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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: September ::
Determined to Be a Villain
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1757  Tuesday, 9 September 2003

[1]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 14:39:20 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

[2]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Sep 2003 15:20:33 +0000
        Subj:   Matters appertaining

[3]     From:   Jan Pick <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 09:00:19 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

[4]     From:   Anthony Burton <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 12:00:02 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

[5]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 11:17:41 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

[6]     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Sep 2003 12:02:20 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

[7]     From:   David Cohen <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 15:27:16 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

[8]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 13:37:23 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 14:39:20 +0100
Subject: 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

Good point, Larry.  My take is that it means both self-determined and
fatally-determined.  He obviously wants to be a villain given that he
cannot be an attractive man.  There is also the hint that conscious
determination of fate is decidedly anti-Christian - making him Satanic.
Most Christian churches revile astrology and Tarot cards etc. for the
same reason in that it pre-empts God's will.  Shakespeare himself
sneered several times at the idea of the stars being able to foretell
the future.  But many books could be written about those opening 40
lines - so I'll stop now.

SAM SMALL

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <
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Date:           Monday, 08 Sep 2003 15:20:33 +0000
Subject:        Matters appertaining

The latest copy of "Around the Globe" (Issue 25 Autumn 2003) thumps onto
the hall carpet at 11 a.m. today. At 11.30 a.m. a SHAKSPER mail silently
swims up on my computer screen (Weiss 14.1756).

 In the former (page 30/31) Peter Saccio writes about Richard III:

"[...] Richard declares at the start, "I am determined to prove a
villain". [...] He does not suspect that this phrase could also point
towards a Calvinist predestination [...]" In the latter "Any thoughts"
on this very topic are sought.

 Rex Gibson (page 46  "Globe") provides a laudatory review of
'Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide' - see SHAKSPER 14.1632. Coincidence
enough one might think but, given the recent strong thread on
Deconstruction (circa 14.1143 et seq.) he writes, "[..] For all its
pretentious vocabulary and claims, deconstruction amounts to little more
than a variation on traditional assumptions about the rich ambiguity of
Shakespeare's language
[...]".

Best wishes,
Graham Hall

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jan Pick <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 09:00:19 -0700
Subject: 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

I think in the context of the whole it means resolved - but Shakespeare
likes the ambiguity of several meanings contained within a word, so
perhaps it holds the element of both!

Jan

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anthony Burton <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 12:00:02 -0400
Subject: 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

Today seems to be the day when a little legal background can enrich the
appreciation of Shakespeare's many-mindedness.

Black's law dictionary defines a "determinable" interest "liable to come
to an end on the happening of a certain contingency."  In it most common
context, the termination of a conditional title to land.  For example, a
title to land granted to X and his male heirs becomes extinguished and
the remaining interest in the property reverts to the family of the
original grantor (or some other designated remainderman) once the last
male heir of X had died and X's male line was extinct; it would be said
that the death of the last qualifying male "determined" the conditional
title.

The etymology (and the first and most narrowly correct meaning) of the
word indicates an ending or termination of something conditional.  By
easy extension, it also means the resolution, adjudication, or
clarification of something that is uncertain of subject to contingency.
In this latter sense, it describes something foreseeable from the
outset, and uncertain only as to the time and circumstances of its
occurrence.  And this seems inevitably to invite thoughts of destiny,
cosmic justice, and the various workings of divine power, at least to
those reflective sorts who do not reject such thoughts out of hand.

A great beauty of Shakespeare's art is the way it preserves all senses
of the word, even when the context demands less and superficial readings
make reasonable sense.  Larry Weiss' list of occurrences points to and
teases the richness of meaning out of Shakespeare's usage, simply by its
existence.

Tony Burton

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 11:17:41 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

Larry has hit an intriguing reading of "determined" in Richard's speech.
I had never really thought of it in that way before.

I am more likely to lean on the first meaning however. I thought that
one of Richard's big sins as a tragic figure is that he determines to
reach for something that is out of his sphere, namely that he has to cut
through more than one generation of his own family in order to be named
king. It was not in his stars and his exercise of will is an affront to
God, the world order, justice, what have you. I would be interested to
hear more since Richard is clearly affected by circumstances out of his
control.

Perhaps he indeed was always fated to be a villain. Thanks for the new
angle on the speech Larry.

Brian Willis

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Monday, 08 Sep 2003 12:02:20 +0000
Subject: 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

Larry--

I think both meanings of 'determined" are definitely possible in this
specific utterance, but what implications should we draw from that?

I mean, if what he says is TRUE, then how explain his amazing ability to
woo successfully the woman mourning for the man he killed shortly
thereafter?

C

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Cohen <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 15:27:16 -0500
Subject: 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

Larry Weiss <
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 > writes,

>In the opening soliloquy in RIII Richard catalogs his deformities and
>then says (lines 28-30 [all numbering per Riv]):
>
>    And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
>    To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
>    I am determined to prove a villain
>    And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
>
>I have always read "determined" to mean "resolved."  Lately, however, it
>occurred to me that it could as easily (and more dramatically) mean
>"destined."  Richard could be asserting that his deformities cut him out
>to be a villain regardless of his will.

The psychopathology of psychopathy suggests that in this first scene,
which continues the dramatic expansion and revelation of Richard
Gloucester's personality (3Henry VI), Richard means resolved; he is,
with all his murderous plans, in control.  In other places he
speaks-others also speak-of his congenital defects (born legs first and
with teeth), suggesting determined in the biological sense.

David Cohen

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 13:37:23 -0700
Subject: 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1756 Determined to Be a Villain

I rather like Larry's suggestion that "determined" might mean "destined"
in Richard's famous opening soliloquy.  It fits nicely, I think, with
Richard's rather complex position as both a stock-villain and a
character, who has a destiny but is able to become aware of it, and who
plays a role but is ironically distanced from it.

Cheers,
Sean.

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