1994

Qs: *Othello*; Sonnet 144

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0743. Monday, 19 September 1994.
 
(1)     From:   David Evett <R0870@@TAONODE>
        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 1994 17:59 ET
        Subj:   Othello query
 
(2)     From:   Mary Tyler Knowles <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 1994 21:28:04 -0400
        Subj:   Sonnet 144, line 14 query
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870@@TAONODE>
Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 1994 17:59 ET
Subject:        Othello query
 
Iago tells Othello to strangle Desdemona (4.1.200 or thereabouts); according to
the F stage direction he "smothers" her, and in all the recent productions I
have seen uses a pillow ready to hand on the bed; the action seems consonant
with his stated disinclination to "scar that whiter skin of hers than snow."
OED,however, lists "strangle" as one gloss on both "smother" and "stifle," the
s.d. in Qq.  Nothing in the surrounding text helps resolve the question. Was
strangulation the customary punishment for infidelity in some relevant society?
Are there other proprieties, or other reasons besides the one he gives that
might inhibit Othello from using his hands directly on Desdomona's body?
 
Breathlessly,
Dave Evett
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Tyler Knowles <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 1994 21:28:04 -0400
Subject:        Sonnet 144, line 14 query
 
I have just been teaching the sonnets and hoped someone could help me with the
use of the verb "fire" in the last line of #144's couplet. The gloss in both my
old Signet edition and in my newer Folger Library edition suggests that "fire
my good one out" means "to communicate venereal disease."  "To fire" in the OED
is "to inspire with strong passion", "to inflame to passion"," to affect body
the with a burning sensation".  Partridge's Shakespeare's Bawdy glosse the noun
"fire" as "sexual ardour" but provides no gloss for the verb form.  So where
does this sense of veneral disease come from?  The use of fire is consistent
with the images of hell (place of eternal punishment and female sexual organ)
in the rest of this poem, but I'm baffled by the gloss.  And, oh dear, what an
attitude toward female sexuality is revealed here...

Re: Bianca

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0742. Monday, 19 September 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Tom Loughlin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 1994 00:41:05 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
(2)     From:   Bernice W. Kliman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 15 Sep 1994 22:28 EDT
        Subj:   Bianca and Zefirelli
 
(3)     From:   Ronald Dwelle <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 94 08:56:38 EST
        Subj:   Bianca as Bitch
 
(4)     From:   John Drakakis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 94 16:09:00 BST
        Subj:   SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
(5)     From:   Daniel M Larner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 1994 14:24:30 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Loughlin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 1994 00:41:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
> Yes, of course, Shakespeare above all wrote PLAYS for ACTORS to perform.  But
> he WROTE them, and the actor and director who would interpret them must know
> how to READ the action and relations Shakespeare encoded in his text.  It is
> ABSOLUTELY WRONG, if anything in this sublunary world is wrong, to say that
> Bianca or any other character -- in Shakespeare, in Strindberg, in August
> Wilson's plays, in ANY play -- can be whatever an actor or a director wants.
> If they wish to invent their own plots and characters and motivations, by all
> means, they are welcome to do so, but let them bill themselves as playwrights
> performing their own works, not as interpreters of other's imaginative
> creations.
>
> Jim Schaefer
> This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
I may be a bit too tired to be doing this right at the moment, but I get the
feeling from the above that my artistic freedom is being squashed and that I
should respond.  Language is such a tricky and imprecise tool for understanding
that I hope the day will come when we find another tool to make ourselves
better understood amongst each other.
 
As a practitioner of the art of theatre for better than 20 years of my adult
life, I will defend to the death that I CAN, in fact, make any character what I
want that character to be.  I have the freedom to do this; I make the choices,
I execute the action on stage.  If you can't understand this concept, then the
true nature of theatre from the point of view of the practitioner is lost upon
you.
 
HOWEVER, I will also defend to the death YOUR right, as an audience member, to
disagree completely, vociferously, and heatedly, with my choices.  They don't
work for you, you think they violate the text, you think the character
shouldn't be interpreted that way, etc. etc.  OK.  But the hell of playwriting
- and it is indeed a hell - is that it requires, nay, demands that actors be
the vehicles through which the play is interpreted and its meaning is conveyed.
 If a writer has trouble with this concept, then they shouldn't write plays;
they should write novels or screenplays, where the action is far more under
their control in terms of interpretation.  Shakespeare indeed WROTE his plays,
but he WROTE THEM TO BE ACTED BY ACTORS in the theatre, and we just can't
separate the words in that phrase, because then only a partial reality of the
theatre is being discussed.  This idea implies a whole lot more than simply
that he "wrote" them.  Rather than suggesting to me that I should write
different plays if you disagree with my artistic choices, I would respectfully
suggest back that, if you want Shakespeare done "absolutely right," then you
become the actor/director/producer and mount your interpretations of the works
in the open artistic market as you see fit.  It's a large sublunary world.
 
Lest I be thought to be some kind of raving interpretive maniac,  let me point
out that I am a strong believer in the strength of the text as the primary
source of an actor's inspiration in playing WS.  But again, language is a
tricky thing, even language as wonderful and rich as Shakespeare's, and I
simply cannot close the artistic door to new possibilities by stating so boldly
the "absolute" of anything in the theatre.  My choices are mine, and I'll take
responsibility for them, but I am loathe to let anyone tell me I can't make
those choices.
 
   And while I'm at it:
 
 (stuff deleted)
 
> After pausing for a moment, the actress replied something to the effect, "I
> really don't know.  It is not my job to decided WHO she is.  My task is simply
> to play the scene.  I leave who she is to the audience to decide."  Words to
> live (and act) by.
 
This answer is clever, but disingenuous and misleading (despite the fact that a
member of the RSC said it).  Anyone who knows anything about the craft will
tell you that actors are always making decisions about who the characters they
play are.  You simply can't get on the stage unless you've done that.  There is
no such thing as "simply playing the scene" (what the hell does that mean,
anyway?).  There's no such thing as intellectually disengaged, neutral acting.
We're not robots; we're people, human beings who are constantly making choices,
regardless of whether those choices are conscious or unconscious.  An actor's
choices reveal who they think the character is (unless they're complete hacks).
It's a good way to get out of fighting with the audience, however.  ;-)
 
OK - I'll go to bed now.  Sorry to be so long.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bernice W. Kliman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 15 Sep 1994 22:28 EDT
Subject:        Bianca and Zefirelli
 
How do BG and LZ KNOW that what they read in a text is exactly what is there?
Words on a page are not much without what we bring to them: it's a corollary of
the actor's work with a text. I know from my work on *Hamlet* how frequently
scholars writing after Olivier show that they were influenced by the film: they
READ in the text what the performance persuaded them to believe. As for LZ's
claim that she discovered the meaning of Bianca BEFORE seeing any production,
can she claim that she came to it without any preconceptions about woman's role
as ...whatever?
 
I agree with John Drakakis and think that a production that would show Bianca
as taking the role of underminer and subverter could be a pleasnt antidote to
the poison of Kate's actual or ironic acceptance of her place at her husband's
fool.
 
I'd like to say a good word about Zefirelli's film. which does a fine job
throughout, it seems to me.  Bianca is not a goody-goody.  She is quite capable
of a spiteful look at Kate (from the safety of her father's arms); then she
amusingly is chagrined to think that she has been caught with that look on her
face by Lucentio. Kate "abdication" to Petruchio Zefirelli explains well: it's
the children. Kate and Pet. have not yet become reconciled at the wedding
banquet.  He's in quite a pet, in fact.  Then she looks at the children and her
face softens. Well, there's no help for it; if a woman wants a child she has to
go to bed with a man, and so she soothes him and takes him off to bed. I am
making this sound unsubtle, but Z doesn't.
 
Where does the desire for children come from?  Not from the text.  Nevertheless
Z uses that sub-subtextual desire to come to a satisfying conclusion.
 
Thanks to all who responded,
 
Cheers to all,
Bernice
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ronald Dwelle <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 94 08:56:38 EST
Subject:        Bianca as Bitch
 
It seems a little off to call Bianca a shrew. The animalistic term "shrew"
implies a certain physicalness--perhaps even viciousness--which seems suitable
for Kate but not for Bianca. Bianca's "shrewishness" is much more cunning and
cerebral. The contemporary term "bitch" seems much more appropriate for Bianca
by the end of the play (though I can imagine an actress playing her somewhat
more favorably nowadays).
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 94 16:09:00 BST
Subject: Re: Bianca as Shrew
Comment:        SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
Bianca doesn't HAVE a "personality"
 
John Drakakis
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Daniel M Larner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 1994 14:24:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0738 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
Of course, the text is important, and of course we need to work hard, as we
analyze, to be sensitive to what happens to the text in the playing.  Mr.
Pearson's Shakespearean actress who says it's not her job to know "who the
character is" is being disingenuous.  Of course it's her job.  But it's far
more important for her, as an actor, to be able to embody her understanding in
her performance than to articulate it afterward in response to a question.  We
shouldn't forget that both readers ("playing" the scene in our heads) and
actors do discover characters in the process of playing, and that process of
discovery is dynamic, and may not aways come out the same way in every
"performance."  In fact, the bedrock of the existence of any dramatic character
is the tissue of the play's action, as it happens.  Analysis breaks down or
dries up when it's not obvious that it arises from the living movement of the
play. Questions like Bianca's proposed "shrewishness" need to be referred to
the action of the whole to find out what their meaning might be.  Those
comments have been most interesting and useful which suggest to us what effect
her behavior has on our understanding not just of her, or of Kate, but of the
whole experience of the play, and what it might make us think and feel.
 
Daniel Larner
Fairhaven College
Western Washingon University
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Q: *Ado*

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 740. Thursday, 15 September 1994.
 
From:           Thomas Hall <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Sep 1994 19:31:50 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        [*Ado* Query]
 
I am looking for information on the play, Much Ado About Nothing. Specifically
pertaining to the role of women and outsiders. I am a student at Northeastern
Illinois University, and we are looking into the role of women and outsiders.
We are also covering The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, and Measure for
Measure. We have a local discussion group going, but I am interested in more
people's opinions.
                                                Sincerely
                                                Thomas Hall

Re: Universals; Character; *Ado*

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 741. Monday, 19 September 1994.
 
(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 15 Sep 1994 17:07:56 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Generalizing about a certain species of ape
 
(2)     From:   Pat Buckridge <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 1994 15:57:30 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   Character
 
(3)     From:   Terence Hawkes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 94 12:58 BST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.0740 Q: *Ado*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 15 Sep 1994 17:07:56 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Generalizing about a certain species of ape
 
Denis Donoghue has recently written: "It would be more reasonable to claim that
equality, universality and disinterestedness are sentiments to be imagined, not
states of being or gifts of God to be enjoyed" (TLS July 15, 1994, pp. 4-5). He
is writing about those "who want to sustain the notion that each of us is
spiritually the same, at a level of being far deeper than that of our
differences" (p. 4). Now perhaps "spiritually" is the operative word here,
because later in his essay Donoghue baldly generalizes (or universalizes, if
you will) about our species: "We are social animals" (p. 5).
 
And so, apparently, we are absolutely "social animals" who lack any universal
sentiments. Including the desire to socialize?
 
Is there one species of anthropoid ape about which field biologists cannot
generalize?
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Buckridge <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 1994 15:57:30 +1000 (EST)
Subject:        Character
 
Terence Hawkes wants (again) to know how Ralph Cohen has access to Bassanio's
'habit of mind'.  The answer (again) is: by means of INFERENCE, a mental
process familiar to everyone in the world except Cultural Materialists.  But do
we need to start that all over?
 
And by the way -  hear, hear to Bill Godshalk and James Schaefer for their
defence of the text.
 
Pat Buckridge
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 94 12:58 BST
Subject: 5.0740 Q: *Ado*
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.0740 Q: *Ado*
 
Dear Thomas Hall: For a perfect example of woman as outsider in Much Ado, have
a look at Innogen.
 
T. Hawkes

Re: Bassanio; Henry V; Deaths

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 739. Thursday, 15 September 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Terence Hawkes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Sep 94 14:53 BST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.0731 Re: Assorted MV: Bassanio
 
(2)     From:   Terence Martin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Sep 94 13:37:50 CDT
        Subj:   Henry V - War
 
(3)     From:   David Evett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Sep 94 17:27:59 EST
        Subj:   [Natural Deaths]
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Sep 94 14:53 BST
Subject: 5.0731 Re: Assorted MV: Bassanio
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.0731 Re: Assorted MV: Bassanio
 
Does Ralph Cohen really have access to Bassanio's 'habit of mind'? How? I am
agog.
 
T. Hawkes
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Martin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Sep 94 13:37:50 CDT
Subject:        Henry V - War
 
I certainly agree with Ben Schneider and his point about the Elizabethan
attitude to war.  Attitudes to war have changed generally even within this
century in Europe and the US.  Nonetheless, Henry V in particular has always
been glorified in English poular culture and education for his warrior
abilities at least up until my experiences as an English school boy in the
1950's.  Perhaps now teachers are a little more critical of a monarch who spent
most of his reign gallivanting around France rather than looking after England!
 
Terence Martin
UM - St. Louis
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Sep 94 17:27:59 EST
Subject:        [Natural Deaths]
 
Ron MacDonald, citing Stephen Greenblatt and others, proposes that there is no
such thing as "natural" death: since life is our "natural" state, each of us
perceives her or his death as an unnatural event, an alien intrusion.  (No
doubt this helps account for the traditional Western visual figuration of death
as a walking skeleton, a being who both is and is not human.)  This is a
perspective, however, that like much other poststructural thinking privileges
subjectivity.  Yet we receive as well as make our language, after all, and
almost all adults in our culture (I would guess that includes Greenblatt and
MacDonald) also discriminate in their ordinary if not their academic discourse
among three types of death, with respect to their perceived, comprehensible,
articulable causes--(1) deaths caused by willed human acts (murder,
manslaughter, suicide [it occurs to me that English does not have a distinct
word for death caused by war--do such words occur in other tongues?]); (2)
deaths resulting from a single perceivable event of a kind not predictable as
part of the normal course of any particular life, even of the life of a
deep-sea diver or steelworker or bomb defuser (accidents); (3) deaths caused by
events so imperceptible, complex, or nysterious that they cannot be specified,
and that share these qualities with so many other deaths that most of us can
anticipate experiencing such a death, with the expectation that most people who
survive the first few hours or days of life will survive the next few decades,
so that some of the shock and dismay aroused by instances of types 1 and 2
attends unusually early versions of type 3.  These are the deaths we call
"natural," in this case meaning something like "common" or "usual"; we call
them that also because we see that death is a part of nature, in that all
things that live also die. (I'm afraid most of this is pretty obvious.)
 
There is certainly much to be learned from thinking about any of the kinds of
death terms of their subjectivity (especially as we try to understand the power
that images of death have for moving us, as readers or spectators, over and
over again).  But there are also things to be learned from studying the social
and institutional construction of death--the death of others, if you will.
Literary artists, at least in the West, have, by and large, studied the first
kind of death more extensively than the other two: Shakespeare shares this
characteristic with Homer, Chaucer, and Dickens, to the point where most of the
deaths in his plays are of type 1.  Anticipation is part of it, but I suppose
that the issue of (in)evitability is at the center of this process: we can see
the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, Desdemona and Othello coming from a long way
off, but along that way there are many opportunities--not taken, of course,
perceptible to us but not to them--for avoiding the violent close.  The
paradigm is supplied by the old fable about the man still in the prime of life,
warned that he would meet his early death in the marketplace so that he fled to
Aleppo, meeting an equally surprised Death in the marketplace of Aleppo.  It is
restated in the rage of Mercutio (not that he oughtn't to have known better),
sure that he could have handled Tybalt if not for the "accident" of Romeo's
well-intentioned but ill-timed intervention.  (The obverse of the process, it
seems to me, allows many readers and spectators to register many suicides-
-Juliet's, Cleopatra's--as at least partially triumphant.)  By contrast, the
deaths of Gaunt (who rails against Richard, not cancer or emphysema or
whatever) and Henry IV (the two "natural" Shakespearean deaths given extensive
stage time), for all that their unhappiness is perhaps one of the factors
involved, seem not more avoidable than changes in the weather--and, as enacted
in the plays, not much longer remembered.  And the ways that they and those
around them treat the fact of their dying strike me as different from the
treatment accorded most other Shakespearean deaths.

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