Hebrew Verbs

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0203  Friday, 25 May 2012

 

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

Date:         May 24, 2012 12:47:10 PM EDT

Subject:     RE: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs

 

I wonder if the sentence in question, though it has a number of biblical resonances, points elsewhere in ‘Othello’, giving Iago’s utterance a heavily ironic context. The direction in which I am thinking is the hero himself who clearly is not what he is: he has a ‘black’ exterior but ‘fair’ interior. He is only present to himself briefly in Act 5 immediately after the murder of Desdemona, and it is Aemilia who points this out, although it is never sustained.  The issue here, surely is one of ‘presence’ in the Derridean sense of the term.  Absolute ‘presence’ might be ‘God’ as in the opening of NT John. Iago is surely identified as ‘satanic, though I’m not sure that Joe Egert’s invocation of Coleridge’s ‘motiveless malignity’ is of much help. Iago’s problem is that he has an abundance of motives, some of which he shares with Claudius, or Macbeth, and these we can unpack in relation to different forms of ‘ambition’. In Othello—as elsewhere in Shakespeare, there are repetitions of the conflict between God and Satan and this clearly structures Renaissance psychology in interesting and nuanced ways. Ours is a much more secular account of motivation (as Andre Greene’s reading in ‘The Tragic Effect’ might suggest). 

 

I’m not sure that the claimed link with Viola is very helpful either, since the context in TN is completely different; although it has to be admitted that the actor, always in disguise, and the dramatist conscious of the practice, both have open to them this ‘fact’ as a powerful metaphorical resource.

 

Cheers

John Drakakis

Maria in Twelfth Night, Act 5

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0202  Friday, 25 May 2012

 

From:        John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         May 24, 2012 10:39:57 PM EDT

Subject:     Maria in Twelfth Night, Act 5

 

Has anyone ever come up with a convincing explanation as to why Maria is not present in Act 5 of Twelfth Night? Her absence is not dramatically convincing, and it can’t be for any weird doubling reason, e.g. with Sebastian (although superficially plausible, that would have resulted in at least two impossible exits/entries.)

 

John Briggs

Hebrew Verbs

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0201  Thursday, 24 May 2012

 

[1] From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         May 23, 2012 4:23:42 PM EDTc 

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew

 

[2] From:        Joseph Egert <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         May 23, 2012 4:45:36 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: Hebrew Verbs

 

[3] From:        S. L. Kasten <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         May 24, 2012 7:20:19 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God 

 

 

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

From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         May 23, 2012 4:23:42 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew

 

>I’m sorry, Larry, but the reverse of a well-known biblical positive has 

>a great deal of importance. In Iago’s case, it identifies him with Satan 

>and privative evil.  In Viola’s case, it identifies her, however playfully, 

>with the traditional prejudice against theatrical performance as a 

>manifestation of that same evil in order to subvert the equation. 

 

Actually, I was not taking a position as to whether there is a connection  between Iago’s and Viola’s statements and the passage in Exodus. I was just trying to refocus on the mission of this List.

 

The suggestions of some members that Iago’s declaration is intended to equate himself to Satan, as possibly confirmed by Othello’s looking at his feet (but even Othello acknowledges “that’s a fable”), is intriguing.  But wouldn’t the parallel be “I am what I am not,” rather than “I am not what I am”?  It is a greater stretch to find a connection between Viola’s statement and the biblical passage, as these responses show.

 

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

From:        Joseph Egert <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         May 23, 2012 4:45:36 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Hebrew Verbs

 

Hannibal Hamlin supposes

 

>one could argue that Iago’s statement is also just a confession of 

>dissembling, but I have Coleridge’s remark in mind about his “motiveless 

>malignity” which seems right—and there are the satanic allusions.

 

Indeed, these allusions are so striking and so carefully wrought as to cast doubt whether Iago’s ‘malignity’ was truly ‘motiveless’:

 

http://shaksper.net/archive/2009/274-april/26913-playing-iago

 

Joe Egert 

 

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

From:        S. L. Kasten <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         May 24, 2012 7:20:19 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God

 

Larry Weiss asked:

 

>To bring this back to Shakespeare, does anyone think this “I am” stuff 

>has anything to do with Iago or Viola, both of whom declare that “I am 

>not what I am”?

 

As usual a seemingly throwaway remark by Larry opens interesting avenues: Whom Iago would destroy he first makes mad. 

 

The Viola connection seems deeper but given enough time and fluency in the narrative, literary and religious, one might succeed in reading the metaphor suggested by this borrowed, albeit inverted, phraseology.

 

All the best,

Syd Kasten

Hebrew Verbs

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0200  Wednesday, 23 May 2012

[Editor’s Note:

 

“I believe in God and Senator Dodd and keeping old Castro down. And when it came my time to serve I knew better dead than Red. But when I got to my old draft board, Buddy, this is what I said. . . . ” Phil Ochs “Draft Dodger Rag” from I Ain’t Marching Any More

 

I have no problem with discussions of the JKV or Hebrew rendering in JKV or echoes of Biblical lines in Shakespeare; however, I do not think this is an appropriate forum for discussion of the existence of God or god or G-d, if you prefer. 

 

Disclaimer: I myself am a practicing, non-theistic western Buddhist in the Theravada (Insight Meditation) tradition and pacifist draft dodger. 

 

--Hardy Cook]

 

 

[1] From:        David Basch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         May 22, 2012 11:25:48 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God

 

[2] From:        David Frydrychowski <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         May 22, 2012 12:50:07 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and G-d

 

[3] From:        Hannibal Hamlin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         May 22, 2012 12:56:07 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God

 

[4] From:        Donald Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         May 22, 2012 4:43:27 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God

 

[5] From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         May 22, 2012 6:01:24 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God

 

[6] From:        Arthur Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         May 23, 2012 3:55:54 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God

 

 

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

From:        David Basch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         May 22, 2012 11:25:48 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God

 

Markus Marti wrote on May 21, 2012:

 

> Is not the existence of this god person nonsensical?

 

As Hamlet says to the scholar-skeptic, Horatio, after they have had that inexplicable experience involving a ghost—a kind of inexplicable experience of many varieties that many persons have from time to time reported experiencing—he gives the following thoughtful reaction:

 

   There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of

   in our philosophy.

 

I think it was Aldous Huxley that paraphrased this remark when he defined a philosopher as “someone who dreams of less things than there are in heaven and earth.”

 

Concerning the question of whether the paraphrase “I am not what I am,” as stated by Viola and by Iago, is related to the version in Exodus 3:14, how can any one think that Shakespeare did not have that biblical comment in mind?

 

In the case of Viola, it is a playful comment since she is posing as a young man and pointing to the unreality of her pose that complicates her love for Orsino. But the phrase takes on a more ominous and serious tone when stated by Iago, who poses as "honest Iago" and a friend of Othello. In the latter, it points to the world of his evil reality juxtaposed with a reality of God's goodness, which vastness it is meant to contrast.

 

David Basch

 

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

From:        David Frydrychowski <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         May 22, 2012 12:50:07 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and G-d

 

Perhaps it’s not entirely ludicrous to midrash on the tetragammatonic Iago and the quasi-tetragammatonic Viola’s “I am” (vel non). These resonances (however shallow) of greater things were around then just as much as they are in the air now. To a reader attempting to understand a pre-existing character, Viola’s declaration is in the present tense, duly mapped, as appropriate, to the present and future.  (“This is.”) To a witness in a crowded Elizabethan/Jacobean theatre who sees a costumed character flounce on from the wings, the speech becomes performative, creating the characterization in the present towards the future—not at all referring to what the character might have eaten for breakfast.  (“This is the way it’s a-gonna be.”)  Hence, the Bloomian tense.

 

I have Casca’s knowledge of Greek (which made for great verisimilitude when I played the part), but perhaps it parallels the distinction between the past/completed aorist and the tragic aorist. It’s rather simple and easy to say what the character is, but what she may be is much more interesting, and even perhaps more—dare I say it—true.

 

Or perhaps not. It’s all one.

 

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

From:        Hannibal Hamlin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         May 22, 2012 12:56:07 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God

 

I think my comment began with Iago, or at least mentioned him. His “I am not what I am” is a pointed, ironic biblical allusion, contrasting his absolute nullity with God’s plenitude (or perhaps his lack of fixed identity with God’s fixity?). It ties in with other allusions in the play to Iago as devil (“I look downwards towards his feet”). Viola’s use of the same phrase seems less complex, having more to do with her disguise than any more fundamental questions of identity, being, or essence, but perhaps one could press this farther. Might the difference in depth of resonance of the allusions have to do with the different genres, tragedy and comedy? I suppose one could argue that Iago’s statement is also just a confession of dissembling, but I have Coleridge’s remark in mind about his “motiveless malignity” which seems right—and there are the satanic allusions. Perhaps worth noting the use of the positive version of the phrase in Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella 45:

 

Then think, my dear, that you in me do read

Of lovers’ ruin some sad tragedy:

I am not I, pity the tale of me.

 

Shakespeare certainly knew Sidney, and Viola’s “I am not what I am” might have more to do with Astrophil than God—she is an unrequited lover (of Orsino) as well as petitioning on behalf of one (Orsino again, to Olivia). The matter of tragedy might also suggest Viola’s tale of “her father’s daughter” who “never told her love."

 

Hannibal

 

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

From:        Donald Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         May 22, 2012 4:43:27 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God

 

Markus Marti: “Is not the existence of this god person nonsensical?”

 

That goes without saying—and perhaps best so. But since the author and nearly all of his audience believed in this god person, it clearly has some relevance. Why, even a few people do so today.

 

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         May 22, 2012 6:01:24 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God

 

>Is not the existence of this god person nonsensical?

  

Of course, but what makes Jahweh unusual is not his absurdity (all gods are absurd), but his peculiar viciousness. It is easy to create a god, but why make him a whimsical sadist and then call him “compassionate.” See, e.g., Exodus 21:20-21. I suppose an evil god makes it easier to justify the random unfairness of the universe and thereby allow the priests to collect their fees without having to justify why they can’t actually do anything helpful.

 

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Arthur Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         May 23, 2012 3:55:54 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs--I am and God

 

I’m sorry, Larry, but the reverse of a well-known biblical positive has a great deal of importance. In Iago’s case, it identifies him with Satan and privative evil.  In Viola’s case, it identifies her, however playfully, with the traditional prejudice against theatrical performance as a manifestation of that same evil in order to subvert the equation.  Viola’s performance as Cesario manifests the inherent nature she shares with her brother and that both Orsino and Olivia fall in love with.  The problematic relation of acting to being is, of course, a pervasive problem in Shakespeare.  

 

Regards,

Arthur

 

Lean & Hungry’s Much Ado About Nothing

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.199  Wednesday, 23 May 2012

 

From:        Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Subject:     Lean & Hungry’s Much Ado About Nothing

 

Lean & Hungry’s Much Ado About Nothing

 

On Sunday, June 24, WAMU 88.5 and Lean & Hungry Theater will present a special live-to-air broadcast of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at American University’s Woods-Brown Amphitheater. The one-hour radio production will take place in front of a live audience and air on WAMU 88.5 at 6 p.m. Bring a picnic and see how Shakespeare is turned into a radio play that anyone can understand. Admission is $17 for adults and free for children under 17. For more information, visit our event calendar.

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