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FYI: Marlowe Society

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.489  Tuesday, 9 December 2014


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

Date:         December 8, 2014 at 12:53:04 PM EST

Subject:    FYI: Marlowe Society of America Homepage


The Marlowe Society of America


We are a non-profit organization of scholars formed thirty years ago to promote research and scholarship on Marlowe’s life, works, and times, as well as his relationships with his fellow playwrights and his crucial role in early modern stage history. 

Gay Bard

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.488  Monday, 8 December 2014


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

     Date:         December 5, 2014 at 12:31:29 PM EST

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Gay Bard


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

     Date:         December 5, 2014 at 10:06:17 PM EST

     Subject:    Gay Bard 


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

     Date:         December 6, 2014 at 7:38:51 AM EST

     Subject:    Gay Bard 




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

Date:         December 5, 2014 at 12:31:29 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Gay Bard


I was happy to read Brian Vickers’ take on an alleged “gay Shakespeare,” that he does not buy into this view. I fully agree with him. However, I would add much more to his case against this view.


I am astounded that scholars today are blind to the allegorical nature of the poet’s sonnets. It seems to me that the last two sonnets, which clearly present allegories, are the poet’s way of telling that the others of his sonnets are in this allegorical vein.


The allegory in the Sonnets is a familiar one, representing the two conflicting aspects of man’s soul, one godly, the other in the opposite direction. The godly soul is represented as an idealized form of the poet, the “lovely” young man. The woman represents man’s earthly nature. A better symbol for this aspect cannot be imagined since she embodies all the temptations of the lower soul. Sonnet 144 gives away the game since it tells who these aspects of soul are.


Since the poet in the Sonnets aspires to godliness, he loves his higher soul, the young man, more than his lower soul, the temptress. As is represented in the first 17 sonnets, the young poet had been infatuated with this higher aspect and, therefore, he must be tempted by the lower soul to regain a new balance. His chagrin at this kind of temptation makes for some of the comic aspects of these sonnets.


There is more to the sonnets than this. But, when this allegory is recognized, many of the remaining sonnets fall into place and the great poet is restored to an emotionally healthful state that his admirers all along have seen in his work.


David Basch



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

Date:         December 5, 2014 at 10:06:17 PM EST

Subject:    Gay Bard   


I feel that I must weigh in on this “gay bard” topic, as my central focus for years has been on the Sonnets: Here is a quote from an Introduction I authored, and forgive my using it, but it is with sincerest credit due to Margreta de Garzia:


"As to whether a young man or woman is a central part of the Sonnets, the gender of the addressee in most of the Sonnets is in fact unspecified. Indeed, “Shakespeare is exceptional among the English sonneteers (Sidney, Spenser, and Daniel, for example) in leaving the beloved’s gender unspecified in so many of the sonnets: about five-sixths of them in the first 126 and just less than that in the collection entire.”   


The quoted section is from Margreta de Grazia, “The Scandal of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, ed. James Schiffer, {2000}.


Margreta’s complete article on the “gender” issue, shows fine scholarship, and is worth a look by those intent on learning more on this topic.


Further, I must agree with Hardy in saying that current criticism [on the Sonnets] makes it clear that interpretations which have assumed biographical facts about the author have not succeed in making out a conclusive case. 


For those interested in seeing the complete Introduction from which the entire quote is taken, I would be happy to reply offline, or have a look at SHAKESPEARE’S SONNETS AND THE BIBLE, on the Amazon webpage where you can “peek” at it.


Best wishes,

Ira Zinman



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

Date:         December 6, 2014 at 7:38:51 AM EST

Subject:    Gay Bard


Once upon a time, for a short time, I had a sweetheart who was a poet — a poetess, actually. It so happened that the confluence of our orbits in the launch of that short-lived incandescent harmony coincided with the publication of her first book of poems. I had not read her work before and I was stunned by them. I thought her poems wonderful, and although my enchantment with her did not last, my admiration for those poems is unabated. One particular poem touched on some things I knew of her family and her youth, but when I asked her about the events in it, she said, “Oh, that’s fiction. I just made it up.” I was hugely surprised. Dumb as it sounds, that had never occurred to me before, that a poet, just like any writer of novels or other fiction — really, like anyone who has ever told anything to anyone else — might have just made it all up. Well, I’m no longer quite as dumb as I look. Now I know that writers make stuff up, and that there is not the slightest reason to believe that what a writer, especially a poet, has written about ever actually happened, or happened to him, or happened as he describes it or alludes to it, not unless he actually says so, and even that’s not conclusive proof. Indeed, I don’t even have reason to believe she told me the truth when she said it was fiction. Humans just can’t always be relied upon that way. When I think about trying to puzzle out that not very important matter, about the vivid events in her poem and their congruence with other things I thought I knew about her life, I wonder how people can look at poetry written four hundred years ago and imagine they can know from those works what happened in Shakespeare's life outside that poetry. Nothing proffered about Shakespeare in this thread is really evidence of his sexual orientation, one way or the other (or others), much less proof. Hardy is absolutely right about what we know about that and all those other questions too: maybe, maybe not.


Best to all,

Bob Projansky


Shakespeare in India Controversy

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.487  Monday, 8 December 2014


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

Date:         December 5, 2014 at 11:35:58 AM EST

Subject:    Shakespeare Wades into Indian Freedom of Expression Row


December 5 2014

Shakespeare wades into Indian freedom of expression row


A recent adaptation of Hamlet caused outrage in India, flagging up just how deep the rift between artistic culture and so called “Indian values” runs.


When the trailer for Haider, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kashmir-set film of Hamlet, came out in September there was speculation that it wouldn’t get past the Indian film censor board and might not even screen in India.


The film is set in 1995, at the height of the armed conflict between India, Pakistan and those who fight for a free Kashmir. It offers an unflinching and nuanced portrayal of the toll that the conflict had on the people there. As such, it could not help but be critical of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Indian army and Border Security Force, who have been present in the state since 1947 when the British colonisers left and the division of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan took place.


Reports by NGOs including Human Rights Watch have documented the disappearances, the torture of prisoners and extra-judicial killings, the culture of impunity the forces work under and the climate of fear people live in.


The Prince of Kashmir

Haider confronts all of these issues with an aghast, despairing sensibility. It also acknowledges the corresponding radicalisation of Kashmiri young men who leave their homes to cross the line of control into Pakistani territory to fight for an independent state. And the plight of the generations of “half-widows” left by the violence is laid bare: the hundreds who don’t know if their husbands, brothers or sons are alive or dead.


As in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Haider shows that no side is innocent. Sunni, Shi’a and Hindu Kashmiri Pandit communities are all depicted as capable of abuse, brutality and corruption. India, Pakistan and Britain are all marked as culpable.


The irony is thick: Haider (played by Shahid Kapoor), who is Muslim, is away at Aaligarh University when his father “disappears”. When Haider returns to Srinagar to find out what happened, he tells the Indian military at a checkpoint that he is studying “the revolutionary poets of British India”.


Hindu Indian ultra-nationalists are quick to take action against any cultural offering that offends their religious sensibility, criticises the Indian state or army or denigrates Indian “values”. Some went as far as to accuse Kashmiri journalist and Haider scriptwriter Basharat Peer of being funded by Islamic State.


More recently, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a group named “Hindus for Justice” called for the film to be banned and filed court documents claiming that “the sovereignty and integrity of India has been attacked with impunity”, and “the unity of the nation has been undermined” by the film.


[ . . . ]


National monopoly on Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.486  Monday, 8 December 2014


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

Date:         December 5, 2014 at 11:32:31 AM EST

Subject:    It’s time to break the national monopoly on Shakespeare 


From The Guardian.


It’s time to break the national monopoly on Shakespeare

Innovative productions such as Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider prove that Britain isn’t the best at the Bard, says Preti Taneja


I am sitting in a darkened cinema. On screen, a young blonde actress is being persuaded to perform a sex scene by her director. Her blue eyes are wide with worry as she protests that it’s too graphic and would undermine her self-respect. The director challenges her to “be professional”. She knows that her dark-skinned boyfriend, playing her cuckolded husband in the film, will be incandescent when he finds out. This is the director as Iago, winning and breaking Desdemona’s trust. It’s so uncomfortable I can barely watch. It’s a very long way from the traditions of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).


Hammudi al-Rahmoun Font’s Catalan film Otel.lo takes its cues from Shakespeare’s Othello, but is unafraid to engage on its own terms with the play. Font uses it to expose prejudices and assumptions about gender, race and the male gaze in Spain and on screen. Weeks later, I am still questioning Font’s choices and my own responses. Otel.lo is genuinely far more entertaining, political and provocative than many contemporary productions of Shakespeare in the UK.


It is also very far from the concept of Shakespeare as a cultural export. Shakespeare is clearly viewed as a tool to encourage tourism by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which recently awarded £1.5m to the RSC to translate all of Shakespeare into Mandarin Chinese. A further £300,000 will be provided to tour the translations to China. The culture secretary Sajid Javid said the move is aimed at “improving economic links with China and encouraging more tourists to visit the home of Shakespeare”.


But China has long embraced Shakespeare, and translations of Shakespeare already exist there, including Tian Qinxin’s production of Romeo and Juliet, performed in Hong Kong and Beijing in Mandarin with Standard Chinese and English subtitles. Speaking to the South China Morning Post, the director said that she used the play to challenge the tradition of arranged marriage, and that the lack of stories “advocating unconditional love in Chinese culture is one of the reasons there are so many family problems” in China today.


Font and Qinxin’s productions have little in common with the Globe theatre’s “Globe-to-Globe” Hamlet, which is currently on the South American leg of a two-year world tour, and offers an interpretation, in English, of a play whose central character embodies the emergence of a Western, Renaissance sensibility: Shakespeare as it “should” be done. This journey from “us” to “them” uncomfortably evokes one of the root causes of Shakespeare’s presence in different parts of the world: colonialism. In India and countries in Africa, Shakespeare’s works were made compulsory in schools, as they were seen as a mark of civilisation.


But translators and dramatists were quick to start “speaking back” to the master, via the master’s colonising text. Now, more complex adaptations are emerging: Vishal Bhardwaj’s film Haider, a Kashmir-set Hamlet, was released worldwide last month. Bhardwaj uses Hamlet to consider Britain’s responsibility and legacy in the ongoing India-Pakistan conflict that has claimed hundreds of lives and left generations of widows. Written by the Kashmiri journalist Basharat Peer, the film is intensely dramatic yet deeply engaged with the complex politics of the region. It did not pass the censor in Pakistan because it was considered too controversial, and has divided opinions in India along political lines. Like Otel.lo, Haider is uncomfortable but absolutely compelling cinema that reminds us of our own culpability in how violence, gendered or communal, occurs.


Dissenting voices cling fast to the idea that the English text is sacred, and too much of Shakespeare’s genius must get lost in translation. Then there are the politics of translation itself – in countries with many languages, such as China, and where language is a deeply contentious issue, for example in India, should one translation speak above others?


It is difficult to argue against the rationale of promoting Shakespeare to boost the UK’s economy. But doing so deafens the ears to how and why Shakespeare’s plays have taken root in “worlds elsewhere”. It leaves only one voice (and why do I imagine Etonian vowels?) shouting louder than any others that Shakespeare is the best, and that he is “ours”.


From South Africa to South Korea, India to Germany, there are provocative, moving Shakespeare productions performed in English and in translation, as well as adaptations into film, novels and poetry. It’s time to ditch the idea that the best Shakespeare comes from the UK, and the world should experience it courtesy of us. I’d rather watch Font, Bhardwaj and Qinxin, whose approaches are as far from each other’s as China is from Spain. These productions remind us what global Shakespeare really is: different the world over.

Richard III’s DNA

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.485  Monday, 8 December 2014


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

Date:         Monday, December 8, 2014

Subject:    Richard III’s DNA


This is from the BBC News.


2 December 2014 Last updated at 11:11 ET

Richard III’s DNA throws up infidelity surprise

By Paul Rincon

Science editor, BBC News website


Analysis of DNA from Richard III has thrown up a surprise: evidence of infidelity in his family tree.


Scientists who studied genetic material from remains found in a Leicester car park say the finding might have profound historical implications.


Depending on where in the family tree it occurred, it could cast doubt on the Tudor claim to the English throne or, indeed, on Richard's.


The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.


But it remains unknown when the break, or breaks, in the family lineage occurred.


In 2012, scientists extracted genetic material from the remains discovered on the former site of Greyfriars Abbey, where Richard was interred after his death in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.


'Overwhelming evidence' 

Their analysis shows that DNA passed down on the maternal side matches that of living relatives, but genetic information passed down on the male side does not.


However, given the wealth of other details linking the body to Richard III, the scientists conclude that infidelity is the most likely explanation.


[ . . . ]


The instance of female infidelity, or cuckolding, could have occurred anywhere in the numerous generations that separate Richard III from the 5th Duke of Beaufort (1744-1803), whose living descendants provided samples of male-line DNA to be compared against that of the Plantagenet king.


"We may have solved one historical puzzle, but in so doing, we opened up a whole new one," Prof Kevin Schurer, who was the genealogy specialist on the paper, told BBC News.


Investigation of the male genealogy focused on the Y chromosome, a package of DNA that is passed down from father to son, much like a surname. Most living male heirs of the 5th Duke of Beaufort were found to carry a relatively common Y chromosome type, which is different from the rare lineage found in the car park remains.


Richard III and his royal rival, Henry Tudor (later Henry VII), were both descendants of King Edward III. The infidelity could, in theory, have occurred either on the branch leading back from Henry to Edward or on the branch leading from Richard to Edward.


Henry's ancestor John of Gaunt was plagued by rumours of illegitimacy throughout his life, apparently prompted by the absence of Edward III at his birth. He was reportedly enraged by gossip suggesting he was the son of a Flemish butcher.


"Hypothetically speaking, if John of Gaunt wasn't Edward III's son, it would have meant that (his son) Henry IV had no legitimate claim to the throne, nor Henry V, nor Henry VI," said Prof Schurer.


Asked whether a break in the branch of the tree leading to the Tudors could have implications for the legitimacy of the present-day royal family, Prof Schurer replied: "Royal succession isn't straightforward inheritance from fathers to sons, and/or daughters. History has taken a series of twists and turns."


The breakage was statistically more likely to have occurred in the part of the family tree which does not affect Royal succession - the most recent stretch - simply because more links in the chain exist there.


And Dr Anna Whitelock, a reader in early modern history at Royal Holloway - University of London, told BBC News: "It's important to note that Henry VII claimed the throne "by right of conquest" not blood or marriage - his claim was extremely tenuous.


"Henry VII was descended from Edward III from the Beaufort line - the Beauforts were legitimised by half-brother Henry IV but not in succession. Royal succession has been based on many things in the past: ability to lead troops, religion, connections - not always seniority by royal blood."


[ . . . ]

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