Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir -- Penzler, Kerry and MRT

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 12 Aug 2010

  • Next message: davezeltserman: "RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir -- Penzler, Kerry and MRT"

    Perhaps it comes down a sense of perspective, to literal point-of-view, if you will.

    For example:

    HAMLET- the titular character is literally blameless (at least until he kills Polonius, and even then his move is potentially justifiable) in a setting where there's "something rotten" in Denmark: it's obvious from the first scene that the king is fiddling while things circle the drain at Elsinore. More to the point, he's as much a victim of his father's murder as his father. And because he "can be fretted, but not played" ("though you can fret me, you cannot play me," he suspects everyone, even his own mother- he ruminates on how the ghost of his murdered father might be an imp from Hell looking to lead him astray- that's an intelligent response to an impossible situation, and also the sign of a brilliant, suspicious mind, just one step short of paranoid) he's no one's pawn in a court full of people willing, aching to be used for the purposes of others (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Laertes, Osric, Polonius, and to a lesser extent, even Ophelia). Hamlet's death at the end is tragedy of literally Shakespearean proportions.

    If it's Claudius' story, it's noir (and reads a hell of a lot like MACBETH). If it's Gertrude's story, it's also noir. Laertes, Polonius, R & G, even Ophelia- noir.

    KING LEAR- again, the titular character has flaws (he's petty and peevish and wants to freeload off his kids), but he's basically blameless in the bloodbath that follows on the heels of his decision to retire and split his kingdom amongst his daughters and their husbands.

    If it's Goneril's story, it's deep, black noir. Doubly so if it's Regan's story (the bitch joined her vicious husband in plucking out the eyes of one of Lear's faithful retainers right on stage. That's hard core, man). If it's Cornelia's story, it's tragedy (as she was the most truly blameless of characters in this play, even moreso than her foolish, prideful father). If it's Edmund's story, it's really compelling noir (bastard son trading on his being born on the wrong side of the blanket, playing people of station off against each other until he's brought low by the sword of the legitimate half-brother whom he's used, wronged, and gotten disinherited. Go back and read his "Thou, Nature, art my goddess" speech in Act I. I'd read the rest of that story. Wouldn't you?)

    MACBETH- noirnoirnoir!

    If it's Malcolm's story it's tragedy. If it's Duncan's it's HAMLET with a far less compelling main character and a far happier outcome. Likewise Macduff.

    OTHELLO- noir. The guy's a basically great person, brought low by a crippling jealousy (you know, that whole, "tragic flaw" thing about which literary types tend to wax rhapsodic), which opens him up to being played by Iago.

    If it's Iago's story, it's noir as black and dark as Regan's (and possibly as compelling as Edmund's).

    Let's face it, Willie the Shake had quite a way with villains.

    And don't even get me started on RICHARD III!

    There you have it- the perspective is everything, the apple of discord has been tossed into the middle of the table.



    On Thu, Aug 12, 2010 at 9:41 AM, Sean Shapiro <> wrote:

    > Macbeth is noir because he kills to get to where he thinks he wants to be.
    > R&J
    > is tragedy because love should not be a crime. My two cents ...
    > Sean Shapiro
    > ________________________________
    > From: " <>" <
    > <>>
    > To: <>
    > Sent: Thu, August 12, 2010 5:01:47 PM
    > Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir -- Penzler, Kerry and MRT
    > I take exactly the opposite track, Dave. If a moral line is crossed it's
    > tragedy. There's an implied lesson. But in noir there's no alternative, no
    > opportunity for redemption. Lets take Romeo & Julliette. At the end, the
    > Prince
    > sums up the errors of everyone's ways that led to the fatalities,
    > encouraging
    > better behaviour in the future. Macbeth could have avoided his end had he
    > been
    > less ambitious, Hamlet if he'd been more decisive. Those are tragedies. But
    > if
    > you believe R&J's young love is doomed regardless because love will never
    > transcend tribalism, that's noir.
    > Best,
    > Kerry
    > ----- Original Message -----
    > From: davezeltserman
    > To: <>
    > Sent: Thursday, August 12, 2010 9:51 AM
    > Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir -- Penzler, Kerry and MRT
    > It has to has to be more than just a character being screwed, the
    > character's
    > actions have to contribute to them being screwed. A moral line has to be
    > crossed
    > that there's no turning back from. Otherwise, instead of noir it's tragedy.
    > --Dave
    > --- In <>, Jack
    > Bludis <buildsnburns@...> wrote:
    > >
    > > Not sure about the conflict between what Kerry Schooley says and what
    > Jacques
    > >Debierue (MRT) says.
    > >
    > >
    > > I agree with Kerry that the screwed character of noir may have a moral
    > core but
    > >it gets skewed, most often by money or the femme fatale. And yes, the PI
    > novel
    > >is romantic fantasy.
    > >
    > > MrT says of the moral code, "... such codes are rarely personal but
    > instead are
    > >largely societal." I've never heard that before, but it seems right on
    > target.
    > >Chandler's entire description of the private-eye in his famous essay
    > points
    > >directly to the judeo-christian ethic.
    > >
    > > Yes, just "Screwed" is shorthand for noir, but it does describe the
    > protagonist
    > >of such fiction. The absolute evil protagonist is not noir at all, but
    > something
    > >entirely different.
    > >
    > >
    > > Jack
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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