Thursday, February 9, 2012

Posted for Justin

Justin Margitich

School for Scandal, Richard Sheridan

All of the characters in Sheridan's play, to use Schiller's words, could be called the "civilized classes". This is not flattery for he goes on to say that "Egotism has founded its system in the very bosom of a refined society, and without developing even a sociable character, we feel all the contagions and miseries of society". He might go on to say that the characters found in the play, in order to be complete, adequate and not stunted, need to "renounce the totality of their being" and to follow truth.

The petty gossip of the play is what makes it interesting and funny, contrary to Schiller's high intellectual ideals. The play is not a call to action or some sort of didactic tool, but something of a comedy, a reflection of a certain part of society.

Contained in it are more of the same dialogues concerning wit. I found interesting, the mentions of wit associated to good or bad. Lady Sneer at one point in the play says that wit is good or perhaps better with a little malice. Later on Sir Peter states that true wit is "allied to good-nature". For Maria, wit is not respectable with malice. Wit, it seems, can be seen as a blanket term, its meaning has an ability to change based on association or context of the user.

This, in a way, relates to the whole of the play. Wit sounds similar to the "scandals" in the play. That is to say that, most of the scandalous actions in the play, however they may bother a character's conscience, always seem to be then justified in the eyes of those very same characters. In other words, out of the character's upperclass boredom any scandalous enterprise may be questioned but ultimately justified.

* * * *

In his essay "Letters Upon the Aesthetic Education of Man", Schiller employs examples of extremes to balance and to find what could be seen as some sort of ideal medium. The intermingling of dualities, or perhaps, the dialectic of these extremes, he uses to make the final case of beauty and aesthetics. He slowly works up to his conclusions of this idea. Schiller begins by giving us the idea of "natural" and "moral" laws, these he finds, somewhat crudely, in the masses/underclasses and then in the upperclasses. He deems them the "wild" and the "lethargic", applied respectively. He thus finds fault in each, perhaps more in the underclass of which he is not a part. Nevertheless, he quantifies them as extremes and not apt or conducive to an ideal. In short, this is his means of argumentative sway throughout the essay.

As stated, he gives us "natural" and "moral". He continues with the binary comparisons. "Imaginary" and "reason", (occasionally throwing in his biases, e.g., the Greeks were better, our class topic of veneration of the past, a sort of conservativism) "facts" and "poetics", "appearance" and "reality", "sensuous" and "formal", "change" and "permanence", "independence" and "passivity", "feeling" and "thinking", "strength" and "gentleness", "indetermination" and "determination", the list is long. He ponders on each of the aspects of what I understand as human qualities. It is not merely one or the other, they both must subdue the other and at the same time mix with each other.

How can these couplets become one? He answers: by beauty and aesthetics, wedding the two extremes. He goes so far as to say that art is the "savior of undignified humanity" and calls beauty "our second creator after nature". He then comes to his ultimate conclusion of beauty at the end of the essay. That is, that "aesthetic communication alone unites society, because it applies to what is common to all its members" and "Beauty alone confers happiness on all, and under its influence every being forgets that he is limited".

Schiller himself states his essay is directly influenced by Kant, and it dutifully is. The idea of temperance or giving up some autonomy to then be received by the collective whole, is present and the driving force. Aesthetics and beauty are Schiller's logical departure and step forward after Kant.

No comments:

Post a Comment