Kingston Shakespeare Conference: Garrick’s Temple, Shakespeare and the Enlightenment

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.248  Wednesday, 27 July 2016

 

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

Date:         July 26, 2016 at 3:22:26 PM EDT

Subject:    Kingston Shakespeare Conference: Garrick’s Temple, Shakespeare and the Enlightenment

 

Please circulate? 

 

https://kingstonshakespeareseminar.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/shakespeare-and-the-enlightenment-shakespeare-at-garricks-temple-sept-3/

 

Kingston Shakespeare is proud to announce a collaboration with Garrick’s Temple at Hampton in organising Shakespeare and philosophy events. It was David Garrick’s dream to host Enlightenment luminaries, like Voltaire, at the shrine he built to Shakespeare in 1756.

 

Unlike regular Kingston Shakespeare events, these events at the Temple will have an admittance donation of £10. All the money will be used for the event catering and to support  the Temple. But the event will be nominally free.

 

The first event will be on September 3, 2016 and is entitled ‘Shakespeare and the Enlightenment’. Confirmed speakers are Paul Kottman (New School), Edward Chaney (Southampton Solent), and Kiernan Ryan (Royal Holloway).

 

Mark your diaries, more information will follow soon. See the event page on Facebook!

 

If you are wanting to talk or present at this event on Shakespeare and on aspects of the Enlightenment, we welcome suggestions for contributions. Please contact Richard Wilson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Best Wishes, 

Paul Hamilton 

PhD University of Birmingham 

 

 

Macbeth in Chillicothe

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.247  Wednesday, 27 July 2016

 

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

Date:         July 26, 2016 at 4:38:37 PM EDT

Subject:    Free Professional Production of Macbeth August 14 in Chillicothe

 

The Scioto Society, for 40 years producers of the outstanding outdoor drama Tecumseh! at Sugatloaf Mountain Amphitheatre, (about  35 miles south of Columbus off Route 23)occasionally produces free Shakespeare with support from the Ohio Arts Council.   We’ve missed Tempest this season, but you can still reserve up to five free tickets for Macbeth Sunday August 14 by going to

 

tecumsehdrama.com

 

The best Puck I ever saw in my long life was about 20 years ago at Sugarloaf.  An actress who’d studied gymnastics before cutting her dramatic teeth as props manager the previous year at Tecumseh!  SOMERSAULTED OFF A CLIFF WHILE delivering the line

 

“What fools these mortals be!”

 

That’s true. She landed on her feet. The entire production was also very very good.  It’s a great outdoor theatre, that alone worth the trip.

 

Kezia Vanmeter Sproat

 

 

MV Appropriation

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.246  Tuesday, 26 July 2016

 

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

     Date:         July 22, 2016 at 3:42:43 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV 

 

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

     Date:         July 24, 2016 at 3:52:50 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV 

 

 

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

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

Date:         July 22, 2016 at 3:42:43 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV

 

Bill Blanton’s attempt to establish a link between Portia in MV and Elizabeth I, while interesting, doesn’t seem to me to be very convincing. There are a number of problems with the thesis although the methodology is not unfamiliar, and of the kind that one finds in allegedly ‘scholarly’ biographies of Shakespeare. I suspect that the (usually male) fans of Portia are not too dissimilar to those that many years ago Linda Woodbridge noticed had a soft spot for Shakespeare’s Cleopatra. There’s an odd, unacknowledged presentism in all of this that doesn’t quite get acknowledged, but might be worth investigating further.  Terry Hawkes thou shoulst be living at this hour. Shakespeare he hath need of thee!

 

I would ask Bill Blanton to consider this: at 1.1.161 ff. Bassanio gives a glowing description of Portia whose “sunny locks / Hang on her temples like a golden fleece, / Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchis’ strand, / And many Jason’s come in quest of her.” (ll.169-72). As an heiress Portia is desirable, and Bassanio’s quest is at root a business proposition if a little romanticised.  This ‘might’ be connected to the alleged desirability of Elizabeth or of any eligible heiress.

 

BUT if we move to 3.2. we find this speech that begins:

                                   

                                                     Look on her beauty                    

            And you shall see 'tis purchased by the weight,

            Which therein works a miracle in nature,

            Making them lightest that wear most of it:

            So are those crisped snaky golden locks,

            Which maketh such wanton gambols with the wind

            Upon supposed fairness, often known

            To be the dowry of a second head,

           The skull that bred them in the sepulchre.

            Thus ornament is but the guiled shore

            To a most dangerous sea; the beauteous scarf

            Veiling an Indian beauty; in a word,

            The seeming truth, which cunning times put on

            To entrap the wisest.

 

What is Bassanio ‘thinking’ of here? Could Shakespeare be drawing upon archetypal notions of ‘woman’ that might be common in early modern male discourse of praise and doubt? The above passage, if Shakespeare had Elizabeth in mind would surely have earned him a visit to the local torture chamber wouldn’t it? What we have to consider here is ‘context’, and it is this term that Bill Blanton stretches widely in one direction, just as he narrows it down in another to one specific sort (an aristocratic sort) of ‘history’. Nailing the play down to a specific ‘history’ reduces its appeal, and (by the way) tells us nothing specific about Elizabeth.  Certainly not that Shakespeare, or any of his contemporaries harboured a desire for ‘regime change’. We might as well say that Portia is a composite of George W. Bush and Tony Blair...with the gender switch to throw us off the scent, and that Shakespeare prophesied events in Iraq and Syria. Myself I think Shakespeare prophesied BREXIT, and that Julius Caesar is a key text (the knifing of the brute Boris Johnson...with Antony and Cleopatra prefiguring a fatal encounter between Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson, with the empress Teresa (Octavius) May - who, apparently shares a name with a porn star- pronouncing unctuously at the end of the fiasco! 

 

To be fair to Bill Blanton, his proposal nowhere near as whacky as that, -given some of the nonsense that passes for ‘scholarship’ these days - though it seems to me to come out of a stable that is methodologically to close in proximity for comfort.

 

As Ever

John D

 

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

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

Date:         July 24, 2016 at 3:52:50 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV

 

To Mari Bonomi

 

Thank you for your initial willingness to allow me one possible dimension of meaning in Merchant. I am sorry to have disappointed you with my “regime change” speculation.

 

I have freely acknowledged that my analysis will contain significant speculation. I stated at the outset that, other than Shakespeare’s own words in the text (the First Folio is my reference), everything else is, to one degree or another, speculation. We have very little hard evidence regarding Shakespeare’s life and beliefs, and none whatsoever regarding his intentions with respect to his poems and plays.

 

I entirely sympathize with your consternation at the idea that Shakespeare himself desired a regime change. I had to struggle with myself before I came to that conclusion, as well as to other conclusions that differ markedly from the Received Wisdom.

 

Like you, I am no scholar but have read a good deal about Shakespeare and Elizabethan history. What I have attempted to do is to read the text in the First Folio as closely as I know how, and to ask myself questions whenever I bump into something that strikes me as curious. I then try either to use my existing knowledge or to do more research in order to answer those questions.

 

My first questions involved the curious trial scene. I used my knowledge and experience as a trial lawyer, and also did research into sixteenth century English law and procedure. In my article at shylocke.org I demonstrated that the Received Wisdom has misunderstood this crucial scene. Consequently, I proposed that wise scholars should reevaluate the entire play. None came forth.

 

I am now trying to do my best with a reevaluation. I have previously provided two overviews that show where I am heading.

 

Now to your point.

 

I bumped into Shakespeare’s curious allusions to Diana and the Sibyl. It was clear to me that the allusion to Diana connected Portia with Elizabeth. Not so clear was the connection with the Sibyl. Obviously it had something to do with age, but what, exactly?

 

I was aware — as I’m sure you are — that Southampton was a devotee of Essex, and was carrying on an affair with Essex’s cousin, Elizabeth Vernon. Shakespeare was, of course, a devotee of Southampton. But why would Shakespeare also want a regime change?

 

I believe it ties back to his Catholicism. 

 

His family may have been recusants, and that may have resulted in his father’s serious reversal of fortune. When Shakespeare was about 17 years of age, the so-called Somerville Conspiracy occurred. The patriarch of the Arden family, Edward, and his wife were falsely accused of treason and hauled off to the Tower (where Edward’s son-in-law had committed suicide). Edward confessed to treason under torture. 

 

Ay, I fear you speak upon the rack, 

Where men enforced do speak anything.

(3.2.32-33)

 

He was convicted of treason, and was drawn and quartered. His wife was also convicted and was sentenced to hang, but her sentence was rescinded.

 

I suspect that in a number of his plays Shakespeare had tried to get the Queen to cease persecuting English Catholics and to let the two faiths coexist. By late 1596, it was clear that she would do no such thing. It was not at all clear that she would die anytime soon, or who would succeed her. 

 

Also by this date, it was clear that Essex had been bested by the Cecils and was seriously out of favor. He would no longer be able to provide any patronage to his friends and clients. Worse still, his farm on sweet wines would expire in 4 years and would probably not be renewed. He would then face bankruptcy, as would Southampton. Regime change might save them from penury, and might result in greater tolerance for English Catholics.

 

We should also consider the failed Essex Rebellion of 1601. Essex claimed that his motive was to free the Queen from her evil advisors. This was the same reason Bolingbroke gave for his rebellion. Shakespeare and his company put on Richard the Second the day before the Rebellion, and included the deposition scene (which the Queen had previously forbidden to be enacted). The Queen knew what was going on, and called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men onto the carpet.

 

In my opinion these matters constitute circumstantial evidence supporting my speculation.

 

I have tried to be careful with these speculations. I do not rely on a just one word or phrase in the text to support them. I insist on several, and further require that nothing else in the text contradicts my conclusion.

 

If you will stick with me, I hope to show you and others that The Merchant of Venice is a much better, more interesting, and more intricate play that heretofore believed.

 

 

To Jim Carroll

 

I believe that Shakespeare had no intention to flatter Elizabeth. Quite to the contrary. 

 

Neither I nor anyone can prove anything about the play. As discussed above, everything other than the words in the text is speculation, including the quotation from your edition. Indeed, that quote has more to do with various performances the author had seen rather than with any words in the play itself.

 

I do not contend that Shakespeare introduced Elizabeth explicitly into the play. Portia is Portia on the story dimension. Her identity as Elizabeth on a different level does nothing to interfere with the drama or story.

 

She represented Elizabeth only on the Political/Religious/Current Events dimension of meaning, which only a relatively modest percentage of those in Shakespeare’s audiences would have perceived.

 

Shakespeare was certainly capable of writing a play on more than one dimension. The question is, did he do so with The Merchant of Venice? I cannot prove that he did so with any hard evidence: such is the nature of multiple layers of meaning. What I hope to do is to provide enough instances of curious words, phrases, and sentences such that those who can free themselves from centuries of mistaken interpretations can appreciate the play as a sophisticated Elizabethan playgoer would have done. Much like a modern Saturday Night Live audience would appreciate the sophisticated contemporary humor largely at the expense of politicians. Not unlike Gilbert and Sullivan in an earlier century.

 

I do know how difficult it will be to clear one’s mind of the Received Wisdom and consider this play anew. I struggled with — and continue to struggle with — that same difficulty. I am painfully aware that I have opened myself up to ridicule by challenging centuries of interpretations of this play.

 

I ask you and everyone else to help me out. Please identify any errors that I may make, factual and otherwise. Please correct any lapses in logic that I may make. Please point me in the direction of helpful resources. And please keep challenging my conclusions and asking for explanations.

 

Many thanks to both of you.

Bill

 

 

 

RSC Faustus

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.245  Tuesday, 26 July 2016

 

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

     Date:         July 22, 2016 at 12:36:32 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: RSC Faustus 

 

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

     Date:         July 22, 2016 at 2:32:28 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: RSC Faustus 

 

 

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

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

Date:         July 22, 2016 at 12:36:32 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: RSC Faustus

 

A superbly grumpy review by John Drakakis!  Please go on - what exactly was so awful about it?  What did they do with the text, and what were they wearing?  (I believe you, I’d just like more details ...)

 

Julia Griffin

 

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

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

Date:         July 22, 2016 at 2:32:28 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: RSC Faustus

 

I saw the RSC Faustus on Saturday. It is far and away the worst production that I have ever seen at the RSC. The text was edited in such a way as to make the performance incomprehensible, and the sets and costumes were utterly unappealing. The only interesting thing was the expert way in which the actor playing Faustus inscribed a circle on the stage. It must have taken him hours of rehearsal and massive public subsidy.  

 

By the end of the performance (1 hr. 45 mins with no interval) I wanted to hang draw and quarter the director whose understanding of Marlowe's play was Neanderthal.  Anybody contemplating seeing this truly awful production should wipe out from their memories any sense of the text of the play, or any previous knowledge of what the play is about.  I had thought that things were improving at the RSC, but on the evidence of this the company has taken a few gigantic steps backwards!

 

John Drakakis 

 

Hardy posted my review a couple of weeks ago:

 

http://www.mcelhearn.com/theater-review-doctor-faustus-christopher-marlowe-at-the-royal-shakespeare-company/

 

I can understand why one wouldn’t like it, but I’d say it was far from the worst. There were a couple of productions in the Swan in the past two years where my partner and I left at the interval. (We live just outside of Stratford.) 

 

Given the quality of the Shakespeare productions there recently, I think painting the entire company with a brush like this because of Faustus is a mistake. 

 

Best,

Kirk

 

 

 

Shakespeare's Will

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.244  Tuesday, 26 July 2016

 

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

Date:         July 22, 2016 at 2:01:44 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Will

 

The original three-page will is dated 25 January 1616, with January crossed out and replaced by March. A common view is that a new page one, altered from the old, was written in March (with January initially copied by mistake).

 

In 1616, January was near the end of the year and March 25 (Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation) was New Year’s Day.  So, what appears to us to be a later date was actually ten months earlier. Was the will backdated for some reason or is this the mistake we all frequently make at the beginning of a new year?  How does either of these possibilities affect the conclusions?

 

 

 

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