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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: February ::
Re: Funeral Elegy
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0135. Thursday, 22 February 1996.

(1)     From:   David Joseph Kathman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Feb 1996 22:36:06 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0130  Re: Funeral Elegy

(2)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Feb 1996 11:50:03 -0800
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 20 Feb 1996 22:36:06 +0100
Subject: 7.0130  Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0130  Re: Funeral Elegy

Gabriel Egan notes that the Funeral Elegy has 67 lines with feminine endings
(i.e. lines where the last syllable is not stressed), or 11.5 percent; he
claims that this conflicts with a figure of 30 percent for the late plays.

But that 30 percent figure refers to *all* kinds of verse, both blank and
rhymed; to make a valid comparison, you have to separate blank verse from
rhymed verse, since the nature of rhyme (with its emphasis on the end of the
line) tends to discourage feminine endings (with their unstressed final
syllable).  Actually, that 11.5 figure is quite consistent with Shakespeare's
practice in his rhymed verse; "Venus and Adonis", "Lucrece", "The Phoenix and
the Turtle", the Sonnets, and "A Lover's Complaint" have a combined incidence
of 10.5 percent feminine endings.  In "The Tempest", the last Shakespeare play
before the Elegy, there are 23 feminine endings out of 142 rhymed lines (16.2
percent); if we exclude the 12-line trochaic song of Juno and Ceres at
4.1.106-117, in which every line is deliberately feminine for effect, we get 11
of 130 feminine endings, or 8.5 percent. The percentage of feminine endings in
the Elegy is right about what we should expect if it was written by
Shakespeare.

Dave Kathman

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 Feb 1996 11:50:03 -0800
Subject:        Funeral Elegy

David Kathman, sorry, I didn't know that Prince Henry was a patron of Chapman,
but I still wonder why his elegy is very like that of W.S. That is to say, how
can a good poet commit such a rape on his reputation?  Except that maybe it was
understood about elegies. Maybe elegies were taken to be all poof and poop,
something for the ages, not to be taken seriously. How could Chapman have spent
over 600 lines of low-grade rhyme on the man?  And more than that, stick in a
dedication wherein he claims that the death of the man (and a good man, no
doubt) "hath so stricken all my spirits to the earth, that I will never more
dare to look up to any greatness; but resolving the little rest of my poor life
to obscurity, and the shadow of his death, prepare ever hereafter for the light
of heaven." Lord, are we to take that seriously. The death of my mother is not
going to bring me down that much.

I'm quite serious, do you suppose there were professional Elegy writers? Maybe
they got paid by the line, and maybe Chapman, being busy with high-class
poetry, hired one to do 600 lines for Prince Henry. Or maybe the King hired
someone to write this awful thing and put Chapman's name on it. Or maybe it was
worse than that.

Maybe someone kept a stable of elegy writers, dreary fellows who knew the drill
whether the deceased be common or royal that he should be blazed forth with
such radiant glories as would make a saint blush. And these Fagin-like minions
were all chained below stairs, kept in weeping loss and the promise of heavenly
recompense, who daily churned out this drivel in hope to please their master
that they should one day breath again in the sunshine, and look into the blue
sky.
 

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