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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: May ::
Re: Feste; Masks; Polonius and Authorship
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0437.  Monday, 16 May 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Priscilla Finley <
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        Date:   Saturday, 14 May 1994 13:53:28 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   re: Feste
 
(2)     From:   Stephen Orgel <
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        Date:   Sunday, 15 May 1994 10:39:19 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0429  Re: masks
 
(3)     From:   Thomas I. Ellis <
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        Date:   Sunday, 15 May 1994 18:00:08 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0432  Re: Character; Polonius and Authorship
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Priscilla Finley <
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Date:           Saturday, 14 May 1994 13:53:28 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        re: Feste
 
To Matthew Vail Smith, regarding Feste's signifying,
 
A good starting point for assembling a biblio. on Feste's slipperiness would be
Keir Elam's book "Language-Games in Shakespeare's Comedies" (title may not be
exact). He focuses on Merry Wives & Love's Labor's Lost, which you might
examine too if you're serious about deconstructive language & modes of meaning,
but I'm pretty sure he discusses Feste as well. Also coming immediately to mind
is an article by Elizabeth Freund called "Twelfth Night and the Tyranny of
Interpretation" (ELH 53(1986): 471-489).
 
I would appreciate it if you could either post or e-mail a summary of the
responses you get, since this is a topic I'm keeping notes on too.
 
Thanks!
Priscilla Finley
SUNY Binghamton
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Orgel <
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Date:           Sunday, 15 May 1994 10:39:19 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 5.0429  Re: masks
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0429  Re: masks
 
I think masks may have been partly naturalized in the Renaissance. When I was
working on the Inigo Jones drawings I was struck by the fact that, though we
know masquers always wore masks to perform, the costume designs without
exception show the masquers without them. This suggests that, at the very
least, Jones didn't consider them part of the costume.
 
S. Orgel
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas I. Ellis <
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Date:           Sunday, 15 May 1994 18:00:08 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0432  Re: Character; Polonius and Authorship
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0432  Re: Character; Polonius and Authorship
 
There is another problem with the claim that a Polonius as a caricature of Lord
Burleigh is somehow "proof" that Oxford, and not Shakespeare, wrote "Hamlet."
That is that Oxford was, in fact, Burleigh's son-in-law; his first wife, Anne
Cecil, was Burleigh's daughter. It would have been irregular indeed for Oxford
to create a caricature of his own father-in-law.
 
Moreover, aside from the inherent improbability of this and all other
conspiracy theories--the notion that virtually all of Elizabethan London would
be parties to a grand cover-up for the purpose of duping--whom?--their
descendents?--the Oxford hypothesis fails a simple and obvious test: we have a
number of poems reliably attributed to the Earl of Oxford, and if there were
anything at all to this claim of Shakespearean authorship, one would expect to
find some glimmering of talent and insight--a droll wit, perhaps, or a penchant
for subtle ironies and word-play--in these poems. In fact we find none
whatsoever; instead these poems are mediocre and conventional in every respect,
with clumsy diction, hackneyed conceits, and prosody so incompetent that
awkward inverted diction and "filler words" proliferate throughout. Here is an
example:
 
Wherewith I muse why men of wit have love so dearly bought.
For love is worse than hate, and eke more harm hath done;
Record I take of those that rede of Paris, Priam's son.
 
It seemed the god of sleep had mazed so much his wits
When he refused wit for love, which cometh but by fits.
But why accuse I him whom earth hath covered long?
There be of his posterity alive; I do him wrong.
 
Whom I might well condemn, to be a cruel judge
Unto myself, who hath that crime in others that I grudge.
 (From Hebel & Hudson's "Poetry of the English Renaissance" p. 103)
 
Can anyone seriously maintain that the man who penned this tissue of Petrarchan
cliches in his own name would take on a mask to write the greatest poetry in
the English language? Q.E.D.
 
Thomas I. Ellis
Hampton University

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