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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: December ::
Nouminal Composition Structures in Shaksper
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2342  Thursday, 11 December 2003

From:           Dana Wilson <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Dec 2003 17:24:52 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Nouminal Composition Structures in Shaksper

Forum,

I am absolutely despondent that no one replied to my clever and concise
submission on Plato's trope of the author as weaver, in the 'bottom,
weaver' thread.  I have decided to punish you all with an exceedingly
dull proof that this is entirely relevant to Shakespearean composition;
however, if you are already sufficiently chastised feel free to skip the
following.

So far as I am aware there is no authoritative study which has looked at
the extent to which Shakespeare is indebted to the commedia della
arte.   Mostly, this is because the commentators being English are
afraid of being held up by the short hairs for entailing the bard to
Italian art.  But I think that they damn him with silence.

I have another solution.  I trace the commedia della arte back to the
roman and Greek forms, at which point I find a common ancestor with the
inspiration of the bard.

I call this common ancestor nouminal composition structures, but the
Greek is most often translated as 'law'.   This confusion has to do with
the fact that 'law' is also the word for a chapter title, which in the
ancient mode was also a summary, which if you think of 'law' as
'essence' falls within the strict denotation.

Now, in addition to these 'laws' which were plot summaries composed of
many words, there were also, plot summaries composed of a single word,
or name, as when the name of a mythological figure was given to stand
for the story, but not just the particular story, but the story in
essence, or law, which would be refracted differently in every set of
circumstances, because as it is said, character is destiny, and once we
understand essential character we can understand how that character
would react to any particular circumstances (And this isn't really so
different from the Book of John, which concludes, if all the works of
the Christ were recorded the world itself would be insufficient to
contain them, because the idea is that the single story teaches a law or
essence from which every other possible permutation can be deduced using
the hermetic laws, in this case of Hillel.  So one sees that after being
invented by Aristotle and taught to Alexander and subsequently to the
Maccabees and Hillel, so that even at this stage the Greek tradition had
begun to diverge.  And of course, Alfred of England, having the only
tradition in Christendom with continuity to the Greek (being the second
sophistic), may be expected to have developed on lines independent from
either the roman, or Italian.)

Thus we see that it isn't plot but character which is contained in a
name, and having an idea of the name, the Italian players could
spontaneously create drama and this was the commedia della arte.
However, the Commedia was a very corrupt form of the pure Aristotlean
form, which was based on a collection of stories that could not beyond a
certain point be reduced to a first principle.   Certainly, there were
essential character types, the lazy son, the dotty father, the conniving
servant, the duplicitous lover, etc.  However, in the purest form the
nouminal composition structures are expressed as abstract nouns, which
John of Scotland in 1050, before introducing Greek to Paris referred to
as Principles, Powers, and Virtues.   It is these same angelic types
which drive the drama of John Bunyan, and later Voltaire, and which
Bacon tried to order epistemologically, or legalistically, and failed
because as angels their highest expression is in drama.

DEW

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