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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Re: Authentic Performance
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1790  Friday, 22 September 2000.

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 Sep 2000 09:04:20 -0700
        Subj:   SHK 11.1778 Re: Authentic Performance

[2]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 Sep 2000 22:14:29 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1778 Re: Authentic Performance

[3]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 Sep 2000 20:28:17 -0700
        Subj:   Hebrew Scholarship in the Renaissance


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Thursday, 21 Sep 2000 09:04:20 -0700
Subject: Re: Authentic Performance
Comment:        SHK 11.1778 Re: Authentic Performance

Larry Weiss sums this up with far more skill than his old summary of
Herodotus and Marx:

> Tony Burton answers one of my questions -- not a rhetorical one -- by
> informing us that Hebrew was taught at Oxford.  I assumed it was taught
> somewhere in England, else the KJ Bible would have been an
> impossibility, but I really did not know where.  But no one has answered
> my next (non-rhetorical) question:  Did WS have access to the teaching?

Alas, the Hebrew taught at Oxford, lacking vowels and usually possessing
a three consonant root, can be interpreted by Ms. Amit to mean nearly
anything with a passing resemblance.  On the other hand, the Hebrew of
the 16th and 17 century had evolved greatly, acquiring vowels as part of
its evolution.  A convincing case can only be made for Ms. Amit's ideas
with this evolved Hebrew.  Ms. Amit has not defined which state of
Hebrew she means, or have I missed that?  Was this later state of the
language taught in Elizabethan or Jacobean England?   If so, I am not
aware of it.

Even if it was, absurdly, ancient Hebrew, we know with reasonable
certainty that Shakespeare did not attend Oxford.  Ms. Amit could then
only justify her ideas with a kind of conspiracy theory where
Shakespeare had some Oxford crony help him with the names, but how many
writers actually work that way?  Still, I have the utmost confidence
that nothing will shake Ms. Amit's faith.

Hoping for sanity on an insane subject,
Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 21 Sep 2000 22:14:29 -0400
Subject: 11.1778 Re: Authentic Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1778 Re: Authentic Performance

Larry Weiss repeats his unanswered question, did Shakespeare have access
to the teaching of Hebrew, or are we to suppose that he learned it by
osmosis?  Of course, Shakespeare's personal education, and the amount of
knowledge he could plausibly have acquired during the course of his life
outside of school, are matters that have been long debated without
resolution.  Setting aside the efficacy of learning by osmosis -- in
which I most heartily believe -- I am somewhat surprised to learn of
uncertainty over whether Hebrew was commonly taught, or if knowledge of
it was a rare achievement.  The good grammar schools, I know offhand
only of Shrewsbury (Cambridge), St. Paul's, and Westminster, included
Hebrew in the curriculum.  Humphrey Gilbert's planned academy was to
have included Hebrew along with Latin and Greek.

William Harrison, in his "The Description of England," describes the
public schools at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities as teaching
Hebrew along with Greek (Latin being taken for granted), and he records
proudly "in commendation of the clergy of England. . . for their
knowledge reputed in France, Portingale, Spain, Germany, and Polonia to
be the most learned divines. . . that it is accustomed a maim in any one
of them not to be exactly seen in the Greek or Hebrew, much more, then,
to be utterly ignorant or nothing conversant in them."

From the grammar schools to the university to the Inns of Court and
their enthusiastic patronage of the theater seems (subject always to
refutation by specific facts), a natural sequence from which it is more
natural to conclude than to doubt that Shakespeare and his audience
existed in a milieu where competence in Hebrew was no rarity, as well as
one in which -- at least for the law students -- the Talmudic learning
of Henry VIII's Great Matter with the pope is likely to have been
retained and passed along rather naturally.

And finally as I touched on earlier, there was the general protestant
inclination to promote the study of Hebrew and ally themselves with
humanists in aid of the cause, as Luther teamed up with Spalatinus to
persuade Frederick of Saxony to found lectureships in Hebrew and Greek
at Wittenberg.  One might expect that general interest in Hebrew studies
increased rather than decreased during the reign of Elizabeth.  Even  if
Shakespeare suspended his usual attentiveness in the presence of bright
grammar school graduates, university types, and the clergy, he might
have picked up a smattering of Hebrew from Hamlet and Horatio while they
were home from Wittenberg.

Tony B

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <
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Date:           Thursday, 21 Sep 2000 20:28:17 -0700
Subject:        Hebrew Scholarship in the Renaissance

>We seem to have two issues involved here, one having to do with
>historical scholarship and the other with literary interpretation. The
>first should be subject to clarification, if not full resolution: to
>what degree was Hebrew known in the London of Shakespeare's time and
>what kind of access to it would he have? The second, the deductions that
>Florence Amit makes from a presumed, profound knowledge of the language
>on Shakespeare's part, can be discussed or not as people see fit.
>
>Even though I find myself quite skeptical about much of her deductions,
>I thank her for bringing up the issue so that we may at least consider
>the first question seriously. For example, did the Countess of Pembroke
>have access to some kind of Hebrew version of the Psalms? She wouldn't
>have to be a qualified academic Hebraist to find it useful to consult
>the original (with literal rendering) before making her own versified
>version.
>
>I, for one, would like to know more about this matter.
>
>don bloom

I too, would like to know this in more detail. I seem to recollect that
Sir Phillip Sidney did read Hebrew and consulted the text when
translating the Psalms. In fact, I even vaguely remember being told that
some Protestants thought that Hebrew might have been the original
prelapsarian tongue.  But I would very much like to know some solid
facts.

M D Aaron
 

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