2005

Stereotyping Hamlet..."wandering aimlessly"

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1486  Friday, 9 September 2005

From: 		Bill Arnold <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Thursday, 8 Sep 2005 04:48:44 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 	Stereotyping Hamlet..."wandering aimlessly"

There are some marvelous couples in Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet 
to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, from Othello and Desdemona to Antony and 
Cleopatra, and yes, Hamlet and Ophelia.

So, when this year's hurricane list included Ophelia, I knew if we ever 
got to the mad lady that there would be hell to pay.  And there is! 
Read this newspaper account, stereotyping Hamlet and totally ignoring 
Ophelia, from the Palm Beach Post, Thursday, September 8, 2005, while 
she churns offshore to our north:

"Dithering Ophelia keeps storm trackers guessing

By Robert P. King
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Acting more like Hamlet than Ophelia, Florida's latest tropical threat 
wandered aimlessly offshore Wednesday, unable to decide where to go."

As I have noted many times in my posts about Hamlet, this persistent 
stereotypical Hamlet overshadows his maligned image in popular 
literature, largely due to the fact that scholarship still renders him 
"wander[ing] aimlessly" as the key Shakespearean character.

What is most distressing in all this is that mad Ophelia is ignored as a 
true character in her subjugation to her better half of the famed couple 
created by Will Shakespeare.  Ophelia in her madness, on her own, was 
guilty of "wandering aimlessly" as a character herself.

Why am I a lone reader who reflects upon Hamlet as the only sane and 
rationale player in a play of characters "wandering aimlessly" in their 
madness?

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

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DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
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"Slings & Arrows" Reruns on Sundance Channel

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1485  Friday, 9 September 2005

From: 		Patty Winter <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Wednesday, 7 Sep 2005 21:52:21 -0700
Subject: 	"Slings & Arrows" Reruns on Sundance Channel

The delightful dramedy "Slings & Arrows," which takes a look behind the 
scenes at a Shakespeare festival, will repeat on the Sundance Channel 
after the current run ends this Sunday. Episode 1 of Season 1 will air 
on Sunday, Sept. 18 at 8:00 p.m. ET, with the remaining five episodes 
airing on subsequent Sundays.

Also, there will be a marathon of all of Season 1 on Saturday, Sept. 17, 
beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Paul Gross, Martha Burns, Stephen Ouimette, Rachel McAdams, Mark 
McKinney, and Don McKellar are among the stars of the series.

More information at:

   http://www.sundancechannel.com/feature/index.php?ixContent=8105
   http://www.themovienetwork.ca/slingsandarrows/
   http://www.showcase.ca/slingsandarrows/


Patty

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DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
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Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1483  Wednesday, 7 September 2005

[Editor's Note: As I have noted before regarding other threads, 
positions held as matters of faith for the poster appear to me to be so 
unwavering that they are incapable of being shaken by any means of 
persuasion. Because this thread has become circular, turning back upon 
itself and not moving forward, I see no reason to continue it.]

[1] 	From: 	Kenneth Chan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 20:32:42 +0800
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[2] 	From: 	Jim Blackie <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 10:54:21 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[3] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 11:09:49 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[4] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 11:26:11 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[5] 	From: 	David Basch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Wednesday, 07 Sep 2005 09:54:18 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kenneth Chan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 20:32:42 +0800
Subject: 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

Robin Hamilton writes:

 >"Nevertheless, let me congratulate Mr. Chan on his
 >neatly reductive elucidation of the complex tradition
 >which develops this motif.   So *that's* what it was
 >about.  How could I have missed seeing this for so long?"

Quite obviously, Robin Hamilton has not looked at the evidence. If he 
had done so, it would have been obvious to him that that is not what it 
was all about. There is very much more.

I have come to learn that it is impossible to get some people to look at 
new evidence, simply because they do not want to see. There is a long 
tradition to this. When Galileo asked his fellow scientists to look 
through his telescope, many simply refused.

Nonetheless, I am happy to report that thousands upon thousands of 
students have already read the evidence. It is only a matter of time 
before those who choose to be blind (to the evidence) hear it directly 
from them.

Regards,
Kenneth Chan
http://homepage.mac.com/sapphirestudios/qod

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jim Blackie <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 10:54:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

Kenneth Chan writes "Surely, Larry Weiss cannot be suggesting that just 
because evidence is looked for, it becomes suspect or invalid. If that 
were so, it would then follow that practically all evidence presented in 
court, by both defence and prosecution, should be thrown out!"

I don't presume to speak for Larry Weiss, who seems well able to defend 
his own positions, but I think the point is similar if not the same as 
my concern; that we, being human, are very subjective in our reading. 
Interpretations of solitary lines as well as entire plays are 
sometimes/always based on our own unique personal experiences and 
*expectations* rather than any objective thought process.

Perhaps the fear is that the results are pre-formulated and the proof is 
later searched for and "found" whether it is there "without dispute" or not.

I have argued several times with others in other forums that we need to 
capture the meaning that Shakespeare had intended for his audience at 
that time in order to come away with the full value of his words. I 
believe this is sometimes labeled as historicism (?) and has both come 
and gone as popular schools of thought, perhaps returning here and 
again. I support this and see the value just as examining brushstrokes 
and use of pigment types adds to the appreciation of any decent artist's 
painting.

But also of value is the impact that that painting has on an individual 
because it sparks an emotion, a realization, an appreciation that was 
not there before the painting was seen. The current parlance, I believe 
is "it's all good." Why can't one work of art, one phrase mean several 
things all at the same time? Argument over the meaning of art to another 
person will be ultimately unsuccessful unless (for instance) that 
argument centers over the type of brush used - camel hair or whatever. 
There is clearly a right and wrong answer to this. Not necessarily to 
the issue at hand. In My Opinion, of course.

Jim Blackie

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 11:09:49 -0400
Subject: 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

 >it appears that M Yawney is telling us he has not actually
 >looked at the evidence

The "evidence" is the texts of Shakespeare's play and poems.  All else 
is commentary.  It is a gross insult to say that a member of this List 
has not read the works.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 11:26:11 -0400
Subject: 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

 >Surely, Larry Weiss cannot be suggesting that just because
 >evidence is looked for, it becomes suspect or invalid. If that
 >were so, it would then follow that practically all evidence
 >presented in court, by both defence and prosecution, should
 >be thrown out!

Not necessarily inadmissible, but definitely suspect.  That is why it is 
not only legitimate but essential to point out the prejudices and 
preconceptions of witnesses.

In this case, there is a fundamental epistemological objection.  Chan, 
Basch and Amit do not offer evidence.  As I said in my other post, the 
only evidence is the texts themselves.  What these commentators offer 
are bizarre interpretations culled from carefully selected passages 
while ignoring a great many other contradictory passages.  Of course, 
nothing else can be expected when superstition substitutes for cognition.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Basch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Wednesday, 07 Sep 2005 09:54:18 -0400
Subject: 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1472 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

Kenneth Chan finds my alleged allusion to Ecclesiastes ("The wisdom of 
the poor is despised") in the episode concerning the wisdom of "poor" 
Horatio ("You will lose this wager, my lord.") that was dismissed by 
Hamlet to be "rather contrived" and a stretch of the imagination. I 
don't know what he means by this since nothing could be more straight 
forward. I would also remind him that there are dozens of such 
parallels. Were there only one such occurrence, I would agree that this 
would be insubstantial or happenstance but twenty or more such parallels 
amounts to a pattern that ought not to be lightly dismissed.

Also, notwithstanding Kenneth Chan's assertion to the contrary, 
Shakespeare did do an excellent job in dramatizing Ecclesiastes. He 
created a play integrating within it the words and meaning of 
Ecclesiastes through creating a whole imaginative kingdom in which these 
are enacted as these impinge on characters that he created. The 
characters are so realistically drawn that the parallels to Ecclesiastes 
emerge authentically out of their motivations and the events of the 
play. Familiarity with Ecclesiastes would fully confirm these observations.

And since Ecclesiastes is one of the jewels of the Biblical heritage 
with its brilliant insight on man, the play Hamlet is hardly the less if 
it taps into that never bottoming well of wisdom.

David Basch

_______________________________________________________________
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Play Recommendation

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1484  Friday, 9 September 2005

From: 		Michael B. Luskin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Wednesday, 7 Sep 2005 21:32:44 EDT
Subject: 	Play Recommendation

I am helping the high school drama group choose a play for performance 
this winter.  I would like suggestions of Shakespeare comedies that have 
a maximum number of significant parts, in other words, lots of 
opportunities for stars, and can be performed with little complicated 
scenery.

I've been thinking about LLL, but the end is a downer, perhaps too much 
so for a high school play.  If not leave 'em laughing, then at least 
don't leave them deflated.

Another local school did the Boys from Syracuse a couple years ago, so I 
don't want to do Comedy of Errors.

Suggestions and justifications would be welcome.  Thank you.

Michael B. Luskin

_______________________________________________________________
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Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
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More Shakespeare Code ...

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1482  Wednesday, 7 September 2005

[1] 	From: 	Marcus Dahl <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 12:56:23 +0100 (BST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[2] 	From: 	V. K. Inman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 09:38:01 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[3] 	From: 	Steve Sohmer <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 09:45:33 EDT
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[4] 	From: 	Alan Jones <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 14:57:20 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[5] 	From: 	Jan Pick <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 19:47:17 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[6] 	From: 	John W. Kennedy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 15:50:09 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[7] 	From: 	Kathy Dent <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 06 Sep 2005 22:35:24 +0100
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[8] 	From: 	Tom Krause <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Tuesday, 6 Sep 2005 23:42:33 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1470 More Shakespeare Code ...

[9] 	From: 	James Doyle <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Wednesday, 7 Sep 2005 12:59:57 +0100
	Subj: 	Mo0re Shakespeare Code ...

[10]	 From: 	David Basch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Wednesday, 07 Sep 2005 10:10:58 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1460 More Shakespeare Code ...


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Marcus Dahl <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

 >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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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