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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: Shakespeare as Bible
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1273  Friday, 23 June 2000.

[1]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Jun 2000 12:03:44 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Shakespeare as Bible

[2]     From:   Tom Reedy <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Jun 2000 14:53:59 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1269 Shakespeare as Bible


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 Jun 2000 12:03:44 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Shakespeare as Bible

Thanks to Sophie for her support for my hypothesis that the current
explosion of all things Shakespeare needs scholarly attention and
analysis. What do others think?  Why are we wallowing in William's works
whenever and whither we wander?

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Reedy <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 22 Jun 2000 14:53:59 -0700
Subject: 11.1269 Shakespeare as Bible
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1269 Shakespeare as Bible

Sophie Masson <
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 > wrote:

> Ed Taft's comment on Shakespeare being regarded as a kind of secular
> Bible rings true to me; even just based on the number of allusions,
> quotes, etc, that people make all the time, in ordinary life, it seems
> to me that Shakespearean maxims are replacing Biblical ones.
>
> Sophie Masson

I thought if this when Greg Reynolds posted this the other day:

Copyright 1996 San Antonio Express-News
San Antonio Express-News
October 27, 1996, Sunday
HEADLINE: A criminal turns scholar
BYLINE: Cary Clack

He found Shakespeare in his jail cell and The Bard saved his life.

Carl Upchurch was serving time in the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg,
Pa., for armed robbery. For two months, while in solitary confinement,
all that he saw was gray: the gray metal cot, gray walls, gray ceiling.
One day, he noticed that holding up one of the legs of the gray table
was a book. It was Shakespeare's sonnets.

Reading the poems was a revelation to Upchurch, revealing to him the
power of language and the power of education. It also was the first step
in Upchurch's transformation from a criminal, saturated in the culture
of violence, into one of America's most articulate voices for
nonviolence and the empowerment of inner-city youth and the underclass.

Upchurch writes about his transformation in his autobiography,
"Convicted In The Womb: One Man's Journey From Prisoner To Peacemaker."
It is a passionate account of his life that began in a South
Philadelphia ghetto where his earliest childhood memory was that of his
grandmother, a prostitute, shooting his grandfather. Thus was set the
pattern for the first part of his life.

Upchurch was running the streets by the time he was 4 years old; he was
gangbanging at age 9; and first went to reform school at age 12. He shot
and stabbed people and robbed banks and would be imprisoned more than
half a dozen times before turning his life around.

Like Saul's conversion to Paul, Upchurch's Road to Damascus was his stay
at the Lewisville prison, and Shakespeare was the light which blinded
him and spotlighted his possibilities.

He embarked on an intense and joy-filled program of self-education,
devouring the classics, modern literature, religion, philosophy and
African-American history.

Not surprisingly, the book which made everything clear to Upchurch, was
"The Autobiography of Malcolm X." In Malcolm, Upchurch found a spiritual
twin who had also renounced a life of crime, educated himself and
dedicated himself to human liberation, finding redemption in service to
others.

In 1993 Upchurch organized the first national gang summit in Kansas
City, an event which has been duplicated in other cities including one
here in San Antonio in 1994. The summits gather gang members from around
the country who pledge to stop the fighting and dedicate themselves to
rebuilding their communities.

Upchurch, who is the founder and executive director of the Council for
Urban Peace and Justice in Pittsburgh, is often critical of traditional
black leaders such as Jesse Jackson, Joseph Lowery and the NAACP for not
being truly in touch with the wishes and needs of their constituency.

He is also critical of Louis Farrakhan for squandering the momentum and
respect he'd garnered from the Million Man March by jetting off to meet
with repressive regimes in Libya, the Sudan and Iraq.

But Upchurch doesn't let his disenchantment with adults derail him from
his work with youth.

"It's the children I worry about. These young people are going to do
it," he told me earlier this month while in San Antonio to help
facilitate "The New Generation of Peace."

"I've failed too much with the oldsters. My steady appeal to the youth
is to challenge the leadership that speaks for them. If they're not
doing what you want them to do, you have to ask them why not. You have
everything to say."

Offering his own life as an example of the power of change and
redemption, Upchurch believes that young people caught up in a violent
lifestyle can change.

"We have to tell them that they have a responsibility to the young kids,
'the shorties' who are looking up to them. We need you to save the rest
of us. You've got to do it. It's up to you. You are now the leaders."

Maybe Shakespeare could have said it better. We should be grateful that
Carl Upchurch did.
 

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