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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0098  Thursday, 18 January 2001

[1]     From:   David Knauer <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 09:54:41 -0600
        Subj:   Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Werner Broennimann <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 18:23:54 +0000
        Subj:   Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 13:29:05 -0500
        Subj:   John Shakespeare and Literacy

[4]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 13:29:17 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0078 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[5]     From:   Diana Price <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 17:57:59 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0088 Re: John Shakespeare and Literacy

[6]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 19:07:46 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0087 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[7]     From:   Peterson-Kranz Karen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 23:42:24 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0088 Re: John Shakespeare and Literacy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Knauer <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 09:54:41 -0600
Subject:        Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

I agree with the main points of Tony Burton's recent post on Renaissance
literacy, except for,

"Further, the demand for cheap quartos of [Shakespeare's] plays (enough
to create a market for printed stol'n and surreptitious copies)
certainly encourages the inference that his own admirers were among the
reading population."

Again, I'd refer those who presume a strong public demand for plays to
read in quarto to Peter Blayney's essay, "The Publication of Playbooks,"
in A New History of Early English Drama. Quarto plays were never big
sellers-most plays were never printed, and most that were never got a
second printing-and theater company economics, rather than avid
readership, controlled when plays were printed. Finally, Heminge and
Condell, quoted above, are more likely to be drumming up business for
the First Folio than accurately describing the provenance of the quartos
or their popularity.

Dave Knauer

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Werner Broennimann <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 18:23:54 +0000
Subject:        Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

In his "The Genius of Shakespeare" (58-64) Jonathan Bate discusses
sonnet 55 with its aere perennius theme which is so closely linked to
the culture of writing.  Bate notes that "In a way it is extraordinary
that Shakespeare wrote the poem but did not get it printed", implying, I
think, that the sonnets were not designed exclusively for the personal
praise of an unnamed loved one but rather for publication, because he
continues: "Once the poems are published ... it is Shakespeare, not the
fair youth, who is immortalized."  Bate then goes on to make his point
that "the onlie begetter ... W.H." might be a misprint for "W.S."

Werner

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 13:29:05 -0500
Subject:        John Shakespeare and Literacy

Joining in on this one late, but this is one that troubles me
particularly because in the last year or so, a Washington Post article
presented John Shakespeare's illiteracy as 'fact' (in the arrogant,
gossip-journalist sense of 'well, everybody _knows_ . . .').

I haven't seen anyone comment on both the tenure-was it upwards of 30
years? -- and the variety of duties John Shakespeare had in Stratford.
Perhaps it may have been possible for one or two of his functions to be
handled by an illiterate, but Schoenbaum (whom the Post reporter never
bothered to read) had a comprehensive list of what John S did.
Schoenbaum also is very good at pointing out the significance of the
cross markings John S left on certain documents:  namely, that it was
probably his 'mark' by tradition; not an indication he couldn't read or
write but an indication of his status and/or preference for marks of
approval.

Another observation:  we are well accustomed, in the business world, of
passing meeting minutes around the office, with checkmarks and/or
initials placed next to the attendee's names as they read and approve
the document.  If my boss neglects to use initials when he signs off,
does that make him/her illiterate?

[On second thought, depending on the boss, this might be a risky
question.]

Andy White
(playing hooky from comps)

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 13:29:17 -0600
Subject: 12.0078 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0078 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

Marcus:

When Rudierde referred to Marlowe as ' a poet and a filthy play-maker,'
do you suppose he meant that CM was a filthy maker of plays, or a maker
of filthy plays? Or both?

don

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Diana Price <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 17:57:59 -0500
Subject: 12.0088 Re: John Shakespeare and Literacy
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0088 Re: John Shakespeare and Literacy

David Kathman wrote:

| While Shakespeare's classical education
| may seem impressive to a modern reader, it was *not* "extremely rich"
by
| the standards of the day; in fact, Shakespeare displays remarkably
| *less* classical learning, and makes remarkably *fewer* classical
| allusions, than most of his contemporaries.  Consider the following
| quotations by the classical scholar J.A.K. Thomson, from his book
| *Shakespeare and the Classics* (1952):
|
| "There are in the general body of Venus and Adonis a number, but,
| considering the subject and the conventional way of treating such a
| subject, a surprisingly small number, of allusions to classical tales
| and persons. All these allusions are of a perfunctory character and
such
| as could be plucked in Elizabethan times from every hedgerow..."
|
| "Of The Rape of Lucrece the general character is the same...  There
are
| casual references to Narcissus, to Orpheus before Pluto, to
Philomel-the
| commonplaces of Renaissance poetry, and all, as it happens, to be
found
| in the Metamorphoses, whence comes nine-tenths of Shakespeare's
| classical mythology.  Of classical *learning* there is no trace..."

Not everyone agrees with Thomson. Consider another specialist in the
classics, Frederick S. Boas (*Queen Elizabeth in Drama and Related
Studies,* 1950). He wrote that Shakespeare's classical knowledge,
"though secondhand, was not second-rate and should not be branded as
superficial."  Boas's own description of Shakespeare's classical
knowledge was "subliminal":   "It had seeped into his subconscious self,
and thence, as he wrote, it welled forth at any moment on to his
manuscript."

David Kathman also wrote:

| T.W. Baldwin's massive two-volume study *William Shakspere's Small
Latin
| and Less Greek* shows pretty exhaustively that the bulk of
Shakespeare's
| classical allusions come from the Latin texts that were standards in
the
| curricula of Elizabethan grammar schools, of which the school at
| Stratford (which Shakespeare would have been entitled to attend for
free
| as the son of an alderman) is a good example.

The sheer number of classical (and foreign-language) texts used by
Shakespeare raise many questions about those sources of his knowledge
which fell outside a grammar school curriculum. John Velz's *Shakespeare
and the Classical Tradition (1968) and Selma Guttman's *The Foreign
Sources of Shakespeare's Works* (1947) identify dozens of such sources.
I do not know Latin or other foreign languages, so I am relying on such
bibliographies.

However, if Shakespeare was familiar with works by writers such as
Claudianus, Lucretius, or Pliny the Elder, none of which was taught in
grammar schools, then Shakespeare's education, including his knowledge
of classical literature, cannot be accounted for by citing only grammar
school training-or Baldwin's account of it.

Diana Price

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 19:07:46 -0800
Subject: 12.0087 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0087 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

Paul Swanson points out that

>I think the same thing is true with the "So long lives this..." types of
>comments. They are not jokes, but perhaps conventions and standards of
>the time.

Of course you're right, in that a number of poets talked about granting
immortality through verse.  But this convention of writing might, rather
than indicating that the claim is vacuous, betray a conventional belief
that poetry grants immortality.  On the face of it, the fact that
Shakespeare's contemporaries also made claims to be conferring
immortality might, on purely historicist grounds, imply that he was also
serious in these claims.

Cheers,
Se

 

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