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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: May ::
FYI Ron Rosenbaum's Shakespeare List
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0281  Friday, 9 May 2008

[1] 	From:	Abigail Quart <
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	Date:	Thursday, 8 May 2008 12:33:47 -0400
	Subj:	RE: SHK 19.0273 FYI Ron Rosenbaum's Shakespeare List

[2] 	From:	David Basch <
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	Date:	Thursday, 08 May 2008 16:39:37 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0273 FYI Ron Rosenbaum's Shakespeare List

[3] 	From:	Bob Grumman <
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	Date:	Thursday, 08 May 2008 16:36:51 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0273 FYI Ron Rosenbaum's Shakespeare List


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Abigail Quart <
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Date:		Thursday, 8 May 2008 12:33:47 -0400
Subject: 19.0273 FYI Ron Rosenbaum's Shakespeare List
Comment:	RE: SHK 19.0273 FYI Ron Rosenbaum's Shakespeare List

Gossip sells. Doesn't matter if it's 400 years old. Anyone who could dig 
up the real dirt on Shakespeare's marriage would have a bestseller, and 
we know it. Failing that, and we have, plausible speculation is the next 
best thing.  And I understand that it makes scholars livid. It should. 
It has to. But it's the height of silliness to think we'll stop. Whether 
it's a fit topic for the SHAKSPER List, of course, is Hardy's decision.

My sticking point is always the children. One. Then twins. Then nothing. 
  Three children argues the couple was fertile. Husbands were entitled 
to boink their wives whether they loved them or not. Yet, no more 
babies. Ann was 40 when her son died the same year the Shakespeare 
family got its Grant of Arms in an ugly irony. Was there really no 
attempt to make another heir?  How could anyone with a passion for 
history not wonder what was happening in that house that year? Or why 
there were no babies in the intervening years?

Speculation, vast imaginary edifices built on the tiniest shards of 
fact, is anathema to scholarship. But . . . but . . . I saw Stallone's 
_Demolition Man_ the other day . . . again. There was a great big screen 
on his apartment wall. It accessed the internet, controlled the 
apartment, acted as a videophone, did all sorts of things that did not 
exist when the movie was made. But some of it exists now, and the rest 
is clearly beginning to join the real instead of the fictional world. 
Speculation keeps our brains alive and alert. It causes us to pay vast 
attention to tiny little bits of nearly nothing . . . so when another 
little bit of nearly nothing turns up, we can make a logical guess where 
it belongs.

No, we don't need to know anything about Shakespeare's personal life to 
enjoy or study the plays. In fact, with so many different personal lives 
touted for the author of Shakespeare's works, it can get painfully 
confusing.

But William Shakespeare is a literary celebrity. Possibly THE literary 
celebrity. One. Then twins. Then nothing. Sorry. Gotta wonder.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		David Basch <
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Date:		Thursday, 08 May 2008 16:39:37 -0400
Subject: 19.0273 FYI Ron Rosenbaum's Shakespeare List
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0273 FYI Ron Rosenbaum's Shakespeare List

While Marilyn Bonomi expresses her own deep uncertainties about the 
personal Shakespeare and the purpose and meaning of the poems of his 
Sonnets, this does not mean that the rest of us need do this to the 
extent she does. After all, scholars of the caliber of Stephen Booth and 
Helen Vendler think they can be guided by the poet's words in these 
poems. They took these poems as the poet's expression of his views and I 
think most do.

What indeed does Sonnet 145 tell? It does convey a voice that tells of 
its admiration for the woman sonneteered. She is subtly described as the 
bearer of admirable qualities and one who is cherished by the writer. In 
addition, Shakespeare has taken the effort to arrange the letters of 
this sonnet so that they create configurations that repeat the full name 
of his wife more than a few times. It seems evident that he means his 
wife here.

How then is this not "substantive support for anything about 
Shakespeare's emotional state"? It strongly counters Marilyn's dogmatic 
assertion that "we don't have a single actual bit of verifiable, 
testable information as to William Shakespeare's feelings about his wife 
Anne Hathaway." If anything, this is it.

Bob Grumman too takes the occasion of the discussion of this sonnet to 
emphasize how little we know about the actual quality of Shakespeare's 
marriage. Some of his questions, such as to whether his wife was "the 
love of his life," are straw men. But unlike Marilyn, Bob is willing to 
take the poem as expressing a datum of the poet's feeling at some moment 
in his life. In the vast void of lack of information on the poet, this 
expression of his feeling is "something" and not nothing at all. It 
certainly tells us something of the playfulness of the poet's mind and 
his capacity for inventiveness in juggling the words of a poem so that 
its letters take on such configurations.

It is speculation as to when Sonnet 145 was written. Its unusual form in 
tetrameter may have been the result of the poet's wishing to contrive it 
to include the versions of Anne's name within it and not the fact that 
it was taken over from an earlier period. We do know for a fact that two 
poems (138 and 144) that ended up in the 1610 Sonnets were in existence 
a dozen years earlier and underwent slight modification. This too could 
have been true for Sonnet 145.

In any case, this poem's inclusion in the Sonnets collection seems meant 
to tell us something and this should not be lightly dismissed if we are 
interested in probing further into the heart of this poet. There is 
"intention" expressed here. Let us take due note of it in the rare 
instances that we find it.

David Basch

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Bob Grumman <
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Date:		Thursday, 08 May 2008 16:36:51 -0500
Subject: 19.0273 FYI Ron Rosenbaum's Shakespeare List
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0273 FYI Ron Rosenbaum's Shakespeare List

According to Brian Willis, "Part of Ron's point, and a very judicious 
one, is that a preponderance of evidence doesn't exist to evaluate the 
state of Will's love life." If that's his very judicious point, fine -- 
but he shouldn't claim that there's no evidence Shakespeare loved his 
wife. I would add that marriage is without question evidence that the 
two people involved love each other. The fact that sometimes people who 
don't love each other nonetheless marry each other does not make it 
non-evidence of that, merely inconclusive evidence.

As I said in my post, we lack sufficient evidence in the matter to say 
anything conclusive. I am most certainly not trying to determine 
important issues about the biography of Shakespeare. I am only popping 
off at a foolish statement by someone who seems not to know what 
"evidence" means, something that occurs too often in discussions about 
Shakespeare.

--Bob G.

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