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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: Michaelmas; St. Crispin; Poets; Antinomies
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0404.  Wednesday, 2 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Steve Sohmer <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Apr 1997 12:46:24 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0395 Re: Michaelmas

[2]     From:   Norm Holland <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 01 Apr 97 15:54:49
        Subj:   Re: Shakespeare on Poets

[3]     From:   C. David Frankel <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Apr 1997 19:24:53 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0401  Re: Poet in JC


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Sohmer <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Apr 1997 12:46:24 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0395 Re: Michaelmas
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0395 Re: Michaelmas

Dear Friends,

Gabriel Egan is, of course, quite correct when he notes that the play
about Julius Caesar which Thomas Platter attended on 21 September 1599
"might not" have been Shakespeare's play. I'd like to return to this
subject in a few days, and see if I can't persuade Dr. Egan (and others,
perhaps). For the moment, perhaps this brief comment on Henry V's
exploitation of St. Crispin's Day would be useful.

In H5 4.1, Shakespeare offers us a startling peek into Henry's mind, his
religion, and his attitude toward his soldiers. Henry deceives Pistol
(4.1.36-64), and spies on Gower and Fluellen (4.1.65-81). Henry
(4.1.84-217) deludes Bates, Court, and Williams with the sophistical
parable of a father and the son who "do sinfully miscarry upon the sea."
In the climax of this scene Henry attempts to negotiate with God
(4.1.277-293). His speech includes a wicked parody of the Catholic
Eucharistic Prayer, "Momento, Domine . . .  Unde et memores, Domine . .
. Memento etiam, Domine . . ." as Henry implores God not to remember,
but to forget: "Not today, O Lord, O not today, think upon etc." Henry
cites his many acts of contrition, a litany which would have rung hollow
in the ears of an audience of Protestants who rejected the Doctrine of
Good Works.

In the play which Shakespeare wrote shortly after H5 ("Julius Caesar"),
4.1 is the black proscription scene wherein Antony, Octavius, and
Lepidus condemn senators and kinsmen to death. Perhaps the dark light
Shakespeare casts on Henry in 4.1 colors his reference to St. Crispin's
Day in 4.3 much as the black proscriptions color the victory of
Antony-Octavius at Philippi.

On the morning of Agincourt Henry is attempting to pluck-up the spirits
of his meager force by tinting the coming, unequal battle with the
luster of a holy combat. And, true, the date was mentioned in the
sources. But Shakespeare's insistence upon it-he mentions Crispin five
times, and Crispian once, in 37 lines-suggests mischief. Against the
French, Henry is invoking French martyr-saints; Gary Taylor rightly sees
an irony in this (Oxford 229n). Furthermore, Crispin/Crispin didn't live
to brag and show their wounds. They died. In a recent Elizabethan
literary incarnation- Deloney's "The Gentle Craft" (1597) -- the pair
had been presented as (disguised) princes who apprentice with an English
shoemaker in Feversham.  But Crisipian eventually goes off to fight for
the French side against the Persians, and Crisipin marries into the
imperial family of Rome. The king in Dekker's "Shoemaker's Holiday"
(after 15 July 1599) seems to be Henry V-even though the historical
Henry died more than 10 years before Simon Eyre became Sheriff of
London. But the boys go off to the French wars (and Agincourt) under the
banner of St. Hugh, not Crispin/Crispian. This may be variously
interpreted. But it can be construed to suggest that St. Hugh, and not
Crispin/Crispian was the preferred patron of English shoemakers.

Perhaps the point of Shakespeare's insistence on Crispin/Crispian is
that they were obscure, foreign saints whose feast day had been erased
from the English liturgical calendar under Henry VIII (if it ever
appeared in the calendar). An Elizabethan audience which had overheard
Henry hondeling with God-and then heard him proclaim a jihad in the name
of Crispin/Crispian- could hardly have failed to detect the hollowness
of this king's piety. After all, Henry described himself: "We are no
tyrant, but a Christian king" (1.2.241), which is rather different from
saying, "I'm a Christian."

In a certain sense the character of Hal-Harry-Henry-throughout all of
1&2 Henry IV and Henry V-drives toward the moment when the roll of
English dead is read out after Agincourt. Hearing the miraculous
numbers, Essex exclaims "'Tis wonderful" (4.8.110) -- a word which had
supernatural overtones for Shakespeare. After which moment Henry is, I
think, somewhat converted to a true faith. Others might disagree.

All the best,
Steve Sohmer

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norm Holland <
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Date:           Tuesday, 01 Apr 97 15:54:49 EST
Subject:        Re: Shakespeare on Poets

In a recent paper of mine, as yet unpublished, I suggest that WS was
quite ambivalent about poets and being a poet.  My evidence is an rhaps
analysis of language from Falstaff (1H4) and Ant.  I think he felt a bit
inadequate for not following in his father's commercial and political
footsteps.  You can access the paper at

www.clas.ufl.edu/users/nnh/barge.htm

The part about Shakespeare on poets comes about halfway through.

--Best, Norm Holland

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           C. David Frankel <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Apr 1997 19:24:53 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0401  Re: Poet in JC
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0401  Re: Poet in JC

In reply to Chris Stroffolino:

Although antinomies (presented in the form of agon, or conflict, must
appear differentiated at least at *some* point within a (the) drama,
don't many plays (especially those in the comic vein) suggest that these
differences unite in a way that "transcends" the original conflict?

cdf
 

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