The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0193  Monday, 22 April 2013


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

     Date:         April 19, 2013 7:51:01 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman 


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

     Date:         April 20, 2013 2:19:40 AM EDT

     Subject:     Shakespeare as grain hoarder 



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

Date:         April 19, 2013 7:51:01 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman


Despite his best endeavors, Michael Egan fails to convince that he is an agnostic on the authorship issue. He correctly says that an agnostic is “someone who admits he doesn’t know.” That is not someone who fervently asserts irreconcilable positions at the same time, especially in a fashion that ridicules the proponents of both of them. For example, there is that famous cartoon which Egan published on Facebook, portraying anti-Stratfordians as a troop of monkeys. I challenge anyone to look at that cartoon and conclude that Egan is merely “raising a question” as to which he has no opinion of his own. His attempt to explain his statement in his Woodstock treatise that he found the Oxfordian cause “has its uses” also fails the straight-face test. Egan’s thesis is that Thomas of Woodstock was written by William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon, and he supports that contention by arguing that it’s language has numerous parallels and echos in the canonical works of that luminary. Nowhere in his four-volume 2000 page treatise does Egan suggest that Edward de Vere wrote Woodstock, and he does not compare a single line in that play with anything in the recognized works of de Vere. Surely, if Egan felt that de Vere was Shakespeare, or might have been, he would at least have had the curiosity to conduct that test.


On the other hand, when Egan writes or edits for the consumption of committed Oxfordians, he is not in the least reluctant to condemn the Stratfordians in the same harsh terms he elsewhere applies to anti-Stratfordians, and he never lets a word of criticism or even question about the alleged reliability of Oxfordian dogma creep into the discussion. There is nothing fair and balanced in The Oxfordian. Agnosticism? Pshaw!


It strikes me that Egan is probably as dedicated a Stratfordian as most of the rest of us. But he can’t admit as much for fear that he would lose the patronage of the heretics. It is that ulterior financial motivation that makes Egan a particularly inappropriate spokesman for the “Shakespeare as hypocrite” assault, to which I now turn:


Egan says:


“Weiss says of Shakespeare’s apparent moral hypocrisy, “we have no way of telling, as we have nothing in his own voice that contradicts something else he said or did in his personal dealings.” This is as much to say that the plays are about nothing and have no point of view. That’s obviously nonsense. Surely the large-souled humanitarian who created Lear, Measure for Measure, Hamlet and the rest, was acting in direct contradiction to their spirit and meaning when he withheld food from the hungry.”


First of all, there is no evidence that Shakespeare withheld food from the hungry. By storing grain until it is needed, a time arbitrageur actually mitigates the effects of famine. 


Secondly, and more to the point in this discussion, it is difficult to find anything in the three plays Egan cites, or most of the rest of the Canon, that is particularly “humanitarian.” Shakespeare’s characters are more humanistic than humanitarian, i.e., they speak and act like people, not angels. For example, Berowne in LLL, who along with his love, Rosalind, are the sensible figures in that comedy, expresses the view that meticulous scholarship is an utter waste of time (I.i.86-87). Did Shakespeare agree? Do you? Portia in M/V, who saves the lives of both Antonio and Shylock, makes clear that she is repelled by negritude. Antonio in the same play, who would willingly lay down his life for his friend, is an unreconstructed anti-semite who declares that he remains one even though the Jew is willing to lend him money free of interest. Ulysses, the intellectual giant of T&C, believes that social mobility is chaotic and anarchic. Was Shakespeare a hypocrite because he governed his own life so as to rise in degree?


The most pertinent character for discussion in this debate is, of course, Caius Marcius Coriolanus, who single-handedly saved his republic and was rewarded by banishment because he freely expressed views not to the liking of the plebs. Shakespeare seems to have regarded that character with sympathy and admiration. Can we say that WS disagreed with his character’s opinion about the inadvisability of giving away corn gratis (or the similar opinion of the far more charming Meninius)? Only the abhorrent tribunes and mob members seem to feel that the patricians owed them a living; did Shakespeare agree with those “humanitarians”?



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

Date:         April 20, 2013 2:19:40 AM EDT

Subject:     Shakespeare as grain hoarder


I’d like to add my point of view on Shakespeare as a grain-hoarder.


The trick is to see how to see Shakespeare’s real “point of view” in his plays. I argue that the plays are cosmic allegories based on Giordano Bruno’s Art of Memory. Disguised as a character, the sun plays a central role in these cosmic allegories. The other major characters in the plays may vary slightly, but there is always someone representing “Mankind” or Everyman and someone who represents coal. (We should remember that coal became the primary fuel for England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, that the first two lines of “Romeo and Juliet” are about coal, and that there are a wealth of references to “sulphur” and “stones” (I argue that these are Hermetic signs pointing to coal, which contains sulfur and looks like a stone) in all the major tragedies. In addition I point to Stephen Greenblatt’s mysterious claim:


“Shakespeare found that he could immeasurably deepen the effect of his plays, that he could provoke in the audience and in himself a peculiarly passionate intensity of response, if he took out a key explanatory element, thereby occluding the rationale, the motivation, or ethical principle that accounted for the action that was about to unfold. The principle was not the making of a riddle to be solved, but the creation of a strategic opacity.” (Will in the World, pages 323-4)


It is unclear whether Greenblatt knows that the mysterious excised element is “coal”, but he later on the same page uses the phrase “resonant echoing of key terms” which hints that he understands that imagery is the key.


Or take a quotation of Stephen Booth’s (from Ron Rosenbaum’s The Shakespeare Wars): (Booth wants to get critics to pay attention to) “the experience of virtually muffled wordplay and of patterning that does not obtrude upon one’s consciousness . . . incidental organizations undemanding of notice vouch for a sort of organic truth in the work as a whole . . . . ” (The Shakespeare Wars, 455-6)


The line “Juliet is the sun”, spoken while Juliet appears overhead, both exposes Juliet’s real role as an allegorical sun figure and brilliantly hides this role behind conventional Petrarchan love poetry. But it is only by putting the first line “Gregory, upon my word, we’ll not carry coals”, together with the scenes the lovers share within the play (which stand out because the lovers do not interact with other characters), that we can see the allegory: man leaving the sun economy and burning fossil fuels (in exile from the sun) until man must return to the sun, a sun economy which won’t be functioning, like a comatose Juliet.


The playwright behind this complex and scientific vision (someone who understands that we have no choice but to burn fossil fuels even while we feel unsettled about future prospects) could easily have been a grain hoarder in my opinion. Indeed, he seems very concerned with material realities and very disturbed by any possible disruptions or discontinuities in the flow of energy and matter to man. His humane vision comes from the concern he expressed.


(A side note: my article on the sun/coal dichotomy and cosmic allegory in “A Midsummer Night Dream” has been published this month by the Area Studies Journal of Tsukuba University, and after two or three months it will be posted online and available for free.)



Marianne Kimura


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