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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: February ::
Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0332  Friday, 18 February 2005

[1]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Feb 2005 11:56:05 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Feb 2005 11:13:30 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?

[3]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Feb 2005 11:24:41 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Feb 2005 12:58:24 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?

[5]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Feb 2005 21:52:34 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Feb 2005 11:56:05 -0500
Subject: Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?
Comment:        SHK 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?

'Illiterate' is certainly a misleading term. 'Non-literate' would be
much more appropriate.

T. Hawkes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Feb 2005 11:13:30 -0600
Subject: 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?

Louis W. Thompson comments

"It seems to me that the whole question of Anne's "literacy" is
misleading. Shakespeare wrote the bulk of his work for the theatre. The
writing was one backstage step toward the production. The script was not
meant to be read.

The play was to be encountered on stage, not on paper. Anne would have
been able to comprehend her husband's work whether or not she could read
or write."

Not so fast there. In the midst of the inarguable, there is an idea
which is very much arguable-in fact, simply not the case. There wouldn't
have been all those printings of plays if they were only supposed to be
"encountered on stage."

Obviously, they are not closet dramas, after the fashion of "Samson
Agonistes" or "Manfred," which are only meant to be read. But the
printing of the plays in Shakespeare's lifetime, and especially in the
revised second quartos, indicates that someone, most likely WS, but at
the very least one of his colleagues, considered them as documents for
reading as well as performing.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Feb 2005 11:24:41 -0600
Subject: 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?

I would like to offer two more brief comments.

1. People seem to be arguing over a precise definition of "literate," a
concept that defies such precision. If the issue is whether AS could
write her name, we don't know. The X's could mean that, but they don't
do so invariably. We don't know for certain whether she could read
either, and there's no reason why we should know.

2. I am gratified to learn that the X's offer further evidence of the
secret Jewishness of the Shakespeare family. That clearly lends strong
support to the theory that the plays were actually written by Sir
Francis Bacon.

Cheers,
don

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Feb 2005 12:58:24 -0500
Subject: 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?

 >Is it because Anne signed her name with Xs (and so did one of her
 >daughters) that the issue of her literacy comes up? Here again, an
 >explanation that could account for it is that this was a secret Jewish
 >family.

It must give Mr. Basch a sense of satisfaction to be the cause of so
much mirth for members of the List.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Feb 2005 21:52:34 -0000
Subject: 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0323 Was Shakespeare's Wife Literate?

Norman Hinton writes ...

 >In the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, "literate" meant 'able to
 >read (not write) Latin' --  see the Middle English Dictionary under
 >"lettered".

This argument is backed up by the medieval loop-hole known as 'Benefit
of Clergy'.  A condemned person could escape the noose if they could
prove they could read.  Not prove they could write.  This meant being
able to read what became known as the "neck verse", the start of Psalm
51....

"Misere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam; et secundum
multitudinem misetationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam."  (Have mercy
on me, O God, in your faithful love, in your great tenderness wipe away
my offences - NJB)

When Ben Jonson was sent to Newgate on a murder charge after killing a
fellow actor in a duel, Jonson claimed benefit of clergy and "wiped away
his offences" by reading the neck verse.  His thumb was then branded
with a 'T', and he was free to go home.  The 'T' was for Tyburn, to
remind the lucky "cleric" that the benefit only worked once and next
time he would swing.

Peter Bridgman

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