March

Trevor Nunn: 'The Bard is more relevant than the Bible’

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.150  Monday, 24 March 2014

 

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

     Date:         March 21, 2014 at 3:23:00 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Bible 

 

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

     Date:         March 21, 2014 at 3:40:05 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Bible 

 

[3] From:        Tom Reedy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 22, 2014 at 11:09:44 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Bible 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 21, 2014 at 3:23:00 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Bible

 

>As to Hamlet, many commentators refuse to see in the events 

>of this play enactments of the wisdom of the Bible’s Ecclesiastes.

 

What next?  Is someone going to tell us that the Pyramus and Thisbe episode in MND is really an allegorical passion play?  Or am I behind the times?

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 21, 2014 at 3:40:05 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Bible

 

There seems to me to have been considerable work on the Shakespeare/Bible question over the years. But for now, aren't Peter Milward and Steven Marx recent critics with persuasive observations? 

 

Nick Ranson

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 22, 2014 at 11:09:44 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Bible

 

I am happy to be the instigator of such an interesting conversation. I have no problem recognizing that Shakespeare’s works are steeped in the Biblical culture of his time, nor that Biblical references and themes can be found—it would be highly unusual if none were present. But I clearly make a distinction between a source upon which Shakespeare based a play and his Biblical allusions. As Hannibal Hamlin writes, the distinction is often not so clear, but to my mind, anyway, a source and an allusion are two separate things, and the source of an allusion is not the same as the source of a play. To say that Shakespeare used the Bible as an important source for his plays is to say that the allusions to Hercules in Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, and several other plays proves he used the myth as a major source. I hope that clears up what I had in mind.

 

And the real point of Dr. Waugaman’s comment—to anyone who bothered to Goggle it and read the entire remark, since he strangely neglected to furnish a link—was to sneak around the topic ban of this forum and to call attention to the dishonesty of scholars who downplay Shakespeare’s Biblical allusions because they help prove the authorship of the Earl of Oxford.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/william-shakespeare/10701368/Trevor-Nunn-Shakespeare-is-100-times-more-relevant-than-the-Bible.html

 

David Gilmour Sings Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.149  Monday, 24 March 2014

 

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

Date:         March 21, 2014 at 3:07:25 PM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER:  Sonnet 18

 

> “Sonnet 18″ is perhaps the most famous of Shakespeare’s 154 

>sonnets. It was written in about 1595, and most scholars now 

>agree the poem is addressed to a man.

 

Shall I compare thee to a Summers day?
Thou art more louely and more temperate:
Rough windes do shake the darling buds of Maie,
And Sommers lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heauen shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd,
And euery faire from faire some-time declines,
By chance, or natures changing course vntrim'd:
But thy eternall Sommer shall not fade,
Nor loose possession of that faire thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wandr'st in his shade,
When in eternall lines to time thou grow'st, 

  So long as men can breath or eyes can see,
  So long liues this, and this giues life to thee,

 

My apologies to “most scholars” but really now, what evidence is there in the sonnet that the sentiment is addressed to a man and what evidence is there that it was written in 1595?

 

Just curious.

 

Dom Saliani

 

[Editor’s Note: The quoted passage above came from the Open Culture web site and not from me or another member of the conference. This does not mean that I do not believe the statement to be accurate. Having contributed to an online edition of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS (1609) <http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/ret/shakespeare/1609inti.html> and <http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/Texts/Son/>, I believe there is little argument that Sonnet 18 is the culmination of procreation sonnets, and I dare anyone to argue that Sonnet 20 is not addressed to a man. Ultimately, the gender of the person to whom Sonnet 18 addressed does not matter.  Nevertheless, one may be like Benson and rework and reassign gendered pronouns of the Sonnets or like Steevens who was disgusted by them, but the original context of Sonnet 18 appears convincingly as if it were address to the “fair young man.” I will not attempt to argue for the date because I am not knowledgeable enough to do so. –Hardy]

 

Appreciation for Donations

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.148  Monday, 24 March 2014

 

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

Date:         Monday, March 24, 2014

Subject:    Appreciation for Donations

 

Dear Subscribers,

 

I would like to take the opportunity to again offer my profound thanks to all who have made donations this year in support of SHAKSPER.

 

As a habit, I do not acknowledge individual donations. As with student grades in the past, I see them and then they are forgotten. In this way, I attempt to avoid any appearance of favoritism toward those who have donated. 

 

I am deeply appreciative though and hope that my motivation is understood.

 

Best wishes to all,

Hardy

 

Trevor Nunn: 'The Bard is more relevant than the Bible’

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.147  Friday, 21 March 2014

 

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

     Date:         March 20, 2014 at 12:02:50 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Shakespeare is more relevant than the Bible 

 

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

     Date:         March 20, 2014 at 1:06:00 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Shakespeare is more relevant than the Bible 

 

[3] From:        Hannibal Hamlin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 20, 2014 at 2:07:05 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Shakespeare is more relevant than the Bible 

 

[4] From:        Ira Zinman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Bible         as neglected source for Shakespeare

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Shakespeare is more relevant than the Bible 

 

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

     Date:         March 21, 2014 at 12:00:38 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Shakespeare is more relevant than the Bible 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 20, 2014 at 12:02:50 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Shakespeare is more relevant than the Bible

 

In response to Tom Reedy, I think a persuasive case can be made that the plot of Henry IV, Part I is based, at least in part, on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

 

Michael D. Friedman

University of Scranton

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 20, 2014 at 1:06:00 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Shakespeare is more relevant than the Bible

 

In reply to Tom Reedy:

 

One needs to remember that pious Elizabethans read through the OT once a year (Solomon’s racy bits excluded) and the NT twice a year (Revelation excluded) and the Psalms 12 times a year. That is: Shakespeare’s first auditors would have been were far more alert to his use of the Bible than we tend to be. Let me just cite two plays where Shakespeare mined the NT and created an amalgam with a secular source: St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians was a major source for The Comedy of Errors, and 1 Corinthians a major source for Twelfth Night. When I teach these plays I first direct students to read each of these letters so that they can see the onstage action in that context. The depth and richness of the ensuing discussions are quite remarkable. In fact, one can’t explain Malvolio’s suit against Antonio without reference to 1Cor 6.

 

Best wishes,

Steve  

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 20, 2014 at 2:07:05 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Shakespeare is more relevant than the Bible

 

It’s true that no Shakespeare play (or poem) is based on the Bible, in the way that Henry V is based on Holinshed and Famous Victories, or Othello on Cinthio. The distinction between a source and a work alluded to is not always easy to maintain, however. If one looks, for instance, at Bullough’s Narrative and Dramatic Sources, he includes not just the major sources for plot and character (Lodge’s Rosalynde and such) but sources for smaller, more particular elements of a play. If Thyestes can be cited as a source for the bloody banquet in Titus, and Montaigne for aspects of Gonazalo’s utopia in The Tempest (or for Lear’s speech on what man owes the worm, the beast, the sheep, and the cat—though I’ve argued recently that this may come from Parsons rather than Montaigne), then why can’t 1 Corinthians 2 be cited as a “source” for Bottom’s speech in MND 4.1, or the penitential Psalm 51 as a “source” for Claudius’s prayer in Hamlet? One can also call these allusions, of course, in which Shakespeare alludes to the biblical texts. But “source” and “allusion” refer to different intertextual workings: the one in terms of where Shakespeare found certain language or ideas, the other in terms of what other works he wants to suggest to the audience (to make meaning in the play). These can co-exist in the same dramatic text. I think perhaps this is what Rick Waugaman might have had in mind when he named the Bible as a neglected source for Shakespeare. It is true, I agree, that Shakespeare’s biblical, and more broadly religious, sources are underappreciated compared to Hall and Holinshed, Ovid, Plutarch, and the Classics, or various secular literary works. Studies of Shakespeare’s reading almost invariably omit religious works, which made up perhaps the majority of printed books in the period (not to mention that the hundreds of printed sermons were all first performed in church, and that Shakespeare must have heard a fair number). I’ve argued in my recent book that Shakespeare was obviously omnivorous in his reading, picking up not just Virgil and Seneca, Sidney, Spenser, and Montaigne, but Calvin, Parsons, Erasmus, and no doubt much more. I don’t think he had to pick up the Bible, since (a) a good deal of it was in his head, and (b) it was likely open on his desk all the time.

 

Whether, as Trevor Nunn suggests, Shakespeare is more relevant than the Bible is a different question. I’m inclined to put Nunn’s remark in the same category as John Lennon’s that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. I know what they mean, but I’m not sure that they’re right (especially in terms of particular people, places, cultures, sub-cultures), and I’m not sure it’s very interesting anyway. It’s a good way to perk up the press, though.

 

Hannibal 

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Bible         as neglected source for Shakespeare

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Shakespeare is more relevant than the Bible-

 

I must agree that the most neglected source for Shakespeare is the Bible,  We have Noble and Shaheen’s scholarly works as well as others who demonstrate the extent to which source materials, and echoes from the Bible appear in the plays. There are innumerable books and articles related to the topic of Shakespeare’s use of the Bible. Some earlier, 19th Century authors, Dr. Charles Wordsworth, Bishop of St. Andrews, and Rev T.R.Eaton, wrote on the Bible and its influence on Shakespeare.  

 

I think Trevor Nunn’s statements in the Telegraph, ‘Shakespeare has more wisdom and insight about our lives, about how to live and how not to live, how to forgive and how to understand our fellow creatures, than any religious tract. One hundred times more than the Bible.

 

“I’m sorry to say that. But over and over again in the plays there is an understanding of the human condition that doesn’t exist in religious books,” speak to how much the themes in Shakespeare have personally touched him. Martin Lings explores this in his work, the Sacred Art of Shakespeare, Harold Bloom in his work Omens of the MIllenium, states, “Shakespeare, aside from all is other preternatural strengths, gives me the constant impression that he knows more than anyone else ever has known. Knowing myself, knowing Shakespeare and knowing God are three separate but closely related quests.”

  

Ira Zinman 

 

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 21, 2014 at 12:00:38 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Shakespeare is more relevant than the Bible

 

Tom Reedy may not recall any Shakespearean play as based on a Biblical story, but he should consider King Lear and Hamlet in this vein.

 

I have read commentaries on King Lear alleging that King Lear is Shakespeare's retelling of the Book of Job. What confuses commentators is that Lear is quite detestable when the play opens. However, through his great suffering he is expiated and cleansed and becomes a Job, suffering despite his having attained to the level of the guiltless Job.

 

Note the line in Lear, “Flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.” Those familiar with Job will recognize this pattern in the heavenly council in which God debates Satan as to the worthiness of the rich and life-unchallenged Job, after which the “sport” ensues of the tests of Job. There are a few Jobs in the play, like the servant who seeks to stop his master from committing the dastardly act of blinding the bound Gloucester and whose only reward is being cut down by this master. While in the end some of these Jobs are restored—Edgar—in Lear’s case his goodness is his reward.

 

As to Hamlet, many commentators refuse to see in the events of this play enactments of the wisdom of the Bible’s Ecclesiastes. As an example, Ecclesiastes notes the dismay of the hard working and wise king at the fact that he must leave behind all the hard won attainments of his life and leave them to one who comes after him “and who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? This is a harvest reaped by the untested Fortinbras in the play who walks in to inherit the Danish kingdom, after the strivers for the throne end up killing themselves.

 

There are many, many episodes in Hamlet that enact lines of Ecclesiastes, like the one where Hamlet regards of the shapes of the clouds in his jest with Polonius, which alludes to Ecclesiastes words, “he who regards the clouds shall not reap”—a foreshadowing of Hamlet’s failure to reap his throne—and Polonius as an enactment of Ecclesiastes line, “a fool is full of words” and Hamlet’s words when asked what he reads, “words, words, words”—an enactment of Ecclesiastes’ words that “there is no end to the writing of books.” These are samples of many, many others.

 

While I have mentioned two examples of such plays, there are undoubtedly more such Bible enactments, like the career of Richard III, which enacts the words of Psalm 92 that tells of the rise of evil that rapidly sprouts like grass, but which only happens so that in the end it will be cut down. And then, of course, there are the many commentators who note the poet’s many allusions to images in the Bible. All this is proof of how relevant is the influence of the Bible in the poet’s work, notwithstanding the view of Trevor Nunn.

 

David Basch

 

Shakespeare’s School Applying for Grant

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.146  Friday, 21 March 2014

 

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

Date:         Friday, March 21, 2014

Subject:    Shakespeare’s School Applying for Grant

 

[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in The Coventry Telegraph. Go to the web site below for a photo gallery. –Hardy]

 

http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/look-around-william-shakespeares-classroom-6845655#.UysJhKWufOg.email

 

Shakespeare’s school is applying for a grant to restore and open up his original classroom – 450 years after his birth

 

Pupils are still taught in Shakespeare’s historic 587-year-old half-timbered former classroom today.

 

But if a £1million Heritage Lottery Fund bid is successful, one of the finest surviving old schoolrooms in Britain could become open to the public for the first time.

 

Bennet Carr, headmaster of King Edward VI Grammar School (KES), Stratford-upon-Avon, said: “It became William Shakespeare's classroom when he was educated in the 1570s.

 

“John Shakespeare, William’s father, was appointed Bailiff, or Mayor in 1568, and had the right for his son to attend the school free of charge. There would have been 40-60 boys in the one class.

 

“It is where Shakespeare would have been taught Latin, rhetoric and Greek and was most likely to have experienced theatre for the first time, as 30 troupes came out of London.

 

“We would like to restore the building and open it up for the first time.

 

“We would continue to teach until mid-morning and open the classroom in the afternoons, weekends and holidays. It’s the first time it will ever have been opened. It’s an absolute gem.”

 

The simple timber-framed medieval classroom is on the second floor of The Guild Hall in Church Street and has not changed since Shakespeare’s day.

 

The ground floor was used as a library until last year. School archivist Richard Pearson said: “The Guild Hall has the first authorised painting of the Tudor Rose dating back from 1493.”

 

Mr Carr said restoration work which needs to take place includes a new roof, new timbers and stone preservation work.

 

He said: “The ground floor of the Guild Hall was created in 1420 and the top floor added in 1427.

 

“It was the civic heart of Stratford-upon-Avon pre-Reformation. The last time it was restored was in the 1890s. It’s virtually unique for a Guild Hall and needs to be preserved. It’s had hundreds of boys going in-and-out.

 

“For local people who have never been in it to see where Shakespeare was taught, it’s really exciting. Everyone comes to Straford once – now there would be another reason to come down. It has the wow factor.”

 

The Guild Hall lottery bid will be submitted later this month as Stratford-upon-Avon gets ready for Shakespeare’s 450th birthday celebrations and the school will find out if it has been successful in June.

 

BBC historian Michael Wood has made a film retelling the history of the Guild Hall for a future fundraising appeal.

 

Mr Carr said: “In 2003 Michael did a six-part documentary In Search of Shakespeare tracing his life. As part of that he came to the school and has become a really good friend of the school.

 

"He has very kindly produced a 10-minute film briefly recording the history of the building and launching a fundraising effort. If successful we will be seeking sponsorship to match the lottery bid for anyone who would like to be involved.”

 

KES was founded in 1553 by Henry VIII’s only surviving son Edward VI, who died aged 15. Previously known as the Guild School it was renamed the King’s New School.

 

Shakespeare was born and died on the same day – April 23 – St George’s Day.

 

On Saturday, April 26, KES head boy Christian Van Nieuwerburgh will lead the annual birthday procession celebrating Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

 

The parade through Bridge Street is followed by The Quill Pageant – where a costume character William Shakespeare hands over a symbolic quill to the head boy of KES who will use it to signal the start of the flag unfurling ceremony.

 

He will then carry it to Holy Trinity Church, symbolising Shakespeare’s journey from the cradle to the grave.

 

Christian will be followed by 600 pupils – and for the first time 39 sixth form girls, who were admitted to the school last September.

 

It was former KES headmaster, Rev Robert de Courcy Laffan, that first initiated the annual birthday procession and laying of flowers on Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity Church in 1893.

 

Mr Carr said: “Robert de Courcy Laffan was a great friend of the Flower family who helped to restore the school building in the 1890s. He was a great education reformer. He, head boy Ralph Garlic and a representative from Shakespeare’s Birthplace decided they would walk from the school to Holy Trinity Church and
lay flowers on the grave. The following year was the beginning of what has become the annual procession.

 

“There had been a small parade by counsellors in 1810, but the school initiated the procession. It was reported in the Times of London, newspapers in Stratford, Leamington and the Birmingham Post

 

“The procession has been going 121 years. Until the 1960s the head boy used to carry a quill to replace the old one on the Shakespeare bust at the church. That tradition was reintroduced last year.

 

“We are only a small faith school with 600 pupils and even though it’s their Easter holidays most students want to be there. It’s unfortunate that it’s the holidays – but only three students are unable to attend.

 

“And for the first time this year we have girls parading with us – as 39 girls joined the sixth form.

 

“It’s quite a sight. All the pupils will carry blue and yellow flowers and the youngest boy Dominic Ellis will lay a laurel wreath on the actual grave. The flowers will go on the gravestone.

 

“The pupils lead the way with me and the staff following. Many Old Boys come back. It’s quite a spectacle. Where else would you see teenagers walking through a town each carrying a bunch of flowers?

 

“It’s a delightful English tradition. This year is particularly important being the 450th anniversary. It’s going to have added emphasis.”

 

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