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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: March ::
Re: Poet in JC; St. Crispin's Day; Michaelmas
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0395.  Monday, 31 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Norm Holland <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Mar 97 15:14:29 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0391  Qs: Poet in JC

[2]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Mar 1997 21:41:35 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0382  St. Crispin's Day

[3]     From:   Skip Nicholson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Mar 1997 22:44:00 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0382 Re: St. Crispin's Day


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norm Holland <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Mar 97 15:14:29 EST
Subject: 8.0391  Qs: Poet in JC
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0391  Qs: Poet in JC

David Frankel asks for a "larger reason" for the episode of the poet in
_JC_ who breaks into Brutus' and Cassius' quarrel.  I can suggest one.
In fact, when I was teaching Sx long ago, I used to use this as a "way
in" to the play.

I read JC as about a schism between Brutus and Cassius along the lines
of idealist/realist, spirit/body.  The two aspects are joined in Caesar
and foolishly torn apart by the conspirators.  "In the spirit of men
there is no blood; / O that then we could come by Caesar's spirit, / And
not dismember Caesar," is Brutus' idealistic wish.

The cynic-poet episode should be read against the Cinna the Poet
episode.  (Both, Sx kept from Plutarch.)  The plebeians demonstrate the
same folly as Brutus-Cassius when they capture Cinna: "Pluck but his
name out of his heart and turn him going."  The cynic-poet comes to the
generals' tent to put the two men and the body-spirit split they
represent back together.  He combines an appeal to "love," some-laughs
at him, but Brutus indignantly chases him off.  Both reject anything
that would re-create the unity of body and spirit.  Perhaps Sx is saying
that that's what poetry does: a physical medium with a spiritual
significance.  The kind of splitting Brutus & Cassius create destroys
not only Caesar and themselves, but poetry.

I suspect, though, that this may be a critic's ingenuity.  In any case I
think the second episode would strike an audience as out of place,
particularly since Brutus and Cassius have already made up their
quarrel.

--Best, Norm Holland

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Mar 1997 21:41:35 GMT
Subject: 8.0382  St. Crispin's Day
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0382  St. Crispin's Day

Steve Sohmer writes

> Thomas Platter's memoir cites a performance of
> [Shakespeare's] JC on 21 September [1599]

Andrew Gurr concurs

> Thomas Platter saw it [Shakespeare's JC] on 21
> September [1599].

Platter wrote: "in the straw-thatched house we saw the tragedy of the
first Emperor Julius Caesar" (Schanzer's translation). This might be
Shakespeare's play, but then again it might not.

Gabriel Egan

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Skip Nicholson <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Mar 1997 22:44:00 -0800
Subject: 8.0382 Re: St. Crispin's Day
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0382 Re: St. Crispin's Day

Regarding St. Crispin and kin, Gary Taylor's Oxford _H5_ says the days
figure on Elizabethan and Jacobean almanacs, but simply having a feast
day on the calendar is no sign of status among saints. After all,
_every_ day is the feast day of one saint or another, and most days of
more than one. If these two ever were of any importance to the French,
there remains no evidence; they're not mentioned in standard lists
today, and their only namesake seems to be  the unscrupulous and
impudent hero of Lesage's 1707 "Crispin rival de son maitre."
Shakespeare mentions neither anywhere but in Henry's speech.

John King's mention of "a place called Soissons," though, rings loud
Gallic bells. Two things every French schoolboy knows about Clovis are
that he was the first king of all the Franks and that he broke a
(possibly legendary) vase at Soissons, a city in the northeast, now
about half way between Paris and the Belgian border. Clovis's name is
forever linked in French minds to the start of French glory as well as
to Soissons. If Shakespeare had any such connection in mind, though, he
would most likely have named Clovis or Soissons, both much more widely
known, then as now, than the obscure Crispin & Co.

Fluellen's lines that Naomi Liebler cites about mending shoes are echoed
in the cobblers' lines that open "Caesar," providing another small link
between the plays she convincingly pairs up politically and religiously.

Now, where can I find more of Steve Sohmer's discoveries of the
connections between Shakespeare's plays and the English obstinacy in
holding to the outdated Julian calendar?

All the best,
Skip Nicholson
 

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