2002

Pessimism in Lear

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0832  Tuesday, 19 March 2002

[1]     From:   David Wilson-Okamura <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 18 Mar 2002 14:48:38 -0600
        Subj:   Pessimism in Lear

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 18 Mar 2002 22:58:02 -0800
        Subj:   13.0818 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Wilson-Okamura <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 18 Mar 2002 14:48:38 -0600
Subject:        Pessimism in Lear

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

>If the point is that man can never expect to understand God's
>inscrutable intentions, and that WS should not be described as setting
>forth in this play either a pessimistic or optimistic position on the
>divine role ... how do we square this with Lear's final entrance?

[quotes dialogue]

>That collocation seems to me consistent with a pessimistic authorial
>view of the divine role (or lack thereof) in human affairs.
>
>I know it's tricky, trying to conclude from any single stage moment what
>WS "really meant," but this entrance is so carefully prepared, and so
>central to the action of the play, that it's hard not to feel that
>Shakespeare meant to say *something* important with it...

Bill Arnold can speak for himself, and I hope that he will. In the
meantime, I'll offer my two cents on whether or not "Shakespeare meant
to say *something* important." To my mind, there's a difference between
wanting to *say* something and wanting to make an audience *feel*
something. Let me take another example from the final scene. When Kent
says "All's cheerless, dark, and deadly" I'm assuming that he means it
_when he says it_. Ditto for Edgar when he wonders whether this present
scene might be an image of the final horror. Both of these are dramatic
statements about what it feels like when you're standing on a stage that
is littered with bodies. (Well, the bodies aren't actually on stage in
this instance, but you know what I mean.)

Fortunately, real life isn't usually like the end of King Lear. The end
of King Lear is art: a deliberative intensification and elaboration of a
mood that we don't usually encounter in its pure form. It is a mood in
which we make statements like Kent's, and in which it seems as if heaven
is either powerless or unwilling to defend the innocent. It may have
been, for Shakespeare, a mood that recurred frequently at this point in
his life, and in that sense we might say that the mood, sustained over
the course of several plays and several years, achieves the status of a
statement. On the other hand, Lear _is_ a tragedy, and according to
Aristotle, tragedy works by making you feel really, really bad.

Was Shakespeare trying to write an Aristotelian tragedy? That's more
than we know--and so is the thesis that Shakespeare was trying to make a
statement about the universe.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 18 Mar 2002 22:58:02 -0800
Subject:        13.0818 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

Brandon Toropov suggests that the lines and stage directions which
follow seem "consistent with a pessimistic authorial view of the divine
role (or lack thereof) in human affairs."

>EDMUND: He hath commission from thy wife and me/To hang Cordelia in the
>prison, and/To lay the blame upon her own despair,/That she fordid
>herself.
>
>ALBANY: The gods defend her!
>
>(Enter LEAR with Cordelia in his arms.)

They are indeed consistent with such a view.  They might also be
consistent with a view excoriating the characters as pagan, placing
their face in false gods.  More importantly, I think, laying "the blame
upon her own despair" nicely explains the historical tradition which
Shakespeare had inherited about Cordelia killing herself, while
transferring the blame from "her own despair" to the machinations of
Edmund.  Shakespeare, in other words, is going to considerable efforts
to exculpate Cordelia from the sin of despair.

Cheers,
Se


Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0831  Tuesday, 19 March 2002

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 18 Mar 2002 08:59:21 -0800
        Subj:   Re: 13.0818 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

[2]     From:   David Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 18 Mar 2002 17:46:40 GMT0BST
        Subj:   Re: 13.0818 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

[3]     From:   Daphne Pearson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 18 Mar 2002 18:44:22 +0000
        Subj:   Re: 13.0818 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

[4]     From:   William Sutton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 18 Mar 2002 13:18:03 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.07393 Shakespeare and Catholicism, his religious
views?

[5]     From:   Takashi Kozuka <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 18 Mar 2002 22:44:31 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

[6]     From:   Bill Arnold <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 18 Mar 2002 16:37:31 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: 13.0818 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 18 Mar 2002 08:59:21 -0800
Subject:        Re: 13.0818 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

Takashi Kozuka does a very nice job restoring to ambiguities in the case
of Shakespeare's Catholicism.  Let me add two others.

1) Jack Heller writes of *King John*

>If the Church does not fare well in Shakespeare's play, it certainly
>fares better than in most other contemporary versions of King John's
>story.

If true--I have not read everything as Jack seems to have done--this
observation hardly makes Pandulph a sympathetic character.

>As John becomes Shakespeare's villain, he replaces the Church as the
>villain.

True enough, but it is also true that the clerics in the history plays
are villains (any exceptions?).  Pandulph as well as the clerics in *H5*
and the first tetralogy are not shining examples to Godly behaviour.  I
don't see much hope for this line of argument.  No, I do not consider
Sir Hugh to be in a history play.

2) If I understood John Velz correctly in a recent off-list
conversation, and John, please correct me if I didn't, when Shakespeare
quoted the Bible he quoted both the *Bishop's Bible* and the *Geneva
Bible.*  A Catholic New Testament was also available, but no quotes from
it from that are in Shakespeare's writings.  This can be easily
explained if Shakespeare simply had some Catholic leanings, but it seems
odd if there was real devotion.

Neither of these points prove Shakespeare was not a Catholic, but I
believe anyone claiming that he was needs to take these facts into
account.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 18 Mar 2002 17:46:40 GMT0BST
Subject:        Re: 13.0818 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

I would be interested to know what is the evidence that people wish to
adduce to support the claim that Shakespeare's representation of
confession and penitence are accurately to be described as Catholic,
rather than Anglican.  It's been asserted a few times, but, unless I've
missed it (which is quite possible), I've not seen it nailed down.  As
far as I am aware there is considerable shared ground - the differences
are, as far as I am aware from reading Hooker some time ago, much less
to do with the theology of confession and repentance than with its
external form, with its sacramental status, and with the possibility of
priestly remission of penalty.

Professor David Lindley
Head, School of English

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Daphne Pearson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 18 Mar 2002 18:44:22 +0000
Subject:        Re: 13.0818 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

Takashi Kozuka raised 3 interesting issues regarding John Shakespeare.

The mortgage for one year is a typical Elizabethan mortgage which was
normally taken out for that period. People with financial commitments to
meet often suffered 'cash flow' problems (the actual quantity of coin in
circulation was very limited), and a mortgage from someone better placed
was common. The indenture would have set out the terms, usually to repay
the loan amount at a certain time of day on a specified date at a
specified place. It could be a high-risk enterprise, as failure to repay
on the specified day could mean forfeiture of the property mortgaged.

Transferring land to another member of the family was often a way to
avoid creditors placing an 'extent' (the seizure of lands in execution
of a writ), on one or more of the debtor's estates. If the debtor did
not own the estate then theoretically, it was not possible to extend it.
(I say theoretically because I have found an example where extents were
placed on lands previously sold by the debtor, but I think this is rare
if not unique).

It therefore appears that John Shakespeare was short of money.

Without seeing the 'recusancy rolls' they sound like the court rolls of
an archdeaconry. Attendance at service was compulsory for everyone older
than 14 years every Sunday and each holy day. Non-attendance was
punishable by fine, supposedly 12d (one shilling). Reasons for
non-attendance were varied and lists of those fined (many thousands over
the reign of Elizabeth) may be found in the rolls of the archdeaconry
courts. It was not until 1581 that an Act was passed imposing a fine of



Marlowe's Doctor Faustus

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0829  Monday, 18 March 2002

From:           Takashi Kozuka <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 17 Mar 2002 15:30:47 +0000 (GMT)
Subject:        Marlowe's Doctor Faustus

Copied and pasted from The Independent (16 March 2002)

http://www.independent.co.uk/story.jsp?story=274995

"There's always the devil to pay"

The Faust myth has a dark fascination that has endured for centuries. As
a new London production of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus opens, Paul Taylor
explores the modern resonances of a diabolical deal that seems to offer
everything for nothing

16 March 2002

There was quite a queue of young people begging for returns for the
Young Vic's Doctor Faustus (which has its press night on Monday) when I
visited the theatre last week. Could their desperation to see the show
be in any way connected, I wonder, with the fact that the title role is
taken by one Jude Law? The face that launched a million hormones will,
rather fittingly and fetchingly, get to utter the famous line about
Helen of Troy and the "face that launched a thousand ships".

Law, though, has gone just a little bit Greta Garbo on me and has
effectively said no to a mooted meeting with myself and his talented
Mephistopheles, Richard McCabe, at which we were to have discussed
Faustian pacts in art in general, and in this highly charged,
broken-backed and compellingly weird Elizabethan play by Christopher
Marlowe in particular.

Meeting McCabe on his own is a privilege rather than consolation prize,
for he's a big Marlowe buff, having a few years ago for the RSC
impersonated the great free-thinking dramatist, spy, atheist and
all-round irregular guy in a play called The School of Night, named
after a sort of intellectually seditious soir


Re: Hall's Chronicle

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0830  Tuesday, 19 March 2002

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 18 Mar 2002 10:16:45 -0500
        Subj:   Hall's Chronicle

[2]     From:   David Evett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 18 Mar 2002 16:44:44 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0826 Re: Hall's Chronicle

[3]     From:   R.A. Cantrell <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 18 Mar 2002 15:47:53 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0826 Re: Hall's Chronicle


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 18 Mar 2002 10:16:45 -0500
Subject:        Hall's Chronicle

Re: Dave Evett's game of "Humiliation," I once had a graduate professor
who made all students confess whether or no they had read the entire
_Faerie Queene_. He maintained that in 30 years of graduate teaching,
only two students had done so.

Why did he ask this question? I dunno, but I think it had to do with
putting us in our place.

--Ed

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 18 Mar 2002 16:44:44 -0500
Subject: 13.0826 Re: Hall's Chronicle
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0826 Re: Hall's Chronicle

> Maybe he was surprised as I was by the skimpy score as Hall's Chronicle
> is such important background for the history plays.  Are they neglected
> in this forum?
>
> Al Magary

I'm sure lots of us have looked at the sections in Hall peculiarly
relevant to particular elements of particular plays, even if we never
sat down and read the whole book straight through (whatever that
means--I hardly need to tell this forum that there's reading and
reading, casual and intense, active and passive).

Selectively,
Dave Evett

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R.A. Cantrell <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 18 Mar 2002 15:47:53 -0600
Subject: 13.0826 Re: Hall's Chronicle
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0826 Re: Hall's Chronicle

> Maybe he was surprised as I was by the skimpy score as Hall's Chronicle
> is such important background for the history plays.  Are they neglected
> in this forum?
>
> Al Magary

Yes, and thank you very much. Maybe surprised is no the right word. Let
me think.

All the best,
R.A. Cantrell

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

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S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
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editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Re: Almost Damn'd

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0828  Monday, 18 March 2002

From:           John Drakakis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 17 Mar 2002 09:51:52 -0000
Subject: 13.07380 Re: Almost Damn'd
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.07380 Re: Almost Damn'd

An ingenious suggestion Steve,

But I wonder if what we might be looking at here is a proverbial saying
the origin of which we have now lost.  Might it not read something like:

Fair wives are not safe when Cassio is around since he plays the devil
(almost damn'd) because they cannot resist his charms.  I don't think
that there is any need to speculate on whether he had a wife or not.

Of course what happens later in the play is that he is accused of
seducing Desdemona, and he nearly dies for it. There he would be
'damned' if we see it from the perspective of Othello and Iago since
this assassination would be a double revenge requiring the victim to be
damned.  As it happens he doesn't die, but is wounded, hence 'almost'
damned.

Cheers,
John D

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

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