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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Cressida
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0399  Tuesday, 20 February 2001

[1]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Feb 2001 07:54:58 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0381 Re: Cressida

[2]     From:   Mary Jane Miller <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Feb 2001 12:10:28 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0381 Re: Cressida


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Feb 2001 07:54:58 -0800
Subject: 12.0381 Re: Cressida
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0381 Re: Cressida

> My point is a simple one -- you might say it's so simple that it need
> not be made.  We humans have to reconstruct the past from our position
> in the present. I think it's admirable that we humans are dedicated to
> doing so.  But I think we should constantly remind ourselves -- as the
> Roman conquerors were reminded -- we are only human, and cannot
> transcend our time and place, our here and now.  Tragic?  You bet.
>
> Yours, Bill Godshalk

Forgive me for veering off topic, but Bill Godshalk brings up a point
that I've been giving much thought for some time. In adjusting our
modern view of the world to see the sixteenth century clearly, what
parameters must be altered? There must be dozens, but there are a few
primary ones.

First, the society was much smaller than what we are used to,
particularly in the US. For the most part, individuals remained in their
communities from birth to death and communities were small. There were,
on an average, between 25 and 60 male peers at any given time. Most
seminars bring together more people than this. The entire Court
consisted of two to three hundred individuals. This represents one class
of a medium sized high school. This difference in size and mobility has
immense ramifications for how people perceived and dealt with themselves
and each other.

Second, people changed roles far less frequently than we do. High
offices were usually held for life and often obtained by inheritance,
contributing to the sense of social immobility.

Third, even as communities were smaller and changed less frequently, the
barriers between them were less permeable than in our time.  People
married for life. Men were trained to do one job from birth to death.  A
trade was regarded as a mystery, a set of closely guarded secrets, to be
passed on only to a trusted apprentice who paid for the training. Class
barriers were rigid. People of one class dealt chiefly with members of
the class immediately above and below theirs, who acted as
intermediaries to deal with persons of more distant classes. Of course
there were those who transcended these boundaries, and we're more
interested today in these instances, which gives us a false sense that
it happened more often than it actually did.

Finally, balancing this stasis was the (to us) immensely high death
rate. If someone reached their fifties it was not at all unusual for
them to be on their third or fourth marriage partner. Women expected to
have as many children as possible, eight was not unusual, even twelve,
so that three or four might reach maturity. What effect did this have on
the attitudes and expectations of these people? Surely it contributed to
the intensity of the argument over religion. When one sees so many loved
ones depart for the hereafter it makes a big difference what that
hereafter consists of.

There are dozens more such considerations, the levels of literacy,
matters involving sex and cleanliness that are not written about, even
ordinary matters such as the relative size and number of rooms, the lack
of screened windows or refrigeration, the practice of sleeping two to
four to a bed, all have effects that go beyond the words on the page. It
is darned difficult to keep all these things in mind while attempting to
set the background in place for the development of the modern media, the
public theater and commercial publishing, but if we don't, we can't hope
to come up with something that approaches the truth.

Stephanie Hughes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Jane Miller <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Feb 2001 12:10:28 -0800
Subject: 12.0381 Re: Cressida
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0381 Re: Cressida

In the case of a word that looked the same would Shakespeare have
bothered to use the glossary called " The hard words of Chaucer
explaned"  with " so much of the Latine in Chaucer as is not by himself
Englished" in the "Workes of our Ancient and learned Englsih Poet ,
Geffrey Cahucer , newly printed  1602 Adam Islip" . We cannot know but
'Quaint Gyzes' is translated there  as 'strange fits'.

I am copying this information from the book itself - my husband having
years ago bought the then affordable book from a scientific books dealer
who had it because it contained "The Astrolobe".

Mary Jane
 

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