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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: April ::
Re: King John, Titus, Peele
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0742  Friday, 18 April 2003

From:           B. Vickers <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Apr 2003 17:41:25 +0200
Subject: 14.0719 Re: King John, Titus, Peele
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0719 Re: King John, Titus, Peele

Bob Grummann hasn't read the evidence I assembled for Peele as co-author
of Titus Andronicus, but avers 'I doubt I will find it persuasive'; Jim
Carroll hasn't read it either, but is sure that 'Peele couldn't possibly
have written any part of Shakespeare's plays'. Forgive me, but I find
such closed minds offer no incentive for further debate.

For Mr. Carroll's information, H. T. Price's 1943 essay, although
valuable for its demonstration of the links between Shakespeare's scenes
in Titus and the rest of the canon, is full of prejudice, error and
misrepresentation (e.g. of  P. W. Timberlake's seminal study of feminine
endings in plays up to 1595), which Mr. Carroll gullibly takes on
trust.  Ironically, Price excused Peele from 'blunders' concerning Roman
history, taking them as proof of Shakespeare's unlearned authorship, but
the blunders are in fact Price's. As I showed in 'Shakespeare,
Co-Author', pp.  184-93, Price claimed that 'human sacrifices were not
offered up in Rome': but a famous sequence in the Aeneid (10.517-22;
11.79-84) shows how, after the death of his comrade Pallas, Aeneas
captures 8 enemy youths whom he intends to sacrifice to the ghost of
Pallas. This episode echoes one in the Iliad where Achilles slays 12
young Trojans on Patroclus' pyre, and although Aeneas relents (maybe in
order to prove Roman ethical superiority over the Greeks), Virgil's
language echoes Roman sacral rituals, which involved human sacrifices.
As for Lucius' appeal to be allowed to 'hew (the) limbs' of a captive
Goth, the eminent Roman historian, Richard Gordon, has commented that
'the Romans certainly cut the hands off prisoners on a grand scale after
battles, and Caesar famously chopped the right hands off 10, 000 Gauls
that he had captured. So there can be no doubt about the Romanness of
"hew his limbs" '.

Price also affirmed that 'panthers were not hunted in Italy', but in
fact they were frequently imported for important Roman games, and there
are many references to this practice in Cicero's letters, Pliny, and in
Roman mosaics. Peele (unlike Shakespeare) refers to panthers in several
other works, and he evidently knew more about Roman customs than did
Hereward T. Price. But, by the same token, as I have shown, Peele's use
of more recondite classical sources in Act 1, such as the historians
Herodian, Sextus Aurelius Victor, and the Scriptores Historiae Augustae,
distinguish his contribution from Shakespeare's, who made marvellous use
of his solid grammar-school Latin and wide reading in later life, but
hadn't had a university education (God bless him!)

The moral is: don't take part in attribution debates if you have a
closed mind, or rely on out-of-date scholarship. As M. W. A. Smith put
it, 'there are no short cuts in authorship studies'.

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