1992

Sonnet 116 and the Barque

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 6. Thursday, 9 Jan 1992.
 
 
(1)	Date: 	Wed, 08 Jan 92 10:20:55 EST
	From: 	Ronald Dwelle <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Subj: 	SHK 3.0004  Astral Metaphors and Wandering Barques
 
(2)	Date: 	Wed, 8 Jan 1992 22:22:04 -0500
	From: 	Ian F. MacInnes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Subj:  	Comments on Sonnet 116
 
 
(1)-------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Wed, 08 Jan 92 10:20:55 EST
From: 		Ronald Dwelle <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject: Astral Metaphors and Wandering Barques
Comment: 	SHK 3.0004  Astral Metaphors and Wandering Barques
 
          A brief response to John Massa's spec on 116.
 
          It's unlikely "worth" and "height" refer to the barque,
          because of the masculine pronoun, "his." Not only was barque
          feminine then--in common use among sailors even today a
          barque would be referred to as "she."
 
(2)------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Wed, 8 Jan 1992 22:22:04 -0500
From: 		Ian F. MacInnes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject:  	Comments on Sonnet 116
 
RE: John Massa and Chet Vittitow's suggestions on Sonnet 116
 
The phrase "whose worth's unknown, although his highth be taken"
*should* (grammatically) refer to the wandering barque, but I don't
think it can, for a number of reasons.
 
1. The subject of the clause is masculine ("his highth") whereas
ships are traditionally feminine *even* when they have a male name.
Compare Merchant of Venice 1.1
 
        But I should think of shallows and of flats,
        And see my wealthy *Andrew* [dock'd] in sand,
        Vailing her high top lower than her ribs
        To kiss her burial.
 
Even if the barque is supposed to represent a male lover, the
demands of the conceit would weigh against a masculine pronoun.
 
2. The "height" of a ship usually (I think) refers to the height of
the masts rather than the amount of freeboard, although an unladen
vessel *is* said to be "riding high". In any case, the freeboard of
a vessel is not something that can be easily "taken". A boat may
appear to be unladen when in fact it just has high sides, hence the
ubiquity of loading lines on modern vessels. Also, if the metaphor
is to hold, the weight and quantity of the "cargo" would correspond
to the amount and value of the lover's love---but love itself is
supposed to be the fixed star above.
 
3. In other Renaissance "ship" poems (cf Wyatt, Petrarch) where the
ship is a metaphor for the lover, the ship is not mysterious. If
anything, it's worth is too well known as is its plight. From the
lover's point of view, love and the beloved are the radically
unknown.
 
The more I write about this, however, the more uncertain I become.
The proximity of "whose" to "barque" is certainly confusing.
 
Ian MacInnes

The Death of Dame Judith Anderson

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 5. Tuesday, 7 Jan 1992.
 
 
From:		Ken Steele <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Tuesday, January 7, 1992
Subject:	The Death of Dame Judith Anderson
 
 
	[Ed. Note:  Doubtless many other SHAKSPEReans have already heard the
	sad news of the death of Dame Judith Anderson at age 93, but as a small
	tribute to the great actress I reproduce here (without permission)
	the obituary from the *Los Angeles Times* (as reprinted in the local
	*Hamilton Spectator*). -- k.s.]
 
Actress played classic and campy roles:
Dame Judith Anderson dead at 93
 
Dame Judith Anderson will be remembered as one of the last grande dames of
the world's stages and films.  The Australian-born actress, whose potent
portrayals of complex and tormented women, died Friday.  The quintessential
Medea, Lady Macbeth and the obsessively deranged Mrs. Danvers of *Rebecca*
was 93.
 
The tragedienne, whose gifts vastly exceeded the handy Hollywood label of
"character actress," had been living near Santa Barbara, Calif. for
more than 20 years.  It was one of her last roles -- as the camp, imperiously
dotty matriarch on the soap opera *Santa Barbara* -- that brought her
dominating presence and luxuriantly marbled voice to a generation who had never
seen her command the stage in the ardent, demanding roles she adored, from the
works of Eugene O'Neill and Euripides to Tennessee Williams and Shakespeare.
 
She died at home, said a spokesman.  In August, she spent 18 days in a
hospital for an undisclosed ailment.  No cause for death was disclosed.
 
With her signature interpretations of theatre's classic roles -- particularly
Medea -- she was first among the dwindling ranks of grande dames of the
stage.  In her 70s, she even dared the role of Hamlet -- to no great reviews.
Her stagecraft earned her the extravagant tributes of theatre lovers.
In Berlin, they once strewed rose petals from her car to the stage door.  In
London, she performed in only two plays, but that was enough to earn her
the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire from the Queen
[in 1960].
 
Her hypnotically malevolent housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, in the 1940 Alfred
Hitchcock classic *Rebecca*, brought an Oscar nomination, and her two
television performances as Lady Macbeth earned her twin Emmys.  One of
those shows alone played "to an audience that would have taken us 33 years to
reach on the stage," she sighed.  Although she insisted she hated the "cold,
cold" eye of the camera, it was TV and movies that ultimately registered her
face and voice with vaster audiences.
 
In her 80s, Anderson cheerily signed on for her soap-opera role, several years
after her grand-nephew teamed with Leonard Nimoy and talked her into
playing a bat-eared Vulcan priestess in *Star Trek III*.  But it was her
theatre roles like Medea and Lady Macbeth that left the enduring impression of
an actress forever stalking the stairs with bloodied daggers.  "People
always think of me as playing these terrible, terrible women, but I've really
played very few of them -- Medea, Gertrude, Lady Macbeth... yes, Mrs. Danvers
in the movies... but no one remembers the pleasant people I've played --
Mary, the mother of Jesus, and so many others."
 
Still, it was as the stage's leading player of tragic, powerful villains that
she often excelled.  Although she once remarked wistfully that she wished
she was beautiful, her features seemed custom-made for the onstage torments of
O'Neill and Williams, and endured in memory long after the milkmaid miens
of Hollywood faded.  "There are so many strange, alluring, hateful, lovable,
weird, tender, ugly women of history and of life," Anderson once said.
"I want to delineate all of them."
 
In a career that began when she stepped onstage in 1915 in an Australian
touring company, she eventually performed opposite William Gillette,
Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Errol Flynn, Raymond Massey, Tyrone
Power and Ronald Reagan in the film *King's Row*, as the wife of the
doctor who amputates Reagan's legs.

Astral Metaphors & Sonnet 116

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 3. Monday, 6 Jan 1992.
 
 
Date: 		Sun, 5 Jan 1992 16:20 CST
From: 		Piers Lewis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject: 	Sonnet 116
 
 
I have been thinking about sonnet 116 since Geoffrey
Hargreaves asked the following question a few weeks ago:
 
  "Is there a definitive (or even confident) interpretation of the
  lines in Sonnet 116:
 
  It is the star to every wandering bark
  Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.   ?
 
  Is the metaphor fractured?   That is to say, you can take the
  height of a star, if you have a problem navigating, but no
  mariner has ever considered the worth of stars."
 
 
I am not sure what is meant by a 'fractured' metaphor.  I have
never heard the expression before.  If a metaphor is fractured,
is that an imperfection?  Should we be bothered by the fact that
it 'says' two different things at the same time?  On the one
hand, love is like a star because you can steer by it;  you always
know where you are, no matter how storm-tossed or confused
you may be in other respects; on the other, we don't understand
it any better than we do the stars.  We can 'take the height' of a
star, which gives us a number that we can use, but that fact
tells us nothing about its qualitative importance in what was for
Shakespeare (in all liklihood) a ptolemaic universe where height
had a moral value.  So: while the true value of love may be as
mysterious as that of the stars, we can use it to steer by as we
do the stars; provided love is, as the poem's central conceit
would have us believe, as unchanging as the fixed stars.  Which
brings us to the word that Shakespeare actually uses here which
is 'worth' not 'value.'  "Worth' was and is a word with a very
wide range of social and moral applications, one of which
pertains to character.  The character of the person, man or
woman, addressed in these sonnets is often in question which
gives the line a particular poignance--especially if we
remember that the man, at least, is socially higher and worthier
than the poet.
 
All this is pretty clear it seems to me; the real problems are
elsewhere, beginning with the first lines-- "Let me not to the
marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments"--which in the
very act of firmly slamming the door on possible impediments
to such marriages, effectively acknowledges that there are
plenty of them out there.  Similar stresses and strains are
evident in what follows:
 
   			Love is not love
   Which alters when it alteration finds
   Or bends with the remover to remove.
   O, no! . . .
 
oh yeah?  that "O, no!" tacitly admits that it happens all the
time.  Things change, alter over time.  Alterations bring on
alterations; removals, removals.  when people lose their
youthful good looks--or their money--friends or lovers who
once proclaimed eternal fidelity remove themselves and look
elsewhere.  As Bessie Smith sings, "No one knows you when
you're down and out."  Love, like everything else, is subject to
time, is "Time's fool."  Such knowledge is implicit in the
straining, struggling language of these lines.  And that brings us
back to the matter of the poem's central conceit, which bravely
proclaims the opposite: love is the one fixed point in a turning
world.  Well, yes.  That's what everyone says and there are a
few people who really believe it and behave accordingly;
including the poet who knows, however, that he is virtually
alone in this.  And that, it seems to me, is why the final couplet,
with its studied non-sequiturs, has such an air of empty
bravado, whistling in the wind.
 
Does this sonnet offer us an example of a poem 'deconstructing'
itself, rhetorically subverting its own rehetoric, as De Man says
all poetry and all literature must?  Or is it merely imperfect?
 
 Piers Lewis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Astral Metaphors and Wandering Barques

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 4. Tuesday, 7 Jan 1992.
 
 
(1)	Date: 	Mon, 6 Jan 1992 15:05:50 -0500
	From: 	Chet Vittitow <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Subj:   SHK 3.0003  Astral Metaphors & Sonnet 116
 
(2)	Date: 	Mon, 6 Jan 1992 16:20:00 -0500
	From: 	John S. Massa (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
	Subj:  	Piers Lewis' comments on Sonnet 116
 
(3)	Date: 	Tue, 7 Jan 92 14:40:48 PST
	From: 	This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
	Subj: 	SHK 3.0003  Astral Metaphors & Sonnet 116
 
 
(1)-------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Mon, 6 Jan 1992 15:05:50 -0500
From: 		Chet Vittitow <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject: Astral Metaphors & Sonnet 116
Comment:      	SHK 3.0003  Astral Metaphors & Sonnet 116
 
I must admit that I feel a bit tentative jumping in at this point, especially
by questioning what seems to be general wisdom.  But isn't it possible
that the phrase "whose worth's unknown" modifies the ship, not the star?
 
Chet Vittitow
 
(2)-------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Mon, 6 Jan 1992 16:20:00 -0500
From: 		John S. Massa (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Subject:  	Piers Lewis' comments on Sonnet 116
 
          May I offer the following speculation concerning the
          interpretation of the following lines from Sonnet 116:
 
          "It is the star to every wand'ring barque
           Whose worth's unknown although his height be taken."
 
          Love is the guiding star to wandering lovers (barque =
          lover).  These wandering lovers carry a heavy cargo of some
          sort, but the quality (worth) of the cargo is unknown.  Yet,
          whether the cargo is valuable or worthless (i.e., whether
          the lover is genuine or frivolous "light love") is hard to
          tell from the outside of a barque (or a person).  You have
          to eventually examine the contents of both.  However, a
          worthless cargo or a valuable cargo is heavy in either case
          and difficult to steer toward that fixed ideal of the star
          of love.
 
          This is reminiscent of (R&J II:1, 121):
 
          JULIET: By whose direction found'st thou out this place?
 
          ROMEO:  By love, that first did prompt me to enquire.
                  He lend me counsel, and I lent him eyes.
                  I am no pilot, yet wert thou as far
                  As that vast shore washed with the farthest sea,
                  I should adventure for such merchandise.
 
          So the "Guiding Love; Pilot or Ship as Lover; Merchandise;"
          cluster of ideas seems to be represented in these
          lines from Sonnet 116.
 
          In other words, I suggest Shakespeare was drawing attention
          to the height (above water) and worth (cargo) of the BARQUE,
          NOT the height and worth of the star, as suggested by
          previous comments in this electronic forum.
 
          But, as with all things Shakespearean, he probably meant
          all of the above plus 20 things we haven't even thought of
          yet.
          __________________________________________________________
                       BASIC SHAKESPEAREAN BARQUE PHYSICS
 
                            /|\
                          /  |  \
                        /    |    \
                  ____/______|______\______
           /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\  water line
                   \ wandering barque #1/
                    \__________________/      "...his height [above
                                               water] be taken." i.e.,
                                               heavy with love but
                                               heavy things can be
                                               worth much (gold) or
                                               little (lead).  So the
                                               BARQUE's WORTH is
                            /|\                unknown.
                          /  |  \
                        /    |    \
                 _____/______|______\______
                  \                      /
                   \ wandering barque #2/
         /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\  water line
                                          NOT heavy with Love, i.e.,
                                          its "height" is not taken.
          ____________________________________________________________
          end of speculation
 
          John Massa
 
(3)--------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Tue, 7 Jan 92 14:40:48 PST
From: 		This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subject: Astral Metaphors & Sonnet 116
Comment: 	SHK 3.0003  Astral Metaphors & Sonnet 116
 
Well, if the poem includes no awareness that things are
not as we and the poem's author would like them to be, then
I guess we could say it's imperfect, but only if we assume
that a perfect poem must also tell the truth about the
world. I agree with you that the poem shows the stresses
of trying to maintain the truth of a transcendent ideal,
but I don't know that it is therefore an example of
De Manian deconstruction, for a work of literature
could show such stress about something that we regarded
as true.
 
Kay Stockholder

New & Forthcoming Books on Shakespeare

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 2. Friday, 3 Jan 1992.
 
 
Date: 		Thu, 2 Jan 1992 15:07:00 -0500
From: 		Peter Scott/U of Saskatchewan Library <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject: 	New/forthcoming Shakespeare (Jan.92)
 
	[Ed. Note: Special thanks once more to Peter Scott for the
	following list of new and forthcoming books on Shakespeare.
	The information is useful and much appreciated. -- k.s.]
 
HAMLET / William Shakespeare ; illustrated by W.G. Simmonds. -- New
   York : Gramercy Books : Distributed by Outlet Book Co., 1991.
   ISBN 0-517-06488-X : $8.99
 
KING LEAR / edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom. -- New
   York : Chelsea House, c1992. -- (Major literary characters) ISBN
   0-7910-0922-X ISBN 0-7910-0977-7 (pbk.)
 
THE SONNETS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE ; illustrated by Charles
   Robinson. -- New York : Gramercy Books : Distributed by Outlet
   Book Co., 1991. -- (Illustrated Shakespeare) ISBN 0-517-07231-9 :
   $7.99
 
THE APPROPRIATION OF SHAKESPEARE : post-renaissance reconstructions
   of the works and the myth / edited by Jean I. Marsden. -- New
   York : St. Martin's Press, 1992. ISBN 0-312-07198-1
 
SHAKESPEAREAN TRAGEDY / edited and introduced by John Drakakis. --
   London ; New York : Longman, 1992. -- (Longman critical readers)
   ISBN 0-582-05115-0 ISBN 0-582-05114-2 (pbk.)
 
SHAKESPEARE--TO TEACH OR NOT TO TEACH : grades three and up / Cass
   Foster and Lynn G. Johnson. 1st ed. -- Scottsdale, AZ : Five Star
   Publications, 1992. ISBN 1-877749-03-6 : $19.95
 
SHAKESPEARE'S ENGLISH : language in the history plays / W.F. Bolton.
   -- Cambridge, Mass., USA : B. Blackwell, 1992. -- (The Language
   library) ISBN 1-55786-135-8

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