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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: February ::
Re: Upstart Crow
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0216  Tuesday, 9 February 1999.

[1]     From:   Tad Davis <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Feb 1999 11:13:17 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0209 Re: Upstart Crow

[2]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Feb 1999 09:42:26 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 10.0204 Re: Antonios

[3]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Feb 1999 10:40:24 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0209 Re: Upstart Crow

[4]     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Feb 1999 17:29:19 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0209 Re: Upstart Crow


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tad Davis <
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Date:           Monday, 08 Feb 1999 11:13:17 -0500
Subject: 10.0209 Re: Upstart Crow
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0209 Re: Upstart Crow

Others can comment on this with greater precision, and I apologize if
this has already been noted (and missed, by me). Greene's attack seems
clearly to refer to someone who is both actor and playwright. The phrase
"bombast out a blank verse" almost certainly refers to the act of
writing: Greene is imagining his target, whom he considers a hack,
padding out the meter with extra syllables, as a doublet is padded out
with bombast (cotton stuffing). It almost certainly does NOT mean an
actor declaiming the verse in a bombastic style, in the current sense of
the word.

Tad Davis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Monday, 08 Feb 1999 09:42:26 -0800
Subject: Re: Antonios; Gilligan; Nietzsche; Bona Bard
Comment:        SHK 10.0204 Re: Antonios; Gilligan; Nietzsche; Bona Bard

Stephanie Hughes, with her usual depth of research, wrote of how
Shakespeare used his sources:

>Easier only if you are able to accept that the most imaginative and
>creative of all writers would, not merely adapt to his purposes, but
>take word for word, lock, stock and barrel, from the works commonly
>regarded as his sources. This simply makes no sense.

And yet numerous examples of exactly this have been knows for years.

Mike Jensen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Monday, 08 Feb 1999 10:40:24 +0000
Subject: 10.0209 Re: Upstart Crow
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0209 Re: Upstart Crow

>>As John Dover Wilson and Dolly Wraight and others have shown, to my
>>satisfaction, the "upstart crowe" was the actor/manager Edward Alleyn,
>>an attribution that makes sense in terms of the timing, tone and text of
>>Greene's Groatsworth. There is no evidence whatsoever that William
>>Shakespeare was involved in the theatre scene of 1592. It is not good
>>scholarship to use a single highly-ambiguous term as fact when there are
>>no other facts to support it.
>
>I have an open mind on this, and I am curious about Dover Wilson's and
>Wraight's reasoning.  For example how do they explain "only Shake-scene
>in a country" and "tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide," a
>paraphrase from 2HV1?  (Quotes modernized).  And how do they explain
>Henry Chettle's 1592 apology for publishing Greene's "Groats-worth,"
>which is quite clearly addressed to WS?

>Larry Weiss

The "tiger's heart" quote was included, not to mark the author, who
would not have been known to the public at that time (as with the
screenwriters of today, playwrights were not publicized; or at least,
not until their plays were published, often decades after production),
but the actor who made the role a success, namely Alleyn. A
"shake-scene" was an actor, like a "shake-rags" was a pamphleteer, or
"Shake-bag" in Arden of Faversham was a thief. It's nice for
Shakespeareans to claim this as a contemporary recognition of
Shakespeare, but there isn't enough support from other sources.

As for Chettle's apology, that it was directed towards Alleyn seems far
more likely than the still obviously unknown Shakespeare. Not long
after, Chettle came to rely on the Alleyn-Henslowe operation for his
livelihood, as he worked for them for some years as a stringer. It would
be the source of his future income that would require his apology, not
an unknown playwright-actor.

>"Shake-scene" isn't "Shakespeare," but surely
>part of the palpable sense of sneering at an upstart nobody is carried
>by the fact that Greene only alludes to his target without deigning to
>name him.
>
>--Ron Macdonald

As much reading of the satires and pamphlets of the period will show,
nobody is ever referred to by name. In fact, I can't think of another
instance where a pamphleteer came so close to a real name. That in
itself is almost enough to question that he had Shakespeare in mind, or
that Shakespeare was even known to him, at least by that name. Greene
was an extremely popular writer and had a large reading audience. He
would not have wasted his ammo on somebody that was still unknown to his
audience. Alleyn was well-known, and if Greene was peeved at Alleyn's
treatment of his work, the attack is understandable, which it is not,
directed at an unknown.

> The reference is to a player (context) who also writes-"supposes he is
> as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the rest of you"
> [playwrights]: the alternative is to suppose that Greene saw his fellow
> University Wits as common players.  The pardoy of 3H6 and the reference
> to "the onely Shake-scene in a countrey" make it clear which player
> -playwright is being referred to.

>Peter Groves

Agreed that the reference is to a player who supposes that he is capable
of "bombasting out a blank verse," but that doesn't necessarily mean
that the player actually writes. If the player is someone like Alleyn,
an actor-manager, who finds himself the center of all attention, he may
very well take it on himself to add lines, which would call for the very
kind of frustrated wrath shown in  Groatsworth. We regard the works of
Shakespeare as sacrosanct, but Alleyn wouldn't, not then.

Sorry, don't get your point about fellow Wits as common players.

The parody of 3H6 pinpoints the actor who made the lines famous, not the
unknown who wrote them (this pamphlet was written for the readers of
1592, not for the academics of today). As for "Shake-scene," Alleyn was
a big man, known for his heavy tread, so heavy that he actually broke
the boards of the stage at one point.

I feel that reading Alleyn as Shake-scene makes Groatsworth perfectly
clear and understandable, which it is not if he is seen as Shakespeare.
But those who think otherwise are, of course, perfectly welcome to their
views.

Stephanie Hughes

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Feb 1999 17:29:19 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 10.0209 Re: Upstart Crow
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0209 Re: Upstart Crow

The word "upstart" probably meant the same back then as it does now,
which is to say someone newly arrived on the scene who is taking on airs
for his accomplishment.

But this could not be Shakespeare, this "upstart", for he had already
written some half dozen or more plays which gained him a substantial
position amongst the playwrights, and if Greene were to grudge him for
some reason, to call him an "upstart" would hardly carry the burden of
his spleen.  Shakespeare was well established and much respected, I
think, and the "upstart" would be someone else.
 

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