Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

Box within box within box

storme pointed to this nice exposition of the film of the Half Blood Prince.

DRACO: sits in an Alcove of Woe.
SCENE: Man, y'all, I love the Draco Malfoy bits. No dialogue, no 'interaction.' Just random bits of architecture and sadness.

I've been reading 'Shakespeare the Thinker' by AD Nuttall. Not quite as smoothly written as Jonathan Bate's Shakespeare criticism but very interesting. Here's a review by AS Byatt.
When I try to find a metaphor for the dismay I feel when faced with the quantity of Shakespeare criticism, I always come up with Wordsworth's wonderful phrase about custom, which "lies upon us with a weight / heavy as frost, and deep almost as life". Recently I have been visited by images of sarcophagi - box within box within box, painted with stylised and unmoving faces, well wadded between boxes. And inside something hot and bright and alive and shape-shifting. And then I thought of the concrete sarcophagus more or less containing Chernobyl. I correct this sense of oppression by remembering reading Hamlet in class at 14. I hadn't known language could be like that. (Byatt)

Of course Harry Potter is rudimentary and crude compared to Shakespeare. I mean - sorry - that doesn't need saying.

But I think there's something they have common. I think there's a feature which is independent of quality. Shakespeare has it superlatively, and also quality, which is why he is like Chernobyl. You can infinitely unpack Shakespeare - Byatt's metaphor of the Russian-doll sarcophagus. But I don't think the sarcophagus is a tomb or a prison to the work, but a secondary organic product grown by the work, like a cocoon or a hive.

Some works get inside you like a self-replicating engine, and make your brain churn out more artefacts. That's strange isn't it? It's really noticeable that some works have this feature and others not. Shakespeare seems to have this infinite quality, like a box you can open and there's always something inside it. I honestly don't know how he did it. It seems supernatural to me (I'm not arguing that it is supernatural - simply that it's way outside of my comprehension). You are interested in colonialism - which was hardly invented as a concept in the 16th century - and you go to The Tempest, and there it is waiting for you? 'Nor custom stale his infinite variety'.

I know some on my f-list loathe the Harry Potter books and some like them, but I think regardless, they have a type of extended (not infinite) variety, for good or ill. Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek [ETA - and the Cthulhu mythos].... 'Painted with stylised faces... inside something hot and bright and shape-shifting'. I don't really understand it, and I don't think we have a language to talk about it very well. Though Byatt - good writer eh?
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