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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: March ::
There's Magic in the Web
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0442  Wednesday, 9 March 2005

[1]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Mar 2005 16:04:26 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web

[2]     From:   John V. Knapp <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Mar 2005 14:50:38 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Response to Re: SHK 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web

[3]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 08 Mar 2005 16:55:03 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web

[4]     From:   John Webb <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 08:13:15 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Mar 2005 16:04:26 -0000
Subject: 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web

Bill Arnold writes ...

 >I ask, in Shakespeare's time, in Law, was there a burden upon
 >victims of an accusation to prove their innocence?

It doesn't seem so.  This is from Antonia Fraser's 'The Gunpowder Plot' ...

"The decision was never in doubt.  The mere fact that these men were on
trial for high treason meant that they would inevitably be found guilty,
and equally inevitably sentenced to death.  Refinements such as
defending counsel were unknown.  In the nineteenth century, Lord
Macaulay would describe the process as 'merely a murder preceded by the
uttering of certain gibberish and the performance of certain mummeries'.
  Yet one should be wary of too much anachronistic indignation.  These
were the rules of a treason trial at the time, proceedings which were
quite literally intended as a show trial, one where the guilt of the
prisoners would be demonstrated publicly.  For this reason, the
government encouraged popular attendance at such events."

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John V. Knapp <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Mar 2005 14:50:38 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: SHK 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web
Comment:        Response to Re: SHK 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web

 >Strawberries on the Othello handkerchief are a sexual symbol rather than
 >a peace symbol. But whatever works!
 >
 >Elliott H. Stone

Elliot --

Forgive me for a naive question, but exactly how are the strawberries a
"sexual symbol"?  The handkerchief itself is connected to Desdemona's
alleged infidelity, but strawberries??  I asked this same question on
another chatline-how is it that X equals Y ? -- but I never did get a
reasonable answer.  Was there a vat of whipped cream and a collie dog
somewhere in the play that I missed (if you haven't heard that old joke
.. ?).

Curious in DeKalb,

JVK

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Tuesday, 08 Mar 2005 16:55:03 -0500
Subject: 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web

Bill Arnold <
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 >

 >So, I ask, in Shakespeare's time, in Law, was there a burden upon
 >victims of an accusation to prove their innocence?

The question is surprisingly complex. The maxim "innocent until proven
guilty" as such seems to be no older than the 19th century. But the
basic principle was well established throughout Christian Europe by the
end of the 13th century, not merely as a matter of positive law, but of
natural law (i.e., rock-bottom morality). Even God had to listen to
Adam's defense.

In cases of treason, witchcraft, etc., it was not, of course, always
observed as well as it might have been.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Webb <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 08:13:15 -0000
Subject: 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0426 There's Magic in the Web

Some of Shakespeare's works lend themselves to interpretations in terms
of Platonic philosophy. One example is A Midsummer Night's Dream, with
its reflections on the dreamlike experiences of the various players, and
of the audience, and the nature of the relationship between Bottom and
Titania.

The central question in Platonic philosophy is: Is the world real or a
dream?

In his article about "There's Magic in the Web", Patrick Spottiswoode
said that the main lesson he hoped children would learn from Othello
would be the ability "to differentiate between opinion and truth".

Patrick Spottiswoode's lesson has a bearing on the Platonic question.
Why should a person ever suspect that an almost universally received
opinion might be untrue?

The introduction to the Arden edition of Othello has a section which
discusses whether Othello had impaired vision (pp17-19), and cites
several scenes in the play which suggest that he had. The act of seeing
can be an allusion to a person's ability to discern reality, as it is in
Plato's allegory of the cave.

Describing Othello's attributes, the Arden edition also has a section
titled "Otherness" (pp27-31). It says "He is more than a stranger, he
comes from a mysterious other world, a world that lies beyond our reach
hinted at rather than defined". That may have parallels with Bottom's
experience, and sense of otherness, in MND. Bottom's trade as weaver may
also have an echo in the woven handkerchief, an important symbol in Othello.

John Webb

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