George Walford: Shakespeare Too

In several issues of IC we have quoted passages, expressing observations and insights forming part of s.i., by writers who were unaware of the theory. Now we can add Shakespeare to the list.

The hunter-gatherers, and the non-political people (the expedient or protostatic group) in our own society, largely confine their area of moral responsibility to the family and a small circle of personal contacts, but once society has been established private life comes to be affected by the movement of public affairs and this enforces a choice: either to continue with attention focused on personal matters and submit to these intrusions, or to extend the area of attention to include them, attempting to bring them under, control. Or, as Hamlet put it:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them.

We don’t usually think of Hamlet as excessively optimistic, but in this instance he was. Those who choose the more active course do not thereby end their troubles but find themselves faced with another choice, whether to accept the imperfect success achieved or to move on to a more highly theorised, more indirect approach entailing greater intellectual stress. Whether to move from the ideology of domination to that of precision or, in political terms, from conservatism to liberalism.

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‘The Sixteenth Century spawned “magnificent monarchs” – from Suleiman the Magnificent, “Commander of the Faithful” in Istanbul to Henry the Hangman, “Defender of the Faith” in Windsor. But insofar as any of these monarchs succeeded, it was by catering to and profiting from the material interests and ambitions of his own subjects.’ (Philip Lee Ralph, The Renaissance in Perspective (London, G.Bell & Sons, 1973)

RICHARD DAWKINS’ book The Selfish Gene goes beyond biology into exogenetic evolution, and he offers a solution for one problem that arises when the concept of evolution is extended beyond organic matter: What is the replicator corresponding to the gene in biology? Dawkins identifies it as the meme, an abbreviation from the Greek ‘mimeme.’ As examples of memes he lists tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes, fashions, ways of making pots or building arches. We expect to have more to say about this.

from Ideological Commentary 33, May 1988.