Comments on Editor’s Note

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.280  Wednesday, 24 August 2016

 

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

     Date:         August 24, 2016 at 2:00:36 AM EDT

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: Comment Editor's Note

 

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

     Date:         Wednesday, August 24, 2016

     Subj:         Comments on Editor’s Note

 

 

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

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

Date:         August 24, 2016 at 2:00:36 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Comment Editor's Note

 

1. “Own personal observations”. If mine grammar offends thee, pluck it. [insert laughing emoji indicating that I am only joking.]😄

 

 

2. Fox News Point. Do not associate me with The Donald. Them’s fightin’ words. I did not say that my opinion was a fact. I was referring to my own observations and conclusions. I can claim that some of my observations are factual. My conclusions may or may not be factual; I believe them to be correct, but others may prove me wrong. Professor Berger is more than welcome to give it a go.

 

 

3. Beliefs Point. I have said from the very outset that the only substantive evidence concerning MV are Shakespeare’s own words in the text; specifically in the version included in the First Folio. I have used and highly recommend Professor Neil Freeman’s First Folio in Modern Type. You can obtain a paperback version of MV for $12.95 at this site: http://www.halleonardbooks.com/search/search.action?subsiteid=166&keywords=merchant+venice&menuid=10263 

 

Freeman gives us the play exactly as Shakespeare wrote it, and does not tell anyone what to think of the play.

 

I have also said that everything else is, to one degree or another, speculation. I have never claimed to be entitled to my own facts. 

 

Perhaps people are confused because I choose not to hedge about everything I say with namby-pamby academic qualifications. Let what I have just said in points 2 and 3 serve as a blanket qualification.

 

 

4. I have constantly acknowledged that John is the authority on the Literature level. I defer completely to him on all things Literary.

 

Maybe I have not been clear enough about what I am doing and why. Let me say a few words about EVIDENCE.

 

I consider Shakespeare’s own words to be the primary source of evidence. Ever since I began this extended re-examination of the play, I have looked at every single word in the text as closely and as carefully as I know how. My goal is to understand and to communicate what those words would have meant to an Elizabethan audience which was listening to them closely.

 

I have learned a great deal about the religious and political issues in Shakespeare’s time and about Shakespeare. I took two upper level Shakespeare courses at Rice, and was completely unaware of many crucial aspects. MV was one of the plays that we studied, and neither the Introduction to the play nor the discussion by the Professor Emeritus properly prepared me. My hope is that appropriate scholars will use my analysis as a starting point for a re-examination of this great and under-appreciated play so that future students will be better prepared.

 

Of course, words are a slippery sort of evidence, particularly with respect to a genius-level wordsmith like Shakespeare. So here’s my basic approach:

 

1. As a preliminary matter I take each word at face value. Shakespeare wrote it that way and must have meant it that way.

2. Unless his character did not mean it that way. For example, being sarcastic. Telling a lie.

3. In addition, Shakespeare may have used the word in more than one sense. In fact, he probably did. Many double-entendres, so I had to consult my Shakespeare dirty language reference books. Words with normal meanings that also have religious meanings or connotations. Words that also relate to mythology, Roman history, the Bible, other plays, or English history.

4. Sometimes Shakespeare may have used the word one way at one point in the text, and then contradicted it in another part. For example: Shylock is a Jew at one point and Shylock is the Devil at another. I try to reconcile any apparent contradictions, and I believe I have done so in the case of Shylock. But that discussion comes later.

5. I pay particular attention to words that Shakespeare used several times within a short space of time. I have observed that Shakespeare used this technique to alert his audiences to pay attention to those words. For example: Launcelet Jobbo; Daniel.

6. I then do my best to construct a coherent narrative.

 

We have only just begun to examine the evidence that I have identified from the text. We are on the preliminary task of identifying who the characters are on the several dimensions of meaning. First up has been the main character, Portia. I cited more than a dozen examples from the text that demonstrate that Shakespeare associated Portia with Elizabeth.

 

Bassanio is up next.

 

Stay tuned. 

 

Bill

 

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

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

Date:         Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Subject:    Comments on Editor’s Note

 

Concerning point one, Diction Point:

 

Actually, Larry it is a diction point—redundancy or wordiness. And, Larry and Bill, I did not say it had anything to do with grammar—it is a stylistic, or rhetorical (Larry), issue not a grammatical one.

 

 

Concerning point two, Fox News Point:

 

I did not mention anything about either candidate. I used the label Fox News because it is on Fox News more than any other network news programs that opinions are paraded as if they were facts. I agree with Larry that other commentators use the same rhetorical strategy, but its preponderance appears on Fox News.

 

 

Concerning point three, Beliefs Point:

 

It is true that “the primary source of evidence” for support of an hypothesis are Shakespeare’s words in the text. But they are not the only source. Much evidence, and I am not an authority here, has been gathered in the past few decades about the treatment of Jews in England during Shakespeare’s time, perhaps beginning with the work of James Shapiro. This too is evidence that can be marshalled in constructing an hypothesis. 

 

 

Concerning point four, Evidence Point:

 

Here I defer to Larry’s succinct statement: “Actually, evidence is the basis upon which we find facts; the facts are the building blocks of theories.”

 

 

 

Romeo and Juliet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.279  Wednesday, 24 August 2016

 

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

Date:         August 23, 2016 at 10:25:43 PM EDT

Subject:    Romeo and Juliet

 

I’d be very grateful for recommendations for (1) a good edition of the play (available in paperback) with a useful introduction and good textual notes; (2) essential reading - books, articles, reasonably accessible - about the play.

 

Brian Bixley

 

 

 

World Shakespeare Congress Reports

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.278  Tuesday, 23 August 2016

 

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

     Date:         August 23, 2016 at 9:43:09 AM EDT

     Subj:         World Shakespeare Congress

 

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

     Date:         August 22, 2016 at 6:10:59 PM EDT

     Subj:         RE: WSC Reports

 

 

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

Date:         August 23, 2016 at 9:43:09 AM EDT

Subject:    World Shakespeare Congress 

 

May I begin the day before at the memorial service for Russ McDonald?

 

It was really lovely. The service was held in the Senate House at the University of London and was ably introduced by Lena Orlin, Russ’s co-editor for the BEDFORD SHAKESPEARE textbook. 

 

On the program were short talks by people who knew Russ at different parts of his life: a scholar he mentored who noted his generosity amongst his other virtues, a colleague at Goldsmiths who noted his generosity amongst his other virtues, his editor at OPERA NEWS who noted his generosity amongst his other virtues, and Stanley Wells with a summary who noted Russ’s generosity amongst his other virtues. 

 

Between these talks were interludes of some of Russ’s favorite short musical pieces, two, I think it was, were recorded, the rest played by excellent soloists who also played as a duo.

 

I did not count noses, but I’d guess there were about 60 people there, maybe more. Myself excepted, these included many of the most eminent Shakespeareans of our time. I won’t name names for I don’t want to violate anybody’s privacy, but if there was a must read book written by somebody in the past 30 years, there are 9 chances out of 10 that the author was there, Russ excepted, of course. 

 

I hate memorial services, for they mean that the people you love will no longer continue your friendship. I love memorial services, for the testimonies of your friend’s other friends help you get to know the departed better than you did before because their experiences of him (in this case) are different than your experiences. During the talks and in conversation with many of my friends at the reception afterward, I got to know Russ better than I would have without attending the service. Some of these conversations would continue the next day in Stratford. 

 

As I told people then, Russ promised to buy me a drink during the WSC. I said, “I’m holding him to that and he’d better show up!”  Unfortunately, he didn’t show up.

 

All the best, 

Mike Jensen 

 

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

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

Date:         August 22, 2016 at 6:10:59 PM EDT

Subject:    RE: WSC Reports

 

This is my attempt to boil 40 pages of notes on the World Shakespeare Congress down to a few highlights. The seven days I spent at the Congress were among the most valuable I’ve spent during my academic career. I took part in a seminar on “Shakespeare’s Religious Languages” and a workshop on original pronunciation and sat in on lots of other sessions, with topics that included Shakespearean biography, Shakespeare and Cervantes, Shakespeare in the Arab world, collaboration and co-creation, and lots more.

 

All the plenary sessions were very good. One of the best was with Adrian Lester on August 2. Based on his experience as an actor and as a human being, he discussed how complex and multilayered Shakespeare’s characters and language are, how we encounter different points of view within a single character, and how these different points of view can be hidden from each other, not revealed to the audience or even to the character himself or herself until a certain point. We see such characters (Angelo, Henry V, Othello, Richard III, for instance) changing, shifting in front of us, experiencing moment to moment self-discovery. We are watching something take place live, in the moment. Lester claimed that so far, from his experience on stage, Shakespeare is the only writer who consistently captures this “in the moment,” shifting, multilayered experience of being a self in the process of self-discovery.

 

Another great plenary session was with Harold Jacobson. I was persuaded that I need to read his novel Shylock Is My Name. I learned there are other novels in this series of “covers” of Shakespeare plays, including Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time, which I’ve now gotten hold of and have started reading. (I also bought a copy of Jim Shapiro’s 1606 and finished reading it by the time I left England. A great book.) Another memorable plenary was with several directors, from Serbia, Nigeria, the US, and Ireland (Caroline Byrne, who directed a powerful production of The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe). I also attended a fascinating evening discussion in Stratford, not officially part of the program, with Jim Shapiro and Gregory Doran talking about the upcoming production of Lear.

 

Besides The Taming of the Shrew—the most memorable of the three plays I went to—I saw Cymbeline and Hamlet in Stratford. All three were well worth seeing, the Shrew set in early twentieth-century Ireland and Hamlet, with an almost all black cast, set (more or less) in Africa. I’ll save detailed reviews for later. I will say, though, that there seems to have been a bit of a multiple language theme in Stratford. The Opening Reception featured four Romeos and four Juliets, speaking English, French, Spanish, and Italian. And Cymbeline had some characters briefly speaking Italian, French, or conversational Latin (not something you hear much these days!), while Shakespeare’s lines in English were projected on the back wall.

 

The Opening Reception in London included the “Shakespeare in 10 Acts” exhibit at the British Library, with a wealth of documents and artifacts. The original pages from the additions to Sir Thomas More by Hand D (I’m persuaded it’s Shakespeare’s handwriting) were on display. I also learned that there’s some question about the authenticity of the report of Shakespeare being performed off the coast of Sierra Leone in 1607 (I really want that to be true). And I was a bit irritated by the tendentious explanation of what Shakespeare did with the anonymous Leir in writing Lear that accompanied quarto copies of those two plays. Another treasure, this one on display back in Stratford, was Shakespeare’s newly conserved will.

 

Two of my favorite spots, new discoveries for me, were “Shakespeare’s Schoolroom” next to the Guild Chapel in Stratford (must be a new attraction—I’ve never seen the space open to the public before) and the Sam Wanamaker candlelit theater (part of the Globe complex in London), a truly wondrous space where excerpts from Lyly’s plays were performed and shown to be eminently accessible and effective on stage.

 

As for food, my favorite spots included the Encore pub in Stratford and Taza (a great place for shawarma) and Masala Zone, both in the Queensway area of London. 

 

I’m afraid my notes here give just the barest hint of the many, many elements that made up the grand academic (and more than academic) feast offered at the World Shakespeare Congress this year.

 

Bruce Young 

 

 

 

Comments on Editor's Note

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.277  Tuesday, 23 August 2016

 

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

     Date:         August 22, 2016 at 2:06:38 PM EDT

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

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

     Date:         August 22, 2016 at 3:13:29 PM EDT

     Subj:         Entitle in the Dictionary

 

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

     Date:         August 22, 2016 at 4:36:09 PM EDT

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

 

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

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

Date:         August 22, 2016 at 2:06:38 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

Thanks to Hardy for politely but persuasively pinpointing the puffiness and huffiness of Bill Blanton’s weird riff on Merchant.

 

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

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

Date:         August 22, 2016 at 3:13:29 PM EDT

Subject:    Entitle in the Dictionary

 

Hardy, please clear up the word ‘quality’ in your point about the word ‘entitle’. Did you mean ‘qualify’?

 

Sid Lubow

 

[Editor’s Note: Sid, you are absolutely correct. I mistyped and have change my mistake in the file in the archives.  –Hardy]

 

[3]----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         August 22, 2016 at 4:36:09 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

Hardy,

I can be even more school-marmish than you:

-------------------------------------------------------------

 

Diction Point: One that gets every English teacher—if something is your “own personal observations”; then it is your “own observations.”—if it’s yours, it is personal. Enough said.

 

Actually, this is not a point of diction, but of rhetoric.  The diction is impeccable but perhaps the redundancy is annoying.  For example, there is nothing grammatically incorrect about “my own sentiments exactly,” and in this instance I doubt many would object to the grammatically unnecessary but rhetorically effective emphasis.  

 

Fox News Point: If we have learned ANYTHING from this presidential election cycle, just because something is YOUR OPINION does not make it a FACT or make it CORRECT.

 

Indeed, but the point is illustrated by other commentators also, from both wings.  I would go further and add that just because something is stated as a fact does not make it true.

 

   Beliefs Point: “John is entitled to his belief, just as I am entitled to mine.”: The Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (formerly The Webster’s Third International) provides this definition for the verb entitle: “to give a right or legal title to : quality (one) for something : furnish with proper grounds for seeking or claiming something.” Yes, people are ENTITLED to their “beliefs, observations, opinions, and conclusions” but that does NOT make them correct.

 

You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

 

Evidence Point: Thank you for this Bill: “Even though we agree on the same empirical evidence, we nevertheless disagree on the meaning of that evidence. I cannot claim that he is falsifying that evidence any more than he can claim that I am doing so.” But I do think you have a problem with your focus here. EVIDENCE is the basis upon which interpretations are made. The quality and ultimately veracity of those interpretations depend on many things. Foremost upon these is the source of the interpretation. Her background, her reading, her depth of knowledge about the subject, her respect by her peers and colleagues, and so on.

 

Actually, evidence is the basis upon which we find facts; the facts are the building blocks of theories.

 

 

 

MV Dialog

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.276  Monday, 22 August 2016

 

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

Date:         August 21, 2016 at 11:42:50 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

John:

 

I suppose that I do occasionally personalize my posts, but that may be inevitable. After all, I am expressing my own personal observations, opinions, and conclusions. I believe that they are correct and useful; otherwise I would not have posted them. No doubt the same goes for everyone who posts their observations, opinions, and conclusions on SHAKSPER. 

 

I do not understand what empirical evidence has to do with the analysis of a play, an analysis which by its very nature can be neither scientific nor technical.

 

For example: In support of my belief that the “Venice” of the play represents London on the Political/Religious/Current Events dimension of meaning, I cited a number of examples that related exclusively to English matters. John agreed that all of my examples were indeed English, but disagreed with my conclusion. He believes that Shakespeare included these English matters in order to make his English audiences more comfortable with the play’s Venetian setting. 

 

John is entitled to his belief, just as I am entitled to mine. Even though we agree on the same empirical evidence, we nevertheless disagree on the meaning of that evidence. I cannot claim that he is falsifying that evidence any more than he can claim that I am doing so.

 

We will be discussing usury, Shylock’s name, and his identity as The Devil in the near future. We will next be discussing Bassanio’s name and identity.

 

Please be patient.

 

Bill

 

[Editor’s Note: Bill, this note is not directed exclusively to you; it comes from approaching thirty years of editing and moderating this electronic conference. Bill Blanton makes a number of statements in the post above that have been stones over which I have tripped or surely paused in many, many submissions over the years. 

  1. Diction Point: One that gets every English teacher—if something is your “own personal observations”; then it is your “own observations.”—if it’s yours, it is personal. Enough said.
  2. Fox News Point: If we have learned ANYTHING from this presidential election cycle, just because something is YOUR OPINION does not make it a FACT or make it CORRECT.
  3. Beliefs Point: “John is entitled to his belief, just as I am entitled to mine.”: The Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (formerly The Webster’s Third International) provides this definition for the verb entitle: “to give a right or legal title to : qualify (one) for something : furnish with proper grounds for seeking or claiming something.” Yes, people are ENTITLED to their “beliefs, observations, opinions, and conclusions” but that does NOT make them correct.
  4. Evidence Point: Thank you for this Bill: “Even though we agree on the same empirical evidence, we nevertheless disagree on the meaning of that evidence. I cannot claim that he is falsifying that evidence any more than he can claim that I am doing so.” But I do think you have a problem with your focus here. EVIDENCE is the basis upon which interpretations are made. The quality and ultimately veracity of those interpretations depend on many things. Foremost upon these is the source of the interpretation. Her background, her reading, her depth of knowledge about the subject, her respect by her peers and colleagues, and so on. 

In short, just because it is your opinion does not make it right. —Hardy]

 

 

 

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