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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: January ::
Re: Brush Up . . .
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0101  Wednesday, 20 January 1999.

[1]     From:   Tom Dale Keever <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jan 1999 09:26:46 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   . . . Start Quoting Him Now

[2]     From:   Andy Drewry <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jan 1999 13:52:43 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0099 Oh Geez, I can't resist.

[3]     From:   Catherine Loomis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jan 1999 13:05:18 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0096 Re: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

[4]     From:   Scott Oldenburg <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jan 1999 13:08:06 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0082 Brush Up Your Shakespeare

[5]     From:   John Robinson <
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        Date:   Wed, 20 Jan 1999 02:08:21 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0089 Re: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

[6]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Jan 1999 16:34:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0099 Oh Geez, I can't resist


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Dale Keever <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jan 1999 09:26:46 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        . . . Start Quoting Him Now

Cora Lee Wolfe asks a very good question re: my complaint against Henry
Hyde's allusion to Macbeth, 4.5.27 (Alexander numbers):

>That seems a pretty apt allusion.
>Would you mind explaining to me why it is inappropriate?

I'd be happy to.

Larry Weiss, and a number of others apparently, have failed to "unpack
the metaphor" as we often ask our students to do.   What is "full of
sound and fury, signifying nothing," is not merely "a tale told by an
idiot."  It is "life" which is being characterized as "a walking shadow,
a poor player" (24), etc.

I've only recently become an "academic" Shakespeare scholar. In my
former life as a performer, or "poor player,"  I spoke these lines many
times during the nine month run I did in the role at New York's Bowery
Lane Theatre in 1976-77.  It was the totality of life and human
existence that my usurper had suddenly seen diminished to the hollow and
meaningless cries of an actor upon a stage.  The revelation was profound
and terrifying and I struggled to make my audiences understand it in all
its complexity and horror.

When a metaphor or image which, in its original context, refers to a
concept of huge import is applied to a smaller, less profound, object,
even one as dignified as the legal system, the effect is comic to those
who fully understood and appreciated the scope of the original
referent.   Shakespeare and his contemporaries appreciated the rich
humor to be derived from putting Latin tags and classical allusions in
the mouths of fools who did not appreciate their original context.  Hyde
achieved the same comic effect inadvertently, but the distance between
him and Holofernes is very small.
The title of my first post, and of this one, allude to the brilliant
Cole Porter lyric which exploited that comic effect.  Since not all the
respondents recognized the allusion or understood it, I am appending the
lyrics to this post.  The two singers are a pair of cheap hoodlums
(Harrry Clark and Jack Diamond on stage in 1949, Keenan Wynn and James
Whitmore in the 1953 film) advising each other on how to use Shakespeare
quotes to impress the gullible dames they are hitting on.  My intention,
for those who missed it, was to suggest that Rep. Hyde was making
similar use of his quote, not to make a profound observation, but simply
to impress his hearers with what a classy guy he was.  "Brush up your
Shakespeare / And they'll all kowtow" indeed!

The parallel between Representative Hyde and a couple of gangsters can
be extended, since he was exploiting his Shakespeare allusion to impress
his audience with his reverence for the rule of law.  For those
unfamiliar with Representative Hyde's past encounters with the rule of
law, he was the only member of Congress caught with his own hand in the
Savings and Loan cookie jar when the Reagan era "deregulation" of that
industry was revealed to be little more than a mid-west bank heist on a
colossal scale.  The rest of his Congressional cohorts settled for huge
campaign contributions from the S&L profiteers but Hyde dove in to take
part in the looting first hand.  The entire board he served on was found
guilty of "gross negligence and mismanagement" of an Illinois S&L that
enriched a handful of fly-by-night real estate developers before it went
belly up, sticking the US taxpayers with millions of dollars in bad
debts.  Though he was ordered to pay a fine, he refused and stuck his
partners with the bill.  So much for his reverence for "our cherished
system of law."
Though Hyde's role in the scandal as an S&L manager was shameful, his
role as a legislator is even more disgraceful.  Few of his colleagues
realized, when he introduced an amendment to the Bush bail out that
would have weakened capital rules and limited the exposure of investors
and board members like himself, that the amendment stood to benefit him
financially.  [Day, Kathleen, "S&L Hell: The People and Politics Behind
the $1 Trillion Savings and Loan Scandal," New York: Norton, 1993, p.
325] It was precisely this sort of abuse of government power for
personal gain that the writers of the Constitution sought to protect us
against when they spoke of "bribery .  . and other high crimes and
misdeamors," not cheap sex scandals.

Apt Shakespeare reflections upon the rule of law could be found, if the
good Congressman wished to look further than the old favorites.  Why not
silence those critics who complain of the pettiness of the alleged
offence and the chorus of federal and state prosecutors who agree that
such "perjury" is never prosecuted with this resounding affirmation of
the need for justice:

   The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept.
   Those many had not dar'd to do that evil
   If the first that did th'edict infringe
   Had answer'd for his deed.  Now 'tis awake,
   Takes note of what is done, and, like a prophet,
   Looks in a glass that shows what future evils -
   Either now of by remissness new conceiv'd,
   And so in progress to be hatch'd and born -
   Are now to have no successive degrees,
   But here they live to end.
          - Measure for Measure, 2.2.90-99

The quote would be more apt on several levels, since it not only relates
to the law but, given the original speaker, it comments to the true
attitude of those who are mounting their pompous defense of "our
cherished legal system."

I would have raised the same objection I did to Hyde's misuse of
Shakespeare if Sam Ervin or Barbara Jordan had diminished the scope of a
Shakespeare reference to "Life" or "Human Destiny" or any of the largest
issues of human concern to which Shakespeare refers in order to grab the
chance to spice up their rhetoric with a pretentious literary allusion.
I have not examined the 1974 Congressional Record to be certain, but I
am reasonably sure that they had too much class to do so.

- - -

Brush up Your Shakespeare
    (from "Kiss Me Kate")
          Cole Porter

Verse

The girls today in society
Go for classical poetry
So to win their hearts one must quote with ease
Aeschylus and Euripides
One must know Homer and, b'lieve, bo,
Sophocles, also Sappho-ho.
Unless you know Shelley and Keats and Pope,
Dainty debbies will call you a dope.

But the poet of them all
Who will start 'em simply ravin'
Is the poet people call
The bard of Stratford-on-Avon.

Refrain 1

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
Just declaim a few lines from "Othella."
And they'll think you're a hellava fella.
If your blonde won't respond when you flatter 'er
Tell her what Tony told Cleopaterer,
If she fights when her clothes you are mussing,
What are clothes?  "Much Ado About Nussing."
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.

Refrain 2

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
With the wife of the British embessida
Try a crack from "Troilus and Cressida,"
If she says she won't buy it or tike it
Make her tike it, what's more, "As You Like It."
If she says your behavior is heinous
Kick her right in her "Coriolanus."
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.

Refrain 3

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
If you can't be a ham and do "Hamlet"
They will not give a damn or a damlet.
Just recite an occasional sonnet
And your lap'll have "Honey" upon it.
When your baby is pleading for pleasure
Let her sample your "Measure for Measure."
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.

Refrain 4

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
Better mention "The Merchant of Venice"
When her sweet pound of flesh you would menace.
If her virTuesday, at first, she defends - well,
Just remind her that "All's Well That Ends Well."
And if still she won't give you a bonus
You know what Venus got from Adonis!
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.

Refrain 5

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
If your goil is a Washington Heights dream
Treat the kid to "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
If she then wants an all-by-herself night
Let her rest ev'ry 'leventh or "Twelfth Night."
If because of your heat she gets huffy
Simply play on and "Lay on, Macduffy!"
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.

Finale:

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
So tonight just recite to your matey,
"Kiss me, Kate, kiss me, Kate, kiss me, Katey."
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.

[from "The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter,"  Robert Kimball, ed., New
York:
Random House, 1984, pp. 395-396]
                          - - -

Tom Dale Keever
Graduate Fellow - Columbia University

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http://www.columbia.edu/~tdk3

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy Drewry <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jan 1999 13:52:43 -0800
Subject: 10.0099 Oh Geez, I can't resist.
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0099 Oh Geez, I can't resist.

Pat Dolan wrote:

To return to the Hyde allusion, for instance. I think the allusion's
weakness is precisely this: the law isn't a tale. It's a field in which
tales get told. One tale in this instance concerns "limitless abuse"
(who'd he kill again?).

Two tales are important here, the "tail" that Clinton has been chasing
since he has assumed his first office of power, the govenorship of
Arkansas, and the "tale" that his lawyers continue to perpetuate that
Clinton's testimony is not perjury provided that he believed his
statements to be true, rational or not, during the instant in which he
delivered them to the grand jury.  No matter what side, Republican,
Democrat, or neither, you regard the spectacle from it is difficult to
disregard the impeachment as having little at stake.

As for the use of the term "civil rights" it is legalease, and refers to
the usurpation of Paula Jones' right to a comfortable working
environment.  Maybe I spoke too soon, Clinton, after reading your post,
appears more like Lear, forcing Cor. to deliver her sovergnity.

Andy Drewry

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[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Catherine Loomis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jan 1999 13:05:18 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 10.0096 Re: Brush Up Your Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0096 Re: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Can we throw Marlowe into the mix?  When we meet Hero, she's wearing
"Her kirtle blew, whereon was many a staine."  They're bloodstains,
though, and she's wearing a myrtle wreath, not a beret.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Oldenburg <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jan 1999 13:08:06 -0700
Subject: 10.0082 Brush Up Your Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0082 Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Speaking of William Shakespeare/Clinton, I recently heard an NPR host
describe Linda Tripp as Iago....I think a more apt  comparison would be
Tripp as Enobarbus with and Clinton as Antony (both JC and
Antony&Cleopatra).

Cheers,
Scott Oldenburg

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Robinson <
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Date:           Wed, 20 Jan 1999 02:08:21 EST
Subject: 10.0089 Re: Brush Up Your Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0089 Re: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

 >I know the year is young and we will no doubt have additional worthy
 >candidates, but I want to be sure that when we are compiling our
 >"Silliest Shakespeare Allusions of 1999" we not forget Henry Hyde's
 >notable contribution to the genre.

Clinton's lawyer surpassed Hyde's allusion when the fool compared all
the fuss about Monica and bill to "Iago and Desdemonia's handkerchief."

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Jan 1999 16:34:00 -0500
Subject: 10.0099 Oh Geez, I can't resist.
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0099 Oh Geez, I can't resist.

And Ruff was just reminded of Iago and the handkerchief.
 

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