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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: April ::
Re: King John Date
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0693  Wednesday, 9 April 2003

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Apr 2003 09:50:34 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0686 Re: King John Date

[2]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Apr 2003 12:47:46 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0648 Re: King John Date

[3]     From:   Bob Grumman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Apr 2003 16:29:36 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0686 Re: King John Date


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Apr 2003 09:50:34 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.0686 Re: King John Date
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0686 Re: King John Date

I also think that King John shares a plot characteristic with Richard
III. John can be quite witty in the first half of the play, and
certainly more sympathetic than Phillip for his audience, defiant of
France and Rome. But in Act III, as in Richard III, in the center of the
play, our sympathies seem to turn (as the Bastard's does too) when John
orders the death of a child, just as Richard schemes the death of his
nephews. This would place it in the 1595 time range as well.

I don't think it a shoddy play at all. It is quite intricately
structured, the verse is quite complex at times with some intriguing
rhyme choices (the Bastard sometimes adopts an ababcc pattern to
highlight a truth he has learned early on), and the play ends on a less
than triumphant note. It seems to me a little more advanced than the
Henry VI plays.

Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Apr 2003 12:47:46 -0500
Subject: 14.0648 Re: King John Date
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0648 Re: King John Date

Harold Bloom is no relation of mine (more's the pity) and he infuriates
me at times, too, but I'm not sure I go along with Martin Steward
complaint.

(H. Bloom: > "It is not too much to say that the Bastard in King John
inaugurates

>Shakespeare's invention of the human, which is the subject of this
>book.  What made Faulconbridge's startling reality (or, if you prefer,
>the illusion of such reality) possible?  The others characters in King
>John, including John himself, still have upon them the stigmata of
>Marlowe's high, vaunting rhetoric.  With Faulconbridge the Bastard,
>Shakespeare's own world begins, and that originality, difficult as it is
>now to isolate, has become our norm for representation of fictive
>personages." (52))

(M. Steward: > Chaucer (and some of his powerful mates) has informed his
solicitor.)

Rather than attempt an essay (tedious to read, and difficult to
accomplish) let me just offer a few points.

1. While generalizing is always dangerous, all insight lies in it.

2. Generalizing about WS always tends toward Bardolatry, but the risk
must be taken or nothing will be learned about his work.

3. My love and admiration for Chaucer is exceeded only by that for
Shakespeare.

4. Comparisons are odorous when they are used merely to praise and
dispraise, but they can serve a useful purpose in understanding both
sides of the comparison.

5. I agree with HB that, in the development of character, WS stands
alone. Chaucer, the greatest of his predecessors, is a distant second.

6. When you look at the area of male characters -- young and old, fat
and trim, bitter and loving, good and evil, cunning and stupid,
courageous and cowardly -- Shakespeare has his hundred and Chaucer his
dozen. I am not saying in this that the Pardoner or the Miller are
inferior to Falstaff or Mercutio, but that beyond Troilus and a handful
of his tale-tellers, Chaucer's men are generally rather flat. They are
serviceable and vastly superior to most other medieval characters, but
compared to a half a dozen (or more) characters found in EVERY PLAYof
S's, they lack depth.

7. When you look at females, the difference is even more striking.
Beyond Criseyde and the Wife of Bath, what can Chaucer put up against
Rosalind and Lady Macbeth and Beatrice and Cleopatra and Viola and
Katherine and Cordelia and some dozens of others? Again, I'm not saying
that Criseyde and the Wife are inferior, but that Shakespeare has so
many that are just as good.

8. This fact may or may not make S the greater author. I would not
undertake such a judgment. But that S was better at creating characters
of depth and inner conflict and truth to human nature should, I think,
be recognized. Nor is it any shame to Chaucer to be less, for who in all
the centuries before WS, and in the century after for that matter, even
comes as close as he?

9. Dr. Johnson, of course, recognized this fact long ago, and (of
course) said it better.

10. Character depth is not the only defining quality of greatness in
literature, and may be overweighted in our time (which seems to go back
to the 18th Century). But when we do look at it, let's be as accurate as
possible. Is there any author in any literature that has the variety and
the quantity of remarkable and engrossing characters as the IB?

Cheers,
don

PS: If I may offer a personal anecdote from the other (acting) end of
this matter: I was a trifle miffed back last summer when the
obersturmbahnfuehrer of "Shakespeare in the Park" here overlooked me in
casting "Twelfth Night." He didn't seem to know my work -- God knows
how. The production, however, was put off until this year whereupon he
decided to offer me Antonio. The friend who relayed this information was
a little embarrassed since that's a rather small part, but I didn't have
to stand on any vanity since I had already committed myself to doing a
musical whose performances would occur in the middle of rehearsals for
12N. As is my habit, though, I got to thinking about what I could do
with even so small a part as Antonio, even if I had to play him as gay
and sexually smitten with Sebastian, even though he has to get involved
in the duel (wherein I have small skills, indeed).  Antonio's bits are
small, but pithy -- and Shakespeare's works are loaded with such people.
d.a.b.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Grumman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Apr 2003 16:29:36 -0400
Subject: 14.0686 Re: King John Date
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0686 Re: King John Date

>I'm glad to know that Ros King is 'not saying that only Shakespeare was
>capable of inventing the Bastard', but wonder how she knows that the
>author of The Troublesome Reign 'just does not know why the character
>*needs* to be invented'. Peele, who wrote the first Act of Titus
>Andronicus, and scenes 2.1, 2.2, and 4.1,

Sorry, Brian, but this is not a fact.  Do you have any direct evidence
of this?

>was perfectly capable of
>inventing characters and plot-mechanisms which blend historical and
>fictional events. Given that King John was hardly an admirable figure
>(he was included in a recent British TV series on the most evil men in
>history), Peele -- I imagine -- could see that some other more likeable
>character was needed to bridge gaps in the plot and to provide a central
>focus for the post-Armada patriotism of the early 1590s. Hence this
>bluff, vigorous, loyal but independent figure, comparable to Llewellyn
>in Edward I.
>
>That Peele wrote TR I argue in a forthcoming essay;

You argue it.  Good.  That takes care of your earlier assertion.

>that TR precedes
>King John has been argued by several scholars, most cogently by Robert
>Smallwood in his Penguin edition (1974), Appendix pp. 365-74, with
>further arguments by Al Braunmuller in his Oxford edition (1989), pp.
>1-19. -- That Shakespeare's King John is closely linked to Richard II
>was shown by MacDonald P. Jackson in 'Pause Patterns in Shakespeare's
>Verse: Canon and Chronology', Literary and Linguistic Computing, 17
>(2002): 37-46.
>
>That King John belongs to the mid- or late 1590s (1596 is preferred in
>the Oxford Textual Concordance) is evident, also, from the treatment of
>Constance, both in her intense foreboding of her son's death (more
>powerful than anything Shakespeare had previously written), and in her
>rejection of the consolations offered by King Philip and Pandulph
>(3.4.25ff): 'He talks to me that never had a son' -- a disqualification
>of the consoler which closely resembles the scene (3.3) in Romeo and
>Juliet (1595) where Romeo rebuffs the Friar's attempted comfort: 'Thou
>canst not speak of that thou dost not feel.  / Wert thou as young as I,
>Juliet thy love, / An hour but married ...' . (See Brian Vickers,
>'Shakespearian Consolations', PBA, 82 (1993): 219-84).

You don't think a playwright's earliest work can have passages as good
as passages in later work?

>The Bastard is
>obviously a completely re-created figure, on the framework established
>by Peele, with a great command of repartee in his twitting of Austria by
>repeating the line 'And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs',
>reminiscent of some verbal wit in Love's Labour's Lost (1594-5).

(1594-5), in your opinion.  The narrative poverty of the play, among
other things, keeps me from dating it later than 1592--except for the
revised sections.

>But in
>filling out Peele's template for the Bastard Shakespeare was repeating
>something he'd recently done in Titus Andronicus (which I would date
>1593-4), where he transformed Aaron from a stock villain into an
>individual with quite distinctive features.

In your opinion.

--Bob G.

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