2003

"Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1383  Monday, 7 July 2003

From:           L. Swilley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 5 Jul 2003 16:28:08 -0500
Subject:        "Julius Caesar," Act II, scene ii, line 234ff

In Act II, scene ii, line 234 of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," Portia
enters and, begging Brutus to tell her what all these mid-night
visitations in the orchard might mean, illustrates her worthiness as a
confidante by showing that she has stabbed herself in the leg but said
nothing about it!

As can be seen from Portia's later confused conduct with her manservant
and the Soothsayer (II, iv) and. even later, from Brutus' report to
Cassius of Portia's extraordinarily painful suicide (IV, iii),
Shakespeare means us to understand that Portia is demented.

My question is: does Brutus see this for what it so horribly is?

Would not any man, any concerned husband, be horrified that his wife had
stabbed herself for any reason whatever? (I imagine a Woody Allen, faced
with such a revelation, saying, "Couldn't you have just crossed your
heart and hoped to die?!")

But Brutus' reaction is: "O ye gods./ Render me worthy of this noble
wife!" He then promises to tell her of the business at hand.  And
evidently he does so,  and this has the deranging effect on Portia that
we see illustrated in her next scene with the Soothsayer.

Is Brutus so far gone with the "nobleness" of his ideas that he does not
see her as mad, that he really thinks Portia sanely noble in her
self-infliction? If so, is this to be taken as the measure of his own
disturbed mind at this point, and of his distortion of the problem of
Caesar?

A director might be tempted to instruct his actor to interpret the line,
"O ye gods!" as reflective of Brutus' horror at what Portia has done;
then his "Render me worthy of this noble wife!" as his comforting his
wife and attempting to deflect her madness. Yet, if the director does
this, how will he handle Brutus' expressed intention to tell Portia what
has been going on -  especially since it appears that Brutus *has* told
her, as can be seen in Portia's later distracted conduct before the
Soothsayer and her manservant?

If Brutus' remarks to Portia are to be played straight, that is, if
Brutus really *approves* of her self-infliction and indeed considers it
"noble" of her, this is a serious indictment of the mentality of Brutus;
he is so carried away with the enthusiasm of his plans, he interprets
this mad act of his wife as thrillingly noble.  It is especially a
serious indictment against his plans to assassinate Caesar. (But such a
conclusion radically unbalances a central argument of the play - if that
argument is whether or not to remove a menace to the state.* It also
makes out Brutus to be insane, and surely that point must not be made.)

I ask those who respond to this to deal only with the play, not the
history of the characters independent of it.

L. Swilley

* I am aware that conventionally we do not emphasize such an argument,
yet there is so much in the play to bring it to the fore - spectacularly
Ceasar's pompous, marvelously irritating speech to the senators (he
speaks of himself in the third person, "Caesar doth no wrong..."; then:
"I could be well moved if I were like you...but I am as constant as the
northern star, etc".; he has all but called them "base spaniels", etc.)
- remarks that make the very audience itch to join the conspirators and
get in a few good whacks themselves.  I am baffled by this conduct of
Caesar before the senators, men whose approval he seeks and needs for
the kingship; could anything - short of literally whipping them all
about the senate chamber - be less persuasive ?  Plutarch ineed says
that Caesar "chides" the senators, but Shakespeare's interpretation of
this chiding seems beyond all      probability; he seems hungry, even
desperate, to make the point I suggest above.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Re: Hamlet Song

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1382  Monday, 7 July 2003

From:           Jan Jonk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 5 Jul 2003 14:38:01 +0200
Subject: Comment:        SHK 14.1351

I would like to make the following remarks in reply to Michael Egan's
question on 'The Mousetrap' (SHK 14.1351):

If Hamlet had rhymed, he would have used the last two sounds of was:
'as"; the 'a', like in 'was', being pronounced with a very low [a] in
Early Modern English. For most scholars this might easily lead to the
word 'ass', which is bad enough for Claudius, but if I  apply Early
Modern English pronunciation properly, I come to the 'r-word', which, in
Shakespeare, is never written out in full (like the modern 'f-word'). I
mean the word 'arse'. (Shakespeare uses a similar reference with the
growling of dogs).  The word Shakespeare does use in Hamlet, 'paiock',
is the same word I think as 'padjak', a word in Dutch of unknown origin,
meaning 'a despicable fellow'.

Jan Jonk

_______________________________________________________________
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DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Pop Culture and High Crimes

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1380  Monday, 7 July 2003

From:           Abigail Quart <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 4 Jul 2003 03:27:36 -0400
Subject:        Pop Culture and High Crimes

http://www.sunspot.net/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.impeach29jun29,0,1930699.sto
ry?coll=bal-oped-headlines

From the Baltimore Sun:

Was it a high crime?
By Daniel Meltzer
Originally published June 29, 2003

"That a man may smile and be a villain." - William Shakespeare, Hamlet,
1600 "What did the president know, and when did he know it?" - Sen.
Howard Baker, 1973

NEW YORK - The British Parliament is investigating charges that Prime
Minister Tony Blair misled his nation by either deliberately or
recklessly exaggerating alleged evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction in the run-up to "Operation Iraqi Freedom" - specifically,
by stating unequivocally that Saddam Hussein's biological, chemical and
nuclear weapons could be launched on as little as 45 minutes notice.

-snip-

President Bush, speaking gravely from the Oval Office, ominously when on
the road, and at least once smiling confidently on a golf course, told
us he had no doubt that Mr. Hussein had mustard gas, anthrax and nuclear
weapons and intended to use them against Americans, that he was in
cahoots with al-Qaida and that invasion and regime change in Baghdad
were our only recourse.

Independent journalists and most foreign governments, including two of
our closest allies, disputed these claims. One lone Democratic senator,
Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, inveighed tirelessly and eloquently
against the rush to battle.

The question that must now be asked, as it needed to be asked back when
it had become apparent that President Richard Nixon was implicated in
the illegal cover-up of a burglary committed on his own behalf, is: What
did the president know, and when did he know it?

Did Mr. Bush know there was at least a reasonable doubt about the
presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq? Did he knowingly
lie to the American people when he said there wasn't? Law professor and
former Nixon White House counsel John W. Dean III has written that such
a deliberate deception would, under the Constitution, constitute a "high
crime" and, as such, an impeachable offense.

-snip-

Journalism is nothing if not a quest for the truth. Timidity has no
place here. The Fourth Estate has played stenographer to the White House
and the Pentagon long enough. Reporting is not just telling the public
what the government tells you.

Shakespeare's Claudius may have been a strong king and committed to the
defense of his country. But he had murdered his predecessor and then
lied about it. There truly was "something rotten in the state of
Denmark."

If President Bush launched a lethal war, one whose ultimate domestic and
global consequences still cannot be foreseen, on the basis of evidence
he either knew was false or about which he should have been judiciously
skeptical, then in the words of Mr. Bush's own father, former President
George H. W. Bush, "this cannot stand," and he should resign or be
impeached.

Daniel Meltzer teaches journalism at New York University.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Oxford Town

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1381  Monday, 7 July 2003

From:           Graham Hall <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 04 Jul 2003 10:19:08 +0000
Subject:        Oxford Town

Not much Shakespeare 'neath the Oxford moon. (Somebody better
investigate soon)

Creation Co, apparently the only kids on the block, have moved venue to
a pretty park near Brookes Poly -Uni from their old spot by the river
down the High. Claiming to offer 12 Night and Tempest by William
Shakespeare, they don't. The punters get two plays by said titles
adapted, attributed to, vaguely resembling, etc. something Shakespeare
once wrote. Both are filleted, compressed, altered, torn apart,
re-written and fiddled about with monstrously.

Casts of eight to not a play make. Doubles, triples and axed characters
inevitably impinge upon plot and dialogue. Inserting line dancing daisy
chains, jazz songs, a Nicoise ambience, illusionist properties, four
legged dwarfs, and loads of rinky-dink effects and business does not
conceal the paucity of production. This is a tragedy because the players
shine through when they get to grips with the real Shakespeare...as does
the real Shakespeare. So null point for saying it's by Will. It ain't.
Six 'pon ten for the venue. Seven 'pon ten for the acting. Eight 'pon
ten for the efforts for catering, toilets, bar, corporate hospitality,
rugs, programmes, parking, lit paths, and so forth. Take care with the
costs, stick with Will, let the players and the plot shine through. You
know it makes sense. Whadya think 'bout that my friends?

Best,
Graham Hall

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Re: The Final Scene of Richard the Second...

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1379  Monday, 7 July 2003

From:           Ann Carrigan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 3 Jul 2003 22:14:56 EDT
Subject:        Re: Available for Comment: The Final Scene of Richard the
Second...

I am curious, do SHAKSPERians agree with the endorsement of Thomas of
Woodstock as a Part One of Richard II, and authorship by Shakespeare?
This seemed to present it as fact.

>I'm currently preparing the Variorum Edition of Richard the
>Second, Part
>One, often called Thomas of Woodstock. [...]

I look forward to reading the downloaded piece. I read Woodstock a few
years back, along with the newly-penned conclusion that the Hampshire
Shakespeare Festival solicited by contest.

I was surprised to hear a scholar pronounce this play's status as an
established fact. As a member of the laity, I hadn't run across this.

I was sure someone else would ring in, but, I haven't seen any follow-up
so far. How do others respond to "Woodstock" as brother to "Richard II"?

Best regards,
Ann Carrigan

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

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