Shakespeare at Pendleton

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.233  Thursday, 21 May 2015

 

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

Date:         May 20, 2015 at 4:43:45 PM EDT

Subject:    Shakespeare at Pendleton

 

Colleagues, 

 

I have been silent on this list for quite some time, but I have recently completed a project I thought I would mention briefly. On April 23rd, 2015, Shakespeare at Pendleton performed Coriolanus. I began Shakespeare at Pendleton in October 2013, as a natural extension of my long-time voluntary involvement with Shakespeare Behind Bars in Kentucky and Michigan. Shakespeare at Pendleton runs independently of Shakespeare Behind Bars, but it is modeled after what I have been able to observe over eight years of visiting them. The Pendleton Correctional Facility is a maximum-security prison located about 25 northeast of Indianapolis. 

 

We had 18 men involved, none of them with prior experience performing Shakespeare and with an English professor for a director (me) who had never directed a play before. Yet, somehow, working together, we were able to get a show together that I think our men have had every reason to feel proud of. We reduced the play significantly, performing 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 2.2, 2.3, a part of 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 4.1, 5.3, and 5.6. These were scenes the men had chosen as presented a complete, though shortened, story. Our Coriolanus, by the way, seems to have been the first ever performed by incarcerated men and the first within a prison. 

 

I have long had an odd affection for this play, which I feel is too often not given its due value in Shakespeare’s canon. The men seemed to love working on it—a very masculine play dealing directly with issues of anger they have been familiar with through their own experiences. I also learned some things about the play from the men, that it may have humor you would not expect (revealed in the performances of our tribunes and the Third Citizen) and that Volumnia may be performed with pathos, not just bitchiness. 

 

I have done a short interview with Northeast Indiana Public Radio about this experience, http://wboi.org/post/shakespeare-pendleton-brings-bard-life-behind-bars. There will also be an upcoming half-hour show on Indiana Public Radio (out of Muncie, IN) about Shakespeare at Pendleton. And, if anyone is interested, there is a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/shakespeareatpendleton

 

We will be taking a summer break, but when Shakespeare at Pendleton resumes, we are planning a show of scenes from various comedies, including Dogberry’s scenes from Much Ado about Nothing and Bottom and the Mechanics from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

 

So that’s where I’ve been. 

 

Cheers,

Jack Heller

 

 

Hipsters in Iambic Pentameter

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.232  Thursday, 21 May 2015

 

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

Date:         May 20, 2015 at 5:39:24 PM EDT

Subject:    Hipsters in Iambic Pentameter

 

(This is perhaps a different sort of event than most members of SHAKSPER are used to, but when in Brooklyn, do as the hipsters . . .)

 

Capulet Gynecologist, Montague Onanist: Medieval Sex, Renaissance Death, and Romeo and Juliet:  an Illustrated Lecture

 

Shakespeare was never like this in your high school English class. Unless you went to a very unusual high school.  

 

On Thursday, June 11, at 8 pm, the Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 Third Avenue in Brooklyn welcomes Lois Leveen to discuss the research behind JULIET’S NURSE (Simon & Schuster).  Her talk, “Capulet Gynecologist, Montague Onanist: Medieval Sex, Renaissance Death, and Romeo and Juliet,” offers new insights into what might seem to be the most familiar literary work in the English language.

 

Romeo and Juliet is such a ubiquitous part of our literary culture that we seldom question how bizarre its popularity is.  Shouldn’t it strike us as odd that the world’s favorite love story ends in a pile of corpses (some fresh, some moldering)? That a troubled teen visiting her religious confessor leaves with mind- and body-altering drugs? Or that a family would keep a professional breastfeeder as part of their household, even when their child is almost 14 years old?

 

Leveen’s new book, Juliet’s Nurse, imagines the 14 years leading up to the events depicted in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In this illustrated talk, Leveen shares the research behind the novel, which uncovered unexpected details about how people experienced sex and death in 14th-century Italy.  

 

When plague first came to Italy in 1348, it killed 40% of the population. In the wake of this devastation, many survivors turned to hedonism rather than piety. Even those who flocked to churches found themselves on their knees before eroticized pictures of naked saints, while out on the streets eruptions of gang violence could draw as many as a thousand young men into a single brawl. Families might spend five generations taking bloodied revenge upon their enemies, and young women under pressure to produce viable heirs were subject to superstitious rituals and pseudo-scientific gynecological procedures, from conception through childbirth. Drawing on diaries, court cases, letters, and illustrated medical treatises, Leveen explores a society on the cusp between the medieval era and the Renaissance.

 

 

Tickets for the event are $5 and can be reserved online at http://morbidanatomymuseum.org/event/capulet-gynecologist-montague-onanist-medieval-sex-renaissance-death-and-romeo-and-juliet-an-illustrated-lecture-with-lois-leveen/

 

Criticism of Erne

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.231  Wednesday, 20 May 2015

 

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

Date:         May 18, 2015 at 7:24:05 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Criticism of Erne

 

Ian Steele seems to think that he has unraveled the mystery of Mr. W. H.  I still think, however, that the issue is still murky, and there is just no consensus about who W. H. was or how the poems got to Thorpe.  Whatever answer, if any, is ultimately accepted, it will have to deal with the fact that in 1598 (nine years before Thorpe came out with his book) Francis Meres reported that the sonnets were circulating among Shakespeare’s private friends.  Ian’s scenario seems inconsistent with that.

 

 

 

MV Dialog

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.230  Wednesday, 20 May 2015

 

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

     Date:         May 18, 2015 at 7:17:49 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog 

 

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

     Date:         May 19, 2015 at 10:26:25 PM EDT

     Subject:    MV Dialog - William Blanton 

 

 

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

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

Date:         May 18, 2015 at 7:17:49 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

>I wonder if I am the only person who thinks that perhaps the 

>setting for Measure For Measure is not Vienna but Venice.  

 

This occurred to me as well; the locus has a definite Italianate feel.  But the idea runs aground on Shakespeare’s sources, which are set in what became the Austrian Empire:  Cinthio’s Hecatommithi takes place in Innsbruck and Whetstone’s Promos & Cassandra is set in Hungary (or perhaps the Kingdom of Hungary and Bohemia).  I suppose it is possible that Shakespeare had a vague notion that Vienna (which sorta sounds Italian) is in Italy.

 

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

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

Date:         May 19, 2015 at 10:26:25 PM EDT

Subject:    MV Dialog - William Blanton

 

In the 18 May 2015 issue, William Blanton argues: “…Shakespeare and his audiences had a particular attitude to Italian city states…because of their catholicism, but also because … Italy was the source of Machiavellianism.…”

 

Notice should be taken of the comment about travel to Italy made by Roger Ascham (1515-1568) in The Schoolmaster  (modernized, with emphasis made bold).

 

“To join learning with comely exercises, Conto Baldesar Castigliode in his book Cortegiane, both trimly teach: which book, advisedly read, and diligently followed, but one year at home in England, would do a young Gentleman most good, I wise, then three years travel abroad spent in Italy.  And I marvel this book, is no more read in the Court then it is, seeing it is so well translated into English by a worthy Gentleman, Sir Th. Hobbe, [Hobby] who was many ways well furnished with learning, and very expert in knowledge of divers tongues.”1 2

 

It is within reason to expect that Shakespeare interacted with many young men returning from extended tours of Italy, who also were part of his audience.

 

Abraham Samuel Shiff

 

1    Roger Ascham.  The scholemaster or plaine and perfite way of teaching children, to vndersta[n]d, write, & speak, the Latin tong.. Anno. 1579.  At London : Printed by Iohn Daye, dwelling over Aldersgate.Cum  priuilegio Regiae Maiestatis. And are to be sold  at his shop at the west dore of Paules, [1579].  Leaf 20V.  .Bib Name / Number:  STC (2nd ed.) / 835.5.  Copy from: University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign Campus).  EEBO.

  

2     Thomas Hobby’s (1530-1566) polyglot Italian, French and English edition of Castaglione’s The Book of the Courtier may be viewed on EEBO as STC (2nd ed. / 4781).

 

Deconstruction

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.229  Wednesday, 20 May 2015

 

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

Date:         May 19, 2015 at 4:44:24 PM EDT

Subject:    Deconstruction

 

In Deconstructionist theory, there is the argument that all words are given meaning by other words. This is achieved in two ways, reflected in the words “differ” and “defer”. By “differ” the meaning is given by saying what the word is not. For example, good is NOT bad, etc. Other words have their meaning deferred to another word, like in a dictionary. When we look up a dictionary, we see the meaning of the word given by another word; so the meaning is deferred to another word. The argument is that this necessarily makes all words ambiguous since they depend on one another, and so they all become contextual and socially constructed. Hence meaning cannot be absolute and fully objective.

 

There is, however, a very serious problem with this argument. To begin with, that is NOT how dictionaries work! The meaning of a word cannot be given purely by another word or set of words, all by themselves, independent of everything else. This is impossible. Otherwise, a person who knows no English at all should be able to learn the meaning of words using a single-language English dictionary. But such a dictionary is useless to someone who knows no English at all.

 

So how do dictionaries actually work? In order for it to work, we must already have imputed meaning into at least some of the words. It is the mind of the reader that imputes this meaning, and this meaning does NOT depend on another word. So when we look up a word we do not understand, the dictionary refers us to another word similar to it, and if we have already imputed a meaning to this word, we can then begin to work out the meaning of the actual word we are looking up. The crucial point is this: Our mind needs to have already imputed meaning into at least some of the words in order for the dictionary to function at all.

 

So somewhere along the line, the starting point has to be a meaning imputed onto a word by our mind. This means that not all words are dependent on other words for their meaning. Ultimately, somewhere or other, they are dependent on the mind that imputes the meaning. If this is true, the whole deconstructionist argument would almost seem to collapse!

 

Thoughts anyone?

 

Kenneth Chan

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