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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: May ::
NEXTnan Biography and Hazelnut Query
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 105. Monday, 25 May 1992.
 
 
From: 		Roy Flannagan <FLANNAGA@OUACCVMB.BITNET>
Date: 		Sunday, May 24, 1992, 18:39:59 -0400
Subject: 	Park Honan's Upcoming Biography for OUP, and
		 A Query about Cracking Hazlenuts
 
I was fortunate to hear a lecture last Friday here at Ohio University
by the versatile Park Honan, Professor of English at Leeds, biographer
of Jane Austen, Robert Browning, and, most recently, Shakespeare (in
progress and not due out for at least two more years). Professor Honan
was not allowed by OUP to divulge new biographical discoveries which will
be part of the book ("OUP wants you to buy the book," he said), but he
did talk quite a bit about the contrast between the supportive, medieval
guild-centered society of Stratford, and the harsher, more entrepreneurial
society of Elizabethan London (John Shakespeare also had a Shoreditch
connection).
 
Honan also will be trying to establish William Shakespeare's connections
with Lancaster, possibly as a schoolteacher, in the biography.  He will
also try to prove how well-established Shakespeare's family was in
Stratford (but the family did have one brawler and one bigamist).  He is
interested in exactly how Shakespeare used the books he studied in school,
especially those collections of *sententiae* such as that of Leonard
Coleman which he so often paraphrased in the plays.  He is interested in
the effects of John Shakespeare's public disgrace--his demotion from the
status of alderman, among other things--on his thirteen-year-old son.
And he wants to disprove what he thinks to be the myth that Anne Hathaway
was too old for Shakespeare when he married her, or that engendering
children before marriage was condoned by the church.
 
Generally, Honan finds documentary lives like Schoenbaum's useful but not
revealing, especially in the fleshing in of local politics or religion, or
in attempting to answer questions such as "Was Shakespeare born a genius
or was he educated well?"
 
Partly joking, on the day after the talk, I asked Honan about those
hazlenut shells found recently in the remains of the Rose Theater, and
he was interested in SHAKSPER's taking up the discussion.  He asked me
to ask this electronic assembly if anyone knows of references in
Elizabethan plays to the annoying cracking of hazlenuts during
performances. Evidently the English audiences of 1600 drank bottled
beer and ate hazlenuts, just as they drink beer or wine and eat sweets
still today.  Honan was thinking about the noise; I was worried about
nuts + slingshots, or bottles, as potential weapons that an audience that
did not like or approve of a play might use.  I also was thinking that
hazlenut shells might provide a good drainage system for the floors of
open-air theaters.  What do people think? Incidentally, the *OED* provides
no clue, under "hazlenut," "filbert," or "noisette."
 
Roy Flannagan
Ohio University
 

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