Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: February ::
Re: Osric; Harold Goddard; Ethics in MM
Shakespeare Electronic Conference: SHK 8.0228. Monday, 17 February 1997.

[1]     From:   Ron Dwelle <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:   Sunday, 16 Feb 1997 11:25:48 -0500
Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0225    Osric;

[2]     From:   John Velz <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:   Sunday, 16 Feb 1997 14:27:36 +0200
Subj:   Harold Goddard

[3]     From:   John Velz <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:   Sunday, 16 Feb 1997 22:03:20 +0200
Subj:   Ethics in MM


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Dwelle <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 16 Feb 1997 11:25:48 -0500
Subject: 8.0225    Osric;
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0225    Osric;

Regarding Adrian Kiernander's interpretation of Osric, I've always
understood Hamlet's reference to him as a "waterfly" to be standard
Elizabethan slang for denigrating an effeminate man or homosexual-about
the equivalent of the modern term "faggot." Osric's language certainly
works well when delivered in the stereotypical limp-wristed fashion.

During my own miserable, dimly recalled collegiate acting career (only
two pitiful Shakespeare roles, one of them Osric), my high point was
playing Osric that way, at the insistence of the director. It felt right
(though my expert testimony is about as far away as you can get from a
discussion that began with criticizing Branagh).

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 16 Feb 1997 14:27:36 +0200
Subject:        Harold Goddard

Simon Malloch wrote (in part):

>I am currently reading Harold Goddard's *Meaning of Shakespeare*,  and was
>wondering what others thought on where he stands in the canon of 20th century
>Shakespearean criticism.  I have not seen him mentioned in detail,  only by
>Harold Bloom who believes Goddard's text to be the best single book on
>Shakespeare.  Any opinions?

I said of him in 1968 that "there is more to praise than to blame" in
his book, though he sometimes considers too curiously (the function of
the character of Lucius in *JC*, for instance), and he "is interested in
the dramatist only as he appears in his works and is therefore not at
pains to establish his cultural antecedents" e.g., the classical
tradition.

I have since been told by someone to whom I complained about the
arrogance of the title "The Meaning of Shakespeare" (as if there were
only one and it is delivered to your doorstep by this book), that
Goddard died before the book appeared and that his literary executor(s?)
chose the title for good or ill.  One wonders whether any other touches
in the book might be traceable to this/these executors.

On balance it is a good introduction to the plays, but it fails for the
most part to put Shakespeare into a larger intellectual context.  Read
with this caution, the book has considerable value. It has no ax to
grind as more ideologically slanted lead-ins to Shakespeare do now; he
is perceptive;  writes a clear style unadorned by obfuscating jargon of
the kind the ALSC gives satiric prizes for.

John Velz

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 16 Feb 1997 22:03:20 +0200
Subject:        Ethics in MM

Surajit Bose comments on the pre-contract between Claudio and Juliet:

>The existence of this contract is surely
meant to complicate the nature of Claudio's offense.<

Actually it complicates it a great deal.  Claudio and Juliet have a
theologically valid marriage which contrasts strongly with the
unilateral sexual liaison Angelo intends with Isabella.  Angelo is much
more guilty in sexual intention than the man he condemns. In medieval
and renaissance sacramental theology, marriage is unique among the seven
sacraments in that the couple confer the sacrament on each other when
they make promises either "de praesenti" or "de futuro" in front of
witness(es). The priest is normally the witness to this spousal
contract, but he is not a necessary witness.  A "de futuro" promise
becomes a "de praesenti" promise, and ergo a valid marriage, the moment
sexual congress occurs.  In the sight of God Claudio and Juliet who have
exchanged vows before witnesses ("a true contract", 1.2.142 and note in
Bevington's 1992 edn.) and are waiting for a dowry arrangement
"Remaining in the coffers of her friends [= relatives]", were
sacramentally married once they ratified their vows carnally.  She is
"fast [his] wife"; such marriages were very common in Tudor times (John
Donne married Anne More by that means; Shakespeare probably married Ann
Hathaway by that means) and were called "handfast marriages".  The
"denunciation . . . Of outward order" (banns and public ceremony) is a
social and ecclesiastical matter of no theological significance.
Medieval and modern clergy hem(med) and haw(ed) about this matter,
because they want(ed) to keep marriage a ritual matter within the
rubrics of the Church.  But the marriage is valid if the witnesses have
heard vows and if the lovers have mingled flesh in light of those vows.

Now this theological doctrine, which everyone in Shakespeare's audience
would be well aware of, as people are aware of (say) "living together"
as a kind of marriage today, provides two special ironies that enliven
the play.  First, Angelo is condemning a man for casual fornication who
is actually in sight of God a husband with a pregnant wife. (One wonders
why Claudio did not produce the witnesses to his vows made with Juliet -
if he did this there would be no play, of course, so Shakespeare ignores
this escape hatch.) Second, the play is at pains to make it clear that
Marianna and Angelo once had exactly such a "de futuro" contract as
Claudio has with Juliet, except that he and Marianna had not yet
consummated the relationship at the time when he broke off the promises
on the ground that the awaited dowry went to the bottom of the sea in a
shipwreck.  (A pharisaical move on Angelo's part, the letter of the
agreement, not the spirit.)   That (unilaterally broken) "de futuro"
contract is fulfilled and made into a marriage when Angelo takes
Marianna's virginity, even though he thinks he is taking Isabella's.
Note that Marianna swears "I am affianced this man's wife as strongly as
words could make up vows" and "he knew me as a wife" in that garden
house Tuesday night last gone (5.1.234-7)  She is exactly correct, and
she describes the pattern of handfast marriage and its effect.

All this being true, the play is about the fallibility of human law
which Angelo regards with a reverence that he might better have focused
on divine law.  In the garden house, Angelo unknowingly re-enacts the
exact same "offense" for which he condemned Claudio to death. Neither of
them should get the death penalty, since both were only ratifying
promised marriages when they engaged in  sex that the civil law sees as
mortally sinful but Divine Law validates.  The bitter irony of this
pairing of Angelo and Claudio is that Claudio, the alleged criminal,
never broke his promise, while Angelo, the alleged virtuous man, once
broke his promise to Marianna and in Act IV breaks his promise to
Isabella not to kill her brother.  Complex and most ironic, the ethical
implications of crime and punishment in this play.

John
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.