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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Re: Authentic Performance
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1769  Wednesday, 20 September 2000.

[1]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Sep 2000 21:22:24 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1759 Re: Authentic Performance

[2]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Sep 2000 09:17:02 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1759 Re: Authentic Performance


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Sep 2000 21:22:24 -0400
Subject: 11.1759 Re: Authentic Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1759 Re: Authentic Performance

It's not my intention either to "pile on" Florence Amit or to come to
her defense, since I am unpersuaded by her Shakespeare-Hebrew language
derivations; They seem to me both implausible as etymology and also
unpersuasive in that the supposed meanings suggested by her do not
integrate her version of the Shylock character convincingly into the
rest of MOV and its themes.

But I must answer Larry Weiss' rhetorical "Where in England was Hebrew
taught or spoken in the 1570's?" with facts that make the whole
speculation a lot more plausible than one might believe.  About a decade
ago the J.P.Morgan library in N.Y.C. mounted an exhibition that included
a volume of the so-called "Winchester Talmud."  That Talmud received its
name because it was brought down from Oxford during Henry VIII's great
effort to wangle an annulment from the pope, by Oxford's prominent
Hebraicist (whose name escapes me) for the purpose of consulting on an
ongoing basis during the period before Henry founded the CoE and was
still trying to refute arguments against him by referring to Talmudic
law interpreting the circumstances under which one must or mustn't marry
the widow of a deceased brother.  So, for one thing, Hebrew was taught
at Oxford, and the protestant reformation could only have increased
interest in direct reading of the bible in the original.  The great
translators of the King James Bible did not come out of nowhere.

In addition, for that particular Talmud to have earned its nickname
seems good evidence that its existence must have been widely known and
its importance considerable. Did many members of the court learn Hebrew,
or study the Talmud?  Not likely in any serious way, but the issue was a
national preoccupation for years.  We can compare the situation of
Nixon's impeachment post-Watergate, when much of the public gained an
instant if rough-and-ready idea of the workings of the previously arcane
constitutional law of impeachment; not as lawyers or scholars, but at
least to the degree that they could spot legal, procedural, and
political issues and their complications when new facts were disclosed.
And that learning all came to the surface a lot more easily years later,
with the Clinton-Whitewater impeachment, so that people who weren't
around in the Nixon years benefited from the earlier research and
explanations.  I always suspected that something similar happened in
England, and that a residual familiarity with Hebrew, Talmudic precepts,
and perhaps the occasional interesting digression may have existed in
court circles.

Nothing probative in all this, of course, but I think it reduces the
apparent impossibility of Shakespeare having had any meaningful
familiarity with Hebrew words.

Tony B

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Sep 2000 09:17:02 -0700
Subject: 11.1759 Re: Authentic Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1759 Re: Authentic Performance

Because of a separation from my partner for the home page that I
mentioned, my isolation caused me to err when I entered this thread. I
cannot go any further without consulting him nor may I include the
appropriate transcriptions here. But I will answer and then answer no
more.

Marilyn, we are long acquainted but we do not seem to know each other
essentially. I would not be anxious to put on display any labor of mine
if it was not true to the best of my ability. Prove me in error. I want
it to happen. I would bow out, thankful for the respite. But it would
not be in shame, knowing that my integrity is in tact. If a researcher
is not ready to scratch everything, (s)he is a liar. My friend is a
person who agrees to that. When you caught me careless I acknowledged it
and so it must be. Truth revealed must be the ideal - even for a
conservative teacher.

Mr. Larry Weiss, I have told you that your deductions, your evidence,
cannot be adequate for research. It is like the game of connecting dots
that children play. The result is a very odd looking elephant. Good
research is always with a large amount of induction, that may leave a
door open, but at least does not execute the innocent. It would seem
that even if the mythical wolf bared his fangs at you, you would not
concede that it was not grandmamma, because she had left no last will
and testament.

Hebrew is a major literary language despite the relatively small number
of speakers. That is a fact. There have been many famous non-Jewish
Hebraists.  Some of them are named in the Encyclopedia Judaica.

Sean, I want to assure you that induction to be made into a tool for
serious research requires more than rare instances. There must be very
many occasions, the words must to some extent have the weight of grammar
and they must always suit the story and the text. ( Of course they also
may change the concept.)  Indeed as I showed you in my example from
Schoenfeld: without the hint that ofert  - lead, needs the addition of
the Hebrew letter peh, to become Porat, perhaps Bassanio would not have
choose the right casket.  However there is much more than that in the
play that benefits from Hebrew.

Your question about why Shakespeare needed an encrypted language is
fascinating. Regarding "The Merchant of Venice" I imagine why.
Shakespeare had the idealism to anticipate that the day would come when
readers would finally discover his fascinating Jewish satire. He added
the Hebrew because it was appropriate and he knew how to do it. As for
tagging: artists do what they find conducive to their
conceptualization.  Hebrew should be no surprise for naming at a time
when Puritans were taking many Old Testament names and Bibles were being
translated.(!) However I believe that Shakespeare had further incentives
for Hebrew. That is suggested by the Hebrew in the "Funeral Elegy". It
was a way to communicate with some others whom he trusted. I get the
impression it was a way to relay his thoughts about politically
sensitive issues. This will be further examined by the transcription of
the poem.

Florence Amit
 

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