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The SATAN is in the details of Romeo(us) & Juliet….AND the King James Bible, too!

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.135  Monday, 16 March 2015


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

Date:         March 13, 2015 at 3:04:37 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: Secret Code


Arnie translates my observation about the number of the beast buried within his last post:


>If I understand you, Lawrence, your point in taking my hyperbolic

>claim of the mammoth size of the improbability of coincidence, 

>and pulling out of it a Satanic numerological pattern, is clever---is

>that it demonstrates that patterns can be ingeniously generated 

>post hoc which have a superficial veneer of prior intentionality.


That puts it perfectly; but I think my method is more amusing, and probably more rhetorically effective than a stiff academic presentation.


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.134  Monday, 16 March 2015


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

Date:         March 15, 2015 at 9:58:49 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: Ardenwatch




John Briggs wrote “It is good to have this news out in the open (if not actually officially announced) - there is reason to believe that the appointments were made two years ago (see SHK 24.0221)”. I am afraid I hadn’t registered John’s earlier post but that may have been because I was not then even in discussion about who the General Editors for Arden 4 might be. The three of us agreed a couple of months ago to take on the awesome and exciting responsibility. No long delays in the announcement at all. And no hidden reasons. Everyone is expecting that Arden 3 will be complete in 2016.


Peter Holland

Shakespeare at Harvard, or Things Rank and Gross

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.133  Monday, 16 March 2015


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

Date:         March 13, 2015 at 4:16:19 PM EDT

Subject:    Shakespeare at Harvard, or Things Rank and Gross


I recently attended the opening session of Marjorie Garber’s course on Shakespeare: The Early Plays at Harvard University. The Syllabus for the course lists 15 Shakespeare plays.  It also lists 10 movie versions.  Students are required to watch these movies just as they are required to read the plays, and they must submit writing on both.  The required writing on the plays consists of two papers, 5-7 pages each.  The required writing on the movies consists of “brief (<1 page) responses to at least 4 of the films”—a somewhat shamefaced attempt to acknowledge a distinction in value.  Yet the fact remains that reading and writing about the plays and watching and writing about the movie versions are both mandatory in this Harvard course. 


The movies include such offal as Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet (1996), every frame of which is hostile to words; Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet (2000), in which Ethan Hawke makes the title role sound like Newspeak; Michael Radford’s The Merchant of Venice (2004), featuring Al Pacino’s dolefully tentative and morosely amateurish Shylock; and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing (2013), which Stanley Wells denounced in this forum by stating that he “can’t recommend [it] to anyone who cares for language.”  Yet in her opening lecture Professor Garber described all of these movies as “wonderful films.”  How’s that for lowering standards, corrupting taste and dumbing-down Shakespeare? 


At the risk of belaboring the obvious, I would note that each of these movies is merely another production of a Shakespeare play, that there are hundreds of such productions every year, and that being filmed confers the permanence of celluloid but not the permanence of aesthetic value.  In fact, most Shakespeare movies are shallow, unintelligent and riddled with incompetence:  modish and meretricious at one extreme, stodgy and safe at the other, with any number of fumbling and witless variations in between.  The majority would be quickly forgotten if insecure academics, ever-anxious to be with it and always falling short, hadn’t pounced upon them as curricular material or fodder for their pseudo-discipline of Shakespeare on Film. 


Some may think more highly of these movies than I do, but it is clear that many of them are fairly recent.  Teachers used to have the good sense (and the humility) to wait and see if a work would stand the test of time before presuming to teach it.  (How did Joss Whedon’s 2013 film so quickly earn a place on a Harvard Syllabus?).  By hurrying these movies into their courses and putting them on a near-level with the plays—by showing similar respect to 400 year-old classics and yesterday’s commercial releases—these supposed educators suggest that the films are canonical masterworks of well-nigh Shakespearean stature:  judgments which it is rather too early for them to make.  In doing so, they lionize what may prove to be ephemeral or even pernicious, foster complacency with the quality of current Shakespeare films, and help to ensure that better productions will never materialize.  They also (just possibly) deprive their students of a good education and erode the ranks of those who “care for language.”   


It’s embarrassing to watch learned scholars devolve into cheerleaders for anything that movie studios throw at us.  When I see them genuflect before the likes of a Baz Luhrman—an ignoramus and a vulgarian who cheapens everything he touches, whether it be Shakespeare or F. Scott Fitzgerald—I wonder if they’ve lost all self-understanding and self-respect; and I wonder if their students will ever acquire any.


 --Charles Weinstein

Review of Making Make-Believe Real: Politics as Theater in Shakespeare’s Time

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.132  Monday, 16 March 2015


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

Date:         Friday, March 13, 2015 at 3:14 PM

Subject:    Shakespeare and the Struggle for Power by Stanley Wells


[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in this The New York Review of Books. I will provide excerpts here; and if anyone wishes the entire article and does not have online access to The New York Review of Books, please contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . -Hardy]


Shakespeare and the Struggle for Power

By Stanley Wells

March 19, 2015 


Making Make-Believe Real: Politics as Theater in Shakespeare’s Time

by Garry Wills

Yale University Press, 414 pp., $30.00


The twin stars of Garry Wills’s immensely well-informed and wide-ranging book are Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare, but it also boasts a glittering supporting cast of courtiers, poets, statesmen, and playwrights other than Shakespeare. The theatrical metaphor is inevitable because of the resemblances in the Elizabethan Age between the theater and the great stage of the world, where politics, drama, and the other arts interacted and reflected one another.


Wills writes that the aim of his book is “to look at the various kinds of imaginative construction that went into [Elizabeth’s] reign—at its make-believe love, make-believe monarchy, make-believe religion, make-believe locales, and make-believe war.” Drama is at the book’s center because the plays of the time are full of self-dramatizing characters “who put themselves on a stage to delight in their own performance.” Shakespeare’s Richard III, Richard II, and Antony and Cleopatra, Marlowe’s Edward II and Tamburlaine, are just a few of the most obvious examples. And among these the “most grandiose self-presenters are men and women who seek or hold power.”


In real life, too, persons in positions of high power needed to use dramatic means to project their personalities, to exercise control, and even to sustain their personal identity. Elizabeth’s subjects put pressure on her, not least in the matter of marriage, but “the pressures on her changed over the years from urging her toward marriage to guarding her from marriage.” She negotiated her course in this as in many other difficult matters with consummate skill. As a result, during her long reign she won the admiration, even adulation, of a great number of extraordinary and diverse followers, many of whom figure in this book’s cast.


Of course, courtiers tend by nature to be sycophantic, and many expressions of praise for a monarch are insincere and self-serving. But Elizabeth was intelligent enough to preserve her integrity. She knew her own worth, writing in her private prayers:


I am unimpaired in body, with a good form, a healthy and 

substantial wit, prudence even beyond other women, and 

beyond this, distinguished and superior in the knowledge 

and use of literature and languages, which is highly esteemed

because unusual in my sex.


Especially toward the end of her reign she received adulatory tributes from poets such as Edmund Spenser, dramatists such as George Peele, musicians such as Thomas Morley, and a great bevy of lesser courtiers. But she had strength of character enough to distinguish between true and false praise.


Like a great actor, she was a mistress of the art of self-projection, aware of her theatricality. Wills quotes her own words: “Princes, you know, stand upon stages so that their actions are viewed and beheld of all men.” Throughout her reign she presented herself to her people with the flair and manipulative self-knowledge of a virtuoso performer. She could rise to great occasions with a dignity and grandeur worthy of a tragedy queen. Addressing her troops assembled at Tilbury in 1588 to repel the invasion by the Spanish Armada when, William Camden wrote, “incredible it is how much she encouraged the hearts of her captains and soldiers by her presence and speech to them,” “she is reported to have worn a silver cuirass, with an attendant riding beside her with a silver helmet.”


In doing so she emulated the soldier heroes and even heroines—such as Shakespeare’s Joan la Pucelle, who fights “with the sword of Deborah,” and Margaret of Anjou, “she-wolf of France”—of the stage: acting companies had stocks of armor for their dramatic warriors. Wills has a fascinating and informative section on scenes in Shakespeare in which characters are required to don armor: “The cumbrous task of assembling it around the body is indicated by the number of lines spoken while the actors do it. Macbeth… spends twenty-five lines on the process, then breaks it off unfinished and tells Seyton to carry it after him.” When Cleopatra takes over the task of arming Antony from his servant Eros, he needs to “keep correcting her efforts as he teases her about it.” And in The Two Noble Kinsmen Arcite and Palamon “spend almost fifty lines arming each other.” The make-believe of the theater mirrored the reality of the battlefield.


[ . . . ]


Wills is right to question what was said about the place of performance but not about its frequency. “No play by Shakespeare,” he writes, “can have been put on forty times in Elizabeth’s lifetime or even in his.” This is surely wrong: in the ad hoc theatrical system of the time plays could come and go with minimal preparation according to demand, as the theater records of Philip Henslowe amply demonstrate and as the Essex-inspired performance of Richard II itself shows.


Wills’s polemic is inspired by the desire to refute the idea that Richard II was put on as a subversive act, but he cannot deny, and does not try to deny, that the performance was commissioned by Essex’s followers the day before the uprising, or that the members of the company who performed it were hauled into court to give an account of themselves for doing so. It would surely be absurd to suggest that the insurrectionists simply wanted a good afternoon’s entertainment and just happened to alight on this play for the purpose. They would have done much better with A Midsummer Night’s Dream—or even with The Merry Wives of Windsor.


For all Wills’s interest in real-life theatricality, his approach to Shakespeare is essentially that of a reader rather than a playgoer. When he offers comment on performance it is based, so far as he tells us, on films or on other scholars’ accounts rather than on personal theatrical experience. This can result in clear misjudgments. Writing on The Taming of the Shrew, a play that allows him to vent his spleen against feminist critics, he comments that “Ann Thompson notes that Petruchio shares Kate’s deprivations of sleep and food” and that Petruccio “denies Kate meat because it is not good enough for her but denies himself because it makes him choleric: ‘And I expressly am forbid to touch it/For it engenders choler, planteth anger.’” And he criticizes John Cleese in the television version directed by Jonathan Miller (not, as he writes, by Peter Hall) on the grounds that he “slips when he later chews on a morsel of meat.”


[ . . . ]


Adventures in Original Punctuation

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.131  Friday, 13 March 2015


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

     Date:         March 12, 2015 at 4:00:44 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: OP 


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

     Date:         March 12, 2015 at 5:18:18 PM EDT

     Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: OP 




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

Date:         March 12, 2015 at 4:00:44 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: OP


In deference to what I suspect is the shortening patience of SHAKSPERians, I’ll keep this response to William Blanton short.

Blanton thinks that it is “pettifogging” to make a distinction between the claim “that Shakespeare himself was the one who marked up Q1” to produce Folio copy for The Merchant of Venice and the less specific claim (by Bate) that someone did it.


Since SHAKSPERians demonstrably care about what Shakespeare did in relation to his work, I trust that it matters to the majority of them even if it does not matter to Blanton.


Regarding the authority of the Folio versions of plays, Blanton writes:


> Hemings and Condell state that their friend Will

> Shakespeare wrote the plays included in the First

> Folio, and that they had selected the best versions

> of those plays for inclusion. That's good enough

> for me.


It should not be good enough for anyone who cares about the truth since part of this claim is demonstrably untrue: the Folio is not the best version for every play. 2 Henry 4, for instance, is represented in the Folio by an expurgated text in which Falstaff is robbed of his rich wordhoard of oaths evident in the preceding quarto.


Lastly, and equally erroneously:


> I believe that we all recognize that Shakespeare

> wrote his plays as scripts to be performed, not

> as texts to be studied.


We don’t. The vast body of evidence against this view is contained in two books by Lukas Erne:


‘Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist’ (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and ‘Shakespeare and the Book Trade’ (Cambridge University Press, 2013).


It’s not the ignorance I object to—who shall ‘scape whipping?--it’s the combination of ignorance and indignant certainty.


Gabriel Egan



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

Date:         March 12, 2015 at 5:18:18 PM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: OP


Bill Blanton has been on the receiving end of some pretty gratuitous patronising from Gradgrind Egan.


Egan is setting himself up as arbiter of truth in areas where is knowledge is, at best partial, and at worst misleading, and throws brickbats at anyone and everyone.  Let me say that if he is an arbiter of knowledge then my name Dr Faustus.


I’m afraid that I started this bibliographical hailstorm by making of your original question (that was a perfectly good one) something that does involve recognising that how we deal with characters such as ‘Shylock’ and that involves some awareness of how thee marks printed on thee page got there. There is a rather conservative strand in textual bibliography to which Egan seems now to have attached himself, and from this position he professes to decide what is scientific ‘truth’ and what is error.  Moreover, he lectures you on a politeness that he is unable to maintain himself, as his recent childish outburst indicates.  Clearly, he is now trying to recover some semblance of professional courtesy. He hasn’t got there yet but we’ll give him time.


You are right to insist that Launcelet’s surname is ‘Iobbe’ and NOT ‘Gobbo’. The question is: what can we do with this instability and how do we justify it.  It is because we have too few surviving copies of Q1 in existence that it would be difficult to reconstruct a fuller printing history for it. Charlton Hinman gathered together some 70+ copies of the First Folio (now swollen to 90), and I have found that for a quarto text something of the order of 30-35 might suffice, but even then an element of serendipity prevails.


There is evidence to suggest that MV was an untidy play.  There are some loose ends and it is difficult to know what to do with them  The ‘Iobbe’ issue is one of them. IF ‘Iobbe’ is something that in the manuscript copy from which Q1 is set is substantive, then we might be able to suggest the reason for thee name of the son ‘Launcelet’. Have a look at Patricia Parker’s excellent chaapter in Alternative Shakespeares 3 where the name ‘Lancelet’ is teased out carefully.


I would, if I were you, not be sidetracked into the debate about the few other textual cruces that appear in Q1.  Thus far they have been in this discussion nothing more than opportunities for airing of imperfect knowledge.


If you still want to pose your original question about Shylock and the Devil, please do so and I will respond without the excursions into textual bibliography.



John Drakakis

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