By Frank Kermode, Frank Lentricchia
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Additional info for Forms of Attention: Botticelli and Hamlet
Fifty years ago, "character" was ousted from its central position (though not, I think, among ordinary readers and playgoers and, of course, not among actors), and there was a great deal of work on imagery and on the plays as poetry. It does not matter that much of this work is forgotten, or that we hear less about the Freudian Hamlet than the Lacanianif, indeed, we now hear much of that. There must be new appraisals, and they will be possible only so long as new relations, new adjustments of center and margin, are perceived in the play and given licit expression in commentary.
17) who finds a simpler message in the "frank carnality" of the paintings than Neoplatonic or highly ethical programs account for (Lightbown, 81); and Paul Holberton, "Botticelli's 'Primavera': che volea s'intendesse," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 45 (1982), 202-10, argues that Warburg was in general right about sources and themes, though the lady in the central position of the picture is not Venus. Holberton agrees with Gombrich in finding an ethical intention, though for him the subject is not humanitas but the conversion of spring lust into gentilezza-love taming savage desire.
Tolstoy, who chose King Lear as his special target, was aware of the extent of his task, for he was attacking not only a grossly overvalued play but the corruption of a society which upheld that valuation, to the detriment of its members. Of Hamlet, he complained that the hero had no character at all, despite the encomia of the learned. Shakespeare idolatry was the creation, he believed, of the German Enlightenment, which he regarded as disastrously irreligious. To succeed in his assault he would have had to succeed with his own new religion, and contrive a future society the happier for not having Shakespeare or, for that matter, Anna Karenina.