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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: February ::
Greenblatt Discussion Forum
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0297  Monday, 14 February 2005

[1]     From:   Douglas Galbi <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 2005 09:13:27 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0256 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

[2]     From:   Bob Grumman <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 2005 10:23:59 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

[3]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Saturday, 12 Feb 2005 22:21:53 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Sunday, 13 Feb 2005 23:36:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0271 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

[5]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Feb 2005 00:05:56 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

[6]     From:   John-Paul Spiro <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Feb 2005 10:12:36 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Douglas Galbi <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 2005 09:13:27 -0500
Subject: 16.0256 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0256 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

Even if you think it improbable that Shakespeare was Jewish, it's still
possible that he knew some Hebrew.  From
http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2004/2028.html :

  >of course, the chance that Shakespeare ever saw, could have read,
  >or had the training to interpret Talmud is absolutely zero.

The probability is higher than that.  In the sixteenth century,
Christian Hebraists enthusiastically studied Jewish texts.  As James
Kugel has noted:

<quote>Typical of this spirit is Sebastian Munster's preface to his
popular edition of the Hebrew Bible, [Arba'ah ve-'e?srim] vel Hebraica
Biblia (1534-55), which contains a section entitled "The Commentaries of
the Jews are Not to be Condemned."  In it he defends the use of the
whole corpus of Jewish writings (adducing Jerome as his model and
precedent) -- targum, Talmud, and, besides the well-known commentary of
Rabbi Solomon (Rashi), other works of medieval Jewish exegesis, written
by "the many outstanding Rabbis whom the Jews had in Spain, Africa, and
other regions."  To be sure, Jewish writings contained potential
pitfalls, and had to be approached with caution; still, they were an
invaluable, and un-ignorable, source of information: "Let neither the
reading nor the interpretation of the Rabbis go counter to you, O
Christian reader, if you have learned Christ purely; for He will come
forth, whether they agree with us or disagree."  And as any student of
Christian Hebraists knows, Munster's is both an outstanding Christian
compendium of Jewish learning and yet hardly unique in its views. <end
quote>

(see James L. Kugel, "The Bible in the University," in Propp, W.;
Halpern, B. and Freedman, D.(eds.)The Hebrew Bible and Its Interpreters,
p. 143-66., Eisenbrauns, 1990.)

Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel, in her recent book (in German), William
Shakespeare (Mainz: 2003) suggests that WS studied at the Jesuit College
at Douai from 1578-1580. Perhaps there he studied the writings of the
Rabbis.

This information should not be considered to have any implications for
contemporary scholarly concerns about whether Shakespeare was Jewish
(passed as a converso?), Anglican (national poet of England!), Puritan
(bawdiness displaced), Catholic (but pro-choice?), Gnostic (Shakespeare
was an intellectual!), or transgodified (see my forthcoming article in
Cult(u)[ral] Studies).

Douglas Galbi

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Grumman <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 2005 10:23:59 -0500
Subject: 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

 >John-Paul Spiro asks:
 >
 >When and where did Shakespeare learn Hebrew? Do we
 > demonstrate his knowledge of Hebrew?

I think the real question is whether or not we have any evidence of a
language Shakespeare did not speak.

--Bob G.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Saturday, 12 Feb 2005 22:21:53 -0000
Subject: 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

David Basch writes ...

 >My thesis is that Shakespeare learned Hebrew and Talmud in Stratford,
 >the site of a hidden, devout Jewish community that survived the
 >expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290.

Since there is not the faintest evidence for such a community in
Stratford, and since Shakespeare's Catholic upbringing is now generally
accepted by biographers, perhaps David Basch would like to nominate a
non-Stratfordian author for the works?

Peter Bridgman

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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 >
Date:           Sunday, 13 Feb 2005 23:36:39 -0500
Subject: 16.0271 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0271 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

 >David Basch's work is so easily parodied--in fact I'm inclined
 >to read it as Swiftian satire--that I'd like to know if these claims
 >have any more legitimacy than the claims about Paul McCartney being dead
 >or Elvis being alive.

You mean they aren't?

Basch's notions are perhaps best diagnosed as Delusional Disorder
(DSM-IV 297.1), except that the delusions are so bizarre as to fail to
meet the criterion of "nonbizaare delusions, i.e., involving situations
that occur in real life."

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 14 Feb 2005 00:05:56 -0500
Subject: 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

 >As for evidence of the poet's use of Hebrew, Florence Amit has already
 >educated this list as to the Hebrew content of The Merchant of Venice,
 >noting the many jokes and word play that could only be recognized in
 >Hebrew.

Found such "evidence"?  Indeed, has any disinterested person considered
this Basch-Amit "evidence" to be persuasive?

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John-Paul Spiro <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Feb 2005 10:12:36 -0500
Subject: 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0284 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

In response to David Basch's case for Shakespeare's knowledge of Hebrew:

So then the answer to my original question, "Do we have any evidence --
apart from secret codes -- that demonstrate [Shakespeare's] knowledge of
Hebrew?" is "No, we have no such evidence.  It's all codes, echoes, and
allusions-that-might-not-be-allusions.  We know that it is POSSIBLE that
he learned Hebrew, because someone else from his hometown knew Hebrew,
and based on this we can conjecture that his hometown had a community of
people who knew Hebrew."

Basch's logic is somewhat similar to Greenblatt's, who often writes,
"Since x is true for someone else at the time, then we can guess that it
might have been also true for Shakespeare, which would then help us to
understand this otherwise-befuddling passage."

I'd also like to know why Richard III or King Priam would quote the
Talmud.  Were THEY secretly Jewish?

John-Paul Spiro

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