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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Seven Deadly Sins
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0413  Tuesday, 9 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Mar 1999 14:10:46 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0393 Re: Iago, et al.

[2]     From:   Marti Markus <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 09 Mar 1999 08:53:38 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0402 Re: Sins

[3]     From:   Lisa Hopkins <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 9 Mar 1999 10:23:45 -0000
        Subj:   Seven Deadlies


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 08 Mar 1999 14:10:46 -0500
Subject: 10.0393 Re: Iago, et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0393 Re: Iago, et al.

Roger Schmeeckle's idea that WS set about writing a series of tragedies
depicting the seven deadly sins can perhaps be worked out as follows
(dropping the early tragedies and beginning with the great tragedy
sequence):

Hamlet - sloth
Othello - envy
Lear - anger
Macbeth - greed
Antony & Cleopatra - lust
Coriolanus - pride

Of course, this leaves Timon Of Athens to deal with gluttony.  There are
two banquet scenes, aren't there?

As for the question that initiated the thread, it seems to me that Iago
does what he does because he can.  Iago is by for the most intelligent
character in the play --  he may be the only intelligent character in
the play-and he knows it.  Of course, it rankles that his rank is low
despite his native superiority and, so, he goes about demonstrating his
superior brain power.  He is probably aware, and plans, that no one
(except, maybe, Roderigo) can ever know or appreciate what he is doing;
but it is some satisfaction that Iago himself  knows it and can admire
his handiwork.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marti Markus <
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Date:           Tuesday, 09 Mar 1999 08:53:38 +0100
Subject: 10.0402 Re: Sins
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0402 Re: Sins

> The correspondences are as follows, some of them very obvious: Macbeth,
> avarice; Hamlet, acedia or sloth; Lear, anger; Othello, envy; Anthony
> and Cleopatra, lust; Coriolanus, pride; and Timon of Athens, gluttony.

I find this quite convincing - but according to its full title ("THE
LIFE OF...") Timon seems to be a "history". And what about the
"TRAGEDIES OF" Titus Andronicus (gluttony in regard to pastry? pride?
anger?), Romeo and Juliet (lust?), Troilus and Cressida (lust? sloth?),
Julius Caesar (pride?). There is also the special case of Cymbeline
(jealousy? pride?), which does not fit into the tragedies at all. And
there are or might be some other plays which have just not found their
way into the canon...

In Christian cultures human agency is always guided or influenced by one
or the other of the seven deadly sins - or by a combination of some of
them (sloth, gluttony and lust are my own personal favourites). It is
therefore not surprising that we get such a convincing list of
correspondences, especially if we have a set of 10 plays to choose from.
I am sure that one could also establish similar lists for the comedies
and the histories.  It is a good idea to look for such correspondences -
they may help a lot for the understanding of a play within its cultural
context. But we should not go that far as to imagine authorial intention
behind such correspondences, let alone behind a whole set of plays
(which might not even be by the same authors). We might just as well
find that a number of these plays correspond equally well to the seven
or four (or how many?) cardinal virtues - although, being virtues, they
are far less entertaining. faithfully, hopefully, mercifully,
forgivingly, ascetically etc. (yawn!) yours,

MM

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lisa Hopkins <
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Date:           Tuesday, 9 Mar 1999 10:23:45 -0000
Subject:        Seven Deadlies

I'm currently completing a literary life of Marlowe and have been toying
with the idea that Marlowe's seven plays might each correspond to a sin,
perhaps as a counter to Spenser celebrating virtues.  It's a bit
strained but how about this: Dido, Queen of Carthage, lust (Venus and
Cupid preside over the action); Tamburlaine 1, pride (all his opponents
are sure they can beat him); Tamburlaine 2, sloth, of which Calyphas is
an obvious emblem; Dr Faustus, gluttony (all the oral imagery); The Jew
of Malta, avarice; Edward II, envy (of Gaveston and then of Spencer);
The Massacre at Paris, wrath (everyone).  Too schematic, I know, but I
can imagine Marlowe being interested in exploring 'sins'.  Incidentally,
the genre ambiguity Roger Schmeeckle certainly applies here too.

Lisa Hopkins
Sheffield Hallam University

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