Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0526.  Saturday, 11 June 1994.
(1)     From:   Timothy Bowden <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 09 Jun 94 15:25:04 PST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0521  Authorship
(2)     From:   Pat Buckridge <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 10 Jun 1994 16:00:05 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   Canopies and conditionality
(3)     From:   William Boyle <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 10 Jun 1994 12:06:35 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Authorship (sonnet 125)
From:           Timothy Bowden <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 09 Jun 94 15:25:04 PST
Subject: 5.0521  Authorship
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0521  Authorship
For your scrapbooks, and just off the top of my head, here are the occurances
of `canopy' within the canon.  Please clip and save; we will be referring to
this index as we proceed.
King Henry VI:       Gives not the hawthorn-bush a sweeter shade
                     To shepherds looking on their silly sheep,
                     Than doth a rich embroider'd canopy
                     To kings that fear their subjects' treachery?
 PARIS:            Sweet flower, with flowers thy bridal bed I strew,--
                        O woe!  thy canopy is dust and stones;--
                     Which with sweet water nightly I will dew,
                        Or, wanting that, with tears distill'd by moans:
                     The obsequies that I for thee will keep
                        Nightly shall be to strew thy grave and weep.
Cassius:             Coming from Sardis, on our former ensign                80
                     Two mighty eagles fell, and there they perch'd,
                     Gorging and feeding from our soldiers' hands;
                     Who to Philippi here consorted us:
                     This morning are they fled away and gone;
                     And in their steads do ravens, crows and kites,
                     Fly o'er our heads and downward look on us,
                     As we were sickly prey:  their shadows seem
                     A canopy most fatal, under which
                     Our army lies, ready to give up the ghost.
 HAMLET:             I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation
                     prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king
                     and queen moult no feather.  I have of late--but
                     wherefore I know not--lost all my mirth, forgone all
                     custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily
                     with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
                     earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most     300
                     excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave
                     o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted
                     with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to
                     me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
 Third Servingman:  Where dwellest thou?
        CORIOLANUS:  Under the canopy.
  Third Servingman:  Under the canopy!
        CORIOLANUS:  Ay.
  Third Servingman:  Where's that?                                           40
        CORIOLANUS:  I' the  city of kites and crows.
  Third Servingman:  I' the city of kites and crows!  What an ass it is!
                     Then thou dwellest with daws too?
                           1. A lively flourish of Trumpets.
                           2. Then, two Judges.
                           3. Lord Chancellor, with the purse and mace
                              before him.
                           4. Choristers, singing.
                           5. Mayor of London, bearing the mace.  Then
                              Garter, in his coat of arms, and on his
                              head a gilt copper crown.
                           6. Marquess Dorset, bearing a sceptre of gold,
                              on his head a demi-coronal of gold.  With
                              him, SURREY, bearing the rod of silver with
                              the dove, crowned with an earl's coronet.
                              Collars of SS.
                           7. SUFFOLK, in his robe of estate, his coronet
                              on his head, bearing a long white wand, as
                              high-steward.  With him, NORFOLK, with the
                              rod of marshalship, a coronet on his head.
                              Collars of SS.
                           8. A canopy borne by four of the Cinque-ports;
                              under it, QUEEN ANNE in her robe; in her hair
                              richly adorned with pearl, crowned.  On each
                              side her, the Bishops of London and
                    {Enter trumpets, sounding;  then two Aldermen, Lord
                      Mayor, Garter, CRANMER, NORFOLK with his marshal's
                      staff, SUFFOLK, two Noblemen bearing great
                      standing-bowls for the christening-gifts; then
                      four Noblemen bearing a canopy, under which the
                      Duchess of Norfolk, godmother, bearing the child
                      richly habited in a mantle, &c., train borne by a
                      Lady; then follows the Marchioness Dorset, the
                      other godmother, and Ladies.  The troop pass once
                      about the stage, and Garter speaks.}
               When I do count the clock that tells the time,
               And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
               When I behold the violet past prime,
               And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white;
               When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
               Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
               And summer's green all girded up in sheaves
               Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
               Then of thy beauty do I question make,
               That thou among the wastes of time must go,
               Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
               And die as fast as they see others grow;
                  And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
                  Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.
               Were 't aught to me I bore the canopy,
               With my extern the outward honouring,
               Or laid great bases for eternity,
               Which prove more short than waste or ruining?
               Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour
               Lose all, and more, by paying too much rent,
               For compound sweet forgoing simple savour,
               Pitiful thrivers, in their gazing spent?
               No, let me be obsequious in thy heart,
               And take thou my oblation, poor but free,
               Which is not mix'd with seconds, knows no art,
               But mutual render, only me for thee.
                  Hence, thou suborn'd informer!  a true soul
                  When most impeach'd stands least in thy control.
`Canopy' might have real physical application, or be an image, or a concept,
and it may be used as simple description, simile, and metaphor, in histories,
tragedies, and poetry.  Fairly common usage, wouldn't you say?
It would seem to be a prohibitive task to parse two dependent clauses from a
stanza, declare one to be realtime reified reporting, and allow the other image
to float free.  I mean, if there is no literal application for `laid great
bases for eternity', can we be certain the `bore the canopy' pertains to actual
history?  A reach, at best, I'd say.
I'd also like to cast my vote for mainstreaming the authorship thread, not so
much because I think there is any merit to any of it, but because I like best
reading about the actual humans involved in the time and place we are centered
on here, like it even more than all about how parts be doubled in Akron or how
masks are utilized in Sydney.
From:           Pat Buckridge <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 10 Jun 1994 16:00:05 +1000 (EST)
Subject:        Canopies and conditionality
A reply to Dave Kathman's latest on Sonnet 125:
Dave's suggestion that I am being (1) dogmatic and (2) presumptuous in what
I've said about the canopy raises some interesting questions about textual
interpretation and scholarship.  I'll take dogmatic first.  I don't think I
quite said that the first lines of the sonnet *must* be interpreted literally
and declaratively; but it's true that there are limits to the pluralism I think
is allowable in this case.  To be specific, I think there's room for legitimate
difference of opinion over whether the canopy is literal or metaphorical.  I've
given my reason for believing that (all reference to the Earl of Oxford aside)
the action referred to is literal.  But if Dave or anyone else could show me
historical evidence that there were metaphoric meanings so firmly attached
either to canopies or to bearing them that these could be activated without
contextual cues, I'd accept that.  Similarly if I could provide evidence that
'lay great bases for eternity' might have a specific literal meaning, I'd
expect that to be taken seriously by the other side.  Bill Godshalk's (literal)
suggestion about the stage-canopy I take on board as well worth consideration.
The question of declarativeness is another kettle of fish altogether.  I am
prepared to risk being thought slightly dogmatic on this: the first line
*cannot* be read as a conditional - unless, of course, you want to argue that
Shakespeare or his editor was grammatically incompetent.  This is, I confess, a
bit more complex than I originally represented it as being.  'Were't aught to
me' is, of course, a conditional construction, precisely synonymous with 'If it
were aught to me'.  (It doesn't, in other words, mean "Was it aught to me').
But the conditionality applies to the question of whether the action of bearing
the canopy meant anything to the poet, not to the question of whether the
action is or was performed or not..  (A question does arise, it's true, about
where to find the other term - Is it the protasis? - of the condition, but this
doesn't need to be decided for the moment, and I feel I may already have broken
this poor butterfly to a pulp).  The point is, readings of the kind 'Would it
make any difference if I bore a canopy' are strictly not allowable for the text
as it stands.  It really isn't a matter of opinion.  Which leads to the matter
of scholarship.
Dave thinks it's presumptuous and disingenuous (why this?) to ignore centuries
of Shakespeare scholars' readings of the lines as hypothetical.  I haven't had
a chance to check his Variorum reference yet, but I assume his statement is
accurate, in which case this is a fact of considerable historical interest in
terms of what it reveals about the power of a dominant paradigm to disarm the
reading competences of generations of literary scholars.  It really is
astonishing, and I say that without a trace of irony.  But the fact that so
many have been forced into a gross misreading doesn't make me feel I should go
and do likewise.
Pat Buckridge.
From:           William Boyle <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 10 Jun 1994 12:06:35 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Authorship (sonnet 125)
I have also been looking at Sonnet 125 this past week, and would like to make a
few comments about it that may answer Pat's question about the couplet.  In
consulting three different editions of the sonnets I found three different
punctuations for the last couplet.  The original punctuation, taken from the
reproduction of the 1609 original in *Book Know as Q*, was:
     Hence, thou suborn'd informer, a true soul
     When most impeached, stands least in thy control.
It appears to be one sentence.  Two editions have punctuation that make the
couplet two sentences (one used a semi-colon after informer, and a second used
an exclamation point after informer).  The third edition (*Riverside
Shakespeare*) maintained the original punctuation after informer while dropping
the comma after impeached, and provides this footnote: "Suborn'd informer, i.e.
 Jealousy, who prompted the charges the poet is answering in lines 1-8."
These variations are a result, I believe, of how one reads the word "Hence",
used most often in the sense of "away from here", as in "Get thee hence".  The
two instances of changed punctuation in some sonnet editions seem to be taking
"Hence" as a verb saying "Go away". However, "hence" can also mean "therefore"
(*The Oxford Universal Dictionary's* last definition, is: "(as an inference)
from this; therefore 1586".).  There are, I believe, a handful of such uses in
the plays (*Measure for Measure* I.iii.53 and IV.ii.110 are two that I feel
sure about).  The *Riverside* version of the sonnet could be read either way
(Go away or therefore); but their footnote clearly indicates that the "suborn'd
informer" is not a person.
I believe that if one reads "Hence" as therefore, then the couplet is one
sentence and makes much more sense, especially if (unlike *Riverside*) the
"thou" of line 13 and the "thy" of line 14 are taken to be the same "thou" as
line 12, the same "thy" as line 9, and the same "thee" as line 11.  Shakespeare
is addressing one person, and lines 1-12 lay the groundwork for what that he
really wants to say (in the couplet) to the person he is addressing:
     Therefore, you who have been suborned into informing against me,
     [understand this]: I am a true soul, and even though you thought
     you might be able to control me through this suborned informing,
     you cannot...I am so true that such an attempt to impeach me
     through informing only strengthens my ability to resist your
The whole sonnet would then read:
     in lines 1-8 the Shakespeare lists things he does not value in
     himself and in others, then in lines 9-12 he says that "you and I
     have a special relationship that I *do* value", and then the
     couplet rather bluntly and resoundingly says "So do not treat me
     the way you have been treating me - it cannot work, and it will
     not work."
But, of course, the Stratford actor could not be addressing his patron this
way, so such a literal reading of the couplet is simply out of the question,
and the whole sonnet, from canopy to suborned informer, becomes simply one
metaphor after another.  For Oxfordians, a literal reading of the sonnet from
beginning to end fits right in with everything we have come to learn about
Oxford and his dealings with his peers. I find the couplet rather similar to "I
am that I am, and they that level at my abuses reckon up their own" (sonnet
The broader point involved here, I believe, is that authorship *does* matter
when trying to figure out what any sonnet is really about, and it matters as
much to Stratfordians as to Oxfordians.  One's understanding of who the author
is influences how the sonnet is read.
I was about to post this when David Kathman's response to Pat was posted.  So
let me add this:  The long history of critical consensus that he cites is
itself, I believe, influenced by the authorship debate.  This difference
between what is literal and what is metaphor is a big part of why the
authorship debate has been around for two centuries, and why it is today going
stronger than ever.
I do not insist that any given interpretation *must* be true, or by itself
*proves* any case.  But I'll be interested to see any comments on the argument
I have just made in this post:  is Shakespeare calling the person this sonnet
is addressed to a "suborn'd informer"?  And is the answer to this question
grounded in having knowledge of the words themselves and literary conventions,
or in having some knowledge and/or opinion of who wrote it, why he wrote it,
and to whom it was written?
William Boyle
10 June 1994

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