June

MV Dialog

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.306  Monday, 29 June 2015

 

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

Date:         June 29, 2015 at 1:07:00 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

To John (and whomever else may be interested)

 

Thank you very much for your thoughtful response of 6/15. 

 

Before I get to the Overview, I have some questions. Your first response has gone right over my head. To what duplicity do you refer? To what equivocation? What does this have to do with the act of “reading” and the spread of print culture?

 

OVERVIEW

 

This Overview is for informational purposes, and is not intended to elicit any responses. Those can best come later, after I have set out my more general thoughts. I feel quite confident that you (and interested others) will disagree about many, if not most or even all, of my current observations and conclusions. Of course, you (and any others) are always welcome to respond whenever you wish.

 

WHERE’S WHERE

 

We have already disagreed about Venice vs London. I contend that it is Venice in the first three dimensions identified below, and London in the rest. 

 

We have not yet discussed Belmont, which is spelled Belmonte in the Source dimension. In the Story, Source, and Literature dimensions, it is a real — albeit idyllic — place. In the Recent History/Current Affairs and Sexual dimensions, it is the court of Queen Elizabeth. In the Theological dimensions, it is Heaven.

 

DIMENSIONS OF MEANING

 

The main dimension is the Story dimension; that is, the basic narrative of the bond plot and the casket plot as Shakespeare mashed them up from several different sources. This dimension is both the skeleton upon which Shakespeare hung a number of other meanings, and the disguise that permitted him something like plausible deniability regarding the impermissible, often subversive, and possibly treasonous ideas that he expressed in these other meanings. On this dimension, Venice is certainly Venice.

 

Related to the Story dimension is the Source dimension. The main source, “Il Pecorone,” is set in Venice, and can therefore augment plausible deniability. Some of the other sources are not set in Venice but others are.

 

As your comprehensive edition and scholarly responses demonstrate, there is also a Literature dimension. It amazes me that Shakespeare was consciously creating Literature. At the time, plays were not considered Literature. Erne to the contrary notwithstanding, Shakespeare could not have known as he was writing the play how it would be received or whether it would even be published. But he was a Poet at heart, and was probably writing the play as much for himself and his friends as for any audience or potential readers.

 

Most of the other dimensions do not run all the way through the Story dimension. However, they are all interrelated in some way, and can flicker in and out. One character can stand for one thing one moment and another thing the next, or sometimes more than one thing simultaneously. It is critical to listen to or read the words very carefully, and with the awareness I just described. 

One of these other dimensions is the Source dimension. It is not sufficient simply to identify a probable source. Shakespeare selected those sources for a reason, and made significant changes to them. One must read them carefully and ask oneself why Shakespeare chose that source and made those particular changes. Sometimes a particular change will carry with it elements of the original context. Friends, audience members, or readers may be familiar with the source and may, consciously or unconsciously, connect the original context with how Shakespeare changed it for the play. (I have in mind particularly the relationships among the original Lady of Belmonte, Portia, and Elizabeth I.)

 

I never realized until I started work on this play that Shakespeare’s references to mythological, Roman, or Greek individuals and events actually carried meaning. I thought that they were simply “grace notes” as it were, which poets used to show off their learning and to flatter the audiences and readers by demonstrating that they expected them to recognize and understand them.

I also never realized how many sexual references and puns Shakespeare included. This should be an interesting discussion.

The dimensions that I have thus far identified are: (1) the Story dimension; (2) the Source dimension; (3) the Literature dimension; (4) the Legal dimension; (5) the Biblical dimension; (6) the Recent History/Current Affairs dimension; (7) probably several Theological dimensions; (8) the Sexual dimension; (9) the Mythological dimension; (10) the Roman History dimension; (11) the Marlowe dimension; and (12) the Personal dimension. We will discuss these dimensions in some detail later. For now, I will simply identify them and indicate to which characters in the play these dimensions relate.


WHO’S WHO

 

PORTIA stands for the Lady of Belmonte in “Il Pecorone,” but changed from a rich widow who does not desire a husband and who devised a larcenous bed trick, to a rich heiress who does; Portia, daughter of Cato and wife to Brutus; Elizabeth I; Sibilla; Diana; Hera; Medea; Deianira; Hesione; Jesus, as described in the Gospel of John; and the Risen Christ. Runs a brothel.

 

NERISSA stands for Portia’s Lady-in-Waiting and not the simple maid to the Lady of Belmonte who served the spiked wine; Elizabeth Vernon, Elizabeth’s Lady-in-Waiting, cousin to the Earl of Essex, and Southampton’s lover (and, shortly later, wife).

 

ANTONIO stands for Ansaldo from “Il Pecorone,” but changed from godfather of Giannetto to friend/lover/creditor of Bassanio; Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague (Southampton’s grandfather), as head of the Catholic church in England; Job; the old ram that Medea used to prove that she could make Jason’s father young again; and, perhaps Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, fifth Earl of Derby. Runs a brothel.

 

BASSANIO stands for Giannetto from “Il Pecorone,” but changed from godson of Ansaldo to friend/lover/debtor of Antonio; Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex; Brutus; one of the Elect; Jason; Hercules/Alcides; Peter, Disciple of Christ; John, Disciple and lover of Christ; Endymion.

 

GRATIANO stands for Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, lover (then husband) of Elizabeth Vernon; one of the Elect. No similar character in “Il Pecorone.”

 

LORENZO stands for the husband of Jessica (who is the daughter of Satan); William Shakespeare, who had just become a gentleman and who doubled this role with that of Shylock. (Name comes from Kyd’s “The Spanish Tragedy,” perhaps enacted by Shakespeare.)

 

SHYLOCK stands for the Jew of Mestri from “Il Pecorone” but here given a name; Gerontus from “Three Ladies of London”; Truculento from “Zelauto”; Jew in “The Orator”; Satan/Mephistopheles from “Doctor Faustus”; Barabas from “The Jew of Malta”; Shakespeare, who wrote himself into the play as Shylock and doubled as Lorenzo (who married Jessica, the Devil’s daughter [I suspect that Shakespeare was making some Theological point by doing so]); a Puritan (who were known as “Christian Jews” because they loaned money at interest); Sir Francis Walsingham (whom Elizabeth called “Moor”), who was a Puritan; perhaps Robert Cecil, whom Elizabeth called Pygmy; and his father, William Cecil, Lord Burghley (whom Elizabeth called “Spirit” or “Sir Spirit”). Runs a brothel.

 

JESSICA stands for Frances Walsingham Sydney Devereaux, Countess of Essex (the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, the widow of Sir Phillip Sydney, and the wife of the Earl of Essex); and the daughter of the Devil. A whore in Shylock’s brothel.

 

THE DUKE stands for the Monarch of England, particularly in the role of Supreme Head of the Church of England (who could not be Portia-as-Elizabeth because she/he was already involved in the Trial Scene as Portia-as-Christ). No counterpart in any of the probable sources. Runs a brothel.

 

LAUNCELET JOBBE stands for a devil (perhaps the Merry Devil of Edmonton); Jacob in the burlesque of Jacob fooling his father in order to obtain the blessing meant for Esau; Robert Cecil, the hunchback son of William Cecil, who was seeking his father’s blessing to succeed him as Elizabeth’s chief advisor; parodies the debate between the Good Angel and Evil Angel in “Doctor Faustus”; last name spelled “Jobbe” to bring into the play the Book of Job. No counterpart in any probable source. Personifies Lust, Gluttony, and Sloth from “Doctor Faustus.” 

 

OLD GOBBO stands for Isaac in the burlesque of Jacob fooling his father; William Cecil, from whom Robert Cecil was seeking the blessing to succeed him as Elizabeth’s chief advisor. No counterpart in any probable source.

BALTHASER stands for Romeo’s man, who went to Mantua to deliver the news that Juliet had poisoned herself and was being laid to rest in the Capulet crypt. No counterpart in any probable source.

BELLARIO (off stage) stands for Christopher Marlowe. No counterpart in any probable source.

BALTHASAR (off stage) stands for Shakespeare. No counterpart in any probable source. Name may call to mind Balthasar Gerard, who assassinated William of Orange (whose death caused Elizabeth to send the Earl of Leicester to the Netherlands to continue the fight against Spain).

 

BALTHAZAR is Portia in disguise, although she is identified as such only in the stage direction for her entrance. Given that Portia is often referred to as a second Daniel, the name probably refers to the son of Nebuchadnezzar, Balthazar (Bishop’s Bible spelling), who asked Daniel what the writing on the wall meant and was told “You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.” Balthazar died the next day. Could be a reference to Elizabeth I. The name may call to mind a character in “The Spanish Tragedy”; and the Lady of Belmonte in her disguise as a nameless lawyer.

MAGNIFICOES stand for courtiers to the Duke and to Elizabeth (from Commedia dell’arte — also known as Pantaleone — heartbreaker who was always hunting new conquests); whores in the brothel that is the Court of Elizabeth. 

 

STEPHANO stands for an Italian, who was sent by the Guise faction to assassinate Elizabeth.

 

More to come, later.

 

Very best regards,

Bill 

 

“Non Nobis” and “Te Deum”

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.305  Monday, 29 June 2015

 

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

     Date:         June 26, 2015 at 5:20:09 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog 

 

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

     Date:         June 29, 2015 at 11:32:47 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

 

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

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

Date:         June 26, 2015 at 5:20:09 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

On “Non nobis, Domine,” John Briggs is correct that my description of the Latin verse was inaccurate, for which I apologize. In the Vulgate, what most Protestants number Psalms 114 and 115 were combined into a single Psalm, numbered 113. “Non nobis” is thus the Vulgate text of the first verse of what English Protestants called Psalm 115, but the Catholic numbering is much different. Even for Catholics, though, the verse “Non nobis, Domine,” was sometimes considered independently of the Vulgate Psalm 113, since composers (including William Byrd) set the verse independently. 

 

And Briggs is quite right about the Coverdale Psalms and the BCP. I’d only add that the reason the Latin incipits were still widely familiar to English Protestants is that Coverdale included them in the Great Bible and the later reprintings of his Psalter did not see fit to omit them. Later English Bibles (Geneva, Bishops’, King James) did not include them.

 

I should perhaps say too that I have obviously blundered into a long and rather contentious post. I don’t have any particular desire to weigh in on the debate about Shakespeare as Catholic, though I’ve never been convinced by any of the arguments, early or late. 

 

Hannibal

 

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

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

Date:         June 29, 2015 at 11:32:47 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

Regarding the conversation about “Non Nobis” and “Te Deum” and in the Book of Common Prayer:

 

Presuming, I think correctly, that the Latin words “Non Nobis” are a reference to Psalm 115 (identified in the Psalter of the Great Bible by its opening in Latin, “Non Nobis, Domine”), then the “Non Nobis” was recited in churches of the Church of England at Evening Prayer every month of the year, on or around the 23rd of each month. 

 

Specifically, Psalm 115 (along with Psalm 114) was read at Evening Prayer on the 23rd of January and all other months, except February (read on the 22nd) and March (read on the 24th). 

 

For instructions about the reading of the Psalter at Morning and Evening Prayer in post-Reformation England, consult any BCP prior to the late 20th-century revisions, or go here, to the appropriate section in a copy of BCP 1559:

 

http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1559/Kalendar_1559.htm#Lessons

 

As John Briggs points out, use of the Great Bible Psalter (as opposed to other translations) became traditional in the Church of England for public (and private) reading at the Daily Offices from the early days of the English Reformation, when the Great Bible was the official Bible of the English Church. 

 

This use was officially recognized—and continued use of the Great Bible Psalter during the Daily Offices was made possible—by inclusion of the Great Bible Psalter in the 1662 edition of BCP.  For an elegantly designed modern-spelling edition of the Great Bible Psalter, go here:

 

http://www.lutheransonline.com/lo/675/FSLO-1059011476-804675.pdf

 

“Te Deum” is the opening in Latin of the Canticle “We praise thee, O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord,” prescribed by the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer to be said or sung after the first (of two) scripture readings every day during Morning Prayer, “Or this canticle, Benedicite omnia opera Domini domino,” in English , “All ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: praise him, and magnify him for ever.”

 

For the full text of Morning Prayer in BCP 1559, go here:

 

http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1559/MP_1559.htm

 

John N. Wall

Professor of English Literature

NC State University

Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-8105

 

 

 

Coke’s Law Reports

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.303  Friday, 26 June 2015

 

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

Date:         June 25, 2015 at 10:25:23 PM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Coke’s Law Reports

 

With regard to Coke’s reports and literature in our period, see the work of Bradin Cormack on Sh’s sonnets and other literary works.

 

Richard Strier

Sulzberger Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus

Editor, Modern Philology

Department of English

University of Chicago

 

MV Dialog

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.304  Friday, 26 June 2015

 

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

     Date:         June 26, 2015 at 9:41:15 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog 

 

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

     Date:         June 26, 2015 at 9:47:28 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog 

 

 

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

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

Date:         June 26, 2015 at 9:41:15 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

Hannibal Hamlin wrote:

 

Non nobis is the Latin headnote (fully, “Non nobis domine,” from the first verse in the Vulgate) for Psalm 115, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give the praise.”

 

It isn’t “the first verse in the Vulgate” - and it isn’t Psalm 115 in the Vulgate.

 

John Briggs

 

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

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

Date:         June 26, 2015 at 9:47:28 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

Dennis Taylor wrote:

 

Most critics, I think, claim that these 2 Latin tags are found in the Book of Common Prayer, but I can only find Te Deum, not Non Nobis. Can anyone correct me?

 

“Non nobis” is in the Psalter, which didn’t strictly speaking become part of the BCP until 1662, but which was often printed and bound with it long before then. (The BCP has always used Coverdale’s Great Bible translation of the Psalter, rather than that of the Bishop’s Bible or the King James Bible.)

 

John Briggs

 

 

MV Dialog

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.302  Thursday, 25 June 2015

 

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

     Date:         June 25, 2015 at 6:31:52 AM EDT

     Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog 

 

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

     Date:         June 25, 2015 at 1:02:19 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog 

 

 

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

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

Date:         June 25, 2015 at 6:31:52 AM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

Re: Te Deum and Non Nobis, Briggs post

 

Most critics, I think, claim that these 2 Latin tags are found in the Book of Common Prayer, but I can only find Te Deum, not Non Nobis. Can anyone correct me?

 

 

For Dennis Talyor:

 

The Non Nobis tag is from the opening of Psalm 115.  See the Bishops Bible (1595). Shakespeare uses it again in Henry V 4.8.124.

 

Cheers

John Drakakis

 

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

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

Date:         June 25, 2015 at 1:02:19 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog

 

Non nobis is the Latin headnote (fully, “Non nobis domine,” from the first verse in the Vulgate) for Psalm 115, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give the praise.” If everyone will forgive the self-reference, in my Bible in Shakespeare I suggest that Shakespeare had this Psalm opening in mind earlier in the play, when Henry says,

 

                       Not today, O Lord,

O not today, think not upon the fault

My father made in compassing the crown.

 

The vocabulary and syntax are enough to constitute a subtle allusion, I think, and an ironic one. The actual Psalm defers responsibility for victory (as at Agincourt) to God, while Henry's earlier prayer asks God to defer from Henry responsibility for his father's crime/sin.

 

 

Hannibal

 

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