The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1714  Tuesday, 2 September 2003

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 1 Sep 2003 13:57:37 +0100
        Subj:   Down with the Hall

[2]     From:   Bruce Young <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 01 Sep 2003 13:42:45 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1710 Up with the Lark

From:           Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 1 Sep 2003 13:57:37 +0100
Subject:        Down with the Hall

Graham Hall seems to have worked himself up into a bit of a frothing
frenzy.  Presumably he is trying to be amusing, if not then he seems
just to be dribbling.  I find his Bedlam comments rather pathetic.  I
find his attempts to excuse blatant pirating of sources rather more
amusing than his deliberate attempts at humour.

The world of scholarly publishing (or populist semi-scholarly
publishing) in the 20th/21st century is not the same as the world in
which Shakespeare wrote fictions in the 16th/17th.  Nor, to my mind, can
Shakespeare's reworkings of source material into original drama be
compared to blatantly nicking a few lines of non-poetical scholarly
argument.  If Michael Wood was trying to write the equivalent of a
Shakespeare play, then he failed.  He rather obviously didn't plan to do
that at all.  If he was trying to write a scholarly or popular history,
then by all the standards of the modern world, he shouldn't be misusing
other people's work without attribution.  He would have had his wrist
slapped if he was an undergraduate, as a published historian he got
sneered at by Private Eye instead.  Serves him right.  If Graham Hall
doesn't agree, that's up to Graham Hall, but sneeringly attacking me and
banishing me to a mental institution (even in jest) is a pretty poor
response to such a disagreement.

As for Graham Hall's assumption that "this List has ... the wit to work
things out for itself", he apparently doesn't understand the nature of a
worldwide list, where many people would never have heard of Lord Gnome,
Ian Hislop, or other strange British minority interests (even if they
themselves happen to be British), nor would have any easy way of finding
out about them.  If Graham Hall is only intent on talking to himself,
and to those who read Private Eye, then fair enough - but perhaps he
should start posting his messages to himself instead of to an
International list.  If he enjoys posting things that nobody except a
self-selected elite understand, then perhaps he should start posting in
Aramaic without subtitles (like Mel Gibson).

At this point I may be accused of a sense of humour failure.  I would
point out that there is nothing much resembling humour in Hall's posting
(beyond inane schoolboy sniggering and self-display), and that he
himself has apparently failed to understand the amusement that Private
Eye finds in catching naughty scholars with their hands in the honey-jar
of other people's work.

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"

From:           Bruce Young <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 01 Sep 2003 13:42:45 -0600
Subject: 14.1710 Up with the Lark
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1710 Up with the Lark

With apologies in advance for being somewhat lucid, I'd like to say a
word in defense of poor Tom (Thomas Larque, SHK 14.1691) and comment on
Graham Hall's reply.

Since I knew nothing before about Lord Gnome, Ian Hislop, Private Eye,
or Michael Wood's virtually word for word borrowing from Samuel
Schoenbaum, I am grateful Thomas Larque gave the basic facts.

As for Graham Hall's grievances about the attempted elucidation:

(1) Yes, it is presumptuous to say what someone else's sentence should
really read like.  But that in essence is what many--perhaps most--of
the posts on SHAKSPER are doing.  (Perhaps Larque should have said: For
those not conversant with the Wood-Schoenbaum incident who want a
clearer idea of what Hall's sentence probably meant, it would have been
helpful if it had read something like . . .)

(2) Hall refers to passages in A&C and Tempest (A&C 2.2.190ff and
Tempest 5.1.33ff for those without TLNs) that Shakespeare lifted from
Plutarch and Ovid and suggests by implication (though who knows what he
is really thinking?) that Michael Wood's plagiarism of Schoenbaum is
roughly the same sort of thing.  But surely using well known literary
sources for some of the dialogue in a play is quite different from using
another scholar's paragraph in one's own scholarly book.

It's true that Shakespeare did not footnote his sources, but neither the
genre nor the expectations of the time required him to, and he knew very
well that his educated contemporaries would notice and probably admire
the theft.  Not to mention that he transmutes the material from his
sources into some of his own most glorious poetry.  If Wood had been
able to raise Schoenbaum to such heights, his theft might almost have
been forgivable.  But there's no doubt that currently accepted standards
of scholarship required Wood to acknowledge his source and either to
transform the phrasing more thoroughly or to put all or most of it in
quotation marks.  (His paragraph is an example of what is sometimes
called "half-baked" or "undigested" paraphrase--something teachers often
warn their inexperienced students about.)

(3) As for Hall's moral objections to Larque's moral judgments (saying
to or about Larque things such as: the devil of a puritan that he is,
Dost thou think because thou art virtuous ..., you're bad company,
mongrel dogs who preach, etc.), it is worth noting that he is preaching
against preaching--as those who object to preaching tend to do, and I
guess as all of us really do much of the time.  (We are nothing if not
critical.)  I say he is preaching because he indicates that he is
speaking in defense of "honour," and because the post is filled with
strongly expressed judgments ("defect," "bad," "mouldy," "foolish,"
"mongrel," "patronizingly"), describes punishments (e.g., wrist slaping)
that "should" be carried out, and frequently leans on the imperative

Up to a point, I enjoy the attempt at an early modern style and the
witty obscurity that I must puzzle out, but I believe in fairness it
must be said that to write in Osric's or the Fool's style is not
altogether to write in the main stream of Shakespeare's style, and to
make judgments in the style of Toby Belch or Andrew Aguecheek is not
necessarily to make a truly Shakespearean judgment.

I would even say the same of making judgments in the style of Hamlet.
When Hamlet says, "Rightly to be great is not to stir without great
argument but greatly to find quarrel in a straw when honour's at the
stake" (I am saying this as if Hamlet were a human being speaking), I
believe that Hamlet is deeply confused, trying to arouse his almost
blunted purpose by critiquing the Norwegian army for violence and
slaughter perpetrated over a a worthless plot of ground but then
suggesting that if "honour's at the stake" even such worthless grounds
justify revenge.

On the other hand, I much appreciated the allusion to Bob Dylan.  "My
Back Pages" is a truly great song--though the phrase is "mongrel dogs
who teach" (not preach), a phrase that should give many of us pause.

Bruce Young

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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