2010

Review of Arden Double Falsehood

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0204  Monday, 24 May 2010

[1]  From:      Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
    Date:      May 20, 2010 3:53:46 PM EDT
    Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0198  Review of Arden Double Falsehood

[2]  From:      Justin Alexander <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
    Date:      May 20, 2010 3:54:06 PM EDT
    Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0198  Review of Arden Double Falsehood

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         May 20, 2010 3:53:46 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0198  Review of Arden Double Falsehood
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0198  Review of Arden Double Falsehood

I agree with a lot in Ron Rosenbaum's piece, but it would have been more informative to his lay audience -- not to mention fairer to Arden and its editor -- to have given at least a bit of the history of the play other than merely to refer to Theobald as a "hack dramatist" without mentioning his editorial credentials. Not a word about the possible connection of Double Falsehood with Cardenio. The Shakespeare Cop should be a little bit more thorough. 

This response on Slate makes the same point: 

http://fray.slate.com/discuss/forums/permalink/3895421/3904708/ShowThread.aspx#3904708

It is also a bit unfair to equate this issue with the Funeral Elegy fiasco, in which Rosenbaum was not entirely alone in rejecting the attribution, despite the Horatius-like stance he assumes. There is something about Ron's repeated reference to that incident which remind me of Captain Queeg and the missing larder key.

Nor does the Arden publication of Double Falsehood legitimatize the "authorship question." If Rosenbaum wants to enter that fray -- and, as I pointed out in my Shakespeare Newsletter review, he wisely avoided doing so in "The Shakespeare Wars" -- he will probably begin by reviewing Jim Shapiro's recent book. I hope he does; it will be fun to watch.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Justin Alexander <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         May 20, 2010 3:54:06 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0198  Review of Arden Double Falsehood
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0198  Review of Arden Double Falsehood

Ron Rosenbaum wrote:

> List members might be interested in my skeptical take on the Arden
> decision to publish <Double Falsehood> under the "The Arden Shakespeare"
> imprimatur. There is nothing wrong with publishing a scholarly edition
> of Theobald's concoction, but I suggest that "The Arden 'May Contain
> Some Shakespeare' Shakespeare" as a more accurate description.
I am not alone: Tiffany Stern's doubts are given the last word in the
> editor's introduction to this new edition.
>
> My essay can be found on <Slate> here: http://www.slate.com/id/2253826/

I've recently been studying Double Falsehood because we'll be including a reading of it in the Complete Readings of William Shakespeare this summer. Not because we think it particularly likely that Shakespeare had a hand in the script, but because we're including a healthy selection from the apocrypha in the reading series. (Just yesterday we finished our reading of Second Maiden's Tragedy, the "other Cardenio".)

But I am somewhat skeptical of the lack of scholastic rigor to be found in some sort of line-by-line "this isn't by Shakespeare, so there must not be any Shakespeare in here" approach to the text. Even if we accept that (a) there was a Cardenio play written by Shakespeare and Fletcher and (b) that everything Theobald said was completely true, that still leaves at least two other authorial hands mucking about in there. Even if the work were evenly divided, that would still only leave us with a one-third chance that any particular line or section was by Shakespeare. That leaves a rather wide field to find examples of "this isn't by Shakespeare" that would tell us absolutely nothing about whether or not there's any Shakespeare to be found in here.

There's also the inevitable temptation in such an approach to take any common line and then compare it to the best of Shakespeare. Shakespeare obviously has a high level of quality, but that doesn't mean that every word he ever wrote is a quotable masterpiece.

For example, "Don't you love 'And, opportune,' a hearse passed by? Opportune, indeed. Has anything more clumsy been done in the name of Shakespeare, who was so masterful at masking the fluidity of plot manipulation?"

Well, yes, actually, "Exit, pursued by a bear" comes to mind. Or, perhaps even more appropriately, there's the ending of Comedy of Errors: Antipholus and Dromio of Syracusa, pursued by the equivalent of an angry mob, are in desperate need of sanctuary when a priory conveniently appears in front of them: "Run, master, run; for God's sake take a house. / This is some priory, in, or we are spoil'd." A priory, which one might, is run by an abbess who turns out to be Antipholus' long-lost mother and is situated immediately before the execution grounds where Antipholus' long-lost father is scheduled to be executed.

One could easily respond that such a passage of transparent plot manipulation was being played deliberately for comic effect. But it could be just as easily answered that two men disguising themselves as monks to sneak into a nunnery can similarly be played for comic effect. And it is just this sort of low comic effect which was frequently written out of Shakespeare's plays or glossed over by 18th century revisers like Theobald, which would neatly explain any apparent awkwardness in this passage.

Which is not to say that, therefore, Double Falsehood should be accepted as Shakespearean. I'm merely pointing out that arguments like these don't actually amount to anything.

On the other hand, from a purely personal perception, I can hardly deny the effect that a "totality of experience" has on my own opinion of a play. Having worked on a dozen Shakespearean texts in close succession as part of the Complete Readings of William Shakespeare, there was a palpable "gear-shift" when it came time to work on Second Maiden's Tragedy. In performance, there was simply an un-Shakespearean feel to the ebb and flow of the play.

In contrast, when we did Edward III we all came away with the distinct feeling that we had just performed a Shakespearean text. Rough and crude, perhaps, in some of its parts (as befitting one of his early plays), but nonetheless language and plot which both flowed like Shakespeare. I don't expect anyone else to be convinced by such an impression, but in combination with the thorough (if not necessarily slam-dunk) scholastic work surrounding Edward III, I know that I'd place my cold, hard cash on Shakespeare. (And I wouldn't put money on Shakespeare's authorship of Second Maiden's Tragedy if my life depended on it.)

It will be interesting to see what my gut tells me about Double Falsehood once we put it in front of an audience.

Justin Alexander
American Shakespeare Repertory
http://www.american-shakespeare.com

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RSC Hamlet with Tennant and Stewart on iTunes

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0203  Monday, 24 May 2010

From:         Herb Weil <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         May 20, 2010 5:07:05 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0201  RSC Hamlet with Tennant and Stewart on iTunes
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0201  RSC Hamlet with Tennant and Stewart on iTunes

Steve Roth <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> wrote, 

> I'm probably not the first to write (don't bother posting if
> so), but the whole production is available online, streaming,
> at:
>
> http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/hamlet/watch-the-film/980/

But NOT in Canada. Restricted rights -- though PBS is happy when we respond to their requests for donations.

Herb Weil
Professor Emeritus
University of Manitoba
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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EEBO Interactions: A Social Network for EEBO

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0206  Thursday, 27 May 2010

From:         Peter White <mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         May 26, 2010 9:50:13 AM EDT
Subject:      EEBO Interactions: A Social Network for Early English Books Online

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Hamlet's Feminine Endings

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0205  Monday, 24 May 2010

[1]  From:      Cary Mazer <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:      May 20, 2010 2:57:15 PM EDT
Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

[2]  From:      Martin Mueller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:      May 20, 2010 3:03:54 PM EDT
Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

[3]  From:      Justin Alexander <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:      May 20, 2010 3:05:39 PM EDT
Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

[4]  From:      John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:      May 20, 2010 3:28:00 PM EDT
Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

[5]  From:      Peter Groves <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:      May 21, 2010 2:35:10 AM EDT
Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Cary Mazer <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         May 20, 2010 2:57:15 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

> After questioning Fortinbras's Captain in IV.iiii, Hamlet's 'How
> all occasions do inform against me' speech begins with a feminine
> ending, and has 5 more, by my count. These are all in the first
> half of the speech, as if he then gets a grip on himself.
>
> Does anyone know of any commentary on this, with its possible
> implication that Hamlet feels emasculated? 

Your question is precisely why, when I teach scansion to my students, I prefer to call it an "unstressed ending." I for one see no correlation between stressed and unstressed endings and masculinity or femininity.

Cary
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.english.upenn.edu/~cmazer/home.html

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Martin Mueller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         May 20, 2010 3:03:54 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

'Masculine' and 'feminine' verse endings, like 'male' and 'female' electrical plugs, depend on metaphors that shouldn't be extended from one domain to another without a lot of thought and caution. You would need a lot of carefully weighted statistical evidence before drawing any thematic conclusions from the distribution of stressed and unstressed final syllables in the blank verse lines of a given character. And any plausible argument along those lines would need to involve comparisons between the speeches of different characters in the same play or similar characters in different plays. 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Justin Alexander <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         May 20, 2010 3:05:39 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

Richard Waugaman wrote:

> After questioning Fortinbras's Captain in IV.iiii, Hamlet's 'How
> all occasions do inform against me' speech begins with a feminine
> ending, and has 5 more, by my count. These are all in the first
> half of the speech, as if he then gets a grip on himself.
>
> Does anyone know of any commentary on this, with its possible
> implication that Hamlet feels emasculated? 

When did the term "feminine ending" actually come into use? I've often tried to find an etymological history of the term, but I've never found one. As a result, I've always been skeptical of theories drawing a connection between verse structure and gender identification because I've never seen an Elizabethan source referring to verse structure in gender-ized terms, but I've also never studied the issue in detail.

Justin Alexander
American Shakespeare Repertory
http://www.american-shakespeare.com

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         May 20, 2010 3:28:00 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

Richard Waugaman wrote:

> Does anyone know of any commentary on this, with its possible
> implication that Hamlet feels emasculated?

I think that you ought to first carefully consider when a "feminine ending" was first called a "feminine ending".

John Briggs

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Peter Groves <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         May 21, 2010 2:35:10 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0200  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

As many others will no doubt point out, the word "feminine" in "feminine ending" refers to grammatical gender, not biological or cultural gender -- specifically to the fact that feminine adjectives in French tend to have an extra final schwa that may be pronounced in metred verse (e.g.  "La froid? cruaut? | de ce soleil de glace." vs "Ell? veut de ses chants | peupler l'air froid des nuits").

The point about feminine endings is that they impede the rush from one line into the next and are therefore appropriate to meditative verse:

To be, or not to be -- that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

Peter Groves
Monash University

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Shakespeare Bookshop Newsletter

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0207  Thursday, 27 May 2010

From:         Will Sharpe <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         May 25, 2010 7:05:41 AM EDT
Subject:      Shakespeare Bookshop Newsletter

Dear SHAKSPERians,

The latest edition of the Shakespeare Bookshop Newsletter, featuring a review of James Shapiro's Contested Will, can be accessed here:

http://www.shakespeare.org.uk/gallery3/var/albums/bookshopnews16.pdf

The issues have now been archived, accessible through the bookshop's main page, or simply by altering the number at the end of the URL (bookshopnews15, 14 etc.)

All very best,
Will Sharpe

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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.

 

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