The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1729  Monday, 15 September 2004

From:           William Davis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 14 Sep 2004 23:26:10 EDT
Subject: 15.1719 Legitimizing the Q1 Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1719 Legitimizing the Q1 Hamlet

Mr. Hinton, I am indebted to your for your suggestions, and the final
draft of the essay will certainly benefit from your contributions.  This
information you have shared has also lead me to a few more thoughts:

Because it appears that the presence of complex chiasmus extending into
the 14th century, and likely further, it makes me wonder what might have
been commonly known in Shakespeare's time about these forms.  I know
that Henry VIII had something of an interest in Hebrew, and later that
the study of Hebrew was common in schools and universities in
Shakespeare's time, but I am now curious to know what exactly was being
taught.  Are there old textbooks or the equivalent of class outlines
still extant?  The writers on rhetoric and poetry do not mention this
complex form in their works (beginning with Erasmus, and extending
through others, such as Wilson, Peacham, Sherry, Puttenham, Day,
Fraunce, Lily, Cox, Hoskins, Fenner, Rainolde, etc., and even the Greek
and Latin writers, such as Cicero, Quintilian, and the author of the Ad
Herennium don't explicitly mention these forms - even though, ironically
enough, those early authors often use them in the arrangement of their

Personally, I do not think that the complex chiastic forms were
completely unknown at the time, because I have seen evidence in the King
James Version of the Bible that a conscious effort was often being made
to clarify the parallel elements in the complex forms, as opposed to
some of the earlier translations (particularly the Geneva Bible).  In
addition, I have seen some of Shakespeare's contemporaries use complex
chiasmus - sometimes in impressive and highly intricate ways - but the
occurrence of these highly complicated forms is limited: usually few and
far between, popping up here and there only to vanish for long stretches
of text.  Shakespeare, on the other hand, uses the structures on a
massive scale, operating at every structural level.  It makes me wonder
if people were aware of the complex forms, but considered them either
anachronistic or impractical for actual usage (particularly in dramatic
writing).  Bishop Robert Lowth, beginning with in his writings in 1753,
talks about the basic units of biblical structures as if he were the
first to discover them (he even coined the term "parallelismus
membrorum" to describe the basic Hebrew parallelism), which makes me
wonder if a general knowledge of the forms had slowly vanished in the
preceding generations.

Any thoughts would be appreciated, especially regarding the actual
subject matter taught in the classrooms about Hebrew during
Shakespeare's time.

Thanks again,
William Davis

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