The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.238  Friday, 22 May 2015


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

Date:         May 22, 2015 at 6:46:04 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: Deconstruction


As David Schalkwyk mentions, a philosophical discourse over the existence of a center can be found in Jacques Derrida’s “Structure, Sign, Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”. In that famous paper, Derrida argues for the absence of a center in an abstract philosophical manner, and cites the works of Nietzsche, Freud, and Heidegger as major contributors to this idea of decentering. This all eventually leads to a key point in deconstructionist theory, which is the absence of a center in language.


What is introduced in my previous post, however, is not an abstract argument. It, instead, specifically points out a concrete real-life “center” in language, in the form of the mind that imputes meaning onto words. All the abstract philosophical arguments (for the absence of a center) will have no value in the real world if it cannot be shown how this actual specific real-life “center” can be removed from language. And if we cannot logically remove this mind that imputes meaning onto words (the real-life center), the entire deconstructionist argument must be in jeopardy!


Kenneth Chan



Lifetime Portrait of Shakespeare???

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.237  Friday, 22 May 2015


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

Date:         May 22, 2015 at 11:59:09 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Lifetime Portrait?


The discussion concerning the uncovering of an alleged new portrait of Shakespeare on the cover of a book about plant life is most interesting. The question is whether it is indeed a portrait of the poet.


In his discussion on our list, John D. Markel, who is familiar with the book by John Gerard on botany, accepts that the two figures on the left side of the cover of Gerard’s book represent Gerard and his mentor, Rembert Dodoens, another great botanist. But then, when John shifts his gaze to the two figures on the right side of the cover, he thinks, unlike the two others, they are possibly earlier historical or allegorical personalities.


The right side figure above, John assays is possibly Dioscorides or Pliny, ancient compilers of plant life, although John acknowledges that it may be pictured with the face of Burghley, the queen’s senior minister. Perhaps, as John tells us, it was because Burghley had greatly assisted in making Gerard’s book possible. This is suggested since Burghley was the first one listed in the book as dedicatees.


This would make three of the figures shown on the book cover as representations of real persons. If so, why conclude that the fourth figure is purely allegorical, allegedly Apollo, as John proposes?


Since the Burghley figure is rendered in classical garb, connoting an allusion to historic earlier botanical compilers, why not conclude that this is the mode through which the fourth figure is represented, a contemporary garbed in symbolic attire? Accordingly, the second right hand figure could very well be another contemporary personality.


Thus, classically dressed and with the laurel about his head, the figure could allude to an earlier man of letters or even to Apollo, a god of poetry. And if so, why not, as in the case of the Burghley figure, a representation of Shakespeare who was contemporaneously acknowledged as a great poet? The case is made stronger by the fact that, as Mark Griffiths alleges, the decoded cipher on the pedestal below this figure indicates that it reads W. Shake-speare.


The question then is why was the poet considered so relevant that he was worthy of representation on the cover of a book on botany?


Could it be that Gerard was grateful to the poet because he helped in the writing of passages in the book? Or maybe it was because the poet had conspicuously mentioned the names of flowers in his narrative poems and plays, focusing public attention on the beauties of plant life?


Also, what changes when we learn what the poet might have looked like in his youth? Why would this be ruled out as unworthy of representation, unless those who would speculate that another writer had written his work would find themselves checkmated by the new finding?


Along with John Markel, I too await for more information “identifying Shakespeare as the model for the fellow at bottom right, look forward to reading the argument, including why a fritillary and an ear of corn (maize) appear together.”


David Basch


Mr. W.H. (Was Criticism of Erne)

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.236  Thursday, 21 May 2015


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

Date:         May 21, 2015 at 7:31:38 AM EDT

Subject:    Mr. W.H. (Was Criticism of Erne)


Larry Weiss (SHAKSPER, 20 May) says:


“Ian Steere 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.”


Larry’s first assumption above would better reflect my views if it were rephrased as: “Ian Steere thinks he has confirmed William Hervey as the candidate most likely to have been Mr WH”. I plead guilty to this charge. My opinion is justified in Who was Mr WH?, a 5-minute read which summarizes the shortcomings of other theories and which sets out the case for Hervey.

The Hervey argument is a logical development of a core thesis (not originated by me): that the original sonnets represented private communication between Shakespeare and Henry Wriothesley, reflecting real developments in their relationship. The evidence for this thesis is now, I believe, compelling (for those prepared to engage with it). It is described in The Biography in Shakespeare’s Sonnets. The latter treatise deals (as it has always done) with Larry’s point on Meres. Here is the relevant extract (which should, of course, be read in context before it is criticized):


“Nevertheless, as a Narcissus, Wriothesley favoured poems dealing directly with him. In this scenario he kept these together, stored in order of receipt. The Mistress sonnets (plus any on unrelated subjects were relegated to a separate batch. An author’s copy (or draft) of some of these “secondary” sonnets may have been shown by Shakespeare to other friends, as implied by Francis Meres. He wrote in his Palladis Tamia of 1598: “the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives on in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus & Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugared sonnets among his private friends”. Versions of Sonnets 138 and 144 (perhaps reconstructed from the memory of such a friend) did appear around 1599 in an unauthorized collection of poems attributed to Shakespeare, The Passionate Pilgrim.”


Of course, the above scenario is not the only one which would explain why the core thesis remains consistent with both Meres’ remarks and the content of The Passionate Pilgrim. The key point, as Larry knows, is that any private information shared with friends - no matter how trusted - runs a significant risk of leakage: particularly if the information is left with those friends in physical form (rather than shared through, say, a reading aloud or through limited and controlled access in the owner’s presence). Shakespeare, a man of the world, must have known this as well as anyone. It is unlikely that he would have shared the content of those of his sonnets which were too revealing of private circumstances (in their quantity and/or orientation) in any form which would have involved serious risk of these circumstances becoming public knowledge.


I welcome testing by anyone on any of the above points. In the meantime, I feel I may reasonably stick to my conclusion made earlier in this thread: it is probable that the sonnet promises of immortality have been fulfilled only because the poems became ammunition in a family feud.



The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.235  Thursday, 21 May 2015


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

Date:         May 20, 2015 at 2:31:53 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Deconstruction


Kenneth Chan’s question, and his attempt to deconstruct deconstruction, reproduces Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of the Structuralist need for something outside the system of differences (Chan’s “mind”) to act as the stabilising centre of the system.  The article is Jacques Derrida, “Structure, Sign, Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”, in Macksey & Donato (eds.), The Structuralist Controversy (2007).  It is available in PDF here: 


Best wishes,


Academic Director, Global Shakespeare

Queen Mary University of London and University of Warwick




Lifetime Portrait of Shakespeare???

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.234  Thursday, 21 May 2015


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

Date:         May 21, 2015 at 12:02:53 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Lifetime Portrait?


I am familiar with Gerard’s 1597 work, including the title plate. I have not previously encountered any other person’s attempted identification of the plate’s four men. However, without any ciphers or cryptographic expertise, or much effort at all, I too concluded the two left side figures were the book’s author and Dodoens. Dodoens, below, presumably in clothing English people thought contemporaneous Dutch or Germans wore, was the most esteemed continental herbalist in England. Gerard’s work builds on Dodoens, greatly expanding it in scope. To label it a translation of Dodoens would be an actual mistake, but Gerard may have hitched himself to Dodoens somewhat so. Gerard is pictured above. No mere bookish laboratory scholar, he appears half bare-legged with garden spade in hand, ready for action in the field. Gerard was an accomplished horticulturalist. Indeed, he published two separate catalogs of his personal garden specimens. In his Herball he sometimes talks about acquiring seeds and future planting plans, showing his book to be part of an active, growing, and ongoing intellectual pursuit, both inside and outside. The shovel may also be a metaphor Gerard digging into the soil of the knowledge of his priors. His title is, “The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes. Gathered by John Gerarde.” “Gathered” implying the fruit of others, but he added plenty of his own.  


Before approaching the right side, I point out atop the page is a woman. She is Mother Earth or Gaia or similar allegorical figure. As for the men on the right, they are conspicuously clothed classically. I had assumed they were Dioscorides and Pliny, the two greatest classical cataloguers of plants. However, taking a closer look at the newly proposed Shakespeare, I have changed my opinion. The lower right figure is mythological: the god Apollo. He wears a laurel in his hair. He is younger than the others; he bears none of the outward signs of bookishness or human wisdom. It was thought that Apollo or his son Aesclepius were the originators of knowledge of plants. Apollo was also the god of healing, that being an important and probably primary aspect of Gerard’s herbal. Apollo is depicted young and healthy, Aesclepius always aged to my recollection. Therefore I say this putative Shakespeare is Apollo.


As for the upper right man, he likely connotes Dioscorides or Pliny or classical knowledge in general (he holds a book). He may very well bear the face of Burghley. The herbal’s first dedication is to Burghley, and this patron may have gotten a kick out of being depicted as a ancient great. I do not know the plant he is holding, but he stands beside a thistle. (Dodoens is with lillies, Gerard with perhaps an anemone—see stem leaves—and maybe peonies beside). As for identifying Shakespeare as the model for the fellow at bottom right, I look forward to reading the argument, including why a fritillary and an ear of corn (maize) appear together.  


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