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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: January ::
Re: *Rom*/*Oedipus*; *Ado* Reactions; Education;
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0018. Thursday, 12 January, 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Steve Urkowitz <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Jan 95 21:23:18 EST
        Subj:   Oedipus and R&J
 
(2)     From:   Kirk Hendershott-Kraetzer <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Jan 1995 23:48:21 -0500
        Subj:   Young Men and Much Ado
 
(3)     From:   David Joseph Kathman <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Jan 1995 19:25:03 -0600
        Subj:   Re:  SHK 6.0007  Re: Education
 
(4)     From:   E. H. Pearlman <EHPEARLMAN%
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Jan 1995 13:12:09 -0600 (MDT)
        Subj:   [Re: Cost of Horses]
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Urkowitz <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Jan 95 21:23:18 EST
Subject:        Oedipus and R&J
 
I've been reading the R&J and Fate pieces in very odd orders, in part 'cause I
accidentally zapped a great pile of e-mail (O, ye gods of e-missives, what
message may be considered happy until its final e-rasure!).  Some odd thoughts
to share, though:  If you want to think about culpability and Shakespeare's
take on tragedy, you might glance at how he shaped and reshaped Friar Laurence
in Q1 and Q2. That was a role Don Foster thinks he played (or rather, that's a
role that Foster's rare-word machinery detects as being the font for a
disproportionate number of rare words that show up in later plays).  Repeatedly
at moment after moment Friar Laurence makes worse blunders in the Q2 text than
in Q1, is more cowardly, more self-exculpating, more at fault.  M'gosh, he's
rather like the Duke of Albany in LEAR (another role Foster's engine ascribes
to Shakespeare).
 
Which brings me to thinking about Oedipus as a "good" or "Great" man.  Hunh?
This schmuck solves a riddle and wins the post and bed of the old king. How
though did he get to Thebes?  Well, walking along the road he bumps into a
group of nasty folk who get pushy so he kills them, all but one.  Wow!  So then
later on he pushes to learn the truth about his own background, along the way
cursing an old blind prophet, coming close to arresting his brother-in-law for
treason, and declaring that he must rule no-matter-what.  So he learns the
truth.  What does he do?  Puts out his eyes.  How come?  So he won't have to
look his poppa in the face when he meets him in the underworld.  He's a nasty
intellectual warrior who cannot face up to the viciousness of his bravado.
Sorry, guys, but I grew up in that schoolyard with Oedipus and I pity and fear
him.
 
Friar Laurence leaves that teenage girl who he brought to a crypt, leaves her
to kill herself, leaves her because he is afraid to stand up face to face to
the "watch."
 
Seems to me that Sophocles ain't really worried that much about the gods;
rather he holds up for examination the intellectual thuggery of powerful men
unconstrained by wisdom or humility.  Seems like Shakespeare similarly holds up
for examination the same humiliation-fear driven characters in Verona.  Seems
like Aristotle is playing some other game, avoiding critical looks at warriors.
 Tragic flaws?  Yeah, they sprout into the language around the time we're
tooling up for everybody's favorite -agon-, World War I.  Map the drive for
"truth-at-any- cost" vision of Oedipus onto the movers and shakers of
trench-warfare strategies.  Like Oedipus, those guys never realized that the
bloodied stumps they left on the battlefields belonged to their own poppas and
brothers and sons.
 
G'night, Gracie.
                As ever,
                         Steve Oediperquisites
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kirk Hendershott-Kraetzer <
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Date:           Monday, 9 Jan 1995 23:48:21 -0500
Subject:        Young Men and Much Ado
 
I, too, read the post about the young mens' reaction to *Ado* (5.1017) with
some concern, being a man myself, and a teacher too.  This is a reaction I
hadn't noticed, at least when I saw Branagh's film.  I've seen it in three
venues:  Chicago, a night show, the Arts Theatre; East Lansing, MI, late
afternoon at the Cineplex Odeon (the local art house); and Jackson, MI,
afternoon, at one of the local multiscreen wonders.  Granted Branagh lightens
the text, but the "naming" scene certainly isn't played for laughs (if you can
ignore Pat Doyle's intrusive score).  All three audiences seemed to find it
genuinely upsetting.
 
These audiences were older.  In the case of Chicago and East Lansing, the
latter a Big-10 University town, I suppose I could argue that the audiences
were more sophisticated, probably about film and perhaps about Shakespeare,
than was that in Jackson.  I wonder whether the cheering relates to the youth
of the males in question, or to their inexperience with Shakespeare.  Our
culture seems to have programmed a response into some young men that violence
against women is acceptable or deserved in some situations, sexual infidelity
being one of the primary circumstances; as Chris Gordon notes in 5.1027,
certainly it has told these young men that violence in general is acceptable
entertainment, and that violence against women is common, and may even be
acceptable entertainment itself (witness Sega-Genesis, Nintendo, slasher films,
sadie-max or highly aggressive pornography).  If the young men aren't sure why
Hero is being attacked but have the notion that Claudio's ire is sexual in its
basis, they might fall back on this programmed reaction, since it has served
them well in the past.
 
It could also be that they're jerks, but the above, I hope, is more the case,
as it might go some way toward explaining though not excusing their behavior.
 
Kirk Hendershott-Kraetzer

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Monday, 9 Jan 1995 19:25:03 -0600
Subject: 6.0007  Re: Education
Comment:        Re:  SHK 6.0007  Re: Education
 
A few more words on the literacy of the Shakespeares:
 
Given the necessarily fragmentary nature of the evidence we have, a lot of what
anybody says about literacy in Elizabethan England is based on intelligent
guesswork.  John Shakespeare, William's father, made his mark rather than
signing his name on legal documents.  This provides no positive evidence of his
literacy, and it allows us to assume that he probably couldn't sign his name,
which in turn allows us to assume that he probably couldn't read or write.
However, none of this *proves* anything; literate men, such as John's neighbor
Adrian Quiney, sometimes signed with a mark, and contemporary documents make it
clear that it was not uncommon for people to be able to read but not write.  On
balance, I'd say that John Shakespeare *probably* couldn't write, and I'd say
less confidently that he probably couldn't read, but there have certainly been
scholars who have believed that he was literate to some degree, and it is not
unreasonable to think so.
 
Susanna Shakespeare-Hall could sign her name, which allows us to assume she was
literate.  The only potential evidence against this conclusion is the
posthumous story about her supposedly not recognizing her husband's
handwriting, which is a little puzzling in any case.  On balance, I'd say that
it is most likely that Susanna could read and write, but that it is *possible*
that she was only able to sign her name.  (By the way, "witty" in the 17th
century meant "intelligent" rather than "able to toss off clever remarks at
dinner parties.")  Susanna's sister Judith signed with a mark; this provides no
positive evidence that she was literate, and given the very low priority given
to women's education, the most natural assumption is that she was illiterate.
 
So, Shakespeare's father was probably illiterate but possibly not; his one
daughter was probably literate but possibly not; his other daughter was very
probably illiterate.  His only son, Hamnet, died at the age of 11, and we have
no way of assessing his literacy, though the default assumption is that he
would have attended the Stratford grammar school.  A flat statement that all of
William Shakespeare's blood relatives were illiterate through three generations
seems to me not to be a very fair statement of the situation, and at best an
oversimplification.  And in any case, as Terence Hawkes pointed out, we're
talking about the late 16th century here, not the late 20th. The upwardly
mobile middle class, of which Shakespeare was a member, was much better
educated than their parents' generation, but even so, education was seen as
something for boys; educating girls was seen as a waste of precious resources.
Shakespeare was, believe it or not, a product of his times, and however
tempting it may be to infer his personal opinions from what he has the
characters in his plays say, there is nothing surprising about what we know of
his family's literacy.
 
I'm glad we've been able to keep this thread civil, and hope we can continue to
do so.
 
Dave Kathman

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(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           E. H. Pearlman <EHPEARLMAN%
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Jan 1995 13:12:09 -0600 (MDT)
Subject:        [Re: Cost of Horses]
 
My apologies if this is no longer relevant;  my U changed from one computer to
another and many days of messages were accidentally obliterated. When I was
last connected, there was a query about the price of horses. Today I
encountered the following in Giles Dawson's manual of Elizabethan Handwriting
p.107:  from the market Bosworth fair in 1623:
 
William Alport bought at stoned whyte horse (i.e. a stallion, I presume) for 14
shllings....  Thomas Bannester sould a graye Colte for 3 lb 15 s 8d....
Richard Ridgeway sould a blacke mare for 18 shillings.... Hugh Marshall sould a
Bay Colt stoned 2 yeares old for 3 lb 3 s 4d... John Slater sould a whyte mare
for 35s 8d...
 
But if I were really serious about the price of horses, I would look in the
multi-volume Agrarian History of England.  There are also farm accounts
published in various places;  I recall once reading Robert Loder's, whichI
believe is the most complete.
 
Incidentally, I hope any of my intermittent correspondents along the
Shaksperline will now address me at my new address:  ehpearlman@
castle.cudenver.edu          E. Pearlman
 

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