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Home :: Archive :: 2013 :: May ::
Greenblatt’s Freedom

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0211  Saturday, 4 May 2013

 

[1] From:        Will Sharpe < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         April 27, 2013 12:51:24 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Greenblatt’s Freedom 

 

[2] From:        Ira Zinlaw < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         April 29, 2013 9:44:21 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Greenblatt’s Freedom SONNET 148

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Will Sharpe < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         April 27, 2013 12:51:24 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Greenblatt’s Freedom

 

Greenblatt’s Freedom

 

I think there are a few crossed wires here though I think the right reading has been proposed between them. David Bishop says:

 

>The last two lines could be 

>paraphrased: Or if the eyes of love have correspondence with 

>true sight, my judgment falsely censures my love for being 

>unbeautiful. 

 

John Crowley then claims to agree with Larry Weiss (who disagrees with Bishop) saying:

 

The lines open by saying that love has put eyes in the poet’s head that have no correspondence with true sight—i.e. that see as beautiful what is actually ugly. (“If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head” etc.) Then the opposite is posited: maybe my new eyes DO have correspondence with true sight, and what I see as beautiful IS beautiful, and it’s my judgment that has “fled away” and judges (falsely) as ugly what they see as beautiful.

 

I think John actually is agreeing with David, and if I may propose a reading of David's paraphrase, I think what he means when he says 'for' is actually 'as'. 'For' gives the impression that the object of love is objectively ugly, but I think he meant to convey the sense of a false interpretation on the part of the poet's judgement. He goes on to say:

 

>The oddness of saying that “censure falsely” 

>means “regard as beautiful” might warn us off this interpretation, 

>though perhaps an attraction to the esoteric can override the 

>warning.

>I wonder if others agree. 

 

I do. I think ‘censure falsely’ means what both David and John are suggesting, albeit that I think David’s unintentionally slippery preposition caused confusion. The reading of ‘censure falsely’ as ‘regard as beautiful’ makes no sense to me. The judgement has obviously fled because it’s not there to tell him that the person is ugly (all he can see is his/her beauty), but even if it were it would be wrong (because it has been established by the hypothetical proposition that his eyes DO objectively have correspondence with true sight).

 

Of course Greenblatt is right that the sense of the testimony of the eyes being contradicted is in there, but I think the way he arrives at that conclusion is a little illogical. He’s saying that it’s the judgement that is pushing the idea of the person’s beauty, and not the eyes. I imagine the way this happened is that in the course of quickly writing another extraordinarily ambitious, paradigm-shifting book he let control of one small reading among hundreds – forming an enormously broad picture – slip away from him.

 

Best,

Will

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Ira Zinlaw < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         April 29, 2013 9:44:21 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Greenblatt’s Freedom SONNET 148

 

I like Tony's comment that Shakespeare makes nearly everyone look good . . . 

 

Looking at Sonnet 148, I think it is helpful to see how its following Sonnet 147, and others which precede it to shed some light on how one may interpret it.  As for me, here is my offering on it:

   

In Sonnet 147, the Poet says that “reason . . . hath left me, and I desperate now approve desire is death.” (Sonnet 147.7-8) In Sonnet 148, the Poet takes no responsibility for using free will to engage in his desires, but blames “love” for the state he is in. “What eyes hath Love put in my head.”  Who or what is this Love?

 

There are variable meanings that we look at to try and understand where the Poet takes us in Sonnet 148. If “Love” refers to The Creator, who lovingly created Man in His Image, He has indeed given us physical eyes. If one chooses to have the eyes of Sonnet 137.2, that “see not what they see” because they are “blind” (Sonnet 137.1), then they understandably may be called “false eyes.” If “Love,” in line 1, is the kind described in Sonnet 147, “my love is a fever, longing still” wherein “Love is my sin” (Sonnet 142.1), then this means love of wanton desires and worldly pleasures. In either case, whether “Love” is The Creator, or “Love” is desire for the worldly, if wrongfully used, the eyes are transferred to the “false plague” of Sonnet 137.14.

 

Finally, there is the esoteric interpretation of the physical “eyes” in line 1, which “have no correspondence with true sight.” “True sight” is spiritual vision, or intuition, which does not depend on the physical eyes.

 

Even if the eyes have the physical ability to see, the mind must be capable of discernment. “Or, if they have, where is my judgment fled, That censures falsely what they see aright?” In Sonnet 147, we read: “my reason . . . hath left me” and “my thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are.” (Sonnet 147.5, 11) It would not be possible, if reason has departed, to determine then whether “false eyes dote” upon what is “fair.”

 

The Poet goes on to state that the world may disagree on what is “true” or “fair,” but love itself may reveal truth. “If it be not, then love doth well denote.” Perhaps true love may reveal truth, but if “love’s eye” means the “false eyes” that dote in a love-sick way, then “Love’s eye is not so true as all men’s: no. In other words, the “false eyes” that feed an “uncertain sickly appetite” (Sonnet 147.4) are not as reliable as the judgment of mankind in general, i.e. those that understand the temptations that cause one to be “vexed with watching and with tears.”

 

Even the sun’s light cannot shine until the clouds dissipate, so no wonder, says the Poet, that he is mistaken in his view of things. “No marvel then, though I mistake my view. The sun itself sees not till heaven clears.”

 

The “cunning love” that is a “fever, longing still” for that which causes “disease” is vexation, and this causes tears of sorrow. (Sonnet 142.1, 2) The “cunning love” is both the love of worldly temptations, and the “the worser spirit a woman, colour’d ill,” or the self-centered ego that tries to “corrupt my saint to be a devil.” (Sonnet 144.4, 7) Without unrelenting worldly desires, or an ego “who like a fiend” (Sonnet 145.11) “keep’st me blind,” the eyes might be “well-seeing” enough to perceive the “foul faults” of worldly entrapments.

 

*******

So Tony, and all, Shakespeare gives ample scope to allow so many interpretations . . . nearly all of which are capable of being correct . . . and always food for thought.

 

Best wishes,

Ira 

 
 

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