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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: April ::
Re: King John, Titus, Peele
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0776  Thursday, 24 April 2003

From:           B. Vickers <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 Apr 2003 15:31:23 +0200
Subject: 14.0752 Re: King John, Titus, Peele
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0752 Re: King John, Titus, Peele

I'm glad that Jim Carroll has done some homework on the classical
element in Titus, although he hasn't answered my point, that H. T.
Price, attempting to dismiss the case for Peele's co-authorship,
asserted that 'Shakespeare is often mistaken about custom and ritual',
whereas the three 'blunders' were in fact Price's own. Price asserted
that 'holywater was not used at Roman marriages': I didn't trouble to
dispute this, since I supposed that most readers would be acquainted
with rites of passage and would know that water (with fire) was widely
used for purification rituals of birth, marriage, and death, as in the
Roman lustratio. (See, e.g., The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edn.,
1996, s.vv. 'lustration', 'water'.) Price claimed that 'panthers were
not hunted in Italy': I have shown that they were, despite the trouble
and expense importing them. Beast fights were a frequent entertainment
in the ever-popular Roman games from 186 BC onwards. As the OCD records,
the slaughter of fierce animals formed a major spectacle, which
'displayed the ingenuity and generosity of the sponsoring politician,
and the reach of Rome, and its power over nature, in procuring exotic
species (lions, panthers, bears, bulls, crocodiles, hippopotamuses,
rhinoceroses, elephants): they admitted a privileged city-audience to
the glories of traditional aristocratic hunting. Along with gladiatorial
fights, they were a principal reason for building amphitheatres. The
emperors gave especially sumptuous displays: 5,000 wild and 4, 000 tame
animals died at the inauguration of Titus' Colosseum in 80 (AD), and
11,000 at Trajan's Dacian triumph' (s.v. 'venationes').

As for human sacrifices at Rome, whoever consults the secondary source I
cited will find that some classical scholars have claimed that it took
place, others have disputed it. See further Walter Burkert, Home Necans
(U.  Cal. Press 1983). Price attributed this 'blunder' to Shakespeare's
'trying to create atmospere by bringing in what he remembers of
classical customs ... . A University poet would have acted in a
different way'. But in fact Peele's presentation of the mutilation and
sacrifice of Alarbus is quite true to the ethos of victory in Rome.
Roman treatment of defeated enemies was often brutal (by our standards):
those caught attempting to flee had their hamstrings cut.

Mr. Carroll has unearthed a valuable piece of evidence for the use of a
Roman medallion in another book printed by the Marsh family in 1584,
although he cannot say whether it precedes or follows Peele's
Arraignment of Paris. But Peele's choice of the inscription 'Imp Opilius
Macrinus Aug.' demonstrates a knowledge of later Roman history which
would be beyond Shakespeare's ken, and it is hardly a coincidence that
the sources for this period (Dio Cassius, Herodian, Sextus Aurelius
Victor) provided names of characters and plot-elements in Act 1 of
Titus. Concerning the 'classical echoes', Price claimed that 'none in
Titus is from an obscure or recondite author', but in 1.1. Demetrius
quotes from Seneca's Hippolytus ('Per Stygia, per manes vehor'), and in
4.1 Titus conflates another verse from the Hippolytus with an analogous
expression from Seneca's Epistulae Morales (see Jonathan Bate's Arden 3
edn., pp. 33, 166, 216). These are not commonplace tags, more like a
Latinist quoting from memory and running together two similar passages.
Peele's (lost) English translation of Euripides' Iphigeneia (from the
Latin, I believe) was praised by the leading Neo-Latin dramatist William
Gager.

Still, although we can now dismiss H. T. Price's citation of these
'mistakes' as proof of Shakespeare's hand, the classical element is only
a confirming argument for Peele's authorship. The main evidence is
linguistic, involving 20 independent tests, carried out by 12 scholars
over an 80 year period. I trust that Mr. Carroll will now tackle these
with an open mind, showing the same vigour and care for detail that he
has brought to these Roman questions.

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