MV Dialog

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.271  Monday, 15 August 2016

 

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

Date:         August 13, 2016 at 8:44:09 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

It is difficult to know how to respond to Bill Blanton’s email, that is both very defensive and assertive at the same time. The objective of the discussion is not to personalise it, but Bill makes it very difficult not to when he says things like: “I have often wondered whether what I think I see is really there, or whether I am projecting onto the play my own personal concerns and prejudices” and teen follows it immediately with: “I would not be asking for and participating in this dialog had I not concluded that my own observations were real, and that they would be useful to real Shakespeare scholars.”

 

One of the protocols that I hoped Bill would explain concerns the principle of the falsifiability of empirical evidence. This has nothing to do with matters of enthusiasm and curiosity. If what is being asked for is a serious debate with other readers of this play then we should simply evaluate the evidence critically. To do that in the detail that Bill Blanton requires would, I think, be beyond the scope of the SHAKSPER network, so let me confine myself to the issue of the name ‘Shylock’ that Bill raises.

 

The knowledge that the name ‘Shylock’ is an English name was first suggested in H.H. Furness’s nineteenth-century variorum edition of the play. Furness doesn’t speculate further on what that might mean. Bill Blanton, however, offers us the following: “I do not know quite what to make of it. However, it does comport with John Drakakis’s observation that Shylock was an English name (Arden 3, pp 164-65). This, in turn, comports with my belief that MV had little or nothing to do with Venice except as necessary camouflage.” 

 

The conceptual gap between the second and third sentences here points directly to what raises questions over Bill’s ‘method’, and the latter part of sentence 3 does not in any way “comport” with Bill’s suggestion - in fact I argue the exact opposite.  Leaving aside the obvious point that the play is called “the Merchant of Venice” the speculative question arises concerning why Shakespeare should give a usurer and a ‘Jew’ an English name, and set the play in Venice. Officially the Jews had been expelled from England in the late 13th century, but in 16th century England ‘Christians’ practised usury. This point is made abundantly clear in one of the usury tracts that I document in my edition.  In the play, it is the practice of ‘usury’ that is displaced onto the ‘outsider’ Shylock. Venice was well-known as a place that welcomed ‘strangers’ and it was also a focus for mercantile trade and money-lending. These are the issues that the play negotiates, in the critical view it takes of Venice - a critical view for which there is also documentary evidence. Shakespeare was not offering his audience a descriptive guide to Venice. Indeed, he was offering a critical perspective on a ‘republic’ whose practices differed in many ways from those with which he and his audiences were familiar. We should pay attention here to the ‘representation’ of Venice and not try to substitute it for something else.

As to Bill’s suggestion that Shylock is the devil disguised as a Jew, his claim that this excuses the play’s alleged anti-semitism is nonsense.  In fact it makes it worse.  May I suggest that he has a look at Joshua Trachtenberg’s book on The Devil and the Jews, and if that doesn’t convince him then Deborah Strickland’s Saracens, Demons and Jews. If, once he has thought through this rather complex set of popular displacements, he then tries to impose upon the play his original thesis, then we will be able to see more clearly how valid it is, or how it will succeed in meeting the test of empirical falsifiability,      

Cheers
John Drakakis

 

 

 

Book Announcement: Shakespeare and Gesture in Practice

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.270  Monday, 15 August 2016

 

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

Date:         August 15, 2016 at 6:57:26 AM EDT

Subject:    Book Announcement: Shakespeare and Gesture in Practice

 

I am a lecturer in Acting at The Guildford School of Acting in the University of Surrey. This email is to let you know about my new book Shakespeare and Gesture in Practice, the latest edition to Palgrave’s series Shakespeare in Practice. 

 

Darren Tunstall

 

 

Shakespeare and Gesture in Practice

By Darren Tunstall

 

When actors perform Shakespeare, what do they do with their bodies? How do they display to the audience what is hidden in the imagination?

 

This is a history of Shakespearean performance as seen through the actor's body. Tunstall draws upon social, cognitive and moral psychology to reveal how performers from Sarah Siddons to Ian McKellen have used the language of gesture to reflect the minds of their characters.

 

This provocative and original contribution will appeal to anyone interested in Shakespeare, theatre history, psychology or body language.

 

ISBN: 9780230276420

Formats: Paperback Ebook (PDF) Ebook (EPUB) Hardcover 

Publication Date: September 2016

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Series: Shakespeare in Practice

 

 

MV Dialog

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.269  Friday, 112 August 2016

 

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

Date:         August 11, 2016 at 5:00:46 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

To Tony Burton:

 

Thank you for your observations. They correspond to much that I have learned through my research on MV, and I have no doubt concerning their validity. 

 

I have often wondered whether what I think I see is really there, or whether I am projecting onto the play my own personal concerns and prejudices. I would not be asking for and participating in this dialog had I not concluded that my own observations were real, and that they would be useful to real Shakespeare scholars.

 

Pointing out that Portia represents Elizabeth, and that Bassanio represents Essex — while interesting — would not be useful if that’s all there was to it. But those are only starting points.

 

I believe that Shakespeare Scholars have given this play short shrift because they have not explored what might really be going on. I myself do not fully understand what might be going on, but I do know that Something Else is, in fact, going on.

 

I believe that my observations and speculations will be of value to those who cherish Shakespeare and who want to understand more fully what MV is about, and what it might tell us about him. 

 

I know that I am opening myself up to criticism by serious scholars (of which I am not one), even criticism as gentle as yours. I am willing to undergo that unpleasantness because I believe that my observations and ideas will be of significant benefit.

 

One example: what if serious Shakespeare scholars read my observations and analysis, and agreed that Shakespeare did not write Shylock as a Jew but rather as the Devil disguised as a Jew? Would that not free this play — and its author — from unjust charges of anti-semitism, and open up a new line of inquiry?

 

I do know that I am not Richard II.

 

 

To Sidney Lubow:

 

Thanks for the kind words and for the references.

 

I like the Michael Locke reference. Shakespeare spelled Shylock’s name as Shylocke, with the same final e.

 

I do not know quite what to make of it. However, it does comport with John Drakakis’s observation that Shylock was an English name (Arden 3, pp 164-65). This, in turn, comports with my belief that MV had little or nothing to do with Venice except as necessary camouflage.

 

 

Bill

 

 

 

MV Dialog

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.268  Thursday, 11 August 2016

 

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

Date:         August 10, 2016 at 12:58:39 PM EDT

Subject:    Re:  MV Dialog

 

Ever since Shakespeare became respectable, appreciative readers have discovered that his plays resonated with their individual interests, world views, national characters, that they provided insights into individual psychological and political relations and behavior.  His works are invoked as virtual handbooks for athletic coaches, corporate leaders and more.  Why then is it even worth noting — much less debating — that certain political details can be mapped onto certain events and personalities of his own day?  

 

And the exercise is not even new.  Celebrations, ambassadorial visits, formal diplomatic reports, casual correspondence and diary entries have been mined for years because of their arguable analogies and apparent relevance to this or that play.  

 

As Tip O’Neill once said, “all politics is local.”  So Shakespeare’s politics is plausibly and just as inevitably, Elizabethan.  Know ye not that?  The miracle is that his politics and his just about everything else apply just about everywhere.  And that’s why SHAKSPER exists.

 

Tony

 

 

 

 

The Division of the Atlas

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.267  Thursday, 11 August 2016

 

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

Date:         August 10, 2016 at 11:48:27 AM EDT

Subject:    The Division of the Atlas

 

Textually-minded types might find this interesting:

 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/10/cloud-atlas-astonishingly-different-in-us-and-uk-editions-study-finds

 

Cloud Atlas 'astonishingly different' in US and UK editions, study finds Academic discovers dramatically altered stretches of narrative while researching a paper on David Mitchell’s bestselling novel

 

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is a popular choice for book groups around the world. But it turns out that American readers may be enjoying a rather different experience to those in Britain, after an academic uncovered “astonishing” differences between the US and UK editions of the award-winning novel.

 

Professor Martin Paul Eve of Birkbeck, University of London was writing a paper on Cloud Atlas, working from the UK paperback published by Sceptre, and from a Kindle edition of the novel, when he realised he was unable to find phrases in the ebook that he could distinctly remember from the paperback. He compared the US and UK editions of the book, and realised they were “quite different to one another”.

 

Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2004, Cloud Atlas is already complicated enough: telling the story of six interlocking lives and hopping back and forth across centuries and genres. But differences between the US and UK editions highlighted by Eve in a journal article published on Wednesday on the Open Library of Humanities run to 30 pages of examples.

 

In the UK text, for example, Mitchell writes at one point that: “Historians still unborn will appreciate your cooperation in the future, Sonmi ~451. We archivists thank you in the present. […] Once we’re finished, the orison will be archived at the Ministry of Testaments. […] Your version of the truth is what matters.”

 

In the US edition, the lines are: “On behalf of my ministry, thank you for agreeing to this final interview. Please remember, this isn’t an interrogation, or a trial. Your version of the truth is the only one that matters.”

 

“As well as exhibiting many minor linguistic variations and copy-edits throughout (accidentals), these different editions also contain sections of narrative unique to each version that must change any close reading of the text,” writes Eve in the paper, You Have to Keep Track of Your Changes: The Version Variants and Publishing History of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. “Given that so much literary criticism has now been produced on the subject of Mitchell’s novel, 12 years after its publication, these version variants are potentially problematic as they have not previously been noted.”

 

Eve told the Guardian that he was “extremely surprised” to discover what he calls “an astonishing degree” of variance in the editions of Cloud Atlas. “We’ve become accustomed to thinking that, in worldwide simultaneous releases of contemporary fiction, editions are the same, perhaps with only minor US spelling differences (“color/colour”, etc) There’s this sort of belief that because the technologies of publishing have improved, texts are less corrupted. So when I found that one of the chapters here was almost entirely rewritten, it was very interesting and I decided to look further into what had happened and why,” he said.

 

Mitchell himself explains the reasons for the discrepancies in an interview quoted in Eve’s paper: they occurred because the manuscript of Cloud Atlas sat unedited for around three months in the US, after an editor there left Random House. Meanwhile in the UK, Mitchell and his editor and copy editor worked on the manuscript, but the changes were not passed on to the US.

 

When his new US editor David Ebershoff took over, Mitchell was presented with a substantial list of changes for the US edition, and “due to my inexperience at that stage in my three-book ‘career’, it hadn’t occurred to me that having two versions of the same novel appearing on either side of the Atlantic raises thorny questions over which is definitive, so I didn’t go to the trouble of making sure that the American changes were applied to the British version (which was entering production by that point probably) and vice versa”.

 

[ . . . ]

 

How nice to have an interview with WS in which he concedes that he knew there were 2 rather different versions of Lear hanging about in printers' shops, but thought it was all "a lot of faff .."

 

Julia Griffin

 

 

 

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