The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1001  Sunday, 13 June 1999.

From:           Judith Craig <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sat, 12 Jun 1999 23:37:39 -0500
Subject:        Swearing and Oaths

Dana Wilson writes:

>In H6.1,V,v, Suffolk gives H6 some advice for breaking oaths.  He says
>that one may flee the oath as one who before the lists finds the
>proportions ill-omened.
>This is very curious to me because in RII,II,ii, it is said that no one
>would dare to alter the lists except those so charged.  The use of the
>term list is very important in that scene.

Dana's comment is interesting in light of Deuteronomy 19:  21-23:  "When
you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not be slack to pay it;
for the Lord your God will surely requite it of you . . . . But if you
refrain from vowing, it shall be no sin in you.  You shall be careful to
perform what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the
Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth."

It seems that Shakespeare took oaths very seriously, perhaps echoing
Jesus' warning in Matthew 5:33-37 that swearing can be very dangerous
because you are obligated to perform it ("You shall perform to the Lord
what you have sworn" v. 33) and that it is better not to swear at all.

Judy Craig

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