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The Venus & Adonis Dedication

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0499  Wednesday, 5 December 2012

 

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

     Date:         December 4, 2012 5:12:41 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ven. Dedication 

 

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

     Date:         December 5, 2012 12:45:44 AM EST

     Subject:     Re: Ven. Dedication 

 

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

     Date:         December 5, 2012 7:10:29 AM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ven. Dedication 

 

 

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

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

Date:         December 4, 2012 5:12:41 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ven. Dedication

 

Ian Steere wrote:

 

> So far, there has been no overt response to the

> evidence that there are contrary themes in the

> V & A dedication—and that both were deliberate.

> Given that we have members who will leap with

> alacrity on any perceived weakness of argument

> (and thank God for them), we may take it that

> the premises are solid.

 

I really wouldn’t advise taking silence for assent. There are suggestions that professional Shakespearians hear and read every week that are so silly that they don’t dignify them with a comment. I’m not saying yours is one of these, just offering a caution about interpreting the lack of response.

 

If you’re looking for comments about what professional Shakespearians might find to object to in your expression of your argument, you could start with the terms you use to characterise sexual behaviour, such as “Shakespeare is . . . fully hetero or thereabouts”.

 

One school of thought about sexuality that is widely given credit in Shakespeare studies today is that early modern people didn’t think in terms of being hetero- or homo-sexual. They instead thought in terms of sinful behaviour. A man’s wild afternoon of over-indulgence might include playing games of chance, drinking, smoking tobacco, and sleeping with young male prostitutes.  Such a man might wake up the next day thinking that the last of those activities no more defined him than the other ones did; they were just all sins. That is, there wasn’t for them an available identity of ‘homo-sexual’ or ‘hetero-sexual’, there was just sinful and indulgent behaviour to avoid.

 

This hypothesis about early modern notions of sexuality arises from the writings of Michel Foucault and was popularized in Shakespeare studies by Alan Bray. It is not uncontested (Joseph Cady has useful counter-evidence, for example) but it is the dominant view in Shakespeare studies. Ignoring it and writing as if ‘homo-‘ and ‘hetero-‘ were categories that we can unproblematically apply to the early moderns is likely to make professional Shakespearians take little notice.

 

Lastly, you ask:

 

> . . . why does the V & A dedication convey veiled insults

> and rebuke?

 

To be frank, I wasn’t convinced by your assertion that it does. I just can’t see them.

 

Gabriel Egan

 

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

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

Date:         December 5, 2012 12:45:44 AM EST

Subject:     Re: Ven. Dedication

 

>So far, there has been no overt response to the evidence that 

>there are contrary themes in the V & A dedication—and that 

>both were deliberate. Given that we have members who will 

>leap with alacrity on any perceived weakness of argument 

>(and thank God for them), we may take it that the premises 

>are solid.

 

Very well, I shall leap with Alacrity, and then go to my cabin with Celerity.

 

Ian Steere’s double entendre reading of the V&A dedication is ingenious, and maybe even intriguing, but it is too improbable for serious consideration. What’s the good of a disguised insult if no one gets it? Surely, Wriothesley could not have seen the occult meaning and it is a fair bet that none of his friends did either. Surely, he would not have continued his patronage if he had been so grossly outed and insulted, or if he were the butt of jokes and behind-the-hands sniggering. WS dedicated the later R/L to him, so it is likely that he remained on good terms with Southampton. Shakespeare was capable of much subtlety, but a disguised insult that no one discerned for more than 400 years is a bit of a stretch.

 

Steere’s “scenario,” serves only to underscore the fanciful quality of the conjecture.  Why not go all the way and identify Marlowe as the rival poet?

 

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

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

Date:         December 5, 2012 7:10:29 AM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ven. Dedication

 

Hi all,

 

Does the fact that Shakespeare is a distant relative of Southampton through his mother’s family have any bearing perhaps on why he would be his patron?

 

Yours,

William

 

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