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Shakespeare the Grain-Dealing Tax Evader

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0191  Friday, 19 April 2013

 

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

     Date:         April 18, 2013 4:59:24 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ben Jonson on grain-hoarding 

 

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

     Date:         April 18, 2013 5:33:41 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Sh. Businessman 

 

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

     Date:         April 18, 2013 8:20:22 PM EDT

     Subject:     Shakespeare Businessman 

 

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

     Date:         April 19, 2013 1:13:39 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman 

 

 

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

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

Date:         April 18, 2013 4:59:24 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ben Jonson on grain-hoarding

 

John Drakakis writes:

 

“Anyone who thinks that a literary text is a transparent window offering direct access to the soul of the writer has obviously been fast asleep for the past 30 years.”

 

Curiously, the many-sided portrait Ben Jonson gives us of a grain-hoarder in Every Man Out of His Humour plays on our desire for romantic meanings and/or transparent access to the author’s soul. We see Sordido from the perspective of Macilente, (who envies his wealth more than he hates Sordido’s practices), then through the eyes of his cautious ‘hinds’, who carry out his plans of hiding his grain. When good weather foils his plans, and Sordido tries to hang himself, we hear what the rustics think of him.  And, just when we think Jonson might be giving us something sincere to cheer our heart (in Sordido’s ‘conversion’), he dampens our expectations with a dry comment from ‘Mitis’ on “the warping condition of this green and soggy multitude . . . ”

 

Has anyone ventured to speculate on an Elizabethan ‘parallel’ for ‘Sordido’?  Shakespeare’s Uncle Henry, perhaps, who died in 1596, owing money but with barns and garners full?

 

Marie Merkel 

 

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

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

Date:         April 18, 2013 5:33:41 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Sh. Businessman

 

I’m dumbfounded by the “gee whiz” reaction and longevity of debate over the records of Shakespeare’s activities as a businessman. Even if the evidence was clear that Shakespeare’s behavior was outside the contemporary norms of his various businesses—and it sure isn’t—why should anyone expect him to have lived his entire life according to the highest ideals of his imagination? Who among us would meet that standard? All the evidence is that human nature is to the contrary even among the most admirable. We know that Thomas Jefferson kept slaves, despite the higher ideals of he incorporated in the Declaration of Independence. And know of St. Augustine’s famous prayer, “Oh Lord, give me chastity and temperance, but not just yet.”  Browning put it well with his “man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”  

 

We are all to some extent bridges between our higher visions and ideals, and our compromises with the vision-narrowing circumstances of our lives. We can be thankful to Shakespeare that his own bridge spanned a greater distance than most, that his higher vision and ideals are still higher and more admirable than most of us have attained, and they still present a heaven of ideals for growth and improvement beyond our individual readiness to grasp, just yet.

 

Give the guy a break, and read his stuff. It’ll do you good.

 

Tony Burton 

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         April 18, 2013 8:20:22 PM EDT

Subject:     Shakespeare Businessman

 

I had a good laugh over Larry Weiss’s last letter. He calls me a whore and a nun, channeling the spirit of Jimmy Swaggart, no doubt. This is the man who objectively evaluated my book for the readers of this listserv.

 

Larry defines an agnostic as one who won’t take a position in a controversy. Actually it just means someone who admits he doesn’t know, or is unsure, like Socrates. In the present case, I’m just asking questions and am doubtless corrupting the youth too. Pass the goblet, Larry.

 

Larry refers to one of my cartoons. It shows a monkey at a typewriter with a speech balloon: “Shakespeare? De Vere? Marlowe? Nah, me and my mates did it.” A tiny Shakespeare in the corner thinks: “Must have taken them forever.”

 

He also quotes me out of context, making it sound as though I am cynically exploiting my Oxfordian colleagues. Here’s the actual citation, from the introduction to The Tragedy of Richard II, Part One: A Newly Authenticated Play by William Shakespeare (2006):

 

Neglected by scholars through the latter half of the last century, the new millennium brought the play fresh and increased attention, particularly from Oxfordians, a group more interested in the general authorship debate than exegesis pure. But causes have their uses, and it’s largely thanks to their commitment that the Hampshire Shakespeare Company, Oxford Street Players and Pacific Repertory Theatre staged their productions in 1999-2001 (p. 89).

 

In a second letter, Weiss says of Shakespeare’s apparent moral hypocrisy, “we have no way of telling, as we have nothing in his own voice that contradicts something else he said or did in his personal dealings.” This is as much to say that the plays are about nothing and have no point of view. That’s obviously nonsense. Surely the large-souled humanitarian who created Lear, Measure for Measure, Hamlet and the rest, was acting in direct contradiction to their spirit and meaning when he withheld food from the hungry.

 

As for me, “No man is a hypocrite in his pleasures,” said Dr Johnson.

 

Michael Egan

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         April 19, 2013 1:13:39 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman

 

I only wish the original story that started this Shakespeare-as-grain-hoarder debate had been linked to the Jezebel article with its Buffyized headline: “Shakespeare Was Kind of a Greedy Asshole, Argue Judgey Academics.”

 

http://jezebel.com/5993060/shakespeare-was-kind-of-a-greedy-asshole-argue-judgey-academics

 

[Editor’s Note: The last paragraph of the above piece is this:

 

Exploit their plight how, exactly? By paralleling it to the story of the uncompromising Roman patrician Coriolanus, who helps keep all the grubby plebeian hands away from Rome’s grain stores. Shakespeare wrote (somewhere Roland Emmerich is scoffing) his play Coriolanus in 1607 at around the time of a grain revolt in the Midlands. Odds are, Shakespeare would have totally been that guy to leave an iambic pentameter insult instead of a tip on a restaurant receipt.

 

The Coriolanus connection has been mentioned before. As it happens, last evening I saw the Shakespeare Theatre’s Coriolanus. What I realized by the end was that I really don’t like the play. Despite the play’s being a favorite of both Hitler and Bertolt Brecht, I realized this time around that I felt as though there is a deep disconnect between the elements of the play: Coriolanus is a complete jerk, her mother is a psychotic, and the both the plebeians and the patricians have little or no redeeming qualities. –Hardy]

 
 

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