1998

Re: Gobbo; Falstaff's Death; King John

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0291  Tuesday, 31 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 13:30:13 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Lancelot GOBBO

[2]     From:   Ed Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 09:55:08 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Falstaff's Death

[3]     From:   Michael Ullyot <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 17:16:05 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0278  Re: King John


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 13:30:13 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Lancelot GOBBO

I apologize to Chris Stroffolino for the delay in responding, but I am a
graduate student teaching two classes at CUNY.  By the way, are you at
Brooklyn or C.W. Post?

Shakespeare reveals the anagogical level of the comedy through this
apparently diversionary comic interlude. Launcelot begins reversing
religious terms when he says "this is my true-begotten father," which I
take to be an allusion to God the Father's words concerning Jesus.

He proceeds by offering directions to his blind father who knows him
not, a reversal of the true situation of the English Reformation in
which God the Father is attempting to show to his true offspring the way
to earthly paradise.

The directions echo the casket trial in that they involve three turns: a
left way, a right way, and a way "down indirectly..." Gobbo complains
that "by God's sonties t'will be a hard way to hit." Kittredge says that
the epithet "be god's sonties" was unintelligible to the Elizabethans,
but it may be a corruption of "sactities."

Even the obscurity of the oath in relation to the sanctity of God
contributes to the themes of the scene: the Englishman trapped in the
apparently irresolvable moral dilemmas created by the Reformation, and
God's presence, right at the moment that man has resolved to transgress
the moral absolute against apostasy.

The left way (I'm not sure if "left" and "right" had political
connotations yet) may signify the radical Protestantism of Edward VI,
the right, the Catholic recusansy of Mary and the "hard way to hit," as
does Nerissa's comment to Portia that "it is no mean happiness to be
seated in the mean" point to Elizabeth's "middle way" as the answer to
the dilemma, but in the reversed, mock heroic terms of the two clowns
the middle way has become a way down (i.e. to hell).

The bond of man to master was based on the same essentialist hierarchy
as the bond of a knight to the king and a Catholic to the Church. They
were part of the great chain of being.  Launcelot realizes that by
breaking his master/man bond, he should forfeit the titles "good" and
"honest"

His conscience dictates that he must observe the master/man bond, but he
reasons rightly that if his master is the devil than a moral paradox
exists which his conscience cannot resolve adequately.  The only way out
of the dilemma, unfortunately is to act against his conscience and the
law.  The English commoners in Shakespeare's audience would relate to
Lance's dilemma after having being required by the aristocracy to adjust
their church loyalties several times over the course of the previous
century.

But God would not leave his true-begotten in such a dilemma, in which
obeying his own law could be an evil, and so old Gobbo shows up, blind
to signify man's blindness, a father seeking directions to his son (read
son seeking father) who is currently living at the Jew's house (i.e.
scripture).

This reading seems to me consistent with the rest of the scene and with
the themes of the play as a whole.  It is a comedy of the Reformation in
which Elizabeth's middle way brings England to a happy ending.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 09:55:08 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Falstaff's Death

Emrys Jones pointed out long ago that Falstaff's death is a classical
imitation of Socrates' death, as told by Plato in the Phaedo. What are
the comparisons/contrasts between Falstaff and Socates that the audience
is invited to think about?  I can think of three comparisons:

1. Both are reductive thinkers. Is honor only a word? Is rhetoric only a
"knack," like cookery?

2. Both are falsely charged with the crime of "misleading youth."

3. Both engender a teacher/pupil relationship: Socrates is Plato's
teacher, and Falstaff is Hal/Henry's.

Can other SHAKSPEReans add more comparisons/contrasts?

--Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Ullyot <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 17:16:05 -0500
Subject: 9.0278  Re: King John
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0278  Re: King John

Ed Taft wrote in response to my question about _King John_'s lack of
reference to the Magna Carta:

>As for the
>Magna Carta, I think that its importance was not well recognized until
>the early 17th century, when historians were preoccupied with ways to
>constitutionally limit the powers of monarchs.

The point is valid, but I wonder if considerations of the playwright's
valuations aren't secondary. The primary concern is really that the two
most prevalent cultural associations we have with King John (the
historical figure) -- Robin Hood and the Magna Carta-aren't present in
Shakespeare's play, and how this affects the play's reception. I think
questions of what Shakespeare *could* have added-while this is always
dangerous territory-are interesting because they begin to piece together
what elements of literature must be present in order for it to achieve
high canonical stature.

Drew Whitehead further writes, on the history plays:

>I have never really been
>bothered, or concerned, by the historical accuracy of the plays.  They
>are fascinating pieces of work and the fact that they are "based on
>fact" in on way hinders of even effects my enjoyment of them, in much
>the same way that a movie like "Titanic" is only "based on fact" and we
>can enjoy it.  In reality any movie, like any play is a "lie", a piece
>of fiction and "based on fact" should never be confused with the "truth"

My intuition is the same, of course-fictions that are only loosely based
on fact, and interpret actual events with artistic liberty, are
everywhere.  The interesting thing about them is how they test the
boundary between fiction and fact, between history and poetry. I'm
inclined to think (and perhaps this would be better said in the
"Postmodernism" forum on SHAKSPER) that poetry based on history is the
best kind of historiography, even if it is less 'true' than textbook
accounts of history. Not that textbooks don't have an important
function-where would Shakespeare's histories have been without
Holinshed? But historical facts, like all things in the world, are
accentuated and (I daresay) improved by poetic treatment.

Michael Ullyot

Re: Postmodernism

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0290  Tuesday, 31 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Michael E. Cohen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 08:03:00 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0281  Re: Postmodernism

[2]     From:   Evelyn Gajowski <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, March 30, 1998 2:18 PM
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0281 Re: Postmodernism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael E. Cohen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 08:03:00 -0800
Subject: 9.0281  Re: Postmodernism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0281  Re: Postmodernism

William Godshalk writes

Gabriel Egan describes as off-plant event (the disappearance of the sun)
and says that Einstein and Newton come to different conclusions about
what would happen to this planet if the sun disappeared.  I said merely
that Newtonian physics works fine on this planet, and I suppose I should
have added "given the fact that the solar system remains stable, etc.,
etc." And, yes, let's not talk about physics on this list ever again!

Sorry, Bill, one more note about physics....

The whole strained analogy between physics and post-modern studies is
very amusing. Gabriel Egan's rejoinder about the disappearance of the
sun may, in fact, be the punch line: neither Einsteinian nor Newtonian
physics would allow for the disappearance of the sun in the first place,
since neither world-view allows for the disappearance of matter to begin
with (at least not without the release of a really HUGE amount of
energy). As far as both of them knew, matter (or, in the case of
Einstein matter-energy) is conserved in this universe. Good joke, Dr.
Egan, but your thought experiment proves nothing (except that you are a
first rate debater).

When scientific paradigms shift (such as the shift from Newtonian to
Einsteinian physics, or from relativistic to quantum physics), they do
so because observation no longer correlates with theory. Newtonian
physics STILL works very very nicely-within its limits. It was only when
observation became powerful and subtle enough that Newtonian physics'
limits were encountered, and that led to attempts to build new theories
to explain observed phenomena. But still, force does equal mass times
acceleration (good work, Isaac), and  e pretty much does equal mass
times the speed of light squared (nice job, Albert). If observation
later determines that these equations are not completely accurate, a new
theory will be developed to account for the observations. But, still,
for nearly all practical purposes, both equations will still hold, up to
the limits of observation within which they were derived.

I do not mean to say that scientists (who are people with motives and
egos after all) will not vigorously defend their pet theories when
observation seems to explode them, but, sooner or later, those theories
will succumb if observation no longer supports them. That is how the
physical sciences tend to operate.

Now...how do literary theories develop and how are they superceded, or
refined?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Evelyn Gajowski <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, March 30, 1998 2:18 PM
Subject: 9.0281 Re: Postmodernism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0281 Re: Postmodernism

To Piers Lewis,

The following list is intended to be suggestive rather than exhaustive:

Barker, Deborah, and Ivo Kamps, eds.  *Shakespeare and Gender*.  Verso,
1995.
Belsey, Catherine.  *The Subject of Tragedy*.  Methuen, 1985.
Bredbeck, Greg.  *Sodomy and Interpretation*.  Cornell, 1991.
Dollimore, Jonathan.  *Radical Tragedy*.  Chicago, 1984.
---, and Alan Sinfield, eds.  *Political Shakespeare*.  Cornell, 1985.
Drakakis, John, ed.  *Alternative Shakespeares*.  V. 1.  Methuen, 1985.
Greenblatt, Stephen.  *Renaissance Self-fashioning*.  Chicago, 1980.
---.  *Shakespearean Negotiations*.  California, 1988.
Hall, Kim.  *Things of Darkness*.  Cornell, 1995.
Hawkes, Terry, ed.  *Alternative Shakespeares*.  V. 2.  Routledge, 1996.
Howard, Jean.  *The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern England*.
Routledge, 1994.
---, and Marion O'Connor, eds.  *Shakespeare Reproduced*.  Routledge,
1987.
---, and Phyllis Rackin.  *Engendering a Nation*.  Routledge, 1997.
Kahn, Coppelia.  *Man's Estate*.  California, 1981.
---.  *Roman Shakespeare*.  Routledge, 1997.
Kamps, Ivo, ed.  *Materialist Shakespeare*.  Verso, 1995.
Jardine, Lisa.  *Still Harping on Daughters*.  Harvester, 1983.
---.  *Reading Shakespeare Historically*.  Routledge, 1996.
Lenz, Carolyn, Carol Thomas Neely, and Gayle Greene, eds.  *The Woman's
Part*.  Illinois, 1980.
Loomba, Ania.  *Gender, Race, Renaissance Drama*.  Manchester, 1989.
Neely, Carol Thomas.  *Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare's Plays*.  Yale,
1985.
Novy, Marianne.  *Love's Argument*.  North Carolina, 1984.
Rackin, Phyllis.  *Stages of History*.  Cornell, 1990.
Smith, Bruce.  *Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England*.  Chicago,
1991.
Traub, Valerie.  *Desire and Anxiety*.  Routledge, 1992.
Wayne, Valerie, ed.  *The Matter of Difference*.  Cornell, 1991.

Hope that some of these may prove to be useful.

Evelyn Gajowski

Re: SHAKSPER Description

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0288  Tuesday, 31 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Michael E. Cohen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 08:04:54 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0282  Re: SHAKSPER Description

[2]     From:   Laura Fargas <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 16:11:12 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0282  Re: SHAKSPER Description

[3]     From:   David C. Frankel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 20:12:50 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.0282  Re: SHAKSPER Description


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael E. Cohen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 08:04:54 -0800
Subject: 9.0282  Re: SHAKSPER Description
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0282  Re: SHAKSPER Description

Gabriel Egan writes in SHK 9.0282

>Hardy Cook's 1996 paper for the Shakespeare Association of America
>meeting recorded that several respondents to his questionnaire about
>SHAKSPER mentioned that their research was aided by their membership of
>the list.  I was one of those respondents, and since then I have once
>more found SHAKSPER to be of research value. But twice in five years is
>not a great hit ratio. In my ArdenNet piece I recorded my experience:
>anybody doing Shakespeare research is not cutting themselves off from an
>important resource if they forego SHAKSPER.

This may be true if one approaches the list as though it were a passive
library of information. As a network through which one can post
questions and as a forum in which to explore views that conflict with
one's own, the list is of great value. UCLA has a great library, for
example, but it is a lousy place to go have a good enlightening
discussion. Similarly, my car makes a lousy food processor (although one
could, with a lot of work, replace the fan with a shredding disk...),
but it really works rather well as a means of transportation.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Laura Fargas <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 16:11:12 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.0282  Re: SHAKSPER Description
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0282  Re: SHAKSPER Description

The "amateurs and students" sneer aimed at the participants of this list
strikes me as resembling the Oxfordian/Baconian/whoeverian insistence
that Shakespeare lacked the education to write his own plays.

Robert Greene, the university-educated playwright who leveled the
'upstart' sneer at Shakespeare himself, may have died in 1592, but his
spirit lives on.

Laura Fargas

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David C. Frankel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 20:12:50 -0500
Subject: 9.0282  Re: SHAKSPER Description
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.0282  Re: SHAKSPER Description

> Gabriel Egan must speak for himself. But it's wholly unfair to use his
> views on SHAKSPER as a stick with which to beat postmodernism.
>
> T. Hawkes

Unfair, perhaps, but not a tactic unknown to all sorts of post-, pre-,
and just plain, mods.

cdf

Re: Anti-Semitism

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0289  Tuesday, 31 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Frank Whigham <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 08:01:12 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0280  Re: Anti-Semitism

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 12:38:04 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0280  Re: Anti-Semitism

[3]     From:   Ben Schneider <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 10:56:24 +0000
        Subj:   anti-semitism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 08:01:12 -0600
Subject: 9.0280  Re: Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0280  Re: Anti-Semitism


Well, let's see: my urge is to ask what the details are there for.

(point 1) But we are not at all sure

>that the jewel is so important to the female line of the family. Since
>we do not know who Leah is in Shylock's life, she may well be the woman
>he did NOT marry.  Maybe he married Rachel instead.  Or perhaps he did
>marry Leah, but really wished to marry Rachel.  You can make up any
>scenario (no Martians, please) since we have no (not the slightest bit
>of) evidence.

1. Leah: whoever she is, she seems to be adjectival in function, marking
the loss of the turquoise as an especially painful loss to bear. Okay,
maybe she's someone (there are lots of them) who Shylock did not marry.
But she is someone he speaks of, in obvious pain, when the thing that is
a relic of his relation with her (whatever that was), is reported lost
forever. "Leah" thus to me seems Shakespeare's way of making Shylock's
pain more than a simple financial loss, of adding some kind of memorial
and/or relational capital to it. "We don't know (have no evidence about)
exactly who Leah was"? Well, we do have the Fact of Shylock's use of her
name; if he names her for other intelligible reasons than to mark the
pain of the loss of the turquoise, what are they? (I repeat: maybe there
are such. I'm less confident than Bill.) In any case, does Bill think
Shylock's pain is "made up"?

Also, what Ren monkey lore is relevant, exactly? I'm not sure I have
much at my own fingertips. Does anyone else? (Dale Lyles's suggestion
that pets are impermanent seems to fit with the idea of opposition to
the turquoise as time-honored.)

(point 2) >Now why would monetary or financial liberality be
anti-Semitic?  Next

>big party I give, I should feel anti-Semitic?  No, no, no!  Some people
>think that Shakespeare was rather shrewd with a shilling.  He certainly
>invested wisely, and <<italic>Timon<</italic> shows us what happens to the
>big, liberal spender.  I'm sure you all can tell me why I should see
>Shylock's parsimony as "bad" and Bassanio's unthoughtful spending (of
>Antonio's money, almost gets the guy killed) as "good."  But I'm pretty
>skeptical.

2. On liberality/prodigality and anti-semitism. If the
Leah/turquoise/monkey cluster is doing some work, it's this, in my
present view: the monkey seems (at least to Shylock) a triviality, a
degradation, of some kind, at least in specific contrast (i.e., in the
nominal equality of hateful, inappropriate exchange) to the turquoise.
(So I think, pending monkey-lore correction.) I take it that Shylock
regards Jessica's action as prodigal, not liberal. (Could he recognize
the latter category?) I tend to figure that she's playing the game in
the same spirit as she did when she said "I'll gild myself with some mo
ducats and be with you straight": that she is partly buying her way into
Xn affections and status-group membership. It seems to me that she
thinks that the expenditure is worthwhile.

Whether we think that her new compatriots are
<underline>aware</underline> that the turquoise is some kind of heirloom
or something (that it has the symbolic capital of "Leah" attached to it,
anyway) is not clear. If they knew what it was (as we don't, exactly)
her act would seem more of a claim-staking than if she was just
(apparently) being "generous" or "liberal" or "free." She is at least
going to be visible as these, no? And maybe more. But
<underline>to</underline> <underline>herself</underline>, at least, both
views will be known: she knows who Leah is, surely? And if so, then she
is at least internally making some kind of gesture of dissociation, as
she did with "gilding herself"-and the opposite with "making fast the
doors," for that matter: these are confused gestures of
self-transformation, it seems to me. (Cf. her shame at the
cross-dressing.) (Further, Jim Shapiro must make us wonder (as is more
and more common) if her self-transformation really "takes" in Belmont.
I.e., can Jews "really" convert?)

The implicit anti-semitism (Jessica's, not necessarily Shakespeare's; I
think; it's confusing) comes in, to my mind, in what I see as her
explicit and willed and at least partly public gestural repudiation of
seeming to operate along the lines of stereotypical "fast find, fast
find" Jewishness. It is these "manners" (as she calls them to Launcelot
Gobbo) that she is rejecting, no?

I presume that none of Bill's big parties is thrown to show he isn't
(any longer, or "really") Jewish. Liberality and prodigality are
specific to questions of stereotypical Jewishness <underline>in
Merchant</underline>, so far as what I'm saying here goes, anyway. They
can mean many different things in other contexts, though to my mind such
acts are always likely to be involved in self-depiction (addressed to
the self as well as to others), as with Jessica. (In any case, I'm not
sure I follow Bill's final paragraph completely.)

A general issue: does all of the above slide improperly toward Bradley,
in trying to exhume (or fantasize) the lineaments of an unstaged (but
reported) scene? Maybe so, though it's hard to figure out how we can
take in the Leah/turquoise/monkey stuff as rich without some such
hypothetical or inferential or presumptive efforts.

Frank Whigham

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 12:38:04 -0500
Subject: 9.0280  Re: Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0280  Re: Anti-Semitism

Jacob Goldberg  wrote:

> Shylock made a legal contract, legal under the justice system of
> Christian Venice, under which he was an alien.  Christian Venice
> permitted a debtor to bargain away his flesh and his life in
> satisfaction of an unpaid money debt. The expressions of moral horror
> that the Jew would so outrage Christian Venice's sensitivity by
> demanding enforcement of such law have the smell of hypocrisy.
>
> Can we suppose that Shylock was the first, and only, Venetian to
> invoke that law?

What authority does Mr. Goldberg have for the notion that the contract
is legal?  Portia is hardly a relaible source.  And it does appear that
Shylock was the first Venetian to seek to enforce a deadly bond.
Otherwise, Portia would not have to argue as she does when she appears
to sustain Shylock's case.

Portia argues from first principles, not a statute or governing
precedent.  Thus, she makes the point that "hard cases make bad law"
("many an error by the same example will rush into the state"); in other
words, the law must be very circumspect about altering stable rules in
the interests of compassion, lest the particular exception swallow up
the fundamentally wise rule.  The point, also made by Shylock, that the
commerce of Venice (its life blood) would be at risk if Venetian courts
refused to honor commercial contracts is also heard today.

The contract was not illegal because one of the contracting parties was
an alien.  It was unenforceable because poorly drafted, leading to a
pettifogging argument (which can rule the day in cases of this sort)
that enforcement of the contract would result in an illegal act, since
it would inevitably cause Antonio to bleed (not permitted by the bond)
and consequently to die.

Shylock was not punished under a statute that voided contracts by aliens
(that would be ridiculous in Venice, which depended on such contracts),
or which even voided contracts by aliens to harm Venetians..  He was
punished for compassing the death of a citizen; and there is an
unresolved question of whether that statute could have been invoked if
the bond were enforceable.

To be sure, it appears that the statute applicable to aliens is more
rigorous than the law governing citizens, but this is because Shylock
did a horrible thing for which the general law might have carried no
penalty.  Even today, there would be an interesting question of whether
Shylock's conduct amounted to an "attempt" to murder Antonio.  And,
since Shylock had no confederates, he could not be prosecuted for
conspiracy.  The alien statute Portia invoked prohibited "direct and
indirect attempts to seek the life of any citizen"; not a particularly
Draconian prohibition.  Presumably, there were laws against Venetians
trying to kill other Venetians (and maybe even aliens), but perhaps
requiring more immediate conduct to constitute the attempt.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 10:56:24 +0000
Subject:        anti-semitism

I agree with those who have said that there's more to this play than the
question of anti-semitism. How do we interpret the debate between
Antonio and Shylock about whether Jacob had a right to Laban's sheep.
Jacob asked if he could have all the parti-colored sheep in Laban's
flock, and then he managed to breed nothing but parti-colored sheep.

 <Shylock> This was a way to thrive, and he was blest;
 And thrift is blessing, if men steal it not.

 <Antonio> This was a venture, sir, that Jacob serv'd for,
 A thing not in his power to bring to pass,
 But sway'd and fashion'd by the hand of heaven.
                               (1.3.89-93)

How does Laban's behavior relate to money-lending?

What is the essential difference between the Antonio's and Shylock's
view of the episode?

Why did Shakespeare put insert this tedious discussion?

The debaters don't seem to be talking about the same thing,  but here's
what I think:

Jacob's contract with Laban is what he has in common with a
money-lender.  You sign a loan agreement and you take the consequences.
That's why Shylock is incensed when the court questions his contract
with Antonio (also based on a trick).

The essential difference between Antonio's view of the matter and
Shylock's is that Shylock thinks Jacob has a right to the spotted sheep
from the moment Laban agrees to the contract.  Antonio thinks that no
one has a right to anything and that whatever comes is thanks to God.
Less religious people might thank luck. Shakepearean people usually
thank fortune.  Later on Arragon loses the casket contest because he
"assumes desert," as Shylock does in the trial, also losing.

I think Shakespeare put in the Jacob-Laban debate because it is
essential to understanding the play. It's about whether amything can be
owned.  For example, does Portia own Bassanio?

Yours ever,
BEN SCHNEIDER

Re: Syllabus for Odd Plays

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0287  Tuesday, 31 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Ed Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 09:34:27 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   SHK 9.0283 Undergraduate Syllabus

[2]     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 16:02:09 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0283 Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays; TGV Question

[3]     From:   David Evett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 16:37:19 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0283  Q: Syllabus for Odd Plays

[4]     From:   Michael Ullyot <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 17:29:23 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0283  Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 09:34:27 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Undergraduate Syllabus
Comment:        SHK 9.0283 Undergraduate Syllabus

Dear Ron,

Here are two groupings of three that you might want to consider:

Society "in extremis": King John, 2H4, Troilus & Cressida

The Hero/Heroine "in extremis": Titus, Coriolanus, Timon.

Of course, these categories overlap, but that's the point, and they fit
in well with any of the "big four" tragedies you want to use.

Yours,
--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 16:02:09 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.0283 Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays; TGV Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0283 Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays; TGV Question

A couple of suggestions for teaching the odd plays. First, try to
persuade the campus theater group to put on one of them. After all, if
they do Shakespeare every semester, or even every year, they must also
want something new. It is worth a try.

If that doesn't work, consider the old/new grouping. If you are going to
teach one of the later, famous works such as King Lear or Twelfth Night,
begin with an early work such as Titus or Comedy of Errors, which have
similar themes. Then you can fruitfully compare how the plays develop
ideas of mistaken identity, misused power, age or whatever.

I would also suggest that LLL, Two Gentlmen and Troilus and Cressida can
all be linked by the theme of confused or problematic love (you might
throw Merry Wives in as well) and the Henry VI plays work well with
Coriolanus (which works well with Henry IV:2) in terms of what a king
(or ruler) *is* and what influence the people's voice have in creating
and keeping him in that position.

These are just a few ideas; many themes repeat over and over and you
should have no trouble coming up with ideas if you decide which plays
you want to teach first and then go looking for themes.

Annalisa Castaldo
Temple University

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 16:37:19 -0500
Subject: 9.0283  Q: Syllabus for Odd Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0283  Q: Syllabus for Odd Plays

Ron Dwelle wonders whether there is "any teachable 'patterns' or
'relationships' among my 14 untaught plays so that I could combine them
in groups of, say, 3 plays?  They would need to be somehow related to
the other 3 'prescribed' plays."

Here's what I might do, more or less in the order I would do it:

<Errors>, <Titus>, <Tempest>.  Shakespeare and the classics (Plautus,
Seneca, Aristotle)

<H6> Classics continued (Seneca, Livian historiography, the rhetorical
tradition).  Transition to early modern (Holinshed, etc.)  Both these
sets are good for introducing students to outside-in characterization,
Elizabethan and Jacobean stage practice, free use of sources, etc.  The
first three are fun, and <H6> can be fun, too.

<King John>, <2H4>, <H8>  Continues thematic emphasis on dynastic
politics of 5 preceding plays.  Bakhtinian invention and comic energy
(Fauconbridge, Falstaff), generic mixture (history and tragedy in <Jn>,
history and comedy in <2H4>, <H8> as tragicomedy/romance).

Big 4, <Coriolanus>, <Timon>.  Problematics of tragedy-violence, role
constraints, popular/elite struggle, gender relationships, etc.

<LLL>, <Merry Wives>, <Troilus>.  Problematics of comedy-role-playing,
humiliation, violence, death, the commodification of relationships, etc.

I did not leave a space for the other "prescribed course"-whatever is
being produced, I take it.  If I were Dwelle I'd go lobby the theater
department hard to do one of these plays

Should be a great course.

Designedly,
Dave Evett

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Ullyot <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 17:29:23 -0500
Subject: 9.0283  Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0283  Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays

I'm heartened to see that some teachers, like Ron Dwelle, are interested
in teaching such lesser-known plays as _Troilus and Cressida_, _King
John_, and _Henry VIII_.  If not for a former professor of mine back in
a survey course, I would never have discovered _Troilus_, whose Ulysses
voices what may be Shakespeare's anticipation (I suggest this only
half-seriously) of the play's "abject" canonical status:

Nature, what things there are
Most abject in regard and dear in use!
What things again most dear in the esteem
And poor in worth!  (3.3.127-30)

Teaching these plays is important because it causes students to question
the extent to which a work's canonical status-its institutional "esteem"
-- is entrenched in inflexible systems of valuation. Moreover, a play
like _Troilus_ is most definitely "dear in use," as Ron will no doubt
discover.  In terms of linking themes in the 3 plays I listed above, I'd
suggest a look at the differences between writing mythology and writing
history- and how the difficulties of a weighty tradition behind a work's
composition can create difficulties for the writer. These 3 are all very
disjointed plays (hence their lack of theatre presence) -- something
which led Barbara Everett to remark (in _Young Hamlet_) that _Troilus_
was a play without a story. I'd suggest that for all of these plays, the
story had already been written.

M. Ullyot

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