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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: September ::
WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0636  Friday, 24 September 2007

[1]	From: 		Gabriel Egan <
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	Date: 		Thursday, 20 Sep 2007 16:33:40 +0100
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0624 WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare

[2]	From: 		Anthony Burton <
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	Date: 		Thursday, 20 Sep 2007 14:21:10 -0400
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0629 WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare

[3]	From: 		Jeffrey Jordan <
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	Date: 		Thursday, 20 Sep 2007 19:31:46 -0500
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0629 WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Gabriel Egan <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Sep 2007 16:33:40 +0100
Subject: 18.0624 WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0624 WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare

John Drakakis wrote:

 >The issue here is not whether the terms
 >'masters' and 'mistress' sound the same
 >OR whether orthographically speaking they could be
 >confused with each other. I ask: is there a word that
 >makes sense within this context that combines both
 >meanings, and there is 'maistrice'.

The word 'maistrice' does not combine the meanings, since it has no 
connection to 'mistress'. Rather, 'maistrice' is simply an obsolete 
Scottish word for 'mastery'.

Or, rather, 'maistrice' has a couple of connections to 'mistress', which 
are that they sound alike and look alike. But you explicitly exclude 
those considerations. So, with meaning against it and sound and 
appearance ruled irrelevant, what's left to recommend 'maistrice'?

Gabriel Egan

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Anthony Burton <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Sep 2007 14:21:10 -0400
Subject: 18.0629 WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0629 WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare

Bob Projansky kindly sets forth the maisters passage in question before 
paraphrasing it.

 >You'l aske me why I rather choose to haue
 >A weight of carrion flesh, then to receiue
 >Three thousand Ducats? Ile not answer that:
 >But say it is my humor; Is it answered?
 >What if my house be troubled with a Rat,
 >And I be pleas'd to giue ten thousand Ducates
 >To haue it bain'd? What, are you answer'd yet?
 >Some men there are loue not a gaping Pigge:
 >Some that are mad, if they behold a Cat:
 >And others, when the bag-pipe sings i'th nose,
 >Cannot containe their Vrine for affection.
 >Masters of passion swayes it to the moode
 >Of what it likes or loaths, now for your answer:
 >As there is no firme reason to be rendred
 >Why he cannot abide a gaping Pigge?
 >Why he a harmlesse necessarie Cat?
 >Why he a woollen bag-pipe: but of force
 >Must yeeld to such ineuitable shame,
 >As to offend himselfe being offended:
 >So can I giue no reason, nor I will not,
 >More then a lodg'd hate, and a certaine loathing
 >I beare Anthonio, that I follow thus
 >A loosing suite against him? Are you answered?
 >
 >It seems to me that phrase means in this context that:
 >
 >Masters made of (or which are our) [inexplicable] passions  determine 
our mood
 >According to what [stimuli] they like or loathe,
 >
 >Am I wrongly making sense of this?
 >
 >Best to all,
 >Bob Projansky

Let me offer an alternative paraphrase, perhaps as devil's advocate  but 
certainly as sober literary critic, that I think makes arguable  sense 
in light of John Drakakis' textual argument to read the  doubtful word 
as a typographic/phonetic error for the intended word,  "mistress." 
Shylock says:

"You ask me to give a logical (Intellectually persuasive) answer to my 
refusal to accept money (for a matter of wounded pride and lost  dignity 
in the community) as if the too-masculine attribute of reason  should 
"master" my behavior, and were all that mattered; but there is another 
and feminine faculty, that of  feeling, affection,  passion, and the 
mistress of that faculty does not yield to cold logic."  And note how 
the Portia/Balthazar who asked for a logical and masculine answer seems 
to acknowledge the force of his argument, and turn the job over to the 
feminine Portia/Portia, to whom it is   more native to the 
Portia/Portia.  And her feminine side -- motivated as it is all along by 
love -- perceives that Shylock is raising the fundamental distinction 
which the play explores: rule of law (associated with Judaism) versus 
rule of love (claimed by Christianity).  She adroitly changes tack, 
responding (as the other Christian onlookers do not) in terms of feeling 
and moral sensitivity rather than rule and compulsion.  So yes let us 
invoke the mistress of passion, after the master of law has been stymied 
and refuted.   Kudos to John Drakakis for his discomfort with 
masters/master.  And all glory to Shakespeare for casually preserving a 
distinction that has now dropped so far from our habitual view of things 
that it can pass for a mistake.

Cheers,
Tony Burton

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jeffrey Jordan <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Sep 2007 19:31:46 -0500
Subject: 18.0629 WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0629 WashPost: Ourselves in Shakespeare

Replying to Robert Projansky.

Regarding:

~~~~~
Masters of passion swayes it to the moode
Of what it likes or loaths, now for your answer:
~~~~~

Another way to read it is:

Whatever controls passion inclines passion to the particular mood
Of whatever passion favors or disfavors, at the time ...

Although that reading is different from what Mr. Projansky suggested, I 
do agree with him on the point that "masters" can be read to make sense. 
  It is certainly not "obviously" wrong.

The subject-verb disagreement in number, in the original, when "masters" 
is read there, was not seen as grammatical error in those  days, the way 
it is now under our stricter schoolroom grammar.  I'm referring to 
"Masters ... sways" which would be marked wrong by an  English teacher 
nowadays.  The word "masters" can't be rejected because it creates 
apparent subject-verb number conflict.  By the standard of the time when 
Shakespeare wrote, it's all right.  Such "errors" in verb number can be 
found in the writings of Queen Elizabeth I, for one, but she was 
definitely a well educated woman.   It seems Elizabethan writers often 
formed the verb number simply from the closest noun, regardless of 
whether the subject noun was singular or plural.

Mr. Projansky is quite rightly making sense of it, in my view, even 
though somewhat different readings are also possible.

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