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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: July ::
Re: Marlowe; Hubert; Antony
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0496.  Wednesday, 3 July 1996.

(1)     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Jul 1996 08:16:33 +0200
        Subj:   Shakespeare and Marlowe

(2)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Jul 96 15:17:06 EST
        Subj:   Hubert and John

(3)     From:   Marga Munkelt <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Jul 1996 10:34:26 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0492  Qs: Hubert & Arthur; Shakespeare and Marlowe


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Jul 1996 08:16:33 +0200
Subject:        Shakespeare and Marlowe

Jennifer Formichelli asks about Shakespeare and Marlowe.  The best study is
Charles Forker's chapter in a new book from Medieval and Renaissance Texts and
Studies, ed. John W. Velz and called *Shakespeare's English Histories: A Quest
for Form and Genre*.  Also in that book check out A. Elizabeth Ross on *Henry
V* as a reaction against the old-fashioned heroics of Marlowe's plays.  Forker
shows what Marlowe learned from Shakespeare's H6 plays and what Shakespeare
borrowed from Marlowe in *Richard II* and many other plays.

John V.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Jul 96 15:17:06 EST
Subject:        Hubert and John

The proposition that Prince Arthur's death on the rocks at the foot of Hubert's
castle's walls culminates an elaborate practice designed to supply Hubert with
"deniability" must take account not just of the basic facts but the actual
development of the episode in the text.  It has many puzzling features--most
particularly the conversion of John's death sentence into the blinding by hot
irons with which Arthur is threatened in 4.1.  This issue aside, however, some
less uncertain features remain.

The first is the question why Hubert would want or need deniability.  The play
interestingly transforms the historical Hubert de Burgh, one of the richest and
most powerful nobles of the time and holder of various high offices, into a
person of no particular importance who catches John's attention as a
potentially useful subordinate and is recruited in terms that make him John's
personal servant.  (Note that in 4.3.87 Bigot assails him for daring to attack
a nobleman.)  Although in principle servants were supposed to refuse to carry
out orders that violated human and divine laws, and could be held accountable
for criminal acts committed at their masters' behest, the primary obligation of
servants was obedience, and in practice they tended not to be punished for
carrying out their orders.  Thus none of the hirelings who commit violence on
behalf of Shakespeare's machiavels--Tyrrell and his underlings in _R3_, the
murderers in _Mac_, the captain in _Lr_--are charged with or punished for their
crimes, except perhaps by their own consciences.  When they have done their
dirty work they disappear.  Hubert, hangs on, however; he escapes extra-legal
execution at the hands of Salisbury and Bigot, apparently manages to persuade
Fauconbridge of his innocence, and survives to bring us news of his master
John's poisoning.  Indeed, I think he becomes a much more interesting character
if and when he chooses to disobey his master even at severe cost to himself.

The second problem is that no such plot is explicitly devised. Neither John's
request nor Hubert's assent says anything about concealment or public opinion.
In the scene that follows John's request, it is Cardinal Pandulph, not John or
Hubert, who explains to the Dauphin, Lewis, why John needs to murder Arthur,
explores the public relations aspects of the situation, and outlines a plan for
exploiting them to French advantage.  The exchange reminds us that
Shakespearean practice almost invariably lets the audience in on all the
significant details of machiavellian schemes, from the intriguing of Suffolk
and Richard of Gloucester in the first tetralogy, through the plots of Macbeth
and Edmund, to that of Antonio and Sebastian in _The Tempest_--a practice that
is not followed if Hubert's behavior is a charade.

In the next moment Hubert is threatening to blind Arthur.  In this scene Hubert
repeatedly expresses his fear that his resolve will not stand up to the boy's
appeal: "with his innocent prate / He will awake my mercy," and so on.  Modern
editors usually mark these as asides; if Hubert is trying to persuade the
_audience_ that he is truly soft of heart, the speeches violate another general
Shakespearean practice, in which machiavellian hypocrites--Richard of
Gloucester, Iago, Edmund--reveal their hypocrisy to the audience in aside or
soliloquy.  An alternative possibility is that the speeches are really
addressed to the "Executioners" laid on to help with the revolting task, who
will then become witnesses in Hubert's defense.  The question then becomes, why
does he not only dismiss them during the crucial part of the scene, in which he
actually grants Arthur mercy, but then propose to "fill the dogged spies with
false reports" of Arthur's death?  Beyond that, why tell John that Arthur is
dead when he is not (4.2.68 ff.) and then, when it transpires that John has
changed his mind, that he lives (4.2.251), without showing any anxiety that the
change has come too late?

The most plausible explanation for all this is the traditional one, that the
play is exploring the political and moral vicissitudes that attend on a
commitment to amoral _realpolitik_, and especially when that commitment is
incomplete, and is undermined by a correspondingly incomplete commitment to
high moral principle, and that the exploration is underlined by the piercing
irony of Arthur's unwilled suicide just at the point where his reprieve has
been sounded--a trial run for the even more painful irony of the murder of
Cordelia.

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marga Munkelt <
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Date:           Tuesday, 02 Jul 1996 10:34:26 EDT
Subject: 7.0492  Qs: Hubert & Arthur; Shakespeare and Marlowe
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0492  Qs: Hubert & Arthur; Shakespeare and Marlowe

Query: the dropped letter 'h' in Antony: See the first commentary note (0.1, p.
5) in the New Variorum Editiin of *Ant.*, ed. Marvin Spevack.

M.M.
 

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