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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Tragic Hero
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1153  Friday, 18 May 2001

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 May 2001 11:10:57 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero

[2]     From:   R. A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 May 2001 14:35:15 -0400
        Subj:   Tragic Hero

[3]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 May 2001 14:12:09 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero

[4]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 May 2001 00:01:00 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero

[5]     From:   Stevie Gamble <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 May 2001 17:37:45 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero

[6]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Thu, 17 May 2001 07:28:03 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 May 2001 11:10:57 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero

Apologies to all for leading this unfortunate thread astray yet again.
But the excerpt below requires some clarification.

>I'll try putting it another way. There's holistic
>thinking and linear thinking. We learn linear
>thinking (with the left brain) when we learn to read
>and use numbers to add and subtract, but holistic
>thinking is something that we're born knowing how to
>do. I think that sometimes when kids are forced to
>learn linear thinking too soon, they try to use it
>for everything, for thinking that is better done
>holistically (with the right brain). Much of what we
>call common sense is holistic thinking.

Uh, no, not really.  The left brain/right brain concept derives from
legitimate, serious neurological research, which has been misinterpreted
and over-simplified in "self-help" literature and in the popular press.

Legitimate brain hemisphere research has also, unfortunately, been used
by many to justify irrationality.  Utterances which fly in the face of
logic and reason are justified by virtue of being "right brain" or
"holistic" thinking.

Such notions about "linear vs. holistic" thinking are more suburban myth
than scientific fact.  For more information, see:

http://www.newscientist.com/ns/19990703/leftbrainr.html

Cheers,
Karen Peterson

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 May 2001 14:35:15 -0400
Subject:        Tragic Hero

In the recent skirmishing between Ms. Hughes and Mr. Jensen et al a good
point has been raised.  There is a distinction to be made between the
source for a play, the Bible, Ovid, and the proximate inspiration for
writing a play, current events, Lopez, Essex, and that both are avenues
of opportunity.

All the best,
R. A. Cantrell

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 May 2001 14:12:09 -0700
Subject: 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero

How anybody can write:

>Not proselytizing at all.

After writing:

>>Actually, there are indeed real incidents behind the first and last of
>>these that are to be found in the biography of He Who Must Not
>>be Named. (Those who are interested in my reasons for saying this
>>are welcome to post me off-list.)

Is beyond me.

>Of course they are based on sources. Most of his plays are based on
>multiple sources. As for me denying this years ago,
>I think we need some
>citations here, some proof.

Please except my apology for not wording that better.  It was not the
sources you denied, but that Shakespeare sometimes used the language of
his sources.  This is a paraphrase, but you said you could not believe
he ever did that, and I and another jumped in quoting A&C and Plutarch.

How you can say:

>I happen to think it makes a lot of sense that
>the plays were ALSO based on current events and on incidents in his own
>life. The operative word
>here is ALSO. Why you and others must have it that
>if a thing is one thing it can't also and at the same time be another is
>beyond me.

to someone who wrote:

>If you can show something in Shakespeare's life that
>is as convincing a parallel as the sources, we will have cause to be
>interested and grateful,

is beyond me, though you have rather loaded the other parts of that
statement.

I wrote:

>>Isn't it more important to get the ideas right?

Ms. Hughes wrote:

>How can you be so certain that your ideas are the right ideas?

That is either a cheap shot, or you did not read very carefully.  I did
not say the ideas I present to this list are right.  I do give my
arguments and evidence when I present one, so that others may evaluate
it.  It is my hope that someone will give further reasons for thinking I
am right, or reasons to change my mind.  I'll be happy with either
result.  See my message re: *MOV* posted Wednesday.  This is what I have
been suggesting you do, though elaborate apologies to Graham Bradshaw
are not necessary.

As to the comments about de Vere, you clearly missed my intent, which
was to characterize my understanding of most Shakespeareans at the time
that Looney's book was published, and for some time after.  My own
opinion was not the point.  Making clear why it is important to use
great critical tools when evaluating ideas was the point.  Alas, your
comment,

>Don't bother to answer.

can be interpreted as a cheap attempt to have the last word.  It hope it
was not.

>Sometimes, Mike, I think you may be somewhat
>lacking in a sense of humor.

Yeah, lots of people complain about that, but I can't hear them over all
the laughter.

Mike Jensen

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 May 2001 00:01:00 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero

Money Bags

The recent discussion on usury allowed me to rethink the imagery in
"TMOV" that is usually cited to show Shylock's rapacious nature. Money
bags is one of the images.

Shylock dreams of moneybags and by that dream commentators become
psychoanalysts and insist that Shylock is a miser. But here as in all
other instances in The Merchant of Venice, where there is a provocative
word, one notices the pattern of three levels of interpretation.
Although 'moneybags' may be read, 'moneybags' need not be meant, in the
presumed, pejorative sense. A second, alternative analysis, based on
feasibility, which follows clues and weighs options, may well be
substituted. We know that Shylock has chosen to risk all his investment
for a most peculiar bond: an agreement that will give him no financial
recompense and later when he is offered three times its value, he
declines even that! Truly, odd behavior for a miser. However,
interpretation number one remembers another provocative word "revenge".
'Revenge' against Antonio, the man who regularly soils his "gabardine"
(when crypto Jews are being burned in Ancona.). That is supposed to be
Shylock's motivation. Making another oddity: the expectation by Shylock
that the State Court will sanction a lethal 'revenge', and of all
things, by a despised Jew upon a venerated native son. I recently
mention that in law he has no hope in the world for that. Perhaps
Shylock is neither miser nor revenger when two such outrageous and
conflicting presumptions are so oddly linked to the same psyche. It may
be more realistic to consider the judgmental results of the proceedings,
where Shylock gains neither money nor the impossible penalty, but rather
his "contentment" - even while facing the threat of conversion. It must
be that the court's ruling is really what had been intended
(Antonio's compensatory words for the Duke: the conversion, is not a
serious threat to a dying man.) Shylock's achievement, with the help of
his friends, is an inheritance for his "diamond lost": for Jessica.

Therefore, perhaps Shylock's dream of moneybags is not a reference to
any safe stash of his coin, but rather, a presentiment of the gambol
still before the family or a nightmare disturbing Shylock's sleep. The
moneybags he sees may be : 1.The articles and cash that Jessica will
take with her in her flight (with an expelled Marrano) from Venice. 2.
The immoderate takings being grabbed by those ever-vigilant "thieves",
as he calls them: the tax farmers, Salario and Solanio that the court
judgment was planned to circumvent. Their names, below, confirm their
function. This kind of interpretation may not be without flaw - but it
is not perverse, as would be the initial presumption.

Lastly is Shylock's true Hebrew meaning, his personal casket of lead,
exposed, to the few who can see it buried in the text. Shylock tells
Jessica about his dream of MaONi  B'AeGaeus, his old 'home in the
Aegean'. He is a Levantine Jew as we know by Jessica's mention of his
countryman, 'Chus', the term used for The Sultan's envoy. Here is just
another confirmation of the play's imperative of reversing the threat of
bureaucratic procedures that would confiscate a deceased  'Levantini's
out of Ghetto property, as well as to indicate that the family has some
extra territorial protection.

Florence Amit
-------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

Besides the Hebrew meanings of SaL ARI O, 'A basket for his lion' - A
Lion being the symbol of Venice and S(heO)L ANI O  - a 'Hell or burdon
of his poverty', there are the European language connotations of salary
and an ass (anio) to carry money bags and be dull.  Launcelot adds his
commentary after the court proceedings that defeat Saleroa and Solanio.
He calls "Sola" and "Sala" to indicate a cornucopia and the call of a
courier to say that it's contents are now for Belmont rather than
Venice.

Copied from Attilio Milano, "Encyclopedia Judaica " CD Rom, 1997  "PAUL
IV (1476-1559), pope from 1555; born Giovanni Pietro Caraffa....In his
Bull Cum nimis absurdum of July 14, 1555, he decreed that in every town
the Jews were to gather together in one street or one quarter, which was
to be locked at night (the ghetto), and all synagogues except one were
to close.  Jews were to sell all their houses and landed property,
confine themselves to trading in second-hand clothing and rags, and
avoid all contact with Christians. They were forbidden to employ
Christian wet nurses or domestic servants, and were ordered to wear the
Jewish badge on their clothes. He directed his hatred in particular
against the Marranos of Ancona, who had been invited there by previous
popes in order to develop trade between Ancona and Turkey.  Paul IV had
some hundred of the Marranos of Ancona thrown into prison; 50 were
sentenced by the tribunal of the Inquisition and 25 of these were burned
at the stake. Paul IV may he considered the instigator of one of the
most wretched periods in the history of the Jews in Italy-the period of
the ghettos, which dragged on for three centuries."

Giorgio Romano, "The Encyclopedia Judaica", ibid "In March 1516, it was
decreed that the Jews must live in a special and separate quarter, "the
ghetto," in an unhealthy district far from the center of the city and
known as the geto nuovo (lit. "new foundry"). Jews mainly of Italian and
German origin were moved to this quarter, the most extreme segregation
to which the Jews had ever been submitted. In 1541 Jews from the Levant
were moved to the adjoining geto vecchio ("old foundry"). Finally, in
1633 the geto nuovissimo was established and was populated mainly by
Western Jews.  By this time the word ghetto had come to be used to
designate the closed Jewish quarter. Among the Western Jews were many
Marranos who, after their renewed expulsion from Venice in 1550, were
later accepted in the administration of the community as well as in the
various relief societies. The division of the Jewish population into
three groups-Germans, Levantines, and Westerners (tedeschi, levantini,
ponentini)-was officially accepted."

Shylock is depicted, as an old man, who would have had his property from
times back when Popes had been more tolerant. Tax officials await his
demise in order to confiscate the property. We imagine, therefore, a
Turkish envoy, discreetly helping a man of minority status in a
Christian country, transfer the value of his property to his kin who are
new residents of his country.

The historian, Cecil Roth mentions "chaus" in his books, "The Duke of
Naxos Of the House of Nasi", p.29 and "Dona Gracia Of the House of
Nasi", p. 58. Roth inserts: "This is the same word, originally meaning
'bow-maker', which was rendered into English in the nineteenth century
as kavass; but it would be an anachronism to use this form here." It is
printed "cavus" by the historians Benjamin Arbell and E. J.  Brill in
their book Trading Nations, Jews and Venetians in the Early Modern
Eastern Mediterranean, p.71. In "The M.I.T. Shakespeare Forum", Feb,
1999:Nora Corrigan added to my information that Ben Jonson mentions a
Turkish messenger called a chiaus in The Alchemist,"which was first
performed in 1670".  All this tends to confirm that the title was
perhaps as well known at that time of Ottoman supremacy as the term
Nuncio is known today, for the Pope's representative. The Chus is
mentioned as being (just) a countryman of Shylock, by Jessica which
means that Shylock had the standing of a Levantine Jew, and probably
wore a yellow turban, as a Jew, making it understandable why his house
was still outside of the ghetto (where a masque passes beneath his
windows).  >From my web site essay:  There is a trump card, that secures
Shylock's court gambol and which had probably initiated it. (Otherwise,
it would have been too exceptional; too potentially disastrous because
of the involvement of the inquisition.) This unusual radicalization of
means is surely an exploitation of the implied presence of the Turkish
sultan represented by the Chus, Shylock's countryman. Therefore it
appears, that however well Balthasar argued, something else, Turkish
interests, represented by the Chus, caused the Duke to reluctantly put
Jessica's fortune up for grabs when it had already been secured by the
state bureaucracy.

Abraham Haim/Leah Borenstein, "The Encyclopedia Judaica" ibid.
"Suleiman was outstanding among the Ottoman rulers and is regarded as
the greatest of them. During his rule the Ottoman Empire attained its
greatest power and extent.... This sultan introduced the capitulations
agreements, i.e., pacts or contracts between the Ottoman sultans and the
Christian countries of Europe concerning the rights to be enjoyed by the
subjects of each when dwelling in the country of the other. Many Jews
who immigrated from abroad benefited from these agreements, which had
great influence on their legal standing. They acquired the status of
protected persons and were granted extraterritorial rights and
protection from attacks on property and life. Venice was the first to
come to an arrangement in 1521 and was followed by Francis I, king of
France, in 1535. After Suleiman's death, the capitulations were renewed
during the time of his heir Selim II (1566-74), and also in the time of
Murad III, Muhammad III, and Ahmed I."

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stevie Gamble <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 May 2001 17:37:45 EDT
Subject: 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero

>Two rather disparate responses to two of today's posts.
>
>The first actually follows up Mike Jensen's comments on the "critical
>thinking" rejected by Hughes.  In fact, "critical thinking" as a term
>has some rather specific meanings that go beyond "thinking like a
>literary critic."
>
>"Critical thinking" at least since the Bloom (not Harold!) of Taxonomy
>fame, refers to "higher order thinking" (I'm using quotation marks to
>isolate terminology, not as scare quotes).  Higher order thinking goes
>above recognition and recall and even beyond application to refer to the
>intellectual processes of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.  Hughes
>rejects "critical thinking" as "and/or" thinking and calls for "and/and"
>thinking in approaching MoV and Shakespeare.  In fact, since synthetical
>thinking is precisely "and/and" thinking, "critical thinking" is what we
>need to do.

Indeed; it is notable that Stephanie Hughes prays in aid some aspects of
Karl Popper's theory of knowledge without, apparently, noticing that he
wrote at very considerable length about how knowledge may be acquired.
Had she done so it may have dawned on her that critical thinking is, as
you and Karl Popper have both noted, "and/and" thinking.  Whilst I was
refreshing my memory of this earlier this evening I came across a
passage of his in _The Autonomy of Sociology_, 1945, on conspiracy
theorists which appears to be relevant: 'And people who sincerely
believe that they know how to make heaven on earth are most likely to
adopt the conspiracy theory, and to get involved in a counter-conspiracy
against non-existing conspirators. For the only explanation of their
failure to produce their heaven is the evil intention of the Devil, who
has a vested interest in hell.'

Best Wishes
Stevie Gamble

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Thu, 17 May 2001 07:28:03 -0700
Subject: 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1141 Re: Tragic Hero

Mari Bonomi wrote:

>"Critical thinking" at least since the Bloom (not Harold!) of Taxonomy
>fame, refers to "higher order thinking" (I'm using quotation marks to
>isolate terminology, not as scare quotes).  Higher order thinking goes
>above recognition and recall and even beyond application to refer to the
>intellectual processes of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.  Hughes
>rejects "critical thinking" as "and/or" thinking and calls for "and/and"
>thinking in approaching MoV and Shakespeare.  In fact, since synthetical
>thinking is precisely "and/and" thinking, "critical thinking" is what we
>need to do.  I would suggest, further, that the danger in synthetical
>thinking is ignoring critical analysis and evaluation of the "and/and"
>which leads to attempting to accrete onto perfectly valid ideas the
>barnacles of obsession.  (How badly mixed is that metaphor?)  As a
>Toronto newspaper notes in its TV advertising, there are opinions, and
>there are informed opinions. Which do you want?

Again we see the substitution of "either-or" for "and." I never said (or
never intended to say) that holistic thinking should be substituted for
critical thinking, but that each should be used where appropriate. If I
thought that we could approach MOV and Shakespeare with what's been
offered to date and come up with a satisfying result, then either-or
would be appropriate, but I don't see that we have. I say it's time to
go out there and get more data. I say that some of the data we need to
look at, if we truly want to understand the play and why it was written,
involves when it was written and what was happening at the time. As I
said to Mike Jensen, others may be content with what has been propounded
so far, I am not. I don't thing that ideas based on incomplete
information can be considered valid. Nor do I see that seeking further
information based on the author's life and the events of his time can be
considered "barnacles of obsession."

I'll give you an example. If I lose my keys, I do "and-and" thinking
until I'm sure I've recalled all the things I did since I last had my
keys. At that point I begin doing "either-or" thinking: "I couldn't have
left them at the doctor's because I remember putting them in my bag as I
left the car and I didn't take them out until I returned to the car,"
and so forth. The kind of thinking where you eliminate what doesn't
relate. If I begin doing either-or thinking before I've recalled all the
places I went, all the opportunities for misplacing them, I run the risk
of missing the particular moment when I misplaced them.

If we did not know that Arthur Miller wrote "The Crucible" during the
period that Senator McCarthy was destroying the lives of writers, we
would perhaps be content to draw the line at the obvious source in
history, the witch trials of Salem. I would not be satisfied with that,
and I'm not satisfied with the kind of continual questioning of the
meaning of the caskets, whether Shakespeare was anti-Semitic, whether
the play was based on the Lopez trial, etc., that go round and round and
have done for centuries, not knowing for sure when the play was written
or the background to its writing. "The Crucible" was written about the
Salem witch trials of long ago AND about the treatment of the artistic
community by the government at the time the play was written.

Plays were the television of the era. There isn't the slightest
possibility (to my mind) that they were NOT about the events of the
time. Just as "Law and Order" last night reflected our current concern
with how to handle kids who kill or "West Wing" reflects our current
concerns over the environment, etc., these plays were about something
current. Continually I hear in these posts the statement, "We can't
possibly know what Shakespeare intended, but this is what I think." If
we're not approaching these questions as merely a game, I say that we
CAN know a great deal more of what he was thinking if we start thinking
like historians (who, like most who deal with intellectual puzzles of
various sorts, use both "and-and" and "either-or" thinking, whatever
name they may give them) and find out when and why the particular play
was written at a particular time.  The clues are all over the place.

My best to everyone and thanks for the (mostly) polite discourse. I do
value it. Thanks to those who so kindly answered my questions.  And most
of all thanks to Hardy for maintaining this list, truly a gift to this
community. At this point I must take back all the time I have for other
things. Until the fall.

Stephanie Hughes
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