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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: June ::
A Thoroughly Modern Willie Censorial
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0407  Monday, 25 June 2007

From: 		Sid Lubow <
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Date: 		Friday, 22 Jun 2007 12:37:08 EDT
Subject: 	A Thoroughly Modern Willie Censorial

The 2007 Modern Library Edition has just published, William Shakespeare 
COMPLETE WORKS, edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, along with 
the Royal Shakespeare Company, advertised as the first authoritative, 
modernized, and corrected edition of Shakespeare's First Folio in three 
centuries.

On page 2472, A Lover's Complaint has been removed from the canon by 
this terse note with the blessing of the Royal Shakespeare Company:

* Two sonnets included in The Passionate Pilgrim 1599. Whole sequence, 
with A Lover's Complaint, 1609.   Date of Lover's Complaint unknown: 
vocabulary has been linked to plays of 1603-05 such as All's Well, but 
Shakespeare's authorship has been strongly challenged, so not included 
in this edition.

It was Jonathan Bate, himself, who astutely recognized the "sure sign of 
Narcissus" in the very first of Shakespeare's Sonnets and elsewhere, 
particularly line 10 of sonnet 5, 'A liquid prisoner pent in walls of 
glass', that 'elicits the watery fate of Narcissus'.   Prof. Bate does 
not know, as the "fickle maid" of A Lover's Complaint does, that she has 
consented to live with the mythical self-lover, Narcissus.

May I suggest to Profs. Bate and Brian Vickers, that, with another 
glance at what that "fickle" woman has told us, they might have 
recognized the "sure sign" of the Muse of Tragedy, elpomene, in line 11 
of ALC, "the carkas of a beauty fpent and donne."  The dark lady of the 
Sonnets, herself,   in her "sea-cole robe".*

This stanza from A Lover's Complaint, shows Prof. Bate's lack of 
comprehension not only of ALC, but the Sonnets as well, to which it is 
prologue, and which, miraculously, remained with the Sonnets, published 
in 1609.   She knows it is Narcissus, the same young man of ALC and the 
Sonnets. She, voluntarily tells this to the old shepherd, a scandalmonger:

      "Father fhe faies, though in mee you behold               71
      The iniury of many a blafting houre;
      Let it not tell your Iudgment I am old,
      Not age, but forrow, ouer me hath power;
      I might as yet haue bene a fpreading flower
      Frefh to my felfe, If I had felfe applyed
      Loue to my felfe, and to no Loue befide."               (Italics 
added)

How Shakespeare's ALC managed to survive censorship and stay with the 
Sonnets is truly a remarkable piece of luck, in spite of pretensions of 
"dynamic scholarship that reveals his living text."

Jonathan Bate in The Genius of Shakespeare wrote these unkind words in 
1998, speaking of The Earl of Southampton and others, page 55, Oxford 
University Press:

* It seems to me that an Elizabethan earl of possibly homosexual 
orientation would be more likely to sleep with a married woman of lower 
social status because he wanted to score off her husband than because he 
desired her in herself. Suppose that the young Earl's guardian, who 
wishes to marry him off against his will, places an agent in his 
household in order to report back on the progress of the marriage suit 
and related affairs. Suppose that the      agent is married. To sleep 
with his wife would be the most delicious revenge."

The husband he is referring to is John Florio, the one with the Italian 
language manual, First Fruits, from which phrases started to appear in 
the Bard's works. Jonathan Bates' conclusion is, "My dark lady, then, is 
John Florio's wife."

Instead of finding out what the 'dark lady' is really telling us about 
the new Narcissus of the Sonnets who seduced her in A Lover's Complaint, 
he writes:

* The Sonnets have wrought their magic upon me and forced from me yet 
one more reading to add to all those which they have generated since the 
Romantic period. Their genius is still at work."

If Jonathan Bate did not understand ALC or the Sonnets, no one will, if 
they were to read his and the RSC version of the Sonnets, without ALC in 
front or in back of the Sonnets. You will not have to be a genius to 
understand it, but he will not allow you to read it. The Bard in heaven 
will not enjoy being stifled.   Removing ALC from the canon, and the 
Sonnets, has the same effect on the Bard as removing the 't' from the 
word, 'immortal'.

* A Sonnet upon the pittifull burneing of the Globe playhouse in London.
      Now sitt the downe, Melpomene.
          Wrapt in a sea-cole robe.     2. sea-cole: black (like mineral 
coal),   \
           The Riverside Shakespeare, page 1843, Houghton Mifflin Co.,1974

Respectfully,
Sid Lubow

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