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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Literacy with Editor's Note
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0127  Sunday, 21 January 2001

[1]     From:   Peterson-Kranz Karen <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Jan 2001 11:32:05 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0113 Re: Literacy

[2]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Jan 2001 12:04:18 -0800
        Subj:   Fw: SHK 12.0113 Re: Literacy

[3]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Jan 2001 13:11:37 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0113 Re: Literacy/ Classics

[4]     From:   Diana Price <
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        Date:   Saturday, 20 Jan 2001 12:58:50 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0113 Re: Literacy

[5]     From:   Diana Price <
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        Date:   Saturday, 20 Jan 2001 13:18:44 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0113 Re: Literacy

[6]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Saturday, 20 Jan 2001 12:25:42 -0600
        Subj:   Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peterson-Kranz Karen <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Jan 2001 11:32:05 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.0113 Re: Literacy
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0113 Re: Literacy

Marcus astutely writes:

> Moreover the smatterings of short
> Italian novellas or
> ostentations in contemporary French contained in S's
> plays hardly count
> as impossible efforts of linguistic endeavour -not
> to mention their
> being common currency with all of S's contemporary
> playwrights -Peele,
> Lodge, Greene, Nashe, Chapman, Chettel...etcetc  Did
> Shakespeare NEVER
> meet his contemporaries or hear of new popular
> stories, poems or
> pamphlets? This argument really must move on.

Before we move on, just one more bit of evidence on behalf of the
possibility of people educating themselves in the early modern period,
especially with regard to languages.  Castiglione's Cortegiano was
published in London in a tri-lingual octavo edition -- English (Hoby's
translation), French, and Italian -- in 1588 (there had also been two
bilingual French/Italian editions published in Lyon and Paris in 1579-80
and 1585, respectively).  While we can't know for sure, the production
of such indications suggests that people were trying to teach themselves
foreign languages.  Maybe Shakespeare did, too.  (The details I cite are
from Peter Burke, The Fortunes of the Courtier, 1995).

Cheers,
Karen Peterson-Kranz

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Jan 2001 12:04:18 -0800
Subject: 12.0113 Re: Literacy
Comment:        Fw: SHK 12.0113 Re: Literacy

Marcus Dahl writes:

>We read of one MARLIN, a Cambridge scholler, who was a Poet, and a
>filthy Play-maker, this wretch accounted that meeke seruant of God Moses
>to be but a Coniurer, and our sweete Sauiour but a seducer and a
>deceiuer of the people.
>
>Probably part of the Puritan dislike of 'Poets' is a vaguely
>Aristotelian mistaking of poets for liars and the secondary conflation
>of character's thoughts with authorial thoughts (though others more
>informed than I may like tell us where-abouts this MARLIN (Marlowe?)
>fellow said that Christ was a seducer and deceiver of the people).

As I remember it, traditional biographies of Marlowe say that he might
have been betrayed by Kyd, who was once his roommate and was under
arrest (was it treason? heresy?). Kyd apparently let the authorities
know that it was Marlowe and not he who wrote some "foul paper(s)" that
contained "monstrous opinions" about religion. I don't remember the
details, and I don't know if modern biography has proven, disproven,
accepted, or refuted this story. I would be curious to know, however.
Marlowe holds a fascination for many of us because of his apparently
unorthodox views, his marvelous writing, and the mysterious nature of
his short life and violent death -- not to mention the reciprocal
influence between him and Shakespeare.

Regarding the spelling, "Marlin," it is not very odd; we could take it
as standing for the genuine article without much of a stretch. Marlowe
certainly fits the rest of the description attached to the name (perhaps
excluding the blasphemies -- but only perhaps). I believe his name was
also spelled "Morley" and "Marley" at times. Elizabethan spelling was
notoriously inconsistent, after all.

Paul E. Doniger

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Jan 2001 13:11:37 -0800
Subject: 12.0113 Re: Literacy/ Classics
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0113 Re: Literacy/ Classics

Marcus Dahl wrote:

>Probably part of the Puritan dislike of 'Poets' is a vaguely
>Aristotelian mistaking of poets for liars and the secondary conflation
>of character's thoughts with authorial thoughts

I think you probably mean Platonic--I don't recollect Aristotle
associating poets with liars.

As a note to all the discussion about what was and was not considered
unusually high levels of classical learning, there are also Giorgio
Vasari and Vincenzio Borghini, the allegorical mythmakers and production
artists associated with the Medici Court in Florence.  Anyone reading
Jonson's masque texts must be struck by the classical detail and
specific references, for example, the references to witchcraft cited in
*The Masque of Queenes.*  Borghini comes up with formulations that are
so obscure that A. M Nagler in *Theatre Festivals of the Medici*
suggests that probably only Vasari and Borghini knew what they were.

One thing that keeps striking me is that Elizabethans had fewer texts
than we do to contend with and an educational system that stressed
memorization; what comes across as depth of knowledge may simply be
different knowledge.

Melissa D. Aaron

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Diana Price <
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Date:           Saturday, 20 Jan 2001 12:58:50 -0500
Subject: 12.0113 Re: Literacy
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0113 Re: Literacy

William Proctor Williams wrote:

| Diana Price says, "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."  Well,
| after a person has passed through a curriculum of English would we be
| surprised if they read ever more widely in that literature?  Should we
| be surprised that Shakespeare, having learned Latin and some Greek,
| should decide to read things not in the curriculum?  In other words,
why
| are we surprised by Shakespeare doing what we would hope most of our
| students would do after we have taught them?

I would agree with this line of reasoning, as far as it goes. But since
there is no documentation to show that Shakespeare "passed through" any
curriculum, the underlying assumption of his grammar school training
remains unproven. Shakespeare's continuing education is likewise
undocumented. This topic would be less controversial if we had
documentation to shed light on his education and reading.

Diana Price

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Diana Price <
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Date:           Saturday, 20 Jan 2001 13:18:44 -0500
Subject: 12.0113 Re: Literacy
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0113 Re: Literacy

On the subject of Shakespeare's literacy and knowledge of the classics,
David Kathman wrote:

| I don't have the Boas book you cite handy, but I know from other
sources
| that he did not believe that Shakespeare had any kind of unusual
| classical knowledge; in fact, he thought that Shakespeare barely knew
| any Latin and got most of his classical knowledge from English
| translations, as Thomson also believed.

Again, there does not seem to be any agreement on how much Latin and
Latin literature Shakespeare knew. (And more on Boas below). I do not
know Latin, but a Latin specialist, C. S.  Montgomery, writes that "the
number of Shakespeare's "Latin derived words varies considerably. In the
earlier plays there are between two and three hundred in each play,
while in the later plays the numbers are more than trebled." Further,
"anyone with a knowledge of Latin, even slight, will see that, with
regard to the position of words, and the compactness of expression the
structures here [following illustrations from Titus, Macbeth, H4, and
Tempest] are essentially Latin. Shakespeare's knowledge of Latin
construction is unique. In fact, with him it becomes an additional
sense." And "Shakespeare's most inspired passages are the results of his
subconscious assimilation of the Latin language and Latin Literature"
(*Shakespearean Afterglow,* 1946, pp. 13, 33, 40).

This does not sound to me like a Shakespeare who knew hardly any Latin.
This specialist seems to think that Shakespeare's assimilation of Latin
and Latin literature went beyond the commonplace.

| Neither I nor Baldwin ever said that *all* of Shakespeare's classical
| knowledge came from grammar school training, just the bulk of it.
That
| training would have given him the ability to read other classical
Latin
| works, which were freely available for sale.

and

| In 1944 T. W. Baldwin demolished such arguments by demonstrating (in
two
| thick volumes numbering 1,525 pages) that the great majority of
| Shakespeare's quotations, allusions, and references derive from the
| standard books and curriculum of an Elizabethan grammar school."

Many critics refer to Shakespeare's grammar school education as if it
were documented fact. Since Shakespeare is a man of no recorded
education, the way in which he attained any of his erudition is a matter
of conjecture.

More often than not, some shred of documentation survives to shed light
on somebody's formal education. But for Shakespeare, one must assume
that he did attend grammar school, guess for how many years, and guess
about the quality of that education.  Stratford curriculum can only be
guessed at. Perhaps it was comparable to the best in all of England,
perhaps it was down at the bottom of the heap. One has to make more
guesses about whether Shakespeare was a fast or slow learner, a good or
poor student, etc.

In any of these questions concerning Shakespeare's level of educational
accomplishment as inferred from the works, one is continually faced with
a documentary blank. Baldwin attempted to demolish the need for
Shakespeare's advanced formal training by assuming he attended grammar
school and then extrapolating the curricula extant for other
institutions for the Stratford school.  His conclusions are conjectural,
yet they are usually treated as a factual basis for discussion.

|  I also have Boas's *University Drama in the Tudor Age*
| on my shelf, and from that book it's clear that Boas did not believe
| that Shakespeare had or needed a university education.

The opinion that Shakespeare did not need a university education is
shared by a number of authorities, such as Baldwin and Peter Levi. I do
not share that opinion. It has always sounded to me like a
rationalization. By minimizing the advantage of, or even the need for,
advanced formal training, authorities deflect attention from the absence
of documentation for Shakespeare's educational opportunities. Their
discomfort is understandable, but it does not satisfy my doubts.

| Someone reading
| your quotes out of context might think that Boas believed that
| Shakespeare's classical knowledge was unusual for the age, which is
| simply a gross misrepresentation.

No, Boas is simply arguing along the same lines as Baldwin.  Although
Boas describes Shakespeare's first-rate knowledge of the classics, he
simply claims that Shakespeare "was not a learned man, and all the
fantastic theories based upon the assumption that the plays could only
have been written by such a one may be given short shrift" (*Drama,*
71). Yet Boas goes on to suppose (99-100) that those in the audience
without a formal education would miss the classical allusions in the
plays they attended-- so what are Boas's readers to think about the
education of the person who wrote the allusions?

| As I've pointed out many times before, both on this group and in any
| essay on my web site (http://www.clark.net/tross/ws/field.html),
| Shakespeare had a ready source of classical and foreign language texts
| in his fellow townsman Richard Field,

Field's list of publications does not begin to account for dozens of
books and authors with which Shakespeare was evidently familiar.  A
quick glance at bibliographies of Shakespeare's sources shows many more
books, used by Shakespeare (e.g., works of Plautus, Fiorentino, Golding,
Kyd, Lyly), published elsewhere. Nor am I aware of any evidence to show
that Shakespeare obtained books from Field.

|    And by the way, John Velz has privately
| expressed to me his displeasure with the way anti-Stratfordians and
| others misuse and misrepresent his work to argue that Shakespeare must
| have had a great classical education.  He does not believe this at
all.

Drawing a different conclusion based on the same information is not
necessarily misrepresentation. If I list the authors read by
Shakespeare, as reported and commented upon by authorities such as Velz,
Guttman, Muir, and others, I cannot help but notice that there is no
documentary evidence to support Shakespeare's access to that reading, or
the training that provided his jumping-off point. I find that gap worth
a few questions.

Diana Price

[Editor's Note: These old arguments are really part of the banned
so-called "authorship question" and are thus NOT appropriate to
SHAKSPER. This is all old territory that has been gone over and over
again by both sides. As a responsible Shakespearean, I cannot NOT allow
this aspect of this discussion to continue. --Hardy]

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Saturday, 20 Jan 2001 12:25:42 -0600
Subject:        Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

Marcus Dahl attributes to Aristotle an attitude toward poetry that
actually appears in Plato's <Republic>, that poets are liars and so
should be ostracised from society.

About Marlowe as a poet and a filthy playmaker, the allusion is to the
low opinion of the morals of theatrical people in vogue then as it is in
some quarters now.  Compare the scandal magazines feasting on the
extra-marital love lives and other deviations from normal behavior among
Hollywood actors.

I appreciate the comments David K. makes about <Shakespeare and the
Classical Tradition>.  That book, long out of print, is now available
online as Michael Best explained in a recent posting on SHAKSPER. 11:
2356

Going once more unto the breach, I have taken up four documents--all
four pretty much neglected--that taken together throw considerable light
on Shakespeare's Latinity.  This in a paper for the "Shakespeare's
Latinities" seminar at SAA Miami.  I hope to publish it after improving
it in response to criticism from the seminar.

Cheers,
John
 

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