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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: March ::
Re: Funeral Elegy
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0241.  Wednesday, 27 March 1996.

(1)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Mar 1996 08:35:09 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0237  Re: Funeral Elegy

(2)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Mar 1996 08:23:21 -0800
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Mar 1996 08:35:09 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0237  Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0237  Re: Funeral Elegy

Michael Sharpston calls for a partnership between the intuitive and the, for
want of a better word, scientific approaches to determining authorship, but his
comparisons, chess and fingerprinting, fall far out of the range of the
problems involved in recognizing an individual voice in an area of purest
subjectivity, particularly when that voice belonged not only to one of the
greatest creative geniuses the world has known, but one who funtioned for the
most part in the realm of theatre, so that unlike other poets and writers of
"fiction", he was tuned from the outset to change his voice as completely as
was humanly possible (in his case perhaps, superhumanly possible) to suit the
need of the moment. In addition, he was writing at a very unique time in the
history of the English language, when writers were basically creating modern
English out of medieval English, French and Latin, to meet the demands of the
fledgling publishing industry and commercial theater. Whatever the actual
number of words used first by him (one more thing we can never know for sure,
since lost works of his forbears may well contain some things he is credited
with, and he may have used new words for the first time in works now lost, that
are credited to a later writer) he is far and away the greatest source of
words, phrases and pithy quotations that have lasted in the language, from his
time, and perhaps from all time. So that we have a mind that not only was
superb at shifting from one voice to another, but a mind that was constantly
developing new ways of expressing itself ("build thee more stately mansions, oh
my soul"), and, no doubt, discarding outworn ones in this unending and ongoing
process. So that scientistic word counts that might be appropriate with a
nineteenth century writer of novels, using his or her same voice throughout,
indeed wishing to use the same voice, to have a recognizable style, and using
an inherited vocabulary, are not appropriate with this writer. Living as he did
at a time of great creativity in language, and near anarchy, his usage of words
was to create a new norm, not conform to an old one, thus he is next to
impossible to track in this manner. As for words such as "while", if he uses
"whiles" or "whilst", one must ask what that particular sound does to the
ripple of sound as it passes from pure sound into sense. As a poet, this would
be of profound importance to him, and what may not sound "good" to us, may have
been the very effect he was seeking. Certainly many writers and critics we have
great respect for have missed the point with Shakespeare, over and over.

One point regarding Shaxicon, and its proclaimed ability to show what roles the
actor Shakespeare played; doesn't it seem more likely that in these peripheral
characters we hear, to some extent, the ordinary voice of the author, since in
these roles he was not constrained to create a complex persona, complete with
his or her own style of self-expression, but was content to slide by with, more
or less, his own everyday voice.

Stephanie Hughes

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Mar 1996 08:23:21 -0800
Subject:        Funeral Elegy

Consider these few lines as to their likeness, both sets from long elegies.
For a moment, let this first set go without the name of the author.  It begins
like this.

        "Swift Time, the speedy pursuivant of heaven,
        Summons to glorious virtue's canonis'd,
        The lasting volume where worth roves uneven,
        In brazen characters immortalis'd;
        Where merit lives embrac'd, base scorn despis'd:
        Link'd to untainted truth, sprung from the same,
        Begets his eaglet-towering daughter Fame."

And this next, which we all know by now to be W.S. getting underway on William
Peter in the Funeral Elegy

        "Since Time, and his predestinated end,
        Abridg'd the circuit of his hopeful days,
        Whiles both his Youth and Virtue did intend
        The good endeavors of deserving praise,
        What memorable monument can last
        Whereon to build his never-blemish'd name
        But his own worth, wherein his life was grac'd
        Sith as ever he maintain'd the same?

The last set is from the Funeral Elegy, as mentioned.  The first set is from
Time's Memorial, an elegy written for the Earl of Devonshire.  It was written
by John Ford in 1606 when he was 20 years old.  The Funeral Elegy was written
in 1612, and is of unknown authorship.  The sets are so closely imagined we
might suspect the several lines to be by the same writer. We know that W.S. was
a Devonshire man, as was Ford, and several other examples have been given by
Don Foster to show the similiar use of language of the two men.  These
sentiments might be added.

TM:  "...his fair, unblemish'd soul and spotless mind..."

        "The quintessence of ripe perfection..."

        To sanctimonious, taintless purity..."

        "Who died?  a man; nay, more, a perfect saint....

FE:    "Of true perfection, in a perfect breast..."

         "In his pure life...."

         "His taintless goodness...."

It is one thing to say that the deceased was a good man and had friends who
grieve, but quite another thing to compare the subject of the elegy with the
saints.  Other elegies may do so as well, but take the opening lines as quoted
above, and take these closures below.  Ford gives nine epitaphs after his long
elegy (896 lines) on the Earl of Devonshire, the first of them ending--

        "Betwixt the gods and men doubly divided,
        His soul with them, his fame with us abided;
        In this his life and death was countervail'd,
        He justly liv'd belov'd, he died bewail'd."

The last lines of the Funeral Elegy are these--

        "Long may thy worthiness thy name advance
        Amongst the virtuous and deserving most,
        Who herein hast forever happy prov'd:
        In life thou liv'dst, in death thou died'st belov'd."

Remembering that John Ford was a friend of the Peter family, I think we'd want
to consider that he also wrote the Funeral Elegy 6 years after the Earl of
Devonshire elegy.  Don Foster says it is out of the question.  He says that
"Ford himself in 1613 makes pretty clear that he thinks FE is by Shakespeare."
Bill Godshalk has asked where indeed did Ford say this, and I second the the
question.
 

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