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The Sonnets

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.207  Wednesday, 23 April 2014

 

[Editor’s Note: It seems to me that this thread has passed its useful period. Discussion seems to be going on at cross-purposes. I will allow one or two more rounds but that’s it. -Hardy]

 

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

     Date:         April 23, 2014 at 5:00:58 AM EDT

     Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: The Sonnets 

 

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

     Date:         April 23, 2014 at 6:30:00 AM EDT

     Subject:    Sonnets 

 

 

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

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

Date:         April 23, 2014 at 5:00:58 AM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: The Sonnets

 

Ian Steere is missing my point entirely.

 

On the question of Shakespeare’s alleged attendance at the grammar school in Stratford all that we can say is that this is ‘possible’ though no documentary evidence exists to convert that possibility into a certainty. This alleged ‘fact’ and the links that take some biographers up to Lancashire (and for which there exists one dubious piece of documentary evidence: the name ‘Shakeshaft’) is part of an attempt to establish the erudition that the writings display. We cannot go beyond conjecture in this matter, nor can we conclude from various Latin lessons that appear in the plays (the linguistic dialogue between Holofernes and Sir Nathaniel in LLL, or the Latin lesson in The Taming of the Shrew) that this represents Shakespeare’s ACTUAL experience. My point about raising the issue of Shakespeare having contracted venereal disease is that this appears in Katherine Duncan-Jones’ ‘Ungentle Shakespeare’, and again much more extravagantly in Rene Weiss’s ‘Shakespeare Revealed’, and if we are to follow its logic through to a conclusion then we must conclude that no critic can write forcefully on such an issue unless they themselves have ‘experienced’ the phenomenon for themselves. This, of course, flies directly in the face of what generations of teachers have taught students about the vicarious experience that ‘literature’ provides.

 

On the question of the Sonnets as a ‘private’ correspondence that inadvertently finds its way into print, there are 2 points to make:

 

1. Is Ian Steere certain that the Mr W.H. is Wriothesley? In this he follows a number of biographers but adds his own fillip to th story he is trying to tell.

 

2. I have no objection to his creating whatever narrative fiction he wants to for the Sonnets, but it IS a narrative fiction whose details come together in his own mind. MY objections to his coherent narrative is that it doesn’t accord with my reading of the Sonnets.  Which is another way of saying that he is reading the Sonnets in a particular way that he is not prepared to discuss.  Using Shakespeare’s writings to infer ‘facts’ about his biography is to engage in what Bruno Latour calls ‘factishes’: that is to say one identifies the fetishes of others but neglects one’s own fetishistic tendencies.

 

Refutation of Ian Steere’s claims seems to me to be a pointless exercise since he refuses to acknowledge the foundations upon which his claims rest. That would be much more interesting to debate than the regurgitated ‘facts’ that he offers us, and that a cursory reading of a range of biographies will yield. Shakespeare’s texts are emphatically NOT transparent windows through which we can clearly glimpse the ‘personality’ of the poet. It doesn’t make the writing any less remarkable, but it does present us with some serious methodological challenges. The point is that we need to have a different kind of debate from the one that Ian Steere wants to mire us in one in which we are not constrained by answers such as ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘maybe’.

 

Cheers

John D

 

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

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

Date:         April 23, 2014 at 6:30:00 AM EDT

Subject:    Sonnets

 

My thanks to Julia for her link to Barbara Everett’s piece. However, the latter does not justify Julia’s view: that “Where she [Barbara] is so clever is that she trashes the autobiographical” - unless she means merely that Barbara is disparaging.

 

Certainly the latter feature is true. However, in support of her stance Barbara offers mainly speculation, incomplete evidence and opinion based thereon. For example: she, too, thinks that there is no coherent narrative sequence to be perceived in the poems - that “the narrative-seeking mind would be bewildered”. Yet in this thread I have put forward a narrative sequence which makes complete sense and which (of equal significance) coheres with independent historical data.

 

Another snippet from Barbara: Considering the first 17 of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, C.S. Lewis asked impatiently: “What man in the whole world, except a father or a potential father-in-law, cares whether any other man gets married?”.  Well, perhaps few or none. But the appearance of such care would certainly be relevant to a poet anxious to curry favor with an onlooking senior circle who wanted that man married.

 

If Julia will examine the evidence to which I have pointed, she will see that most of the unresolved quandaries described in Barbara’s article (including the strange circumstances of the original publication of the poems) are offered unusually sensible solutions by that evidence. If, after her examination, she continues to doubt this assurance, I will be happy to discuss her points of concern (either in open forum or privately). Here, once more, is a gateway to the wider argument.

 

In any case, it is illogical for her to rely solely on an article which predates much of the discovery under discussion. I say again: will she now identify the errors of fact or application in the previously aired 7-step argument (which leads to a conclusion of high probability that the Sonnets represented correspondence to Wriothesley)?  

 
 

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