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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: May ::
Re: Chooseth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0855  Thursday, 13 May 1999.

[1]     From:   Terence Martin <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 May 1999 09:35:38 -0500
        Subj:   Choosing

[2]     From:   Anthony Burton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 May 1999 11:38:17 -0700
        Subj:   Chooseth


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Martin <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 May 1999 09:35:38 -0500
Subject:        Choosing

I certainly agree with Peter McCluskey that Bassanio hears the song and
its clues.  Bassanio is, I feel, a male version of the "dumb blonde" ;
handsome, etc. but not too swift upstairs.  In a version I saw some
years ago, Portia and Nerissa with a couple of waiting ladies sang the
song while he wandered from casket to casket.  They were clearly nervous
that he was going to pick the wrong one and demonstrated this in the
pitch of their voices.  All of which raised quite a few laughs from the
audience.

Terence (Terry) Martin

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anthony Burton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 May 1999 11:38:17 -0700
Subject:        Chooseth

Let me bring together two threads of recent discussion: Sean Lawrence's
response to my own references to love from the viewpoint of Rudolf
Steiner, and the simultaneous reference to the marriage
relationship-women as weaker vessels, etc.  The Biblical explanation for
the creation of Eve was to give Adam a "help meet" for him.  "Meet"
(Heb. c'neged) is best understood in the sense "corresponding to" or "as
counterpart."  In this respect, the relation is like that of Yin and
Yang, of contrasting but mutually dependent principles.  Turning to the
other great stream of western culture, we find in Plato's Symposium a
suggestion that one way of looking at primal man is as a great
androgynous sphere comprising male and female principles; ludicrous if
taken literally and materially, but rich and right in other ways.  The
drift of these insights-in each of the cultures out of which they
arose-towards male self-congratulation and an apologia for
masculinization of social institutions and authority, is a different
phenomenon, and not one that can fairly be imputed to the authors of the
insights which have been thus misused.  The social institutions which
define the marriage relationship as we are accustomed to know it are,
generally speaking,  the products such misuse.

In discussing Shakespeare with respect to this issue, it is helpful (I
find it absolutely essential) to think of the Dantean four levels of
meaning and decide which facts, contexts, etc. plausibly establish
whether a proposed meaning or interpretation is thematic, arising out of
multiple similar indications at the same level of meaning, or something
else.  If it is something else (e.g., a topical nonce-reference
applicable only to Elizabethan-Jacobean interests, or a modern
relativist reading that affects us only as 20-21 cent. audiences),  it
may be of the greatest interest and scholarly accomplishment but it
simply does not throw light on any inquiry into the tropological realm
of universal meanings.

It has been a constant in the history of Shakespeare scholarship and
simple appreciation,  that in every age his works have been found to
direct our thoughts to the highest levels of philosophical speculation
and some form of search for universal principles, leaving behind, as
unsatisfactory and incomplete,  those interpretations that limit their
scope  to a single standpoint, even one that is enormously helpful in
connecting Shakespeare with some new insight into our present view of
things.   Not all of us wish to or can put aside our intellectual habits
and soar to the realms of imagination and things unknown, far above the
successively narrower worlds of forms, shapes, local habitations and
names,  but for those who do, Shakespeare is a wonderful guide.
 

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