I like Hamlet? Could it have something to do with all that uninteresting blah blah about relationships? Or maybe it is just that the interminable linguistic arguments and unsatisfactory performances generated from the incomplete final text?

It used to be put down to taste - with the suggestion that an 'educated' palate was more sophisticated and worthy than an uneducated one.

You can't do that in a Multi-Intelligent world - my tastes reflect my Intelligence - I AM right, 'A Midsummer Nights Dream' IS better than 'Hamlet' - you are just Naturalist-Intelligence deprived if you can't see it.
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Shakespeare Intelligence 7 years 6 months ago #2471

  • Keith Block
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Multiple intelligences? Is that what they call the voices in my head nowadays?

My gifted ed teacher in middle school introduced this concept to me. If schools used this model more often, I wonder if the "gifted" students would be found to just learn in a different way--as well as those who are considered to be less than genius.

So...how about presenting Shakespeare in multiple ways of theatre too? What if the audience was allowed to walk around on set while the actors were playing? What if the actors walked around, using the entire city as their backdrop?
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Shakespeare Intelligence 7 years 6 months ago #2474

  • Joe M.
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Akfarrar cites linguistics as a reason for the works still being popular; (although it seems he thinks linguistics serve as an attractive impetus only for the Literary Set; and they are the ones who have kept the works alive and present for so long, regardless of the damage they've also brought to Shakespeare's popularity through their lack of attention to the actual Spoken aspect of Linguistics when it comes to the Works) But still, I think he's hit the nail on the head.

Literary scholarship has had the tendency to treat even plays as "dead on the page"; something to be analyzed or mulled over for the sake of Literature and its Intelligence alone. Linguistics--language--is completely alive in its employ. It stimulates a response as well as mirrors a very real need within ourselves to respond to stimuli as a natural occurrence. Sound, I believe, goes much deeper into a place in the psyche than does visual stimuli. He's absolutely right when he notes that the Plays in performance reach a myriad of levels in the spectator--I would also argue that emotion links itself to intelligence when we are able to empathize with a character on the stage--walk a mile in the shoes of another.

Cube: Funny that you would mention area and audience involvement. It's been my big focus for quite a while. When you think about the dimensions of the Globe, you realize that Shakespeare's work was in no way meant for what becomes the stultifying picture frame of the proscenium--nor was it meant for the glass wall of Method proponents. I believe area and audience involvement to be as important to Shakespeare in the arena of the theatre, as is the theatre in the arena of Shakespeare as "literature". It's a shame that for so long, even the theatre-minded have effected what amounts to a serious audience disconnect with the plays. Like the stimuli for intelligence, the mode and the means mean everything.
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Shakespeare Intelligence 7 years 2 months ago #4553

  • tgibfo
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There have been many successful and unique productions of Shakespeare's (and others) plays done in challenging ways.... one of my all-time faves is still Gorilla Rep in NYC who do MIDSUMMER in Washington Square Park - they perform a scene at a tree or in a specific space and the audience stands and watches. As the last line is said, the first line of the next scene is screamed from across the park, where the audience then walks and watches the second scene.... this goes on throughout. It's free and people are asked for donations at the end. Genius.

But I don't think liking or not liking Shakespeare has to do with intelligence - it has to do with how you are exposed to it. I fully agree that looking at Shakespeare fro a text-based perspective is the TOTALLY WRONG way to first experience it. When you're hooked, then it becomes fun.
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Shakespeare Intelligence 7 years 2 months ago #4555

  • Joe M.
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I was assistant director for and played a small role in a production of Much Ado a long time ago with the same format, staged on the sprawling wooded grounds of a museum. It also had a lake which was part of the inlet to a bay. We started the play at dusk and played into the night using torches on poles for lighting at designated areas. It was a lot of fun (for everyone, I think, except the stage mgr. and property people) :)
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