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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: March ::
Re: Chronology
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0178.  Tuesday, 7 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Chris Bergstresser <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Mar 1995 14:38:59 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0171  Re: Chronology
 
(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Mar 1995 23:03:15 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0171  Re: Chronology
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Bergstresser <
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Date:           Monday, 06 Mar 1995 14:38:59 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0171  Re: Chronology
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0171  Re: Chronology
 
-}>-}4.Dating by style and versification is entirely circular (hence entirely
-}>-}useless), except in those rare instances where external evidence gives an
-}>-}approximate date for a particular recognisable style
-}>
-}>        Once again, this is a broad oversimplification.
-}
-}Saying things with confidence doesn't make them true.
 
Sorry, I'm an English major.  Force of habit.
 
-}You haven't engaged with
-}my point here at all. If you believe stylistic dating is *not* circular -
-}except under the specific conditions I described - perhaps you could explain
-}your grounds.
 
All right.  Granted, in the absence of all external documentation, trying to
arrange the plays chronologically would be impossible.  But the fact is these
plays do not exist in a vaccuum -- there are many reports external to the
productions which help fix certain plays to certain timeframes.
 
Those plays that can be roughly dated can then serve as a sort of guide for
dating other plays, based on stylistic similarities.  For two of the plays
we've been working on for my acting class, _Two Gentlemen of Verona_ and
_Measure for Measure_, there is a clear stylistic difference.  MfM is a much
more complex work; the skill required to produce it is greater than that to
produce TGoV.
 
These things don't help when trying to determine whether MfM was written before
or after _The Tempest;_ but they can provide some corraboration for an argument
about the rough chronology of the plays. I find your exception far too
limiting: external evidence is only needed for a handful of plays.  Once there
is a skeleton of a chronology in place, filling in the details isn't quite as
random as you make it out to be.  Just because one cannot know with certainty
does not mean one cannot know at all.
 
Chris Bergstresser
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 06 Mar 1995 23:03:15 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0171  Re: Chronology
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0171  Re: Chronology
 
Pat Buckridge's comments on stylistic dating reminded me of the 18th century
commentator whose name I do not remember, but whose contribution to the dating
problem I do. He claimed that Shakespeare developed from the Gothic excesses of
THE TEMPEST to the classical unity of THE COMEDY OF ERRORS. Thus THE TEMPEST is
an early play, and THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, a late one.
 
Yours, Bill
 

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