2001

Rites of War for Hamlet or Claudius?

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1269  Wednesday, 30 May 2001

From:           Steve Roth <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 28 May 2001 08:40:51 -0700
Subject:        Retitled: Rites of War for Hamlet or Claudius?

David Evett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> wrote:

>Nor do
>"the soldier's music and the rite of war" seem to me appropriate to
>Claudius, whose first official act in the play is to use diplomacy
>rather than war to deflect the warlike Fortibras, who deals with the
>rebellious Laertes in much the same way, and who attacks Hamlet by hired
>assassin (Laertes) and poison rather than by frontal assault.

I agree that the rites of war are for Hamlet, not Claudius. I think it
worth pointing out, though, that Claudius has better credentials as a
soldier than Hamlet, who has only been in battle with the pirates, and
that only briefly. Claudius says (iv.vii), "I've seen myself, and serv'd
against, the French."

And Fortinbras doesn't even know about Hamlet and the pirates. This
unless you adopt the pretty tenuous idea of Derek Savage, in "Hamlet and
the Pirates" (1951). He suggests that Hamlet was actually in league with
Fortinbras, cutting a deal to get his army's support in taking the
throne, in return for giving back the lands surrendered in the single
combat.

As I say, damned tenuous, but alluring. Despite some serious missteps,
Savage does a pretty good job of marshalling evidence in support. (i.e.,
What in the hell is Fortinbras doing at Elsinore at that moment? Can
always argue dramatic necessity, of course.... <g>)

Thanks,
Steve
http://princehamlet.com

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Plays and Literature

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1268  Wednesday, 30 May 2001

From:           John Velz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 28 May 2001 20:13:09 -0500
Subject:        Plays and Literature

Robin Hamilton is quite correct about the pick-a-backing of playtexts
into Jonson's Folio of other genres that were conventionally called
"literature".  But there was an uproar in London about this attempt to
designate playtexts as "works".  A couple of choice bits of contemporary
doggerel verse are included in the art. I mentioned earlier.  It really
was quite daring of Jonson to do this, because no one from the 10th
century beginnings on to 1616 had ever had the nerve to attempt to
elevate playtexts to the status of an oeuvre.  There is an anecdotes in
the art. about Bodley, who told his librarian sometime after 1600, I
believe, not to buy plays and almanacs and other such "baggage books"
for the library that was to become the Bodleian.  Shakespeare died in
April of 1616 before he could have seen the Jonson Folio, which is what
i meant when I said he died thinking of his plays as scripts.  That
leaves us with Kenneth Muir and Ed Taft.  If Ed's scenario is correct,
Shakespeare would be as daring a revolutionary as Jonson was.  Unlikely
on the face of it. There temperaments were quite different.  It was
surely the sales of the Jonson Folio that after Shakespeare's death
convinced Hemminges and Condell that they could raise Shakespeare to the
level of an oeuvre.  Note that they left out of the First Folio all the
works of Sh. that could have been called "works" in their own time:  the
Sonnets and the Narrative Poems.

The big question seems to me to be a related one.  If Shakespeare knew
as everyone knew that plays were scripts and that the "two hours'
traffic of our stage" forbade mounting more than about 2100 lines, then
what on earth did he think he was doing writing reams of stuff that
would have to hit the cutting room floor? Almost twice that length in
*Hamlet* and a little less than the  length of *Hamlet*  in *Richard
III*, and so on through *Troilus and Cressida* and *Henry V* and other
long scripts in the Sh. canon.   The Tyrone Guthrie production of
*Hamlet* virtually uncut that inaugurated the Guthrie Theatre in
Minneapolis in 1963 (?) ran 5 1/2 hours with a half hour intermission
and was played at such breakneck speed by Hume Cronin and George
Grizzard and Jessica Tandy & co that the woman I was in the audience
with got only about 1/3 of the lines and I who knew the play better only
got about 75% of them. One thinks of Tennyson's complaint against
too-prolific Nature: "of fifty seeds / She often brings but one to
bear".  This question seems to me to be far more of a conundrum than
what Shakespeare did with himself in the Lost Years.

I'm afraid I am leading toward a new thread here, but surely it is a
question worth reflecting on.

Cheers for copiousness,
John

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Re: Midsummer Night's Dream

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1266  Wednesday, 30 May 2001

[1]     From:   Harry Hill <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 28 May 2001 10:44:33 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1237 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream

[2]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 28 May 2001 08:17:22 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1237 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream

[3]     From:   Marcus Dahl <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tue, 29 May 2001 05:12:14 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1237 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream

[4]     From:   Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tue, 29 May 2001 16:49:58 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1201 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 28 May 2001 10:44:33 EDT
Subject: 12.1237 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1237 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream

Don Bloom has it right about Beckett, in my view, and so about A
Midsummer Night's Dream. Beckett's fist is raised, of course, against
the cosmos and our strange relationship to it, but in a specifically
Irish  [or even "British"] way. When he has Mrs. Rooney in All That Fall
curse, when trying to straighten her corsets behind an Irish hedge, OH
WHAT A PLANET! we are in the same lost yet busy country as the poor
souls in Dream.

Harry Hill

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 28 May 2001 08:17:22 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1237 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1237 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream

> In this production (in my German hometown Aachen)
> the couples are given the blessing and are married.
> There they on the stage in black and white and have
> to watch Bottom's pathetic play. They never touch,
> they don't exchange glances. They are deeply
> alienated and shocked. Once Lysander tries to touch
> Hermia but she moves away. They are condemned to live
> together but they can't. So they mirror Theseus and
> Hippolyta who were introduced as a total loveless
> couple themselves she just being "wooed with the
> sword".

For some reason this production's description makes me think of *The
Name of the Rose*, in which the denouement turns on the realization that
laughter is far more subversive and dangerous than tears.

With regard to Theseus and Hippolyta, I have always found their
subsequent appearance in *Two Noble Kinsmen* interesting.  In I.i, the
Second Queen, asking Hippolyta's intercession with Theseus, says

"...soldieress
That equally canst poise sternness with pity,
Whom now I know hast much more power on him
Than ever he had on thee..." (I.i.85-88)

Theseus' and Hippolyta's following exchanges, albeit brief, tend to
support this "outsider's" appraisal of the nature of their
relationship.  Perhaps in MND she was just "wooed with the sword," but
later Shakespeare/Fletcher seem to have thought there was a bit more to
it than that.

Cheers,
Karen Peterson

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tue, 29 May 2001 05:12:14 EDT
Subject: 12.1237 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1237 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream

I think Robert Peters has perhaps confused Seriousness with Profundity.
Hamlet is probably the funniest play in the canon.

All the best,
Marcus.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tue, 29 May 2001 16:49:58 -0400
Subject: 12.1201 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1201 Re: Midsummer Night's Dream

Richard Burt observed that

> Actually, only the men (D and L) change the object of their affections.
> The women (H and H) remain constant to the men throughout the play.

This is an interesting observation considering that sonnet 20 written
possibly around the same time claimed that shifting change was a female
quality.  Perhaps male infidelity requires fairy magic.

Clifford

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Re: Othello and Emilia

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1267  Wednesday, 30 May 2001

[1]     From:   Ed Friedlander <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 28 May 2001 11:17:23 -0500
        Subj:   Othello and Emilia

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 28 May 2001 12:51:05 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1256 Othello and Emilia

[3]     From:   Stuart Manger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 28 May 2001 18:32:04 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 12.1256 Othello and Emilia

[4]     From:   Jo De Vos <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 29 May 2001 11:06:48 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1256 Othello and Emilia

[5]     From:   Bruce Young <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 29 May 2001 13:32:12 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1256 Othello and Emilia

[6]     From:   Eva Diko <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 29 May 2001 23:43:22 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1256 Othello and Emilia


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Friedlander <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 28 May 2001 11:17:23 -0500
Subject:        Othello and Emilia?

Asking whether Emilia had cheated with Othello is perhaps like asking
"How many children had Lady Macbeth?"  But Iago's suspicions ring true.

I do not recall any such concern on the part of "the ensign" in the
novella on which the play was based.  However, Shakespeare must have
wanted to give Iago a motive, so he handles it right away.  Iago tells
Roderigo at the very start of the play that he is angry over being
passed over for promotion.  In the military, this means a ruined career
(probably both now and then.)

Iago is given another motive when Shakespeare mentions his suspicions
about adultery.  I am just a pathologist, but I've seen enough of mental
illness to know how common it is for sociopaths (the truly "motivelessly
malignant") to believe (for no reason) that their partners are
unfaithful.  And from time to time I've seen the results in police lab.

As usual, it seems to me that Shakespeare has both observed life closely
and accurately, and presented it clearly to his audience.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 28 May 2001 12:51:05 -0400
Subject: 12.1256 Othello and Emilia?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1256 Othello and Emilia?

...why would he lie to himself?

I have always thought that Iago's little monologs are spin rehearsals.
He is working out the story he will tell the public if he ever has to
answer a question.

(And I recall having the impression that he was silent at the end
because Othello had just given the story he was planning to use.)

The words Shakespeare puts in a character's mouth when he is introduced
are always telling. Iago says, "If...abhor me." "Despise me if..." He's
daring you to spot the lie.

He says plainly in the opening that he is pissed because, with three
VIPs pulling for him, Othello gave somebody else the job Iago feels
entitled to.

Also, it wouldn't matter to Iago if Othello did or did not screw Emilia.
If someone in a bar made a glancing reference to the possibility, that
would be sufficient. Works in honor killings, I believe.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 28 May 2001 18:32:04 +0100
Subject: Othello and Emilia?
Comment:        SHK 12.1256 Othello and Emilia?

It seems to me that one of the subtlest and most excitingly bewildering
feature of the Iago soliloquies in 'Othello' is that we gradually
realise that he is exploiting the fairly usual convention of the time
that what is said in such circumstances is 'the truth'. AS we go on, we
understand that it is 'true' only for the moment at which he says it. It
is convenient as a hypothesis for this moment only. At one point he
shrugs / smiles (?) and says 'I know not if it be true, yet.....' he
then tells us he will still act on it as if it were true. For him, truth
is indeed a commodity to buy and sell, and no constant currency. He is
engaging, one of the lads, unstuffy, tells us juicy secrets, intrigues
us with outrageous town / camp tabloid gossip etc, so we come to trust
him. BUT every time we see Othello and particularly Desdemona on stage,
we are confronted by what seems to be the living refutation of Iago's
assertions, aren't we? Yet still, we half trust him. So when we watch
him systematically destroy Othello in that wonderful Act 3 sc 3 we gasp,
and then realise that we too have been duped all along, as Othello is
before our very eyes!

WE laugh as he cons Roderigo, exploits his hopeless infatuation for
Desdemona and makes sure that Roddy brings plenty of loot to Cyprus so
that Iago can feed off him - as well as being a nasty little sexual
innuendo that Roddy should save up his precious semen in his 'codpiece'
(purse) for future 'expenditure'.

The coldest Iago I ever saw was Frank Finlay's darkly hooded reptilian
eyes to Olivier's startling Moor.

To cross answer another posting: if you had Olivier blacked up and a
truly black actor auditioning, who would you pick for the Moor?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jo De Vos <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 29 May 2001 11:06:48 +0200
Subject: 12.1256 Othello and Emilia?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1256 Othello and Emilia?

As amatter of fact Iago himself says that it may not be true dut he
will" do as if for surety ".In other words he likes to believe it is
true because it suits his purpose.

Jozef De Vos
Vakgroep Engels
Universiteit Gent

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bruce Young <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 29 May 2001 13:32:12 -0600
Subject: 12.1256 Othello and Emilia?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1256 Othello and Emilia?

Susan St. John asks whether we are to believe Iago when he says Othello
has slept with Emilia and wonders, "why would he lie to himself?"  If he
had made the accusation publicly, presumably we wouldn't believe him,
since "honest" Iago turns out to be notoriously unreliable-or rather,
deliberately devious and slanderous.  But since he makes this accusation
while soliloquizing, he must believe-or at least be trying to convince
himself-that what he says is true.

But apart from his soliloquies-and perhaps Emilia's admission to
Desdemona that she'd tempted to commit adultery (4.3)-I see nothing in
the play, nothing in anything Othello or Emilia or the others say or do,
that substantiates Iago's suspicion.

One of Iago's soliloquies includes these lines:

 I hate the Moor,
 And it is thought abroad that 'twixt my sheets
 H'as done my office. I know not if't be true,
 But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
 Will do as if for surety. (1.3.386-90)

He admits he's not sure Emilia has committed adultery with Othello, but
says he's willing to believe it anyway.  Why?  First of all he seems to
be grasping for reasons to justify his hatred of Othello.  (He does the
same with Cassio, saying he fears "Cassio with [his] night-cap too"
[2.1.307].)

But what Iago says also fits with his tendency elsewhere in the play to
make sordid accusations and imagine the worst of others.  Besides waking
Desdemona's father with gross images of the young couple's lovemaking
and telling Roderigo that his-and Othello's and Desdemona's-love is
nothing more than lust (1.3.333-52), Iago is negative and cynical about
women in general.  He makes this clear in Act 2, scene 1.  Though his
words here come across as humorous banter, in which the women at least
partly join, I think we are meant to approve of the women's responses to
his accusations:

Emilia: "You have little cause to say so."

Desdemona: "O, fie upon thee, slanderer!"

Iago himself admits: "I am nothing if not critical."

I think we are meant to discount Iago's accusations, even when he
believes (or half believes) them.  Emilia knows of Iago's suspicions
about her and directly denies them:

       Some such squire he was
 That turn'd your wit the seamy side without,
 And made you to suspect me with the Moor.  (4.2.145-47)

What makes her denial especially interesting (and believable) is that
she identifies whoever has turned Othello against Desdemona as the same
sort ("Some such squire") that has sullied her own husband's thoughts
against her.  In other words, she unwittingly points to Iago as the
source of his own suspicions.

But why would Iago choose, without any solid evidence, to believe his
wife unfaithful?  Probably for the same reason he sees everything else
in a sordid and negative light: he envies and feels accused and
diminished by the goodness, happiness, and love of others (note what he
says about Cassio: "If Cassio do remain, / He hath a daily beauty in his
life / That makes me ugly" [5.1.18-20]); and so he wants to "raze the
sanctuary" (to borrow Angelo's words from another play) and destroy the
bright things that make him seem deficient, especially to himself.

At least that's how Iago seems to me.  To have Emilia be unfaithful-and
thus to have his ugly suspicions validated-seems to me to run counter to
the play's whole point about Iago's character.

Bruce Young

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Eva Diko" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 29 May 2001 23:43:22 +0200
Subject: 12.1256 Othello and Emilia?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1256 Othello and Emilia?

> Also, what is the source or meaning of Iago's admonition to Roderigo to
> go out and make money (he repeats it over and over) instead of killing
> himself for love (in Act I sc iii).  I am reading the Folger single
> edition, and the notes make no mention of it at all.

Put money in thy purse: Proverbial saying (Tilley M1090), meaning
'provide yourself for success' (cf. The New Cambridge Shakespeare)

Regards,
Eva Dikow

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Re: Hemp and hanging

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1265  Wednesday, 30 May 2001

From:           Gary Allen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 28 May 2001 21:00:51 EDT
Subject: 12.1250 Re: Hemp and hanging
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1250 Re: Hemp and hanging

Peter Groves remarks:

>Not that curious, considering that very few of his plays are set in the
>here-and-now, and tobacco was a striking novelty.

Even more an innovation than I had realized.  According to a timeline
presented at:

http://www.tobacco.org/History/Tobacco_History.html

1586: ENGLAND: Tobacco Arrives in English Society. In July 1586, some of
the Virginia colonists returned to England and disembarked at Plymouth
smoking tobacco from pipes, which caused a sensation. William Camden
(1551-1623) a contemporary witness, reports that "These men who were
thus brought back were the first that I know of that brought into
England that Indian plant which they call Tabacca and Nicotia, or
Tobacco" Tobacco in the Elizabethan age was known as "sotweed." (BD)

1564 or 1565: ENGLAND: Tobacco is introduced into England by Sir John
Hawkins and/or his crew. Tobacco is used cheifly by sailors, including
those employed by Sir Francis Drake, until the 1580s.

Gary

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