The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0657  Friday, 4 April 2003

[1]     From:   Claude Caspar <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 3 Apr 2003 12:50:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0648 Re: King John Date

[2]     From:   Ros King <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 3 Apr 2003 20:17:57 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0629 Re: King John Date

From:           Claude Caspar <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 3 Apr 2003 12:50:39 -0500
Subject: 14.0648 Re: King John Date
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0648 Re: King John Date

>the infuriating Harold Bloom, speaking of Bardolatry:
>"It is not too much to say that the Bastard in King John inaugurates
>Shakespeare's invention of the human, which is the subject of this
>book.  What made Faulconbridge's startling reality (or, if you prefer,
>the illusion of such reality) possible?  The others characters in King
>John, including John himself, still have upon them the stigmata of
>Marlowe's high, vaunting rhetoric.  With Faulconbridge the Bastard,
>Shakespeare's own world begins, and that originality, difficult as it is
>now to isolate, has become our norm for representation of fictive
>personages." (52)
>Chaucer (and some of his powerful mates) has informed his solicitor.

I love Chaucer, and such masterpieces as Donalson's, "Swan at the Well,"
inform & enhance our understanding of cultural history. Anyone who
claims to love Shakespeare and has not immersed themselves in Chaucer is
suspect, indeed.  So, do we cheat Chaucer of his genius because he stole
from Boccaccio who stole from Petrarch. Each built on the other with
their own artistry- though Art, famously, does not progress as science
does, there is a progression of a sort.  They can't be studied or
appreciated in isolation.  The amazing relationships here stagger the
mind, and more so the nuances.  So, tell us why Boccaccio never once
mentions Petrarch? Bloom's psychological understanding illuminates much
of this transaction & deferral.  Shakespeare did not arise in a vacuum.
I can't help but feel the Bastard is a good battle front for this
debate, where all these forces come to bear-this was not something
Chaucer could do, since there is no good comparison of its kind, which
does NOT make him less a master. It is not a question of character
study, which Chaucer excels in, but of a depth that seems to some of
another genre.

Oh, don't you think Chaucer would have loved Shakespeare's T&C? Or 2NK?

There is fascinating analogies between Chaucer & the Swan- (perhaps I
can start a new phenomenology by calling myself a Swansean)- and
Petrarch & Boccaccio, individually & crosswise.

From:           Ros King <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 3 Apr 2003 20:17:57 +0000
Subject: 14.0629 Re: King John Date
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0629 Re: King John Date

Brian Vickers wrote:

>There is a smack of bardolatry on Ros King's argument that 'it is
>inconceivable that the author of Troublesome Reign (published 1591)
>could have invented the character of the Bastard unaided by previous
>example.  That author doesn't understand the dramaturgical reasons for
>creating such an a-historical character. He and his printer do know,
>however, that the character is essential for marketing purposes.
>Audiences are not going to be flocking to see TR's Bastard. If the
>character is marketable he is so only in Shakespeare's version.
>Shakespeare's version therefore has to be on the stage before TR is
>published'. This is the kind of upgrading of Shakespeare above his
>contemporaries (who therefore don't need to be taken seriously) that has
>long damaged attribution studies.

'Ach!', as the old Scots joke has it, referring to two women having a
slanging match across the street, 'they'll never agree, they're arguing
from different premises'.

Bardolatry? Absolutely not! I'm not saying that only Shakespeare was
capable of inventing the Bastard, merely that the writer of Troublesome
Reign could not have done so because a) his version of the character
does not deliver on the publisher's blurb and b) he just does not know
why the character *needs* to be invented.

The work of Shakespeare's contemporaries, and indeed forbears, suffers
because they are generally not available to modern readers in modern
spelling editions. They therefore simply look more archaic and
forbidding by comparison. If it's the rehabilitation of these authors we
want, we need to re-edit their works, write about them and insist on
teaching them so that such editions become commercially viable.  That is
a task worth doing, both for its own sake and because we will only
really begin to understand what Shakespeare is about if we get to know
these other writers better on their own terms.

I have recently tried to argue, and to show through modernised editions
of all the extant work, just what an enormous debt Shakespeare owed to
the mid-century dramatist, poet and musician, Richard Edwards.
Shakespeare repeatedly quotes and ridicules Edwards - so much so that it
indicates that Edwards had really got under his skin. But without the
older dramatist's innovative work in genre and plot construction, I
seriously wonder whether Shakespeare as we know him would have come into

At the other end of the scale, however, is indeed the problem of
'Shakespeare as we know him'. The bulk of our work is curiously lopsided
and routinely neglects some of the most interesting plays in the canon.
Cymbeline, Timon and indeed King John are all brilliant pieces of
dramaturgical construction that tend to work much better in the theatre
than their current rather low critical estimations would suggest. I find
this mismatch worrying (to say the least) and am yet to be convinced
that we can explain the phenomenon by splitting up the work amongst
multiple authors, although I look forward to reading Brian VIckers's
latest book. Anyone who has worked in a successful team, however, knows
that after a certain time on any project, even where elements of an
individual's work remain identifiable, it is the team that is
responsible for the work as a whole. In such cases, accurate attribution
of even those identifiable parts to an individual is recognised as

I confess that I don't really mind whether Shakespeare wrote
Shakespeare, or whether this feat was accomplished by a cartload of
monkeys on Mars. I do believe that quality matters - as indeed Vickers
himself evidently does in his book 'Counterfeiting Shakespeare'. On that
level, the cartload of monkeys that wrote that rabidly protestant
imitation of Marlowe (and, I believe, Shakespeare), The Troublesome
Reign of King John, just didn't get it.

Best wishes,

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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