2005

Shylock as Suffering Servant

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1352  Friday, 19 August 2005

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 12:58:03 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1344 Shylock as Suffering Servant

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft  <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 14:10:14 -0400
        Subj:   Shylock as Suffering Servant

[3]     From:   Scot Zarela <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 13:38:56 -0700
        Subj:   Shylock & the Merchant & "The Merchant"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 12:58:03 -0400
Subject: 16.1344 Shylock as Suffering Servant
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1344 Shylock as Suffering Servant

J.D. Markel cavils with my last post:

 >Shakespeare didn't invent the trial scene, it comes from Il Pecorone.
 >And conflict with strict laws is hardly unknown as dramatic device.

I never said WS invented this.  The origin is irrelevant to the
jurisprudential point I made.

 >>"But who quarrels with the result?"
 >
 >Are you new to this thread?  Just about everyone.

There are one or two SHAKSPERians who have come close to saying that
Shylock should have been allowed to butcher Antonio, but I surely hope
they are not "just about everyone."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft  <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 14:10:14 -0400
Subject:        Shylock as Suffering Servant

Don Bloom writes:

"I have to confess that I do consider homicide a much more serious
offense than issuing spiteful insults. Since my whole interpretation of
the play is grounded (in some measure) on this view, if it's wrong, then
the interpretation is wrong. No doubt about it."

Those who see MoV differently than Don have never, to my knowledge,
argued that Shylock should get away with murder. Don cuts off the
history in the play prematurely because then it makes interpretation
easy. What the play clearly suggests is that there is an action/reaction
going on: spit on some men often enough and they will seek redress/revenge.

Don pretends that one day, out of the blue, and for no reason, Shylock
decided to plot against Antonio's life. What play is he reading?

Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scot Zarela <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 13:38:56 -0700
Subject:        Shylock & the Merchant & "The Merchant"

Ed Taft revises Shakespeare's stagecraft:  "... the situation at the
start of the play in which we learn how abominably Antonio treated
Shylock in the past (and will again, he promises!)"

Well, that's not the start of the play.  Ed leaves out a lot; the scene
he refers to comes later, when Shylock accuses Antonio of (abominable?)
name-calling and spitting.  Antonio doesn't deny it:

           I am as like to call thee so againe,
           To spet on thee againe, to spurne thee too.

So he says! --- but that may be only his hauteur.  Shylock's 'tale', the
'you-did-thus' of his accusation, is striking, vivid:  so is Antonio's
riposte.  And both, but especially Shylock's lines, have been excerpted,
anthologized, have had a career beyond the context of the play.  But for
now let's stay in the play.  The contempt between the two men of
business in the PRESENT SCENE is he main thing:  both contribute to it,
and it almost derails the bargain that Bassanio's depending on.  This
near derailment by excess of rancor is a comic action, and dramatic ---
and breathtaking.  And immediate.

If we, for the moment, ignore this comedy, to focus on their
'problematic' contempt, we should not fly to make it contempt between
'Jew' and 'Christian', but rather keep it personal:  THIS Jew, and THIS
Christian.  Then, we ought to be fair to Antonio, and note that his open
contempt issues in a principled objection to the other's business
practices; while Shylock's contempt, insofar as he expresses it, is
tactical:  he's toying with an enemy somewhat in his power (because
Antonio needs the loan to keep his promise, etc.).  And of course the
full extent of Shylock's contempt is NOT expressed:  he keeps it hidden,
nursing malice, meditating revenge.

None of this need disambiguate Antonio:  he can still "suffer... from
lack of self knowledge" if that makes you happy . . . or unhappy, or
happy to be unhappy.  None of it means, either, that Shylock is 'evil':
  he's not Eeee-vil, but let him be a villain.  Please!

Syd Kasten finds in this discussion thread only three ways of looking at
"Merchant":  "an antisemitic tract, a philosemitic tract or simply a
comedy with a cardboard Jew banker figure to spice up an otherwise weak
plot."  (Since when is comedy simple?  Go try and write one!)

"The Merchant of Venice" is plainly not a tract of any kind; why should
it be necessary to say yet again that it's a comedy?  Is it because
comedy is "simple", too simple to be worth all this academic fuss?  Is
it because a comic villain is made of "cardboard", because the cardboard
villain's function is to "spice up" the plot, and because the plot is
"weak" --- and so forth, until by rhetoric we practice despising every
pleasure of the play?

Ed Taft again, reminding Rip Van Bloom, and me and all the slowpokes, of
"Shakespeare's characteristic way of working.  Sure, he provided
suspense and duels and thrills ... but he also provided more for those
who wanted to listen and watch carefully --- and more than once."  This,
speaking of time warps, reminds me of the old pedagogy that held all the
'popular' elements of the plays to be sops for groundlings --- mere
frills of thrills --- while the 'real' merit lay hidden for those
Quality folks who would pore over a play as over a lesson.  I think the
Elizabethans had their fill of lessons, moralities, sermons ---
sometimes they wanted to get away to a play.  A real play, not a
simulacrum that reserved its special best quidditie for A Better Class
of people, later.  Shakespeare published his plays by putting them on
the stage:  that's how they were made public; that's how they reached
the audience they were intended for; and that (ambiguities and all) is
how to see Shakespeare's art in its fullness.

Kenneth Chan writes:  "... [W]e should hesitate before rashly leaping to
the conclusion that Shakespeare intended his plays as mere fodder for
multiple conflicting interpretations."  Yes, but "mere fodder"
mis-states the case, as does "cater to" --- I'd rather say that
Shakespeare's plays ALLOW these conflicts of interpretation:  wisely
allow, I think, because the conflicts will happen and there's not a
thing that can be done about it.  It's impossible for a playwright to
nail down every last meaning:  meanings ramify, and by analysis even
particles of meaning are (endlessly?) divisible into more particles.
What happens on the stage is the play:  the (singular) meaning is in the
(plural) meanings in the buzz-buzz of the people streaming away:  they
can't stop talking about it, arguing about it.  What did it mean?  Then
there's life in it!

-- Scot

_______________________________________________________________
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Roses

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1351  Friday, 19 August 2005

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 12:51:26 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1343 Roses

[2]     From:   Alan Horn <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 19 Aug 2005 01:11:46 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1343 Roses


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 12:51:26 -0400
Subject: 16.1343 Roses
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1343 Roses

 >the Sonnets were
 >dedicated to the Lord.

Many others think so as well; but which lord?  Southampton? Pembroke?

Of course, I am being deliberately obtuse.  I know full well that Basch
is referring to Jahweh, which raises an interesting question of how WS
knew that He has "a woman's face .. [but was] pricked out for women's
pleasure."  I have heard people claim to have a close personal
relationship with the deity, but not to that extent.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan Horn <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 19 Aug 2005 01:11:46 EDT
Subject: 16.1343 Roses
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1343 Roses

David Basch writes, "'Shagspere' happens to be one of the versions of
the poet's name and would indicate that he arranged the dedication."

The discovery of "Shagspere" in the dedication would also seem to clear
up another mystery: the nature of the relationship between the fair
youth and the poet, and whether or not it was consummated.

I would also like to second Mr. Basch's pointed remark that "[s]ome
members of the list are so willing to ignore reality."

Alan Horn

_______________________________________________________________
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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
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1349  Friday, 19 August 2005

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 07:39:30 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1329 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[2]     From:   David Basch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 11:57:05 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[3]     From:   Philip Tomposki <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 13:47:21 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1329 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[4]     From:   V. K. Inman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 14:45:16 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[5]     From:   John-Paul Spiro <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 19 Aug 2005 07:09:27 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 07:39:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1329 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1329 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

John-Paul Spiro writes, "I can understand why people get passionate (and
thus unreasonable) about 'Merchant.'  But why are so many people so
silly about 'Hamlet'?  Is it because they don't understand the textual
issues, or do the textual issues only make matters more confusing?"

There seems to be eternal debates about Shakespeare which falls in the
broad space between director/actors and readers of the texts.

As a member of SHAKSPER, I find myself mostly in the latter camp.  And I
am not lonely.  I find many in that camp who are passionate and hardly
silly in our adherence to textual matters.

I recently read of a summer month long staging of R&J on Martha's
Vineyard Island.  It was staged outdoors, at night, with a bench as the
only prop.  Characters came and went from the trees, and passing planes
overhead disturbed cues for actors to appear.  But the play went on, for
four weeks.  A half dozen actors played multiple parts.  The play was
cut to two hours.  Shakespeare?

Now, I happen to be a fan of the various spins offs of the original R&J
as appears in text.  And I have been a fan of a few spin offs of MOV and
Hamlet.  Even Macbeth.  I have read MacBird, when it was timely.

However, having said all this, I still admit to textual discussion as a
necessary good/evil when considering Shakespeare as the Brit Bard.

And I do not confuse the textual Shakespeare with director/actor
variants.  It comes with the territory.  C 'est la vie!

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Basch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 11:57:05 -0400
Subject: 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

John Paul Spiro calls attention to the difficulties of interpreting
Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice. As I glean from his comment, he finds
these plays to be like Rorshack tests with readers only able to find in
them their own preoccupations or wishes. It is a denigration of
Shakespeare to think that he wrote off the cuff without careful thought.
Isn't it a bit inconsistent to hang on his every word and then claim
that these words were done casually without thinking in terms of the
whole of his play?

Taking such a tack of Shakespeare's limitations, reducing him to the
level of the commentator criticizing, makes it easy for a commentator to
avoid the obligation to confront what the plays actually tell us or to
see them as coherent wholes with a point of view and a message. This is
not doing justice to Shakespeare.

If anyone had told me ten years ago that my finding that the play Hamlet
is Shakespeare's version of the Bible's Book of Ecclesiastes, I would
have laughed in their face. Instead, I am being laughed even as my
critics refuse even to examine the evidence of the many parallels
between the two works that I present in detail. Even supposedly
inconsequential scenes like Hamlet looking at the clouds with Polonius
are significant since Ecclesiastes says, "He who regards the clouds will
not reap," and sure enough this foreshadows the fact that Hamlet won't
reap. Ecclesiastes also asks the question of why the good die young
while evil is long lived and this question finds its answer in the play
as we probe the reasons why the good young Hamlet is done in while evil
Claudius gets to linger on beyond the time when Hamlet should have
dispatched him. The answer is that it is Hamlet's over righteousness
that does him in since he wants perfect retribution for Claudius and
does not kill him when he has the chance. Here Hamlet violates the
warning by Ecclesiastes not to be over righteous. The sheer number of
these parallels must tells us the source of this play, yet the learned
scholars seem to resist this linkage like the plague because, perhaps,
it shows a Shakespeare respectful and honoring of the Bible, something
that doesn't fit their image of him. But by failing to take account of
such things, these commentators create the confusion that they are
supposed to clarify by their scholarly calling.

Perhaps such understanding starts trains of thought for some
commentators about the poet the poet's views that they refuse to
countenance as happens with The Merchant of Venice, the second play that
John Paul Spiro finds hopelessly confused. But is what is happening is
that some commentators don't wish to explode their notions about Jews
and Christians in the play.  As some commentators, gentile incidentally,
have noted, "the character of Shylock contains spiritual gold" and that
"Christian virtue in the play is notable for its absence." Is it such
things that are uncharacteristic of the audiences of Shakespeare's time
and which seem to carry over today that are being shirked? If that is
what is happening, no wonder the play must seem out of joint and
incompetent. And no wonder we get the reductionist comments, reducing
the poet to the level of the critic, about Shakespeare being nothing
more than a hack interested in making money and unconcerned with the
future of his work and its message to the world. For this sets limits on
seeing some of what the poet was addressing and communicating to the world.

I note that Jim Blackie does not go along with John Paul Spiro that
Hamlet cannot be properly probed, finding clarification of meaning in
the interpretations of John Dover Wilson, whose insights, by the way, as
I recall, though incomplete, would not be contradictory to Hamlet as
Ecclesiastes. The point is he searches for full coherence and will
eventually find it if he persists. Also, I found Kenneth Chan's comment
on this subject quite perceptive as he urges that "we should hesitate
before rashly leaping to the conclusion that Shakespeare intended his
plays as mere fodder for multiple conflicting interpretations. It may
well be that we have simply not seen the light yet."

But if we throw in the towel about getting to the deepest levels of
these plays because we are afraid of what we will find, we will never
get to that light.

David Basch

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Philip Tomposki <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 13:47:21 -0400
Subject: 16.1329 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1329 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

Kenneth Chan asks:

"Why would Shakespeare deliberately set out to write plays that cater to
multiple conflicting interpretations?"

Perhaps to portrait a character who, like most of us, are full of
contradictions and inconsistencies?  You know, the type of fellow whose
actions, thoughts and emotions defy any attempt by foolish people to fit
them into some neat, tidy Grand Theory.

Philip Tomposki

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           V. K. Inman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 14:45:16 -0400
Subject: 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

Kenneth Chan wrote in response to John-Paul Spiro

 >"Why would Shakespeare deliberately set out to write plays that cater to
 >multiple conflicting interpretations? What purpose can this serve? Life
 >itself and history provides more than sufficient material for multiple
 >interpretations. Too much material, in fact. So why do we need a play,
 >as well, to provide a foil for indulging in multiple and contradicting
 >interpretations? This does not make sense."

There is a hermeneutics principle at work here that is invalid.  It is
that Shakespeare makes sense.  Certainly, if anything can be gleaned
from centuries of Shakespeare criticism, it must certainly be that his
plays are largely beyond our ability to reduce then to sensible
aphorisms. To say that perhaps Shakespeare intended this is hardly,
"rashly leaping to the conclusion that Shakespeare intended his plays as
mere fodder for multiple conflicting interpretations."   On the other
hand if there is a single, simple, interpretation intended which has not
come to light yet, perhaps Shakespeare intended this be the case-that it
should long be undiscoverable.  In either case looking for a single,
simple, aphoristic interpretation of a Shakespeare play in extremely naive.

V. K. Inman

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John-Paul Spiro <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 19 Aug 2005 07:09:27 -0400
Subject: 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

Many people say smart things about both "Merchant" and "Hamlet."  But
too many people feel they have figured the works out and they have The
Answer or The Skeleton Key.  J. Dover Wilson's book is fine, but if you
think he has "resolved" the issue, you need to read the play again.

Kenneth Chan wrote:

 >Why would Shakespeare deliberately set out to write plays that cater
 >to
 >multiple conflicting interpretations? What purpose can this serve?
 >Life
 >itself and history provides more than sufficient material for
 >multiple
 >interpretations. Too much material, in fact. So why do we need a
 >play,
 >as well, to provide a foil for indulging in multiple and
 >contradicting
 >interpretations? This does not make sense.

To paraphrase your questions: "Life is complicated.  Why would
Shakespeare make his plays like that?"

Hmm.  Why would Shakespeare want to write plays that are like life?  I
have no idea.

I do not, however, think the plays are like Rorschach tests or open to
any given interpretation.  There are good interpretations (i.e., based
on what's actually in the texts) and bad ones.  Some people isolate a
few points in the texts and erect a large theory based on those few
points and then say that theory explains everything.  Some people take a
phrase or sentiment from Shakespeare and find a similar phrase or
sentiment in another text and therefore conclude a relation.  Some
people compare an event in a text to an event outside of the text (often
taking place after the text was written)--which can be interesting,
perhaps, but not particularly insightful about the text itself.

Why don't people have more to say about, say, "All's Well That Ends
Well" or "Richard II" or "Coriolanus"?  I have seen far too many
theories that purport to explain Shakespeare's entire characther that
rest on little more than "Hamlet," "Merchant," and/or "The Sonnets."  He
did write a lot of other stuff, y'know.

John-Paul Spiro

_______________________________________________________________
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.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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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Shakespeare's Will

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1350  Friday, 19 August 2005

[1]     From:   Jan Pick <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 17:47:29 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1342 Shakespeare's Will

[2]     From:   John W. Kennedy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 14:16:03 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1342 Shakespeare's Will


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jan Pick <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 17:47:29 +0100
Subject: 16.1342 Shakespeare's Will
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1342 Shakespeare's Will

Depends on his health at the time.  Often a clerk would write the will
as it was dictated, which also might give a reason for the later
additions as it would be read back before signing.  The signature
belonged to the person making the will - as we know Shakespeare changed
his will not long before he died, so the first one might well have been
in his hand.  That would have been destroyed as the later one took
precedence.  Pity Shakespeare didn't realise how famous he was going to
be - I bet he would have been more careful with his MSS etc!

Jan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 14:16:03 -0400
Subject: 16.1342 Shakespeare's Will
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1342 Shakespeare's Will

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

 >I refer you to Charles Hamilton's "In Search of Shakespeare."  He looked
 >at the will and came to the conclusion that it is in Shakespeare's
 >handwriting.

Unfortunately, Charles Hamilton was outside his field of expertise, and
came to many conclusions anent Shakespeare's handwriting that are
generally regarded as somewhere between questionable and risible.

_______________________________________________________________
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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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Wager

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1348  Friday, 19 August 2005

From:           Ward Elliott <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, August 19, 2005 2:08 AM
Subject:        Wager

Isn't SHAKSPER remarkable?  It inspired our original bet offer to
counter a correspondent's continuous-loop argument that statistics can
tell us nothing we don't already know.  It inspired Michael Egan to make
a counter-wager, grounded on his "irrefutable" evidence that Woodstock
is Shakespeare's.  The idea was, if we didn't refute his evidence apart
from our damning stylometric evidence, we would owe him a thousand
pounds.  Then it inspired, as it should have, discussion among SHAKSPER
correspondents as to who would judge the bet - Portia?  And what would
be the standard of proof?  Finally, when we had not gotten around to a
prompt response, it inspired Mr. Egan, who had previously called us
"pale, trembling cowards" and concluded from our "deafening silence"
that we must therefore owe him a thousand pounds, to drop his insistence
on the wager altogether, "take the contention out of the mix, and return
to a friendly exchange of views."  What's not to like?

Valenza, my co-author, has been out of town, but I have been working on
a statement, making two points:  (1) Mr. Egan was not accepting our bet
on our terms; he was offering a new bet on his terms.  And (2) his terms
changed the bet to one like a horse-race, where the winner is clear-cut
and easy to tell objectively, to one more like a beauty contest. The
winner, if any, is in the eye of the beholder.  Much standardless
haggling is called for to choose a judge, jury, and rules, and the
transaction costs can run far, far higher than our horse-race wager,
with less assurance of leading to a clear resolution of the dispute.
Limitless, standardless wrangling is not my idea of fun, nor my idea of
productive use of my time.  Cutting down on it was the idea of the
original bet, where our critic had offered a testable, falsifiable
proposition, and our bet offered a clear-cut way to testing it.  When we
put it in those terms, he backed off and went on to other things.

It's not all that hard to tell which plays are considered clearly
Shakespeare's, which are not, and which are debatable.   Most ascription
calls are easy and unchallenged, and therefore suitable for verifying or
falsifying our test methods; a few are not.  Five categories come to
mind.  Category 1, Core Shakespeare, typified by Hamlet, would be the 29
or so plays that are considered pure-gold Shakespeare.  Category 2, the
Shakespeare Dubitanda, typified by Two Noble Kinsmen, would encompass
another ten or twelve plays.  These co-authored plays are in the Canon,
not as pure gold, but as alloys. Category 3, the Shakespeare Apocrypha,
consists of a dozen or two plays for which someone, sometime, has argued
a Shakespeare ascription. Some are more apocryphal than others;
Woodstock would probably be in most people's second or third dozen, not
their first.  It is not even mentioned among the "plays excluded" from
Wells and Taylor's Textual Companion to the Oxford Shakespeare.  The
important point for now is that opinion on it is at best divided.
Woodstock plainly does not yet belong in undisputed Category one
territory with Hamlet.  Category 4 is 3-400 plays typified, let's say,
by Beaumont's The Gentleman Usher or John Phillips' Patient Grissel.
Nobody thinks that Shakespeare wrote any of these.  If Shakespeare is
gold, all these plays are slag.  Category 5 would be Lost Gold,
Cardenio, say, or Love's Labor's Won, as-yet-undiscovered pure or
co-authored Shakespeare plays which could turn up in someone's attic at
any minute, but haven't done so for 400 years.

Many scholarly prospectors have claimed to strike previously
misidentified Gold in a Category 3 work, and a few have staked a claim
in a Category 4 work.  Often, as in the Gold Rush days, these claims
would be accompanied by proclamations that their evidence is
irrefutable.  But how many decades -- or is it centuries? -- has it been
since such a claim has yielded anything but Fool's Gold? Remember Donald
Foster's Funeral Elegy that couldn't be by anyone but Shakespeare?  Many
were ready to believe him at the time, but they turned out to be
completely wrong, and so did he.  Such momentary flurries aside, the
consensus has changed remarkably little since the time of E.K. Chambers
75 years ago, and not always for the better.

Years ago, our Shakespeare Clinic students managed to test all available
Category 1, 2, and 3 plays, plus about a quarter of Category 4. Of
course, neither they nor anyone else could test a Category 5 plays
because these were and are undiscovered by definition.  To win the first
part of our bet, that the bettor could not find an untested Shakespeare
play that our tests would reject, would require the discovery of a new,
Category 5 Shakespeare play, something that hasn't happened for 400
years.  We were not holding our breaths for such an occurrence, and said
so, but didn't want to rule it out.  But it would not be hard at all to
pick one of the untested Category 4 plays, such as Patient Grissel, to
falsify or verify our tests.  There are scores or hundreds of such plays
to choose from. But that hardly means it would be easy to win the bet
against us.  We had already tested a quarter or so of available Category
4 plays.  Another half were written by authors we had already tested.
If an author's traits and ranges are similar from one work to another
-and our tests have shown abundantly that they are - we didn't have to
test all 39 of Ben Jonson's plays to guess that he was not Shakespeare.

The last quarter of Category 4 is untested plays by untested authors.
Some numerophobe who really wanted to win our bet would soon realize
that he couldn't do it by picking one out on a hunch, taking a puff on
his Gauloise, and sending it off to us or a third party to test, with
the red-faced loser to pay a thousand pounds.  If he were serious, he
would use statistics more aggressively than hunches.  He would probably
start with the last quarter of Category 4, pick out the most promising
by hunch, screen them statistically with our software, which we would
happily supply, and, only if he found one which passed the tests, accept
the bet, fling the play in our red faces and claim the thousand pounds.
  This would require more work than we think is really needed for plays
like Patient Grissel, picked-over remnants chosen from the very bottom
of the slag heap, but we would not mind giving someone else the
incentive to give it a try.  If they failed, it would be a credit to our
tests, and to the wisdom of scholarly consensus in relegating such plays
to the slag heap.  If they succeeded, they might bring to light the Lost
Gold play that every Shakespeare lover dreams of discovering when lights
are low.

The most important part is not how confident we or even our critics
might be in the accuracy our tests on untested plays, but the fact that
our rules are so cut-and-dried that you could easily tell who won, who
lost, and by how much. Our bet is bettable like a horse race, not
debatable like a beauty contest.  It is no accident that millions of
people bet on horse faces and nobody bets on beauty contests, nor even
on jury trials, though both of these have winners and losers.  Bettors
generally prefer contests where the outcome is something more than a
matter of opinion.

Mr. Egan's counterbet, as we understand it, runs something like this:
"Pale, trembling coward!  Prove my irrefutable beauty-contest evidence
[that Woodstock is as pure-gold Shakespeare as Hamlet] is wrong, or fork
over the thousand pounds!"  Woodstock, in our view, is anything but an
untested Category 4 "other" play, far less an untested Category 5
"dreamed-of lost gold" play, the two categories at issue in our original
bet.  Instead, it's a tested and flunked Category 3-minus "Apocypha"
play which he thinks should be promoted to Category 1, despite what
seems to us very strong evidence that it is not by Shakespeare.  We
haven't read all of yesterday's new version of his previous, 169-page
website, but we have read the old one, the one he didn't want people to
see prematurely, and we don't think it came close to making the strong
case he claims.  Nor do we think the case he did make had much to do
with our bet.  He argues, in effect, "Forget the fact that my horse
finished one from the bottom in your Category 3 sweepstakes (Apocrypha).
Forget that even the Number One Category 3 play, Sir Thomas More,
finished out of the running, many laps behind the last Category 1 play,
The Tempest.  We are not talking of horses here.  We are talking about
Cinderella, and here's my irrefutable proof that I have found her:  I've
found 1,600 points of unique resemblance between her and Woodstock.
Whoever wrote Woodstock walks like Cinderella, talks like Cinderella,
shows not only that unique smile, that unique twinkle, those unique
1,600 points of light that only Cinderella could have, but the very DNA
of her discourse, the very loops and whorls of her literary thumbprint!
I would know her DNA anywhere. Only a very undiscerning and possibly
unscrupulous person would think it made a lick of difference that her
shoe size is 14, her blood type is wrong, she's ten years too young, and
she only speaks Uzbek."

Gold scams have fallen from fashion in the real world these days, but
other get-rich-quick proposals still abound.  Does anyone on SHAKSPER
ever respond to those letters from Nigeria offering you a cut of General
Abubakar's multimillion-dollar private hoard if you'll just help the
contact close an export deal?  We don't, even though we haven't sought,
far less found irrefutable evidence that the letter is a scam. We did
not find Mr. Egan's evidence persuasive enough, nor related enough to
our own bet, to warrant a lengthy detour from what's left of our summer
project analyzing scenes from Pericles, Titus Andronicus, Two Noble
Kinsmen, and Henry VIII.  Mr. Egan's mountains of supposedly unique
"borrowings," "echoes," and "verbal parallels," his bold talk of
irrefutability, DNA, and thumbprints, his unconcern with contrary
evidence, even his jeers at doubters, savored too much of other
prospectors we have previously encountered, aggressively marketing their
Fool's Gold as the real thing.  To us, the apparent focus on weak,
untestable positives, and the non-focus on strong, testable negatives,
threatened a return to the limitless, standardless wrangling we try to
avoid.

On the other hand, authorship does matter. Woodstock is obviously not a
frivolity, far less a scam, to Mr. Egan, who has worked on it for years,
given it the new, more Shakespearean name of Richard II, Part I,
published a four-volume book on it with a respectable press, and is
every bit as sure that Shakespeare wrote it as the Baconians are that
Bacon wrote Hamlet.  Hope springs eternal, and we are sure that some
SHAKSPER members will find his evidence persuasive, or at least think
that his claim might be watered down to some less resounding, less
easily refuted, level than the one he now presents.  Maybe it's just
partly Shakespeare's.  Some might think that he really is taking us up
on our bet, as he claims, and that our "deafening silence" should be
read as a tacit admission that we think he is right and we are wrong.
He isn't, and we don't.  We've gotten a lot of mileage out of our bet,
don't want to get into a situation where we don't dare show our faces on
SHAKSPER, and certainly don't want people to think that we are pale,
trembling cowards - at least I don't. Valenza's indifference to such
things runs deep, but he is not the one who keeps SHAKSPER's membership
in touch with our work.

So, rather than rejecting Mr. Egan's bet outright, I tried to think of
some ways that we might accept it, but try to make it a short detour,
rather than a long one, and less likely to require two thousand pounds
worth of haggling and wrangling to settle a one-thousand pound wager.
Obviously, his dispute couldn't be settled simply by running the race
and seeing which horse wins, so I thought we should start by setting up
an adjudicatory mechanism with agreed-on rules and procedures designed
to get the evidence presented fairly, but not interminably, and a
verdict on it arrived at promptly.  The highlights of my draft proposal
were these:  There should be a judge and jury, perhaps Hardy and a panel
of three authorship grand masters, or -- more likely, since Mr. Egan is
deeply at odds with two of my favorite grand masters -- Hardy and the
entire existing membership of SHAKSPER.  There should rules of debate,
starting with setting the burden of proof, as Larry Weiss suggests.
Given Mr. Egan's own claim of irrefutability, the heavy burden of
overhead his bet would impose, and the vast gulf between what we offered
and what he purports to accept, his burden should not be light.  After
all, he is not just claiming that Woodstock is more Shakespearean than
it looks, and that parts of it might well be by Shakespeare. He is
claiming that it belongs beyond question in Category 1 and is as purely
and irrefutably Shakespeare's as Hamlet -- and that, therefore, we owe
him a thousand pounds.  If so, he should prove it beyond a reasonable
doubt before he collects his money.  The question before the House
should be:  "Resolved, that Woodstock/Richard II, Part I is as purely
and irrefutably Shakespeare's as Hamlet."

I also thought of simple rules of presentation. There should be a judge,
such as Hardy, to settle further procedural questions, and there should
be short, 6-page opening and closing statements by both sides, ample
discussion by SHAKSPER members in between, a one-month time limit, and a
simple-majority vote by SHAKSPER's voting membership as to whether Mr.
Egan has made his case, to be completed no later than the end of
September, to keep it from dragging on.  Both sides could make longer
cases on webpages.  Both sides, besides depositing thousand-pound
cashier's checks with the judge, would also send 500-pound deposits, to
be payable by the loser, to compensate the judge and any panelists for
their time and trouble and not treat their time like a free good.  If
this sounds a bit hung up on procedural technicalities, it might be
because teaching public law as a political scientist is my day job, and
I am more sensitized to the time costs of litigation and adjudication
than most of SHAKSPER's Lit Department correspondents.  If we should
ever again consider taking up such a high-overhead bet as Mr. Egan's, we
would probably want some such a set of rules and procedures to get both
sides' arguments and evidence fairly heard, and the question fairly and
promptly decided, and with proper compensation to the adjudicators.  We
might also wish to raise the ante substantially to compensate for the
extra overhead involved, which far exceeds that of our own bet.

As it happens, my draft proposal has been overtaken by events.  Before
posting, I checked it with Hardy.  He was not eager to take on all the
due process, and he also had concerns about SHAKSPER becoming a party to
internet gambling.  So did his Advisory Board, and I cannot blame them.
  Could it be that they, too, thought that it was too much fuss to make
for what is most likely another of those letters from Nigeria?  At the
same time, Mr. Egan himself offered to drop his insistence on the bet to
entice me and MacDonald Jackson into the discussion.  That's fine with
me; it's our bet that I care about, not his.

My inclination is to invite him to post a 6-page statement of the
highlights of his case, respond with a 6-page statement of our own, let
the list discuss it, and, if people want it, ask the list for a straw
vote at the end of September. At a minimum, it would get the views aired
without requiring any money-changing in the Temple. It would give Mr.
Egan his say and his book some buzz.  It would get the list in on the
discussion.  It would give SHAKSPER a faceoff between two
well-developed, sharply contrasting ways of dealing with internal
evidence - Mr. Egan's smoking guns and our silver bullets. With the
straw poll, it would actually have an outcome of sorts, which Mr. Egan
clearly wants, and I want too because it would give both sides a much
better sense of how heavy a burden of proof we have to bear with
SHAKSPER's memberships.  Others may have a different view, and prefer to
leave the dispute unresolved, like so many others on SHAKSPER.  They
should be heard from, too.

In the meantime, our wager in its original form is still very much alive
and on offer, and could still easily be settled with a far lower burden
of adjudicatory overhead, simply by running the horses and seeing how
they finish.  It now appears that, if any adjudication should be needed
for our bet, it probably would not come from SHAKSPER and would have to
be arranged between the parties.  But so, too, we would guess, would the
tests themselves, which any serious prospective takers would want to use
before accepting, and which we would be happy to supply.


_______________________________________________________________
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.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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