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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: January ::
Greenblatt Discussion Forum
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0097  Tuesday, 18 January 2005

[1]     From:   Bill Lloyd <
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        Date:   Thursday, 13 Jan 2005 15:09:26 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0031 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

[2]     From:   David Basch <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 Jan 2005 13:43:11 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0026 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

From:           Bill Lloyd <
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Date:           Thursday, 13 Jan 2005 15:09:26 EST
Subject: 16.0031 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0031 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

The immediate 'model' for Oldcastle/Falstaff is well-known. It is the
character "Jockey" in the HenryIV/V source play *Famous Victories of
Henry V* as performed by Tarlton and the Queen's Men in the 1580s.
Jockey [=John] is the the leader of the Prince's dissolute companions,
has a run-in with the Lord Chief Justice, and other proto-Falstaffian
activities. This figure, combined with the traditional character of the
'miles gloriosus'-- check out, for instance, Captain Crackstone in
*Fedele & Fortunio* [1584]-- should be enough to engender Falstaff in
the fertile brain of whatsisname.

The connections between Greene and Falstaff are that they drank a lot,
consorted with whores, and toyed with repentance. Surely there needs no
ghost, be it Greene or John Shakespeare, come from the grave to give
Shakespeare's character those common features.

By the way, I'd like to point out that the names Falstaff and
Shakespeare both derive from the Welsh. Falstaff is from 'ffael'=fault
and 'stofi'=weave or woven, that is 'one who is made up of sins'. And
Shakespeare derives from 'seci'= to stuff and 'siapri'=jest, that is,
'stuffed with jests' [as was John Shakespeare]. In fact, it was reported
that old John claimed he 'durst crack a jest' with Will anytime, and
I've seen with my own eyes a picture of John and his son sitting at the
kitchen table telling jokes to a sourfaced Anne Hathaway. Since the
Welsh are one of the lost tribes of Israel and [as any good Welshman
will tell you] Welsh was the language of Adam and Even in the garden of
Eden, this all supports David Basch's Shakespeare is Jewish theory.

Bill Lloyd

From:           David Basch <
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Date:           Monday, 17 Jan 2005 13:43:11 -0500
Subject: 16.0026 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0026 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

Concerning discussions of Stephen Greenblatt's book, WILL IN THE WORLD,
I just finished reading it. It was a good read-well written,
interesting, informative, but, nevertheless, with its limitations.

Greenblatt is certainly resourceful and excellent in connecting the dots
between the historical, sociological, psychological, and literary
factors to construct from really ambiguous material a picture of what he
thinks the great poet confronted in his society and what he was
personally like. While these insights are interesting, many are far from

Greenblatt and other such "dot connectors" must recognize that they
might not be aware of all the "dots" that need connection.  Also, they
must recognize that a trademark of the poet is in his having his
characters speak in ways authentic to themselves.  Thus, it is not
conclusive to put the words and sentiments of a character into the
poet's head, though sometimes a case can be made for it, as in the case
he cites of the mother who so movingly lamented the loss of her son-the
way Shakespeare must certainly have done for the loss of his son Hamnet.
The latter observation would be backed up by the line or two spoken by
the doomed young boy, Prince Mamillius, in the Winters Tale, in which
the lad reveals a precocious talent for story telling. I would note that
the lad's name,

Mamillius, can be read as the Yiddish expression "momalas"-"mother's
little one."
In another instance cited by Greenblatt is the remark from The Two
Gentlemen of Verona, to whit, "A Jew would have wept to see them part."
This has the flavor of double entendre about it. On the one hand it
reflects the character's opinion-a product of his period-about the
alleged genetic, unfeeling nature of Jews.  But when this is read as a
direct statement, it says something altogether opposite, possibly a
message from the great poet who recognizes Jewish capacity for
compassion. In the same way, Greenblatt's citation of Benedict's remark
about Beatrice that, "If I don't love her, I am a Jew," need not be
considered an insult to Jewry but as a realistic understanding of the
Jew's obligation to marry within his own group. The limitations of
Greenblatt's methodology shows itself starkly in his assumption from the
Sonnets that Shakespeare is some kind of homosexual or bisexual. That
conclusion depends on who you think his friend [or friends] is/are, as
addressed in his Sonnets. Greenblatt thinks the main friend is Henry
Wriothesley -- who is not specifically identified in the Sonnets. It
does not occur to Greenblatt-it is probably beyond his frame of
reference-that the poet's friend is entirely other. Consider Sonnet 29,
one of the great poems of the world in power of expression and in the
moving love expressed in it:


[1]   VV Hen in disgrace with Fortune and mens eyes,
[2]      I all alone beweepe my out-cast state,
[3]   And trouble deafe heauen with my bootlesse cries,
[4]   And looke vpon my selfe and curse my fate.
[5]   Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
[6]   Featur'd like him,like him with friends possest,
[7]   Desiring this mans art,and that mans skope,
[8]   With what I most inioy contented least,
[9]   Yet in these thoughts my selfe almost despising,
[10]  Haplye I thinke on thee, and then my state,
[11]  (Like to the Larke at breake of daye arising)
[12]  From sullen earth sings himns at Heauens gate,
[13]     For thy sweet loue remembred such welth brings,
[14]     That then I skorne to change my state with Kings.

This sonnet falls flat in some eyes when it is thought to refer to
nothing else but the narcissistic young man that most commentators,
including Greenblatt, think it does. But when it is recognized that the
poet is here addressing The Lord as his Friend, the magnificence of this
sonnet as a religious expression of love to God becomes
overwhelming-goodbye homosexual thesis.  Such a thought is foreign to
Greenblatt, Vendler, Booth, and the rest of today's experts on the
Sonnets. But if you access the hidden communcations Shakespeare
gave-Shakespeare's many types of "codes," as I have discovered and have
disclosed in my book, THE SHAKESPEARE CODES-the matter becomes transparent.

One of these communications on the identity of Shakespeare's Friend is
through the parallel sentiments expressed in Psalm 29 -- the sister of
the sonnet in number. The last line of the psalm, which heralds the
majesty of the Lord, declares that "the Lord will give his people
strength, the Lord will give his people peace." Is that not what happens
in the sonnet to the poet when the poet thinks of his Friend? His
thinking on his Friend has given him strength and that gives him the
peace expressed to serenely accept his state.

Another coded communication appears in a divided configuration of
letters Y-H-W-A, that show up in the first letters of various line sets
of the sonnet that transliterate the Bible's name for God-lines 9 to 10
and 5 to 4. A second transliteration shows up in another similar divided
configuration on lines 11 and 12 as "y-H-vae"


This is read by reading y-H catty corner and reading backward the "uae"
with the "u," which is a "v," sounded as "v." Resourceful investigators
can come up with many more such transliterations in the sonnet using a
copy of the original printed version-too many versions to be accounted
simply to accident.

I was not to first to find the "code of parallelism" to Psalms in the
Sonnets-one of numerous kinds of codes or hidden communication-as a clue
to meaning. The late Professor Leslie Hotson of Yale cited five such
parallels and believed that it authenticated the numbering of the
sonnets as coming from the poet-otherwise such parallels would be
lost-and this suggested to him depths to the meaning of the Sonnets that
remained to be probed.

In short, while Professor Greenblatt provides interesting insights to
the period's history and context of the poet, for all his erudition and
scope, his insights remain in some cases incomplete if not misleading.

David Basch

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