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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: January ::
Re: Elizabethan Education; Dreams (Prep.); Dumb Show
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 014. Wednesday, 11 January, 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Edward T Bonahue <
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        Date:   Friday, 06 Jan 95 15:42 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.1032  Q: Elizabethan Education
 
(2)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 Jan 95 16:10:12 EST
        Subj:   [Dreams (Prepositions and More)]
 
(3)     From:   Joe Nathan <
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        Date:   Sunday,  8 Jan 95 15:31:13 PST
        Subj:   Re: *Hamlet* Dumb Show
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward T Bonahue <
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Date:           Friday, 06 Jan 95 15:42 EST
Subject: 5.1032  Q: Elizabethan Education
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.1032  Q: Elizabethan Education
 
To Richard Kennedy's question about Shakespearean education.  One of the most
interesting and enlightening reads is Ascham's _The Schoolmaster_, where he
sets forth much education philosophy considered orthodox in the late sixteenth
century.  All of it meant for nice boys of course, and of a certain class.....
 
Ed Bonahue
University of North Carolina
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 6 Jan 95 16:10:12 EST
Subject:        [Dreams (Prepositions and More)]
 
E. L. Epstein's notion that there is some single, stable, coherent set of rules
for "English" must be contradicted by her own experience, to say nothing of the
theory and practice of formal linguistics.  In a normal academic day I
encounter at least three distinct grammars, none of which, including that of my
professorial colleagues, is entirely fixed--some of us, for instance, are much
more scrupulous than others about not splitting infinitives--, and two of which
(those spoken and sometimes written by most of my Caucasian and most of my
African-American students) are markedly unstable in many ways.  (Have others in
the list noted a recent marked propensity of student writers to use any old
preposition as the particle in phrases such as "made. . . of/on"?)  World-wide,
there are dozens of more-or-less distinct communities of English speakers each
of which has its characteristic set of linguistic rules, all in a state of
constant change.  It is, I believe, an axiom of historical linguistics that the
English of Shakespeare's time was at least as various and unstable as
ours--Manfred Gorlach observes that "EModE could indeed be taken as a typical
example to illustrate the fact that language systems are neither homogeneous
nor stable" (<Introduction to Early Modern English> [1991], 8).
 
But in any case the problems Epstein perceives in the two lines from <The
Tempest> do not have to be solved either historically or on grounds that they
are "poetic" (whatever that means) and therefore freed from conventional
grammatical inhibitions.  The problem in the first one--"Of his bones are coral
made"--is not what Epstein says it is; it has nothing to do with the "of" but
with the apparent lack of subject-verb agreement between "are" and "coral."
For this there are at least three plausible explanations: (1) that the text
originally read "corals" but the "s" got dropped in typesetting; (2) that some
member or members of the composite being we call Shakespeare (an author, but
also the transcribers and editors and typesetters who handled the text on its
way to publication) allowed the number of "are" to be attracted toward the
nearest preceding noun rather than the actual subject (my students do this all
the time), suggested by Stephen Orgel in his recent edition, citing G. L.
Brook's "The Language of Shakespeare"; (3) that there was an early modern
English usage, not documented by OED and perhaps not represented in any of the
surviving texts, in which "coral" was an unmarked plural, like "sheep".  Take
your pick.
 
As for "We are such stuff as dreams are made on", we can treat it as G. L.
Brook does, by observing simply that Sh. often exchanges "of" and "on,"
especially at the end of a line (<The Language of Shakespeare>, 246).  I would
add, however, that the phrase exploits familiar properties of its constituent
terms: read "we [people]" as the the basis, the pattern, the platform, the
stage, <on> which dreams, like the plays and masques Prospero has just been
discussing and of which he and Ferdinand have just seen an example, are
produced.
 
Poetically,
Dave Evett
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joe Nathan <
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Date:           Sunday,  8 Jan 95 15:31:13 PST
Subject:        Re: *Hamlet* Dumb Show
 
Just saw the Peter Hall production of *Hamlet* at the Gielgud Theatre in
London.  He obviously agrees with Scott Shepherd/Harold Jenkins approach to the
dumb show.  In the production, Michael Pennington as Claudius shows a
calculated straight-faced reaction and Stephen Dillane as Hamlet challenges him
with a look, and then shows his frustration.  Both parts are remarkably
well-played and the desired result scores effectively.  BTW if in London, don't
miss the production. It is first rate.  (While there I went to the Globe
reconstruction.  Would be glad to report on it if anyone is interested).
 
                      Joe Nathan - Retiree.
 

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