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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: January ::
Greenblatt Discussion Forum
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0072  Thursday, 13 January 2005

[1]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Jan 2005 09:33:33 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0053 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Jan 2005 14:18:01 -0500
        Subj:   Greenblatt Discussion forum

[3]     From:   Alan Horn <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Jan 2005 18:34:21 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0062 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

[4]     From:   David Basch <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Jan 2005 19:11:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0062 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

[5]     From:   Tom Krause <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Jan 2005 20:44:56 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 16.0062 Greenblatt Discussion Forum


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Jan 2005 09:33:33 -0600
Subject: 16.0053 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0053 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

Greene-as-Falstaff?

Why bother?

I thought Wilson had pretty well summed it up in his remarks on the
connection of Falstaff to "Riot" in *The Fortunes of Falstaff* (1944).
Everybody in Shakespeare's time would be familiar with the old, fat,
dissolute rogue who tries to corrupt the young prodigal, and if they
wished to connect him to an actual person, let 'em.

You don't need a specific inspiration for Falstaff to get it, nor a
specific target.

And you don't need to know Hebrew.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Jan 2005 14:18:01 -0500
Subject:        Greenblatt Discussion forum

Peter Bridgman writes that Shakespeare's father was "[l]oyal enough [to
the old faith] to lose his position in the town council."

Do we know for a fact the reason that Shakespeare's father lost his seat
as an alderman?

I thought it most likely had to do with business setbacks.

Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan Horn <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Jan 2005 18:34:21 EST
Subject: 16.0062 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0062 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

 >But we certainly don't know if his manner was Falstaffian.  Nor if he
 >had a love of wordplay (if so, it must be a semiotic joke on John's part
 >to sign his name with an X all his life).  And if John had a cynical
 >view of how society operated (what evidence is there for this?), he
 >cannot have been alone in Catholic Warwickshire.

Obviously you're not aware that John Shakespeare's name for his son,
"William," is an Anglicized form of the Hebrew word "w' ilayem," meaning
"seventh"--a reference to the Seventh Commandment (thou shalt not commit
adultery). Thus the elder Shakespeare planted the suggestion, at least
for fellow Talmudic scholars, that his son was
illegitimate--demonstrating both his passionate love of wordplay and his
deeply cynical view of life.

Alan

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Basch <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Jan 2005 19:11:39 -0500
Subject: 16.0062 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0062 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

Concerning the discussion of the prototype for the character, Falstaff,
I am surprised that Peter Bridgman would consider the idea that John
Falstaff could have been patterned after John Shakespeare "bizarre." The
character of Falstaff is involved in a fatherly relation with Hal in the
plays. It is not exactly an uninteresting idea that elements of the
relation of Falstaff to Hal portrayed in the plays could have been drawn
from a real life relation of William to his own father. (This would not
be the only true life portrait that Shakespeare used in his work.)

I am not saying that everything about Falstaff was drawn from William's
father, but consider that Will was not hatched from an egg and must have
had antecedents that influenced his character. Stephen Greenblatt tells
of John's rise in the world. In addition to John having been a
businessman, he also took on many public offices in Stratford, in which
dealing with high level Lord's was involved.  Greenblatt noted that John
must have been good with people and that he had devoted friends that
went to bat for him. His obvious ability to win friends and influence
people could have been very formative for his son. John obviously had
some notable smarts to be able to swim in the sea that he did and could
very well have been a fabulous, witty character-though Peter Bridgman is
right in mentioning that these details and an alleged cynicism was only
my inference and was not backed in any historical record about John.  I
might add that Greenblatt actually couples John's possible experience
with drink as a pattern for a fatherly Falstaff. Greenblatt also noted
that John had also been the town's official ale taster, knowing
something about good quality drink.

On the other hand, considering the son he sired, it is not a stretch to
think that John had some of those great gifts that we know his son had.
  And the grave diggers in Hamlet show that basic, unliterary persons
could yet convincingly display a capability in word play and witty
jokes, even if they signed their names with X's for whatever their reason.

As to what the significance is that a "Catholic" Borromeo will was found
secreted in John's house, the matter is open. The first page of it
disappeared after the will was found and may have had some pertinent
facts that someone did not want known-whatever that was. Consider also
that, at the time, the English nation changed religions back and forth
with disastrous consequences. One could not know how things would end up
in a situation where the winning side had members of the other side
burned at the stake. Such a will could one day be important to "prove"
religious loyalty or to gain mercy if the Catholics won out, especially
if the family had been living Protestant, saving the life of someone
accused of being too much the other way. Naturally, it could also be a
useful document if someone were later accused of being-pardon the
expression-a Jew, then a crime in England, which is another explanation
of John's recusancy in church attendance.

I had noted the fact of the Shakespeare family name as "Shakere"-"false"
in Hebrew-and how that fits neatly as "False" with the "staff" as
"spear" to form "Falstaff." On this, I would note that in Henry IV, Part
I, Falstaff does say, "You rogue, they were bound, every man of them; or
I am a Jew else, an Ebrew Jew." Coincidence? Falstaff had alleged there
were 14 prisoners bound and not just the 2 persons that was the fact. It
was true that "every man of them" -- 14 or 2 -- was bound, but it was
false that there were 14 such bound, a mixture for equivocation.  (I
would also note that Mistress Page in the Merry Wives of Windsor refers
to Falstaff as a "Herod of Jewry.") These are facts I reported in one of
my books and they do make a case for a John Falstaff patterned on the
poet's father.

David Basch

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Krause <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Jan 2005 20:44:56 -0500
Subject: Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        SHK 16.0062 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

As to the Basch-Razzell idea that Falstaff is patterned after John
Shakespeare, I can't say I'm convinced, but I don't see why it's any
more "bizarre" than the idea that Shakespeare would stoop to pattern
Falstaff after Greene.  If Greenblatt is right that John Shakespeare was
an alcoholic with debts, then who's to say he wasn't fat and witty?  At
least with John Shakespeare (as opposed to Greene), we can be confident
that Shakespeare knew him personally.

By the way, I enjoyed Greenblatt's book; but now that we've established
that the Falstaff argument is not new, I'm wondering which thoughts and
arguments are. The dust jacket is no help; it credits Greenblatt with
making several "inspired connections" that I'm pretty sure I saw in
Anthony Holden's biography (to name one place).  Does anyone have a list?

Tom Krause

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