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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: December ::
I'm PUZZLED
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0619  Friday, 18 December 2009

From:       Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:       Friday, December 18, 2009
Subject:    I'm PUZZLED

Dear SHAKSPEReans,

I am concerned about the recent spate of puzzle / riddle / hidden 
meaning postings on the list.

Since I am pledged to striving to distribute posts that are of interest 
to the academic Shakespeare community, I am going to call for a slowing 
down if not stopping of postings about anagrams / puzzles / riddles / 
ciphers / codes / and other hidden meanings.

Many, if not most, of these messages are based on the belief that the 
authorial presence behind the plays/poems was fond of embedding hidden 
messages in them. This proposition has not to my satisfaction been 
demonstrated. Now, puns -- language play -- that is another matter. I 
accept without reservation that, let's called the author Shakespeare, 
Shakespeare was fond, as many Early Moderns were, of punning, of playing 
with language. But I cannot accept that Shakespeare was "addicted" to 
including puzzles or ciphers throughout his writing.

On a more speculative realm, it appears to me that the desire to find 
puzzles could be closely related to the desire to attribute the works to 
someone other than William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon based upon 
the finding of hidden messages in the texts by the adepts. Both of these 
approaches are from my point of view wish fulfillment pursuits.

Agamemnon opens Act One, scene three, of _Troilus and Cressida_ saying,

Princes:
What greefe hath set the Iaundies on your cheekes?
The ample proposition that hope makes
In all designes, begun on earth below
Fayles in the promist largenesse: checkes and disasters
Grow in the veines of actions highest rear'd.
As knots by the conflux of meeting sap,
Infect the sound Pine, and diuerts his Graine
Tortiue and erant from his course of growth.

"The ample proposition that hope makes / In all designes."

To me, finding puzzles in Shakespeare is a proposition that is made by 
hope. The puzzles are there often because the seeker wishes/hopes to 
find them there. The initiates, adepts, masters, magi, maguses, seerers, 
sorcerers, vaticinators, prognosticators, and magisters uncover the 
hidden knowledge and having divined the hidden meanings or the secret 
author are now prepared to share their discoveries with us.

I am sorry if I am coming across too harshly here (actually, much of 
what I am writing is an exercise in Rhetoric), but I too, as all of us 
are, am on a quest, at least as long as I am breathing, and I am 
concerned about discerning what is genuine from what is not. And I have 
found myself, even as I regularly visit a healer, skeptical of 
conspiracies and of "I-know-something-you-don't-know" thinking.

I freely confess that I am expressing my prejudices. You may agree with 
me or you may argue with me, but I am the gatekeeper for the list and I 
would like to slow down or eliminate all together most postings about 
puzzles, riddles, ciphers, and so on at least for the time being.

Hardy M .Cook, Ph.D.
Editor of SHAKSPER

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