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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: January ::
Re: Marlowe; Psalm 46; Hamlet; Lear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0011  Monday, 4 January 1999.

[1]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Monday, 04 Jan 1999 11:00:36 +1100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1348 Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe

[2]     From:   Paul Franssen <
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        Date:   Monday, 04 Jan 1999 11:42:16 +0100
        Subj:   Re: Psalm 46du

[3]     From:   R. Schmeeckle <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 Jan 1999 09:22:16 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Hamlet and Lear: Disputed Interpretations


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Monday, 04 Jan 1999 11:00:36 +1100
Subject: 9.1348 Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1348 Re: Shakespeare and Marlowe

> And there are lots more. The larger question, and here I disagree a bit
> with Laroque, is whether a Blomian "anxiety of influence" exists. While
> it is impossible to get inside Shakespeare's head, I think that the
> answer is, "probably not." Shakespeare is able to compliment Marlowe and
> to outdo him, and he knows that. Anxious, no. Aware of Marlowe's
> greatness (and even more aware of his own), yes.
>
> This Shakespeare fellow did not lack confidence in himself, no matter
> what Sonnets 29 and 110-111 seem to say about him.

Was it the proud full sail of his great verse...? (Son. 86)

Peter Groves,
Department of English,
Monash University,
Melbourne

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Franssen <
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Date:           Monday, 04 Jan 1999 11:42:16 +0100
Subject:        Re: Psalm 46du

Just before New Year, Syd Kasten asked:

"Has anyone researched the provenance of the Psalm 46 thing?  Were I a
scholar I would make it my business to look for the earliest mention, or
for who claimed to be the originator, but I'm not, so I take the liberty
of asking the question rather than bringing the answer."

As far as I have been able to establish, the idea seems to have
originated with Anthony Burgess, in his Shakespeare biography (simply
entitled Shakespeare) of 1970; see pp. 233-34. It is of course possible
that Burgess got it from some earlier source, but he does not say so.
Burgess then used the idea to good effect in his hilarious Shakespeare
story, "Will and Testament," which is embedded in his novel Enderby's
Dark Lady (1984).  As for the likelihood that there is anything in this
theory: if we look at the KJV in isolation, it seems little short of
miraculous that in Psalm 46 the 46th word from the beginning should be
"shake", the 46th from the end "speare." This  miracle disappears,
however, and becomes a mere coincidence, if we look at the context: the
sources on which the King James Bible was based. There are of course a
number of earlier translations of the same passage in the Bible, and the
KJV translators had been instructed to consult some of these before
starting their own work. In a fair number of these sources, the words
"shake" and "speare" do in fact occur, and in very nearly the same
positions as they are in the KJV. Therefore it took only a very minor
shift in position, always likely to occur in new translations in which
one might wish to add or omit a word, for the "miracle" of Shakespeare's
name to appear. As at the roulette table, 20 times black in a row may be
a miracle, but once you have had 19 times black, the chances of
completing the series are about even! So, alas, it was a beautiful idea,
but probably not accurate. For details, see my article "Half a Miracle:
A Response to William Harmon", in Connotations 3-2 (1993-94), 118-22, as
well as Harmon's reply in 3-3.

Paul Franssen
University of Utrecht
The Netherlands

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. Schmeeckle <
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Date:           Monday, 4 Jan 1999 09:22:16 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Hamlet and Lear: Disputed Interpretations

> Subject:        Re: SHK 9.1321  Re: Titus Andronicus
>
> HAMLET advocates murder as a way of solving a legal dispute or family
> troubles, because the main character's "sin" is not that he kills
> Claudius, but that he waits to do so.

I disagree.  I think you attribute to HAMLET what should be attributed
to the conventional interpretation of the play, namely, that Hamlet is
guilty of negligence in delaying execution (no pun intended) of the
apparition's injunction.  But Shakespeare makes it very clear that the
apparition may be a temptation, as he also does, incidentally, in
Macbeth.  On this reading, HAMLET, the play, does not advocate murder at
all.  It dramatizes it, and describes Hamlet, the character as a noble
mind oe'rthrown.

> interpretation.  If we begin to look at literature in such a way that we
> ask ourselves, "Was it right for Lear to excommunicate Cordelia the way
> he did?" or "Was it right for Henry V to invade France?" rather than
> leaving it all to Shakespeare to tie up the loose ends, we begin an
> examination of our own humanity and ideas.  I know that this is a
> Brechtian approach to literature, but Brecht was influenced by the
> multiplicity of voices and perspectives in Shakespeare's works.

I do not know who has ever defended Lear's exiling Cordelia.  I believe
the play makes it clear through the comments of the older sisters that
Lear's action is foolish, and that Shakespeare dramatizes the
consequences of Lear's grossly unjust folly, the root of which is his
choleric passion, by the events that follow.  He loses everything, his
comfort, the affection of the older daughters, his sanity, until he is
saved, insofar as it is possible to salvage something from the wreckage,
by Cordelia.  Saved, that is, not physically, because they lose the
battle and die, but saved spiritually, by the fact that they are
reconciled.  Cordelia is, I think demonstrably, a Christ figure, as is
indicated by the scriptural allusions that she speaks or that others
speak about her.  And all this leads me to conclude that the play
reflects Shakespeare's view of what is good and evil.

Roger Schmeeckle
 

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