Re: Tragic Hero (RESENDING)

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1300  Thursday, 31 May 2001

[1]     From:   Robin Hamilton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 30 May 2001 23:00:28 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1271 Re: Tragic Hero

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 30 May 2001 18:17:28 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero

[3]     From:   Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 30 May 2001 23:26:05 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   re: Tragic Hero

[4]     From:   Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 30 May 2001 16:03:02 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1271 Re: Tragic Hero

[5]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 30 May 2001 17:02:10 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1271 Re: Tragic Hero -- Apology

From:           Robin Hamilton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 30 May 2001 23:00:28 +0100
Subject: 12.1271 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1271 Re: Tragic Hero

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

>Is anyone besides me troubled by the fact that the three listmembers who
>have been singled out for various intellectual and personal shortcomings
>and defects -- including nothing less than "madness" -- are all female?

Not to go too deeply into this, but there is one list member who invariably drives me to the verge of apoplexy, and he's male.

Robin Hamilton.

From:           Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 30 May 2001 18:17:28 -0400
Subject: 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1249 Re: Tragic Hero

I agree that the association with Montenegro seems more plausible in Il Pecarrone, but even in this case the construction "bel monte," given the usual medieval association of blackness with ugliness, seems an antithesis of "black monte" rather than a pseudonym.  I see no way, however, of discovering Shakespeare's knowledge of diaspora geography, and I find some of the textual evidence identified by Florence Amit intriguing.  I would also like to know what the s spelling of Balthasar means, as the name appears elsewhere, and Lorenzo's name is similarly altered in this play.

I disagree that Shakespeare was actually as poor a geographer as his texts read as world atlases would indicate.  As with Prospero's island and the seacoast of Bohemia, concrete geography is obscured to emphasize more poetic connotations of location.  The atmosphere of Venice is comprehensible to the audience as far as it is recognizable as a prototype of London, and Belmont could be either modeled on an English country estate or the court, both of which might be compared to a beautiful mountain top, insulated from the tribulations of the city and requiring several days to access.

While I tend to read Portia's Belmont in this light, I do not think there is any limit to the connotations an author might attach to a particular location, and more evidence from more texts might easily persuade me to suspect any number of them as thematically relevant.  I do agree with Florence Amit that an interest in Hebrew seems a natural inclination in an author of Shakespeare's age so obviously in love with language.


From:           Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 30 May 2001 23:26:05 +0100 (BST)
Subject:        re: Tragic Hero

I realise that Florence Amit has not yet had a chance to respond to my last posting on the geographical position of Belmont.  However, I have been to visit Ms. Amit's Homepage ("William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice Manifested" - and found the answers to some of the questions that were raised in my mind (and posed by Marilyn Bonomi) about Ms. Amit's larger theory.  This is a long post so those who do not wish to read a detailed response to Ms. Amit should turn away now.

I should point out, before going into detail, that I am working at something of a disadvantage.  I am currently on a research trip to Stratford, and therefore have no access to my books (with the exception of an Arden copy of  "Merchant").  I also have not had time to read Ms. Amit's pages in full, and have skimmed them for references to Marrano Jews.  Ms. Amit may have answered some of the points that I raise in this posting elsewhere in her pages, and will certainly have made points that I know nothing about in sections that I skipped over.  I apologise to her for any apparent discourtesy in not giving her argument a full hearing before responding to it.

Ms. Amit's search for Jews and Marrano Jews in "Merchant of Venice" goes much further than naming Lorenzo as a Marrano (a person of Jewish descent, converted to Christianity).  She tells us that his friends Bassanio and Gratiano are Marranos too.  Portia is Jewish and, in order to marry her, Bassanio will be forced to convert to Judaism and undergo circumcision.  Shylock pursues his pound of flesh, in Ms. Amit's reading, not out of blood-lust but as part of a cunning plot to legitimise his daughter's marriage to a Marrano (which Ms. Amit thinks Shylock supports) and to force the Venetian court - concerned for the safety of a Christian merchant - to confirm Lorenzo and Jessica's legal inheritance of Shylock's property.  Something that Ms. Amit feels would not otherwise have been allowed.

Obviously this is a novel interpretation, which strongly challenges the traditional reading and performance of the play.  This alone is no reason to reject the theory, and I will try to consider Ms. Amit's arguments with a clear eye, but without prejudice.

Ms. Amit believes that her reading of the play explains how Shakespeare intended the play to be read and performed, and seems to imply that this reading was overtly suppressed before being replaced by the (supposedly inaccurate) traditional readings with Shylock as oppressive father and sincere enemy to Antonio.  "After a short period of performance 'The Merchant of Venice' was banned.  Then followed three hundred years of simplistic, medieval presentations.  This site promotes the production of 'The Merchant of Venice' as we are convinced that Shakespeare designed: a clever, satirical play wherein some Venetian Jews, by presuming to be, and seeming to do, that which the Christian majority expected of Jews succeed to gain entrance into the discriminatory court of Venice.  Their purpose being: to reverse the usual practice of the state bureaucracy and obtain a ruling that will allocate the value of a dying man's property for an inheritance to his newly wed daughter ... After the case is favourably resolved and the father leaves his life in contentment, there is joy and reconciliation for the survivors".

The first question that I would like to ask Ms. Amit is when exactly 'The Merchant of Venice' "was banned" and by whom?  It was certainly not banned by James I, who enjoyed a performance of the play in 1605 so much that he asked for the play to be staged again.  "Merchant of Venice" is generally considered to have been written between 1594 and 1598, which would mean that it was still being performed at least seven years and maybe eleven years after its first performance, not at all "a short period of performance" by Renaissance standards.  It is true that we know of no performance of the play between 1605 and 1741 (not counting adaptations of the play, such as Granville's "The Jew of Venice" which were performed from 1701 onward) but to assume that the absence was due to a ban rather than either defective records or changing theatrical taste seems rather presumptuous.  Without access to my books I cannot compare the performance history of other Shakespearean plays with that of "Merchant", but I am fairly certain that many have similarly long performance gaps without explanation and without any indication of a legal ban.  If Ms. Amit has actual evidence of a ban, then I would ask her to show it to me.  If not then the ban seems to be the product of imagination rather than research.

Ms. Amit is not able to give any direct reference in the play to the racial status of Lorenzo, Bassanio, Gratiano and Portia.  This is unsurprising as there are no such references.  However, she interprets and extrapolates the text in order to suggest that Shakespeare had intended that their Jewish or Marrano racial status be known and implied in the text in various ways.

Lorenzo's Marrano background, according to Amit, is first made clear by the abrupt departure of Solanio and Salerio at his approach.  "Notable will become Lorenzo's Biblical epithets, his espousal to a Jewish girl and indeed his need to leave Venice in haste, making it evident that here is a crypto-Jewish refugee, whom 'bona-fide' Christians often did shun".

Are Solanio and Salerio hostile to Lorenzo?  The text, which Amit never cites in detail, suggests not.  They are positively friendly in their reference to the newcomers - "We leave you now with better company" and "worthier friends".  If they are hostile to Marranos then this is certainly hypocrisy, because Amit states that all three men (not just Lorenzo) share this status.  True, Bassanio suggests that the two men "grow exceeding strange" which Amit might seize upon as evidence of repeated sudden departures of this kind, but Salerio promises to arrange a meeting soon.  More importantly, left with Bassanio and Antonio, Lorenzo also suddenly makes his excuses and departs.  Amit does not suggest that this shows any hostility on Lorenzo's part towards Antonio.  The most obvious explanation for all these departures is that Shakespeare is clearing the stage for Bassanio and Antonio to talk in private - something vastly important to the advancement of the plot.

When Solanio and Salerio next appear, their behaviour seems to completely demolish Amit's reading of their earlier departure.  Far from shunning Lorenzo, the two men are in his company and following his orders to help him achieve a private desire (his elopement with Jessica).  Later, as they put their plan into action, Lorenzo describes them as his "sweet friends" and promises to return the favour if they should ever steal wives (from unwilling fathers).  Amit apparently notices the incongruity and tells us that "despite their distain, just those haughty men are selected to participate in Lorenzo's elopement", but she offers no real explanation for their suspension of their supposed racial hostility beyond the implied suggestion that they may hate Shylock (as a full Jew) more than they hate Lorenzo (a Christian Jew).

Amit declares that "So delectable to Salario and Solanio, was the thought of a 'romantic intrigue', that would humiliate Shylock, that they have overlooked simple reality ... For if Lorenzo had really wanted to make Jessica Christian, and stay so himself, his status would have been enhanced by offering the church a new and willing convert ... Far more spurious would have been his flight if Lorenzo had been a true son of Venice, and not a wandering Marrano.  No arguable reason could have persuaded a Christian young man to face an uncertain future in unfriendly Turkish lands when the Church would have welcomed HIS choice of wife, without qualm.  Nor would Shylock have had his daughter returned or his ducats".  Amit sees Lorenzo and Jessica's flight as representative of the many Marranos who were "escaping religious persecution" joining "a procession of Jews and Marranos who were fleeing Italy after 1550".

I have already pointed out the absence of textual evidence that Belmont was "in unfriendly Turkish lands" and will point out later that Portia, at least, was unquestionably Christian - but it is also worth pointing out that Lorenzo did not set out with the idea that he would "escape" Italy and travel to Belmont.  Instead Jessica and Lorenzo flee to Genoa (in Italy) and are only persuaded to travel on to Belmont by Salerio.  Once again this supposedly hostile Christian begs Lorenzo's company and then, if we follow Amit's reading, persuades the Marrano Lorenzo to enter a foreign and non-Christian sanctuary, which had not been part of Lorenzo's own plan.  Salerio's friendliness and lack of racial hostility towards Lorenzo seems obvious.

Why has Lorenzo fled at all?  Amit cannot understand it, but might be helped to do so by comparison with "A Midsummer Night's Dream".  Hermia's father in "Dream" opposes Lysander's suit and favours Demetrius.  The Athenian Law and the Duke, Theseus, side with the outraged father.  As a result Hermia and Lysander flee to a foreign place outside the boundaries of the harsh Athenian Law which supports fathers over daughters.  There may be no suggestion that Venetian Law demands Jessica's execution for her transgression as the Athenian Law does in "Dream", but it is clear that in Shakespeare's mind that the letter of the law supports the outraged father (although the spirit of the law may be changed by authority figures).  The duke accompanies Shylock in his search for Jessica on Bassanio's ship.  Again I do not have access to my books, so cannot easily search for equivalent elopements in Renaissance Literature, but I would be very surprised if such research did not produce many equivalent stories of elopement to foreign places with different laws.  Until very recently there was a tradition of English elopements to Gretna Green to take advantage of the more lax marriage laws in Scotland.

Does Lorenzo expect Jessica to convert to Christianity and remain a Christian himself?  Amit says not, but to do so she must ignore Shakespeare's text which does not support her.  Jessica, safe in Belmont, which Amit regards as a Jewish haven presided over by a Jewish matriarch (Portia) and her newly converted Jewish husband (Bassanio), tells Launcelot "I shall be saved by my husband - he hath made me a Christian!".  Amit will probably protest that it is necessary to trick Launcelot who clearly has a bias against Jews, but since Launcelot is apparently unperturbed by the fact that he is suddenly serving in a Jewish household once again (having expressed his hatred of Jews in leaving his former master) then there seems no reason why Jessica and Lorenzo's Judaism should remain hidden from him.  Belmont is not much of a sanctuary for Jewish and Marrano refugees if they are forced to pretend to Christianity while they live there.  Modern texts often suggest that Jessica's final lines in II.iii are spoken as a soliloquy on an empty stage, Launcelot having exited after his "adieu!".  If this is true, then we have absolute evidence of Jessica's intentions - spoken to herself in private - "ashamed to be my father's child ... O Lorenzo / If thou keep promise I shall end this strife / Become a Christian and thy loving wife!".

As for Jessica and Shylock, Amit's whole theory stands or falls on her ability to prove that their relationship is positive and unbroken, and that the elopement is nothing more than a plot to trick the Venetian courts into supporting Shylock's will.  Again there is not one reference in the text that Amit can present as open support of her views.  There is ample evidence against them, however.  If Shakespeare intended such a plot then he would, if he had been following theatrical tradition or indeed theatrical commonsense, have provided ample explanation of the plot to the audience in discussions between characters who support the plot and in asides.  Instead Shylock curses his daughter when alone with Tubal, another Jew, whom Amit claims is deeply involved in the plot - and Jessica, on an empty stage with nobody to trick or cheat, says in a brief soliloquy that if her plan succeeds "I have a father, you a daughter, lost".  Amit's theory often depends upon people accepting that just about every word Shakespeare's characters speak is a lie, and that the truth exists only in subtle references not easily apparent to reader or audience (and only really noticed by Ms. Amit herself).

As for Portia's Judaism and Ms. Amit's belief that she "requires [Bassanio's] circumcision (and his renouncement of his former allegiance to Christianity) before they marry" (this quote from a SHAKSPER posting).  This is perhaps the weakest and least feasible of Ms. Amit's arguments as it is flatly contradicted by the text, which would have to be cut in several places to hide Portia's Christianity.  Shakespeare knows very well where Jews practice their religion and Shylock tells Tubal "meet me at our synagogue ... at our synagogue Tubal".  Portia, on the other hand, in her first scene refers in passing to Christian places of worship ("chapels had been churches").  This in itself is nothing conclusive, but rather more significantly Portia tells Bassanio - "First go with me to church, and call me wife".  Jews are not married in churches, but in synagogues and (as Shylock and Tubal's dialogue shows) Shakespeare obviously distinguishes between the two.  Ms. Amit must know far more about the Jewish religion than I do (of course), so she will correct me if I am wrong in believing that monasteries are a Christian innovation and that there is no such thing as a Jewish monastery.  Despite this, Portia tells Lorenzo (also probably a Jewish convert, or about to become one, by Ms. Amit's reading) that she and Nerissa will spend their time "in prayer and contemplation" in "a monast'ry two miles off".  Why would a Jew pray in a Christian establishment?  Finally, and most damagingly for Ms. Amit's theory, Stephano tells Lorenzo and Jessica (who, according to Ms. Amit, have fled to Belmont expressly to take advantage of Portia's Judaism) that Portia "doth stray about / By holy crosses where she kneels and prays / For happy wedlock hours".  Crosses are an exclusively Christian symbol.  If Belmont is a Jewish haven then it seems odd that everybody living within it has to pretend to each other that they are really Christians.  Once again Ms. Amit is dependent upon the claim that Shakespeare's characters constantly lie among themsel
ragments and opaque allusions.

Ms. Amit suggests that Bassanio's "presence in Venice is made impossible by his physical condition" (having been freshly circumcised) and on her web pages says that "the period of recovery for Joseph Nasi [a Christian who converted to Judaism on marriage - on whom Ms. Amit claims Bassanio is based] after his circumcision may be inferred by action in the play".  Again she states that this supposed circumcision is "a good reason for Bassanio's induced absence from Venice even when he is begged by Solanio to rescue Antonio - which causes Portia to act in his stead".  There may be some ambiguity in these statements that I have not understood, but if not then Ms. Amit is making demonstrably false statements.  The only delay in Bassanio's return to Venice, in Shakespeare's text, is his marriage to Portia.  It seems rather likely that this delay was one of hours not days.  Olivia in "Twelfth Night" has a Priest ready and standing by and bustles Sebastian into an instant marriage ceremony that apparently takes place seconds after he has accepted her proposal.  Portia tells him that "never shall you lie by Portia's side / With an unquiet soul", which suggests that he will be gone before nightfall, "For you shall hence upon your wedding day".  Moved by Antonio's letter Portia cries "Dispatch all business and be gone!".  Ms. Amit would have us believe that this business included a circumcision and some days (or is it weeks?) of recovery time, which is not really consistent with Portia's urgency.

I am truly puzzled by Ms. Amit's claim that Bassanio's "presence in Venice is made impossible" and that his "induced absence from Venice ... causes Portia to act in his stead".  I am almost tempted to suggest that she has not read the play since Bassanio is unquestionably present in Venice, entering on the very first line of IV.i, having left for Venice before Portia and Nerissa, and having arrived before them.  He attempts to satisfy Shylock with bags of money (a charade, according to Ms. Amit) and fails.  Portia does not act in his stead or replace him, but acts completely independently and without his knowledge.

Ms. Amit would have us believe that Bassanio and Gratiano are Shylock's fellow conspirators.  She even hypothesises a private "meeting with Bassanio [for Shylock] when they appear to have worked out their strategy".  "Bassanio made him accept a straw man for the court gambit, Shylock would not have conceived of the idea alone" (I have removed the word "let" which seems to be a typo, but I'm sure Ms. Amit will correct me if I have altered the meaning of her sentence).  Ms. Amit would have us believe that Gratiano, in the Court scenes, "over-play[s] his part of the judgemental Christian" "playing the part of a rowdy (until Shylock tells him to quit)".  We should therefore consider the way in which this 'plot' actually develops within the play.  Ms. Amit believes that Shylock and Bassanio knew from the beginning of the play that Jessica would elope with Lorenzo to Belmont and that Shylock's "merry bond" would lead the court to award the young lovers their loving father's estate.  Judging by the actual train of events described in the play, however, the two men would have had to be blessed with foretelling the future before they could predict such a conclusion.  Lorenzo's flight to Belmont, as I have already pointed out, was not planned by him.  He was persuaded to visit Belmont by Salerio.  Was Salerio in on the plot?  Ms. Amit tells us not.  In fact, by Ms. Amit's reading, he is openly hostile to Lorenzo, Jews and Marranos; so Shylock and Bassanio could not have relied upon his part in pressing Lorenzo and Jessica into Belmont and this must be a lucky chance.  In the court room itself things look very bad for Antonio.  Bassanio's attempt to save him by offering money cannot work and unless Shylock repents, and they lose their supposed plot, some outside factor must be found to save him.  This outside factor is Portia, dressed as a Doctor and making an arbitrary and (many have considered) unfair judgement.  Obviously this must have been part of Shylock and Bassanio's plan, as all would have come to nothing without i
hat Portia does not tell Bassanio about her plan, and he is so convinced by her performance that he later tells her that he has given her ring to a Doctor and believes her when she says that she has slept with the Doctor to obtain the ring again.  Presumably, from Ms. Amit's point of view, this is all yet another bout of Shakespeare's characters lying to each other for no apparent reason.  Portia's involvement is itself a by-product of her marriage to Bassanio, and unless the casket scene is yet another moment of pure dishonesty this is not something that Shylock and Bassanio could rely upon.  Once Portia's verdict has been stated we reach the sentence passed by law upon Shylock which is not the passing of his goods to his daughter and her husband, but the complete loss of all his goods - half to Antonio, half to the court - and Shylock's execution.  This would leave Jessica with no inheritance (Ms. Amit claims that her inheritance is the only driving force behind Shylock's actions) and Shylock dying in penury.  Fortunately the Duke is merciful and grants Shylock his life.  Perhaps Shylock and Bassanio know him to be merciful in such cases and could predict his response, if not then - once again - the plot teeters on the brink of failing completely.  Jessica, however, will still inherit nothing.  The final conclusion of the plan, by Ms. Amit's reading, is an appeal to Antonio's generosity.  What mercy can he give Shylock?  Antonio spontaneously - and unless he was a knowledgeable conspirator in the plan - without any possible prompting, suggests that Lorenzo and Jessica be provided for.  Once again Shylock and Bassanio's supposed plot is reliant upon an unpremeditated action from a Christian who Ms. Amit will have us believe is nothing more than a dupe, a "straw man", used without his knowledge to provoke th!
e Venetian courts.  Moreover Antonio is obviously not supporting Shylock's interests, since he insists that Shylock himself become a Christian - which cannot have been suggested by any of the supposed Jewish conspirators.  If this is a plan then it is a very bad one.

There is one last point to make about Ms. Amit's theory, which is that she completely ignores the fact that Shakespeare did not invent his story, but based it upon several well known and easily obtainable sources.  The damage that this does to her argument is obvious.  While trying to convince us to reject the traditional reading of the play Ms. Amit tells us that Shakespeare's story is so absurd that it must be read ironically, and goes on to list the absurdities that could not be seriously meant.  "Here are some of the absurdities that should have given the audience pause: It is absurd for a man to want a pound of any man's flesh, quite as absurd as had been the libel of blood that it parodies. It is likewise absurd that a Jew in dispersion, willy nilly, without a very good motive, would call attention to himself and to his brotherhood so dangerously by a proposal so demonstrably evil. It is absurd that because a bigot perfunctorily spits upon his clothing during a time of expulsions, of trials and even death for Marranos, of book burning and the confiscation of property by the inquisition, that a Jew would choose such a relatively innocuous deed as Antonio's, to "revenge" himself upon. While his interest would be to survive the persecution. It is absurd for an observant Jew who would be under the daily jurisdiction of Rabbinical law, to confuse monetary matters with criminal penalties or that such a savage forfeiture would be countenanced by the rabbis and therefore by himself."  Most of these factors, however, are already present in Shakespeare's source - "Il Pecorone" - in which a Jewish usurer offers money in return for a bond offering a pound of the borrower's flesh if he defaults.  In "Il Pecorone" there is no equivalent to Jessica to justify Ms. Amit's interpretation, and there is not even any reference to the borrower spitting at Jews or damaging their usury business (which Shakespeare gives as justification to Shylock).  The Jew is a villain without any motivation for his deeds, but he wants the prize
ously and accepted as a serious story by its readers, the inventions that Ms. Amit forces upon "Merchant of Venice" cannot be applied to "Il Pecorone", and yet "Il Pecorone" contains a Belmonte the location of which is described in almost exactly the same way as Shakespeare's Belmont - which Ms. Amit uses as a major part of her theory (I have dealt with this on my last post) and the "pound of flesh" elements of the plot are almost all present without the justification of Jessica.  If there are no Marranos in "Il Pecorone" then there seems to be no reason to see them in "Merchant of Venice", which tells much the same story.  Most of Ms. Amit's arguments seem to collapse in the face of the original source material.

Finally, I would point out that Ms. Amit's reading of the play is almost certainly impossible to perform on a stage.  Some aspects of the reading could be conveyed by visual signs and interpolations (Portia could dress as a Jewish woman, a rabbi could be standing by to marry Portia and Bassanio, the rabbi could wave sharp implements around and Bassanio could wince occasionally during the Trial scene) but the most important elements could not be portrayed without a thorough-going rewriting of the script or some truly atrocious nudging and winking from all of the supposed conspirators as they lie, and lie, and lie - to strangers, enemies, their fellow conspirators, and even to themselves in asides and soliloquies - for no obvious reason and without any simple justification.  Ms. Amit must think Shakespeare a very bad playwright if the true meaning of his plays is only available to a Hebrew specialist reading the play with Ms. Amit's notes in front of him or her.

Topping all these lies is Shylock's muttered aside "I hate him for he is a Christian ... If I can catch him once upon the hip, / I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him ... cursed be my tribe / If I forgive him".  Shylock is certainly not speaking aloud or trying to fool the Christians, if any of them heard him they would not agree to the bloody bond and his supposed plan would fail instantly.  He is speaking only to himself and the audience.  Ms. Amit thinks that Shakespeare wanted the audience to believe that Shylock would never have harmed a hair on Antonio's head and only used him, at Antonio's friend Bassanio's insistence, as a "straw man" to bypass Venetian legal prejudice.  This aside proves her wrong.  Shakespeare wanted the audience to believe that Shylock was a serious threat to Antonio from the very beginning.  On this point, as on so many others, Ms. Amit's theory falls apart.

Thomas Larque.

From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 30 May 2001 16:03:02 -0700
Subject: 12.1271 Re: Tragic Hero
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1271 Re: Tragic Hero

Evelyn Gajowski wrote:

>Is anyone besides me troubled by the fact that the
>three listmembers who have been singled out for various
>intellectual and personal shortcomings and defects -- including nothing
>less than "madness" -- are all female? Let's all take a few deep breaths,
>shall we, and reread (or, surely, in some cases, read) Elaine Showalter's
>classic essay, "Representing Ophelia." I agree with those who have made the
>point about "piling on," and, in future, would be most appreciative if
>SHAKSPER listmembers would confine their remarks to one another's

As you have just failed to do?  Easy, ain't it?

I believe it is two people not three, or at least two people were named in a message saying that Ms. Hughes and Ms. Amit marched to different drummers.  I actually had four malefactors in mind, but only named the two in that previous post.  I saw no point in going out of the way to embarrass the unnamed.  The other two, by the way, are both men.  Your comment is as inaccurate as it is unfair to me.

My only comment to the esteemed Karen Peterson is to request that you please read my message again.  I make ALMOST every point that you do, though with less texture.  I may be off base, but your message reads to me like you are lecturing me in the things that I affirm.  Perhaps I misunderstand, or perhaps you could have worded it better?

And a big high five to my e-friend Ed Taft.  Slap my hand, bash brother. Ed, I think you are right when you make a distinction between Socratic and Ciceronian dialogue, though I may want to add a dash of Hegel.  In saying that Socratic

>is really a one-sided discussion

and that Ciceronian

>is rarer, but a real gem when it happens

You have wonderfully articulated what I said so limpingly.  Some list members, and they include men, Ms. Gajowski, want Socratic.  I don't see the point, find it an insult of our collective intelligence, and try to pull people in the direction of Ciceronian.  Some people don't want to be pulled.  This frustrates me.  Perhaps this reveals the ugly soul of a controlling person?

To the Socratics amongst us, I use Ed's words to appeal to you.  In a Ciceronian dialogue,

>BOTH parties contribute to an evolving position that NEITHER party
>completely championed at the start of the discussion.

Doesn't that sound nice?

Uncharacteristic modesty prevents me from quoting the nice thing you said about my dialogue style, but thanks Ed.  This is the mark of how you approach things as well, and the list is richer for your contributions.

Hey, I like Northrop Frye!

All the best,
Mike Jensen

From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 30 May 2001 17:02:10 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1271 Re: Tragic Hero -- Apology
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1271 Re: Tragic Hero -- Apology

As a result of some off-list corresponding with various people, I feel I need to offer an olive branch to Mike Jensen.  I have written to him off-list, in which I said, among other things:

>My apology is for not making it more clear in what I
>wrote that I was trying to amplify what you had said
>earlier, not argue about it.  And, for not making it
>clear that I was addressing the list in general and
>not you in particular -- essentially just giving my
>slant on the issues you had introduced.
>Overall I agree with about 99% of what you said...I
>was attempting to add my voice to the cause (in
>I was quite consciously "piling on"!), phrased in my
>own style, and addressed mostly to people who may
>not have been paying close attention to this
>thread.  This may not have been totally clear.  It
>may be because of my many years of teaching not-
>overly-quick students: I tend to be a bit overhasty
>about leaping in to provide paraphrases and
>amplifications, even when they're not

At any rate, I am guilty of preaching to the converted. I beg the pardon of all.


S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
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Re: NT Winter's Tale Reviews

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1308  Thursday, 31 May 2001

From:           P. D. Holland <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 31 May 2001 11:06:27 +0100
Subject: 12.1274 Re: NT Winter's Tale Reviews
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1274 Re: NT Winter's Tale Reviews

I have to admit to being parti pris on Nicholas Hytner's production of
Winter's Tale at the National in London (not least because I wrote the
programme note and spent time talking with Nick before rehearsals began)
but I would urge anyone to see it. Alex Jennings is the best Leontes I
have ever seen; his grief in the trial scene and in the final scenes is
quite the most remarkable depiction of traumatised response I have ever
encountered and I wept in response in both scenes. As for the
sheep-shearing, some may not like the translation to a Glastonbury-style
new age festival (though that is a modern pastoral form, dependent on a
farmer's generous offer of his own fields for the celebratory event) but
for me it worked splendidly, providing a fine context for Florizel's
playing at being a shepherd. And hands up all those who have ever seen
the sheep-shearing scenes work with the kind of energy and imagination
that they ought to have; this at least comes close.  Yes, there are some
weak performances but so many strong ones (Paulina, Camillo, Polixenes,
Old Shepherd) and such imaginative responses to the play that it is well
and truly worth a long drive across the UK (and back).

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Re: Geography

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1306  Thursday, 31 May 2001

From:           Terence Hawkes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 31 May 2001 05:09:55 -0400
Subject: Geography
Comment:        SHK 12.1260 Geography

The most crucial mistake of all occurs in Richard II: Gaunt's assumption
that England is an island.

T. Hawkes

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Re: King John

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1307  Thursday, 31 May 2001

From:           John Jowett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 31 May 2001 09:36:24 GMT
Subject: 12.1279 King John
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1279 King John

Jack Heller asks where Prince Henry in King John has been until the last
scenes.  One kind of answer, in terms of the economy of the Elizabethan
theatre, is that the boy actor of Henry has been playing another role.
By the end of the play, the other boy, Arthur, and all the women are
dead.  When I saw Northern Broadsides production in Halifax, Yorkshire,
earlier this year, I realised that this may be a case where the doubling
of roles became a matter of significance.  In this staging, the same
actor played Arthur and Henry.  The effect is to make Henry not simply
the unexpected legitimate son of the illegitimate king but also, in
body, a continuation of the dispossessed rival whom even the Bastard
recognises as the rightful king.

John Jowett

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The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1305  Thursday, 31 May 2001

From:           Helen Ostovich <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 31 May 2001 08:55:08 -0400
Subject:        EARLY THEATRE 4 (2001)

This is the final table of contents for EARLY THEATRE 4.  We have an
exciting Issues in Review section on 'Reading Acting Companies'. The
abstracts are on-line at
-- just click on VOLUMES.

Subscribers will receive the new volume in the late fall.  We are asking
all subscribers to renew as soon as possible.  We are in a transition
period between publishers, and would appreciate early renewals to help
us get the journal into timely production for late fall mailing.
Inquiries about subscriptions should be addressed to:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

EARLY THEATRE Volume 4, 2001


 '"Arden winketh at his wife's lewdness, & why!": a patrilineal crisis
in Arden of Faversham'
                                               Randall Martin

 "Patrons and Travelling Companies in Warwickshire"
                                                 Elza Tiner

 '"The Precious Body of Christ That They Tretyn in Ther Hondis":
"Miraclis Pleyinge" and the Croxton Play of the  Sacrament'
                                                  Heather Hill-Vasquez

 "Timing Theatrical Action in the English Medieval Theatre"
                                              Philip Butterworth

 '"Once More Unto the Breach": Katharine's Victory in Henry V'
                                                Corinne Abate

 '"Daniel Rabel and the Grotesque"
                                               John Astington


Reading Acting Companies
Scott McMillin, Lawrence Manley, Roslyn Knutson, Mark Bayer


John H. Astington, English Court Theatre 1558-1642. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press,
1999. Reviewed by William Ingram.

W. R. Elton, Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida and the Inns of Court
Revels. Aldershot and
Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 2000. Reviewed by Peter Hyland.

Jody Enders, The Medieval Theater of Cruelty: Rhetoric, Memory,
Violence. Ithaca and London:
Cornell UP, 1999. Reviewed by David Bevington.

Clare Harraway, Re-citing Marlowe: Approaches to the Drama. Aldershot
and Brookfield, VT:
Ashgate, 2000. Reviewed by Judith Weil.

Walter Hodges, Enter the Whole Army: A Pictorial Study of Shakespearean
1576-1616. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Reviewed by
Roslyn Knutson.

Michal Kobialka, This is My Body: Representational Practices in the
Early Middle Ages. Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999. Reviewed by Lawrence Clopper.

Linda McJannet, The Voice of Elizabethan Stage Directions: The Evolution
of a Theatrical
Code. Newark: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated
University Presses, 1999.
Reviewed by R. A. Foakes.

Scott McMillin and Sally-Beth Maclean, The Queen's Men and their Plays.
Cambridge University Press, 1998. Reviewed by A. R. Braunmuller.

Mitchell B. Merback. The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press,
1999. Reviewed by Garrett Epp.

John Southworth, Fools and Jesters at the English Court. Stroud,
Gloucestershire: Sutton
Publishing, 1998. Reviewed by Phebe Jensen.

Helen Ostovich
Editor, EARLY THEATRE / Dept of English CNH-321
McMaster University

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