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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: December ::
Upward Mobility
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2382  Wednesday, 17 December 2003

[1]     From:   Michael Skovmand <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 14:25:18 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"

[2]     From:   Michael Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 04:37:50 -1000
        Subj:   Upward Mobility

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 10:46:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"

[4]     From:   Joanne Rochester <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 14:45:57 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"

[5]     From:   Tom Bishop <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 15:38:51 -0500
        Subj:   "Upward Mobility" (was Rhyming Couplets)

[6]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 16:26:57 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"; bastardy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Skovmand <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 14:25:18 +0100
Subject: 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"

Thanks to Annalisa Castaldo for coming to my rescue on the issue of the
uniqueness of Helena's upward social mobility. I agree with Thomas
Larque that my sweeping statement about Helena being the only socially
upward mobile character in all of Shakespeare needs some qualification.
The point I was trying to make was that Helena is the only positively
valorised successfully upwardly mobile major character in Shakespeare's
plays - a point which I think is worth making, in view of all the
knocking which unsuccessfully upward mobile/ambitious characters are
taking in Shakespeare - Edmund, Iago, Malvolio etc etc. And surely
betterment within one's class does not count as upward social mobility -
I would count that in the category of Elizabeth Bennett getting Darcy in
Pride and Prejudice ("he's a gentleman - I'm a gentleman's daughter" -
quoting from memory)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 04:37:50 -1000
Subject:        Upward Mobility

 Larry Weiss <
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 > writes:

>Michael Skovmand's proposition that Helena is "the only socially upward
>character in all of Shakespeare's plays, and a woman to boot" is belied
>by Falconbridge in *Jn*
>Actually, Falconbridge is downwardly mobile.  He starts out as the
>acknowledged heir of a gentleman.

No, it's disputed. That's why he and his brother come to John's
court--for a ruling.

>He then concedes his bastardy, thus
>forsaking both his material
>inheritance and his social status.

No, he is immediately acknowledged as Richard I's son, receives a
knighthood and becomes a major court figure. In The Troublesome Reign he
is also later made a Duke. He ends both plays as the most powerful man
in England.

>WS correctly anticipates the 18th Century "irrebutable presumption" --
>Lord Mansfield's Rule --  that the child of a married woman is the child
>of her husband.  Does anyone know if the same rule prevailed in the
>early 13th Century and the late 16th Century?

Under Elizabethan law, bastardy was legally deemed if a husband was
'beyond the four seas during the whole of his wife's pregnancy.' (C.K.
Davis: The Law in Shakespeare (St. Paul: West Publishing Co.1884) p.
144.)

--Michael

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 10:46:39 -0500
Subject: 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"

>Helena is the only
>character who is successfully socially upward despite sharp protests
>from a main character.

The WT Shepherds *think* they'll be flayed alive for it. But what
about?:

Not Malvolio but Sebastian

OLIVIA ...Do not deny. Beshrew his soul for me,
            He started one poor heart of mine in thee.

SEBASTIAN   What relish is in this? how runs the stream?
            Or I am mad, or else this is a dream:
            Let fancy still my sense in Lethe steep;
            If it be thus to dream, still let me sleep!

Margaret
Elizabeth Grey
Orlando
Anne Boleyn
Cranmer
Cromwell
Alcibiades
Valentine
Posthumus

Clifford Stetner
CUNY
http://phoenixandturtle.net

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joanne Rochester <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 14:45:57 -0500
Subject: 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"

>Thomas Larque and David Evett are right, but it seems (I qualify because
>I haven't consulted anything but my memory) that Helena is the only
>character who is successfully socially upward despite sharp protests
>from a main character.

But she has a good deal of help. The Countess and the King both support
Helen, and since they're the most powerful people in the play, their
support counts for more than Bertram's protests.

To use a card metaphor, the Queen and the King outrank the Jack.

Joanne Rochester

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Bishop <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 15:38:51 -0500
Subject:        "Upward Mobility" (was Rhyming Couplets)

Actually, upward mobility is an almost ubiquitous preoccupation in
Shakespeare, for both men and women, in fact and fantasy (Sir
Christopher Sly; Count Malvolio; Bottom the Fairy King; Caliban's dream;
Sonnet 87).  It's downward mobility which is rarer, and seems to
engender more intense concern. Apart from the necessary case of the
tragic protagonist (deposed king, "fallen" noble, debased triumvir),
Falstaff is the most obvious, I suppose (giving rise to King Henry's
fears for Hal). Both Orlando and Parolles suffer from it, though the
first is rescued by love, as perhaps does Pistol in H5.  Part of the
Venetian alarm at Desdemona's choice of husband seems related to it.
Shakespeare's father provides, of course, a telling case within the
playwright's experience.  Pericles (and Perdita's story too) could be
called a fantasy of its impossibility: noblesse will out. Non sanz
droit!

Tom

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003 16:26:57 -0500
Subject: 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"; bastardy
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2374 Rhyming Couplets in "All's Well"; bastardy

Larry Weiss asks if there had been an "irrebutable presumption" in years
prior to Lord Mansfield's Rule, to the effect that the child of a
married woman was the child of her husband.   I haven't read the case
and do not know the rule, but Larry's question is not really answerable
as asked because, Lord Mansfield notwithstanding, there was never truly
an irrebutable presumption.

Even the early strong presumption of legitimacy (I can't give dates but
it's quite ancient) allowed a limited exception, in the nature of proof
of non-access by the husband to the wife.  It was originally limited in
application to cases when the husband was "beyond the four seas" of
England, and then restricted further in actual practice by the
willingness of courts to accept extremely long periods, I believe more
than a year in some cases, within which the evidence of non-access was
held insufficient to overcome, as a matter of law, the presumption in
favor of lawful conception.  But it did remain a question of fact in
each case.

The common law rule gradually became more flexible through the years,
and some specific changes might also have taken place by reason of the
statue of 1576 that moved jurisdiction over bastardy from ecclesiastical
courts to civil courts.  I'm somewhat confused -- and don't intend to do
the research that will clear things up -- by the coexistence of
ecclesiastical jurisdiction and common law rules here; nor do I know
whether ecclesiastical courts followed English common law or Roman civil
law in matters of bastardy.  But issues of legitimacy and inheritance
were civil matters, and could arise in different contexts from that of
bastardy, and there seems to be a good deal of common law on the topic.
So the jurisdictional divide between civil and ecclesiastical may have
been fairly porous, and the rules of evidence applied on each side of
the divide could easily have been the same, even if the rules of law
were not.

Tony Burton

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