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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Parallel Texts
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1088  Thursday, 10 May 2001

[1]     From:   Pat Dolan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 May 2001 10:53:59 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1069 Re: Parallel Texts

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 09 May 2001 10:55:38 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1069 Re: Parallel Texts

[3]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 May 2001 04:33:34 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.1069 Re: Parallel Texts


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Dolan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 May 2001 10:53:59 -0500
Subject: 12.1069 Re: Parallel Texts
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1069 Re: Parallel Texts

>>As for "Things rank and gross in nature possess it merely", it is
>>interesting that in the American Heritage Dictionary . . . "merely" is
>>given two definitions:  1.  Being nothing more than what is
>>specified.  2.  Pure; unadulterated.  Both these definitions (converted
>>to adverbs) seem to make perfect sense applied to the sentence,
>
>The online Merriam-Webster at http://www.merriam-webster.com gives three
>definitions:
>
>1 : having no admixture : PURE
>2 obsolete : being nothing less than : ABSOLUTE
>3 : being nothing more than <a mere mortal>
>
>How's that for a paradox?
>
>It seems to me that #2 is the one intended in the passage, and it would
>appear to have been used in this sense as late as 80 years ago by Yeats:
>"Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

I'm guessing that Yeats was fully aware of all three meanings and that
the poem exploits the "fact" that pure anarchy is necessarily absolute
and that therefore it is nothing more than anarchy, that is, it's
missing the structures necessary to make it something more--something
human, ceremonious, meaningful.

Certainly part of Shakespeare's continuing appeal is his constant
recourse to polysemy--and just plain punning. Can you imagine looking up
"gaunt" in the OED or AHD and having things settled? "Will"? Again, in
the case, "being nothing more than what it is" is the problem with being
"purely" possessed by things rank and gross. In the world I make when I
read Shakespeare, we are all at least partly possessed by things rank
and gross. When we are merely so, we banish our daughters, murder our
wives, urge our husbands to commit regicide and on and on.

It's a merely gorgeous late spring day in Iowa City and I don't have to
grade any more papers until tomorrow.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 09 May 2001 10:55:38 -0700
Subject: 12.1069 Re: Parallel Texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1069 Re: Parallel Texts

Andy White observes that

>Why can't our kids get a schooling as good as Shakespeare's?  There is a
>new book on American public education which (according to the reviews)
>shows how architects of the US school system deliberately dumbed down
>the curriculum, because of a condescending view of the masses.  Because
>of this, we in America are a linguistic monoculture, and that is by far
>our greatest handicap in understanding Shakespeare -- his was a
>multilingual culture from the git-go, ours is hopelessly sterile.

Much as this made me feel smug for living in a bilingual country, I
should point out that for elements of the American population, standard
English may well appear a foreign language.  Not as foreign as Latin,
mind you, but foreign enough that they end their educations writing
differently from how they speak, or just drop out and don't end their
educations.  In addition, there's everyone from an immigrant group who
speaks a different language at home.

The situation is similar here in Canada.  My grandmother, in Nova
Scotia, learnt and taught a somewhat different dialect from that in
which she speaks, and over 50% of students in the Vancouver school
system do not speak English at home.

This obviously makes Shakespeare harder, since one starts at modern
English to arrive at early modern English, but on the other hand, it
might be useful to teach Shakespeare as something overtly foreign to
most of the class, like Chaucer or French.

Cheers,
Se

 

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