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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: October ::
Shakespeare and the Theory of Knowledge
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2087  Wednesday, 29 October 2003

[1]     From:   Ed Kranz <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Oct 2003 08:18:28 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2072 Shakespeare and the Theory of Knowledge

[2]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Oct 2003 16:21:19 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2083 Shakespeare and the Theory of Knowledge


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Kranz <
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Date:           Tuesday, 28 Oct 2003 08:18:28 -0500
Subject: 14.2072 Shakespeare and the Theory of Knowledge
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2072 Shakespeare and the Theory of Knowledge

>Well, I hate to be a "wet blanket" myself, but it's "Viz.," with the
>period [ . ] please, inasmuch as it is an abbreviation for "videlicet."

"I'll warrant they'll have her publicly shamed, and methinks there would
be no period to the jest, should she not be publicly shamed."
Merry Wives of Windsor 4.2.102

Ed Kranz

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Tuesday, 28 Oct 2003 16:21:19 -0000
Subject: 14.2083 Shakespeare and the Theory of Knowledge
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2083 Shakespeare and the Theory of Knowledge

>Tom Larque writes, "I am not Bill Arnold, however, and have no direct
>communion with the spirit of Shakespeare, so I am quite happy to accept
>that I might be wrong."
>
>OK: then be "happy," inasmuch as I do believe you are wrong about Will
>S's usages of "Spirit" and "Ghost" in Hamlet the play.

A characteristically Arnoldian response.  Not a single word of
refutation of my many examples of Renaissance sources using the word
"ghost" in ways that Arnold claims would have been impossible,
offensive, and unthinkable.  Nothing about why Hamlet keeps saying
"ghost" after Arnold claims he has been told not to by his father's
"spirit".  No explanation of why there are Biblical references to ghosts
in serious contexts, when Arnold has told us that there would not be.
As usual, Arnold thinks I am wrong but he won't say why - and he
certainly won't support his arguments with detailed citation and
analysis of Renaissance sources, which Arnold is happy to pretend to
understand much better than anybody else (we are all speaking "fluff"
and falsehoods unless we agree with Arnold, apparently) but which he has
apparently never even read.

Arnold's views about "spirit"/"ghost" are quite simply wrong because
they stand on a long string of provably false and remarkably ignorant
claims about the way in which Shakespeare and Renaissance sources used
these words and the nature of their theological beliefs (note especially
that Arnold's theory was originally based on claims that subsequent
editors had inserted the word "ghost" into Shakespeare's stage
directions and that no character called Hamlet's father a "ghost" in the
play - the fact that Arnold was wrong about both of these things should
have caused him to abandon his theory, which stood on nothing else,
instead he simply became more and more determined and started shrieking
insults at anybody who disagreed with him, proving himself much better
at propaganda than at scholarship).

The question about Edmund remains open because neither of us is
depending upon something which can be directly and easily proved to be
false.  The same is not true about the Arnoldian theories about
"ghost"/"spirit", which are based on nothing other than demonstrably
false statements.

>And, as for my "direct communion with the spirit of Shakespeare" I would
>request Tom of *his* proof of his bold statement of fact?

Does Bill Arnold not read his own postings as well as not reading any
Renaissance source material?  If he did, then he would find repeated and
endless claims that Arnold's views are those of Shakespeare and that
anybody who disagrees with Arnold is disrespecting the great author and
can as a consequence be contemptuously discarded with insults.  How
Arnold knows exactly what Shakespeare thought - despite the fact that
nobody else in the entire world seems to agree with Arnold about this
fact - is a mystery if it isn't down to his use of a medium.  It
certainly isn't a result of his close and intelligent reading of the
play, since Arnold makes obvious mistakes about the play, makes obvious
mistakes about its Renaissance context, and bases his views primarily on
having watched "Caspar the Ghost", which Shakespeare knew nothing about.

>Not that I mind him saying that, which I don't, inasmuch as I accept it
>as a *spiritual" fact, but then Tom probably does *not* relate to
>spiritual facts.

Arnold rather obviously doesn't bother with facts (corporeal or
"spiritual"), unless he has just made them up himself.  Otherwise he
would have to consult Renaissance sources before telling us what
Renaissance thinkers undoubtedly thought, instead Arnold just tells us
that whatever he personally thinks was in fact exactly what Renaissance
people must have thought, and doesn't waste his time with things like
books.  History should not just be a matter of self-admiration, and
Arnold needs to stop looking for his "spiritual facts" in his own
mirror, and start reading sources.

>In any event, I would love to *see* his proof.

My proof that you communed with Shakespeare's spirit?  Well, first I
think you should provide some evidence that you understand such things
as irony, sarcasm, hyperbole, and other things known to most literary
scholars and indeed to the average man-in-the-street.  I certainly don't
claim to know whether Arnold really bases his claims on crystal-ball
gazing, spirit writing, or other tools of pseudo-science and
pseudo-history, but Arnold claims an infallible knowledge of exactly
what Shakespeare must have meant and feels free to insult everybody who
disagrees with him.  Since Arnold's view is unsupported by any textual
or contextual evidence - otherwise he would be able to respond point by
point to my point by point refutation of his claims, citing Renaissance
sources and Shakespeare's text in great detail, as I did, without making
obviously false readings of them - then his absolute conviction as to
the Shakespearean nature of his claims must either be based on communion
with Shakespeare's spirit, or on Arnold's complete lack of
self-perception and his use of sheer boastful posturing.  Perhaps Arnold
will let us know which of these two possibilities is the correct one.

Just like any other literary critic, Arnold will have to accept that
once an author is dead he can never prove his theory to be
unquestionably right.  He should also accept that - just like any other
literary critic - he will turn himself into little more than a figure of
fun if he bases his theory entirely upon demonstrably false statements
and ignorant misreadings.  If Arnold is right, then he should be able to
defend himself against the refutations that have been offered - by
myself and by others - to every significant factual claim within his
postings on the "spirit"/"ghost" issue.  Far from providing proof for
every statement that he has made, Arnold has provided proof for none of
them -whenever he has tried to provide proof he has made another obvious
mistake.

In the historical study of literature it is never possible to be
absolutely certain that you are right.  It is - however - possible to be
absolutely certain that you are wrong, if every statement that you make
is based on error and falsehood (unless you are a Gettier case, and have
accidentally stumbled upon the truth despite having no good reason
whatever to think that you have done so, something so unlikely and
unprovable that we should rationally dismiss it as a possibility until
further evidence emerges).

I have shown up the many factual errors in Arnold's posting, and his
theory can't stand without them.  Unless Arnold is willing to show that
his claims are all correct and universally supported by Renaissance
sources and that my postings on this subject are riddled with much worse
errors (which he has not even attempted to do) then the only person
likely to be convinced by Arnold's theory is Arnold, and only because of
his excessive self-belief.

Of course Arnold won't respond to my challenge to provide evidence from
Renaissance sources to support his claims, since there is no such
evidence and he consequently can't produce it.  Again, if Arnold thinks
there is then I suggest that he write a point by point rebuttal to my
point by point refutation of his many false claims (see all my postings
on the "no spirit" thread, but particularly SHK 14.2027  Monday, 20
October 2003).

Somehow I suspect that the rest will be silence, until Arnold starts
chanting "I'm right!  I'm right!  I'm right!" yet again, with still no
evidence of any kind to support him, and no serious attempt to answer
his critics.

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"       "British Shakespeare Association"
http://shakespearean.org.uk           http://britishshakespeare.ws

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