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

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0218  Monday, 6 May 2013

 

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

     Date:         May 4, 2013 5:57:49 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: Greenblatt’s Freedom SONNET 148

 

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

     Date:         May 5, 2013 9:27:28 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: Greenblatt 

 

 

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

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

Date:         May 4, 2013 5:57:49 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Greenblatt’s Freedom SONNET 148

 

I confess—as I reread and then thought about Sonnet 148, a song leaped into my consciousness—

 

From the Rogers and Hammerstein score for the TV Cinderella . . .

 

The Prince sings first to Cinderella, asking “Do I love you because you’re beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?”

 

I suspect Mr. Hammerstein was familiar with Shakespeare :)

 

Mari Bonomi

 

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

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

Date:         May 5, 2013 9:27:28 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Greenblatt

 

Will Sharpe says I caused some confusion by being imprecise, and I think he may be right. I do think, though, that I can claim a little poetic license, and even reasonable accord with the vernacular, in witness whereof I cite the fact that Will knew what I was trying to say. Consider: “They docked his pay for being late—and he wasn’t late!” 

 

To look again at the lines in question:

 

O me, what eyes hath love put in my head,

Which have no correspondence with true sight!

Or if they have, where is my judgement fled,

That censures falsely what they see aright?

 

The sigh of the first two lines makes the judgment that the beloved is truly ugly (imperfect or unbeautiful perhaps, but ugly will do for the moment). It also expresses something else. Exasperation? The “me” of “O me” is hard to pin down. But the judgment is, it seems, correct. Until the beginning of the next line, which suggests the possibility that the eyes of love, contradicting judgment, might see the truth: the beloved is really beautiful.

 

This speculation comes from something other than the eyes. We would need judgment to see that the eyes of love are seeing truly. But the original judgment would then be contradicted by this new, better judgment. This implicit judgment, though, is not what is called judgment in these lines. Instead the assumption is that there are a) the beloved as seen with the eyes of love; b) the beloved as “seen” by judgment; c) truth. 

 

So judgment says that the beloved is ugly, while the eyes of love say s/he is beautiful. If the eyes of love see truly, then judgment judges the beloved falsely. We take “censure” to be negative, and so to imply “ugly”, but Duncan-Jones (I haven’t located a Booth yet) says it then had no such connotation. It simply meant to judge. This bit of information I would call esoteric. Maybe it’s right. Or maybe there are indications that the word had already begun its transformation into the word as we use it now. In either case, the judgment makes a false judgment—a little tricky since the judging seems to be done here while the judgment is fled. One might say, How could I have made such a false judgment? My judgment must be gone! Or maybe out to lunch.

 

Still the core idea of lines 3 and 4 remains: the judgment does not falsely regard the beloved as beautiful. It falsely regards the beloved as ugly. There are no two ways about it: Greenblatt has made a mistake. Whether this is just a small, atypical mistake in a paradigm-shifting book awaits the judgment of posterity. My initial impression is that the book is wrong and misleading in a number of ways, and, on the whole, rather dull. But maybe those who love it see aright.

 

Moving on to the next line: “If that be fair whereon my false eyes dote”—we might conclude that Shakespeare can make your head spin.

 

Best wishes,

David Bishop 

 
 

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