Meaning of "Ariel"

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.102  Friday, 28 February 2014


[1] From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         February 27, 2014 at 2:19:50 PM EST

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Ariel 


[2] From:        David Basch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 28, 2014 at 11:24:01 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Ariel 




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

Date:         February 27, 2014 at 2:19:50 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Ariel


Wouldn’t it be a good idea for those who think the name “Ariel” is based on Hebrew or Catalan cognates to conduct some research and find out how (or if) Shakespeare became familiar with those languages? The mere fact—I am assuming it is a fact—that the name has meaning in those languages is not suggestive of anything in the absence of such evidence.  For all we know, it might also have meaning in Pushtu or Tagalog. This strikes me as a classic case of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning. It is no more impressive than anagrams and other “clues” which some people use to “prove” that someone else wrote the plays or advance other cockeyed theories. “Ariel” strikes me as nothing more than an appropriate and fanciful name for an air elemental spirit, which WS could easily have devised on his own or from a hint in other works. A more fruitful investigation would be into whether the extensive contemporary literature on demonology and witchcraft contains the same or a similar name.



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

Date:         March 28, 2014 at 11:24:01 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Ariel


I must add a correction to my earlier posting concerning the name of Ariel in the Tempest that Anthony Burton called to my attention.


I had alleged that Jewish High Holiday prayers for Rosh Hashonah included mention of the terms “lions of God” and “lions of holiness,” which I presented as evidence of an influence on Shakespeare in using the name Ariel (Lion of God) in the Tempest. This was in error as I explain below.


I looked through the Rosh Hashonah prayer book (Artscroll edition) and, by George, what I read as a pluralized, possessive form of Ari’el turned out to be (transliterated) ar’a’lei, ar’a’lei melech., meaning “angels” or “messengers of the king.” I had imagined a letter “i” included in this as “a’r[i]’a’lei.” This occurs in a prayer just prior to the morning silent prayer. It is to be said on any morning of the holiday. (Other such prayers are specific to particular days of the week).


I could not find a single instance of the other reading, ar’a’lei kodesh “angels of holiness.” I must have seen the latter somewhere since I could not have invented it. But as Anthony alleged, I did indeed misread it and made a jump from “servant of” to “lion of,” as Anthony alleged.


The Hebrew word a[e]r’a[e]l means angel or messenger and is referred to in the Hebrew dictionary as a “poetic” form.


I thank Anthony for this correction. While it does not change my thesis—Ariel is the higher angel, our better nature inspiring us to righteousness and Godliness, and Caliban is the lower angel, the tempter, with Prospero as an allegory of God—my confusion of the terms is an embarrassing mistake that I must henceforth rectify in my presentations.


David Basch


Balcony Scene in Romeo and Juliet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.101  Friday, 28 February 2014


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

Date:         February 27, 2014 at 2:01:14 PM EST

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Q: Balcony


Lois Leveen asks about the earliest occurrence of the balcony in Romeo and Juliet. The answer is that it is, I think, first used in Thomas Otway’s adaptation, The History and Fall of Caius Marius (1680), p.18, in the marginal stage-direction “Lavinia in the Balcony.”


Peter Holland


Balcony Scene in Romeo and Juliet

I’m crafting a presentation entitled “Putting the “Where” into “Wherefore Art Thou”: Urban Architectures of Desire in Romeo and Juliet” for the Shakespeare and Architecture panel at the upcoming Shakespeare 450 conference in Paris.  My analysis focuses on the enduring popularity of “the balcony scene,” particularly given the fact that there is no balcony in the actual play (nor in Shakespeare’s England, given that the OED cites the earliest use of the word as 1618).  I’d like to offer a sense of when a “balcony” was first used as a staging strategy for the play, and how it became such a popular vernacular trope.  (I’d also love to have some examples of the way the balcony has been mocked/appropriated—I’m thinking of every time someone leaps onto some balcony-like structure and delivers or mis-delivers lines from II.ii).


MoEML’s Pedagogical Partnership Project (PPP)

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.100  Friday, 28 February 2014


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

Date:         Friday, February 28, 2014

Subject:    MoEML’s Pedagogical Partnership Project (PPP)


[Editor’s Note:  I am pleased to announce this project of the Map of Early Modern London. The article below is reprinted from the MoEML site with permission. –Hardy]




MoEML’s Pedagogical Partnership Project (PPP) is launched!

26 Febrary 2014 

Kim McLean-Fiander and Janelle Jenstad


MoEML is thrilled to announce that our pilot Pedagogical Partnership Project (PPP)—an innovative model for teachers, student researchers, and digital humanities projects—is now up and running.


What is the PPP?

We at MoEML are keen to honour our pedagogical origins while upholding scholarly standards. Thus, we have developed a partnership project whereby we team up with professors in other locations, supply teaching materials (i.e., a MoEML Encyclopedia topic that needs content; a blurb for their class syllabus; suggested forms of assessment; and comprehensive Research Guidelines for their students), and have the students contribute to MoEML (by researching their assigned topic and writing an encyclopedia article) under the close supervision of their professor (who acts as a MoEML Guest Editor for the article) on site.


Who Benefits?

We think we’ve devised a win-win-win model. The professors/Guest Editors benefit from having an innovative pedagogical experience to add to their teaching dossier not to mention the resulting online publication; the students benefit by honing their research skills and potentially having their work published on a widely-used scholarly website; and MoEML benefits by generating new content that has been guest edited by professionals with proven scholarly credentials.


Pedagogical Partners 2014

Our first two pedagogical partners are Professor Peter C. Herman at San Diego State University and Professor Kate McPherson at Utah Valley University. Professor Herman’s research seminar on Shakespeare will collectively produce an article on the Blackfriars Theatres and Professor McPherson’s Shakespeare’s Histories & Comedies class will write an article on The Curtain Theatre.


MoEML team meets Pedagogical Partners via Skype Video

MoEML team members recently met up with both partnership classes via Skype video calls. These Skype meetings gave us a chance to explain to our partners how their work will fit into the bigger MoEML picture, and gave the students the opportunity to ask us questions such as the following: I’m an undergraduate and I’ve never done research before. What happens if the work I do isn’t scholarly enough? Where do I go to find information on the Blackfriars Theatre—to the library or to the internet? Would you accept contributions from an individual student or just from a guest-edited classroom assignment?”


We reassured the first student that the onsite professor would guide the class through the whole research process and also act as Guest Editor for the class’s contribution to ensure that it meets the appropriate scholarly standards. We pointed the second student to the comprehensive Guide for Student Researchers that we have posted on our website. We told the third student that we’re always willing to consider contributions from individual students. Each contributor just needs to follow our Contributor’s Guidelines and meet our scholarly criteria.


Meeting the 30-40 students from San Diego, California, and Ogden, Utah via Skype was fun, but it also allowed our MoEML Research Assistants to see the potential reach of the work they do on the project every day. MoEML RA, Zaqir Virani, said the experience added a whole new dimension to the work I do on the project. It was the first time I’ve seen other people using our site. They exist, and were excited about MoEML! I can now picture the people who use the site and for what. Other words used to describe the Skype encounter included wicked, radical, and bodacious!


MoEML hopes that students from both San Diego and Ogden will consider contributing stories about their participation in this innovative, international pedagogical experiment to our News page, or to this, our Blog. We’ll keep you up-to-date with how things progress in the coming months. 


Meaning of "Ariel"

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.099  Thursday, 27 February 2014


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

Date:         March 26, 2014 at 7:00:56 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Ariel


I am not a specialist in Hebrew, but the word ari-el is different from uri’el. The latter can indeed be defined, “God is my light,” but the other, ari-el, means literally, “lion of God.” The term has been used to designate Jerusalem and also the name of the threshold of the Temple. However, this word is also used to designate the angelic servants of God, as Arieley Kodesh—lions of holiness—and Arieley Melech—lions of the King. The word “arieley” is in the plural possessive form (“lions of”). The latter history of the term reinforces the function of Ariel in the play as the servant of Prospero, God.


In the allegory that the play enacts, the function of Miranda is both as a young woman but also as Wisdom in the terms that Proverbs describes. As a young woman, Psalms 148 tells, “fulfilling His word . . . young men and young women . . . “ So does the young woman in love with the young man, Ferdinand, fulfill God’s plan.


Concerning Miranda’s role as Wisdom, while much is made of Prospero’s prudery in the play, when this prudery is seen in terms of Miranda as Wisdom, its rationale is most evident. For there can be no Wisdom except as approached through honesty and respect. Those who would embrace Wisdom must do so honestly and without fakery for that would be cheating and destructive of what we would wish from Wisdom. Ferdinand in the play is the exemplar of a person who meets the tests imposed upon him—seemingly a pointless piling up of logs—but so necessary to establish his patience and willing efforts to attain Miranda—wisdom—and thereby to attain the highest levels of the righteous life.


I would also add that much of what initially appears as conduct that belittles Prospero turns out to be factors that identify him as God. For example, much is made of Prospero’s harshness to Ariel. But the play is an allegory of God’s yearly cycle of judgment of man. At that time, according to some traditions, God judges all with such thorough scrutiny that “even the angels are not found to be blameless,” hence the event of Ariel’s lapse and Prospero’s reprimand, telling that judgment is at hand in the play.


One can’t do much better than to read Colin Still’s book to learn his take on the meaning of the allegory of the play, that it enacts man’s challenges in attaining ultimate levels of the holiness of the good, righteous life.


When all aspects of the allegory are understood, Prospero’s—God’s—abundant mercifulness is revealed. This is God, Who readily accepts our sincere repentance for our misdeeds and Who hopes that we will do better the next cycle around. Though He knows that most will fail again, yet He is ever willing to again and again grant us forgiveness for our sins in return for our sincere contrition, as Prospero tells Ariel:


    Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,

    Yet with my nobler reason 'gainst my fury

    Do I take part: the rarer action is

    In virtue than in vengeance: they being penitent,

    The sole drift of my purpose doth extend

    Not a frown further. . . . (V.i.21-30)


David Basch


Troilus and Cressida: lesser blench

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.098  Thursday, 27 February 2014


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

Date:         February 27, 2014 at 9:12:41 AM EST

Subject:    Troilus: lesser blench


Gerald Downs ranks getting burnt as the least troublesome of the afflictions illustrated by Pandarus. Troilus might well have disagreed (since it conjures up a negative, rather than a protracted outcome). Irrespective, this is the illustration which immediately precedes the “lesser blench” rejoinder and which alone evokes damage (rather than mere delay - tolerance of which has already been protested by Troilus). It is further differentiated by the pause in speech necessitated by Pandarus’ introductory “nay”. Each of these features gives the risk of burn sufferance a distinction which calls for recognition and prominence in Troilus’ reply.


With this recognition, the reply makes complete sense (as I have previously outlined). The language of the extract might also be corrupt or deformed, as theorized—but neither of these assumptions is necessary to arrive at a reasonable interpretation.


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