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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: September ::
More Shakespeare Code ...
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1482  Wednesday, 7 September 2005

[1] 	From: 	Marcus Dahl <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 12:56:23 +0100 (BST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[2] 	From: 	V. K. Inman <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 09:38:01 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[3] 	From: 	Steve Sohmer <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 09:45:33 EDT
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[4] 	From: 	Alan Jones <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 14:57:20 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[5] 	From: 	Jan Pick <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 19:47:17 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[6] 	From: 	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 15:50:09 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[7] 	From: 	Kathy Dent <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 22:35:24 +0100
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[8] 	From: 	Tom Krause <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 23:42:33 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[9] 	From: 	James Doyle <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 7 Sep 2005 12:59:57 +0100
	Subj: 	Mo0re Shakespeare Code ...

[10]	 From: 	David Basch <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 07 Sep 2005 10:10:58 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1460 More Shakespeare Code ...


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Marcus Dahl <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 12:56:23 +0100 (BST)
Subject: 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

Dear All,

Re: this statement from Peter Bridgman

 >England was a hellish police state during Elizabeth's reign.  That much
 >Claire Asquith has got right.

I just don't buy it sorry. And this whole re-visioning of literary 
/social history according to the 'stripping of the altars' thesis is 
just one more vogue in a long line of subjective historical theses. This 
one just happens to be from a pro-Catholic perspective does it not?

Any other takers?

All best,
Marcus Doubt First Die Later Dahl

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		V. K. Inman <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 09:38:01 -0400
Subject: 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

Robert Projansky writes:

 >You cannot remake the world with
 >plays, and WS obviously knew that. Indeed, obscuring or encoding
 >subversive matter in a dramatic text would itself certainly be taken as
 >evidence of its treasonous intent.

Yet WS has Hamlet do this very thing!  "The play's the thing wherein 
I'll catch the conscience of the King."  Can we read this and not then 
ask, "Did Will intend some message from Hamlet to reach his Queen?

V. K. Inman

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Steve Sohmer <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 09:45:33 EDT
Subject: 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

Dear Friends,

Peter Bridgman really needs to read a bit of social history. The 
religious settlement of 1559 became the original and archetype of 
religious tolerance for the whole world. Also a bit of Tudor history; a 
relative of Shakespeare had his head stuck on a pike for plotting the 
murder of the monarch, not for holding an old accustomed feast on Saint 
James's day.

Steve

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Alan Jones <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 14:57:20 +0100
Subject: 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

V.K.Inman says "{W]hether or not there were real hidden codes, prominent 
Elizabethans such as Elizabeth herself believed there was a hidden code 
in Richard II.  Elizabeth is reported as saying, "I'm Richard the II!"

Elizabeth's comment was prompted by seeing Tower documents from 
Richard's reign, months after the execution of Essex.  She may have been 
jolted into thinking of Shakespeare's play (or perhaps a different one), 
but there was, I think, no question of "a hidden code": the parallels 
speak for themselves and are undisguised. "Code" suggests a deliberate 
and half-concealed second meaning intended by Shakespeare - far too 
risky, I'd have thought, even if he'd wanted to do it. The general theme 
of toppling a monarch is revisited in "Julius Caesar", perhaps the more 
painfully for Elizabeth since Caesar is old and frail. But in any case 
both plays show (and are perhaps meant to show) that regicide is a crime 
out of which the justice of God or Fate can eventually bring a happy 
consequence, though for England only after years of strife.

Alan Jones

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jan Pick <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 19:47:17 +0100
Subject: 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

Hi all,

The interview was on the Today Programme on BBC R4 - not sure which day, 
but within the last 7 days!

Jan

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John W. Kennedy <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 15:50:09 -0400
Subject: 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

Peter Bridgman <
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 >Steve Sohmer writes ...
 >
 >>He was remarkably tolerant. Then again, so was the religious
 >>settlement contrived by Elizabeth, Nicholas Bacon, and
 >>Mathew Parker in 1559.
 >
 >So remarkably tolerant that for each and every day of his working
 >life in London, WS had to walk under the butchered body parts of
 >his co-religionists affixed to the gates to the City.
 >
 >England was a hellish police state during Elizabeth's reign.  That
 >much Claire Asquith has got right.

Faugh! Elizabeth's policy toward Roman Catholicism was one of tolerance 
(with a certain amount of "Don't ask, don't tell") until 1588, when the 
Pope openly called for all English Roman Catholics to rebel, and even 
promised a reward for her assassination. (We in the US have seen 
something of the sort from the Protestant side, of late.)

One might add (by the bye) that the case that WS was a Roman Catholic is 
far from made.

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kathy Dent <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 22:35:24 +0100
Subject: 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

V. K. Inman  wrote:

 >And whether or not there were real hidden codes, prominent
 >Elizabethans such as Elizabeth herself believed there was a
 >hidden code in Richard II.  Elizabeth is reported as saying,
 >"I'm Richard the II!" But alas our bard and friends were able
 >to deny and talk their way out of trouble.

I believe that Inman has conflated two separate incidents.  I would be 
happy to be corrected, but surely there is no evidence to show that 
Elizabeth was referring to Shakespeare's play when she said that.  It 
was not a part of the events following the performance of the play on 
the eve of the Essex rebellion, was it?

Kathy Dent

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Tom Krause <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 23:42:33 -0400
Subject: 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

 From Bob Projansky: "I understand the Porter's cruel joke to be about 
the pathetic Father Garnet, a Jesuit who had recently been hung, drawn, 
and quartered  . . . . If Shakespeare were a secret  recusant would he 
retail such effective mockery of a martyr priest? . . . . Were the 
secret Catholics in the audience to understand this mock to be included 
to put the secret police off the scent?  What does Clare Asquith say 
about this?"

Answer (as you suspected):  "It looks as if he moved quickly, retrieving 
the script of Macbeth, still unperformed at court, in  order to proclaim 
his revulsion for the inhumanity of the plot and to distance himself 
from a terrorist group with whom his connections were uncomfortably 
close."  (p.  216).

Tom Krause

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		James Doyle <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 7 Sep 2005 12:59:57 +0100
Subject: 	Mo0re Shakespeare Code ...

Was Jack Heller trying to get a googlewhack for Shaksper by coming up 
with the word 'wiskreccorshrip'?  I for one think it's a fantastic word, 
and will henceforth use this for anything which smacks of finding 
illusory cryptic messages in existing texts.

James

[10]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Basch <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 07 Sep 2005 10:10:58 -0400
Subject: 16.1460 More Shakespeare Code ...
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1460 More Shakespeare Code ...

I notice how eagerly commentators, like Clare Asquith and her 
supporters, pursue alleged "codes" in Shakespeare's work, seeing in 
these the poet's desire to reveal himself a Catholic. She tells that 
this system of "codes" was used by Catholics to communicate among 
themselves their hopes and religious tenets during a period when they 
were being forcibly squelched in England under Elizabeth I. No effort is 
spared by the proponents of this view in searching out these coded 
communication from the poet. However, the energy for such pursuits ends 
with their agenda and their interest wanes considerably when additional 
hidden communications are suggested that might put their own 
observations into a different context.

For example, Clare Asquith asserts that Act V of the Merchant of Venice 
was an appendage to the play without relevance to what preceded it and 
had no other function than to bring a Catholic message. To do so, she 
interprets such phrases as "in such a night" as referring to a Catholic 
night worship rituals that had a distinctive pattern. She finds 
allusions to those rituals in this act. Not the only problem with this 
is that Act V of the MoV contains very pertinent and essential material 
on the moral status of the characters in the play.

Thus, it informs that Jessica is a thief and is given to slander: "In 
such a night / Did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew" and "In such a 
night / Did pretty Jessica, like a little shrew, / Slander her love,..."

Act V also highlights the fact that Bassanio and Gratiano are vow 
breakers (they gave away their wives' rings that they had vowed to keep 
forever), and Portia is more specifically revealed as a covenant breaker 
(the very charge that Jews are repeatedly pilloried with). Since Portia 
had earlier noted her identity with Bassanio, how like they both were, 
then we are faced with the question of how she was a vow breaker. This, 
in connection with other evidence, can only refer to the fact that she 
broke her father's covenant to abide by the casket selection process. 
She had seen to it that Bassanio was informed of the correct choice. 
These elements are handled in a light, humorous manner and so are lost 
on audiences that will not see the characters in their true moral 
complexion.

This in turn makes it ironic that Act V is full of statements and 
metaphors about seeing things in their true light: the beautiful glow of 
a candle is only seen against the dark; the beautiful song of lark and 
the nightingale only are heard in proper contexts; "How many things by 
season season'd are / To their right praise and true perfection!" 
Asquith finds these thoughts to be a part of the Catholic night rituals 
and I don't doubt this. But she is not open to the fact that Shakespeare 
uses these ideals professed by the Christian world, not to show a 
partiality toward one religion or another, but in order to hold a mirror 
up to that world since this is precisely what has not been applied by 
the characters in the play to Shylock.

Shylock's golden qualities as loving husband and father and in reaching 
out with a free loan to win the love of the hostile Antonio are not 
regarded, nor is there an effort to see through Shylock's threat as a 
charade to humble Antonio and therefore to encourage Antonio to beg 
Shylock's forgiveness to abate his threat to cut Antonio (an empty 
threat since Shylock's life would not have been worth a nickle had he 
actually been allowed to go through with it), nor was he shown the mercy 
demanded from him when the tables are turned against him.

I think Clare Asquith is on to something with some of the allusions to 
Catholic rituals she mentions and the ideals that these project. But in 
pressing her Catholic message, she fails to obey Shakespeare's behest to 
apply these ideals to understanding the play and to see the true noble 
character of Shylock and the moral failure of his enemies who rob, break 
vows, covenant break, slander, and hate him. No doubt this blindness 
occurs because, given the wall of preexisting prejudice harbored by the 
characters and audiences against Jews, the context does not easily 
enable the "seasoning" of the understanding to see things in their true 
light.

The point is that if commentators are serious about probing codes in 
Shakespeare's work, then they should as a mark of their impartiality 
investigate all the observed codes: the cipher code I have mentioned, 
the equal letter skip code, as well as the steganographic codes that 
provide keys to the poet's thought. That they only have eyes for their 
own brand of codes that alone distort the over all message of the poet, 
not even being curious to find out about these other codes and what they 
tell, indicates a vested interest and not an impartial search for truth. 
Truth is what we should all be about in sorting out all observed codes, 
with the meaning and understanding that these bring confronted whatever 
they tell. Unless this is the standard of scholarly pursuit, distortion 
is the result and, with this, there can be little hope that Shakespeare 
studies will progress.

David Basch

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