Hebrew Verbs


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.194  Monday, 21 May 2012


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

Date:         May 20, 2012 12:11:13 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew


In the discussion of 5/7/2012, Joe Egert quoted Hannibal Hamlin as



> Others on the list with Hebrew less rudimentary than mine will no

> doubt be able to answer with more precision, but, yes, it is my

> understanding that Hebrew does not have tense in the same way European

> languages do. Hebrew verbs have forms designating complete or

> incomplete action. In terms of Exodus 3:14, the result is that while

> the Geneva translation is correct, it is also reductive, since one

> might translate equally accurately using different English tenses --I

> am be what I will be, etc. One implication is that God’s

> self-description—not really one, let alone a name—includes eternal

> immutability—was, is, will be.


Concerning Hannibal’s exposition of the name that God gives as Himself in Exodus 3:14, which Hannibal describes as “eternal immutability—was, is, will be”—may I try to add some more detail on this matter? I would point out that English too, like Hebrew, could have the usage of a future tense that is also sensed as present.


As Harold Bloom in his recent Shakespeare lecture mentions, the King James’ verbal terms used in Exodus 3:14 are in the present tense, “I AM THAT I AM,” which, as Bloom notes, in the Hebrew is actually given in the future tense, “I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE.” Bloom credits the translator Tyndale as being the more accurate in giving the literal future tense.


But Tyndale’s literality does not mean that the King James translation is wrong. In fact, using the present tense gives a more accurate meaning. This is so since both interpretations are actually correct as understood in the Hebrew. But it happens that the present tense usage in the King James is the best way to render the import of the name given in the Hebrew.


I think this becomes clear when it is considered that to use the future tense would seem to say of God that “He exists only in the future,” which would be nonsensical. The King James usage of the present tense therefore comes closer to the meaning of the Hebrew than selecting the future tense would.


I would note that, in the episode in Exodus 2:13, in the way Moses speaks to the wicked Hebrew who strikes his comrade: “”Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?” the actual words in Hebrew are also in the future tense. But, as can readily be understood in the episode, this Hebrew future tense is addressing an ongoing action of the wicked person of “striking” in the present. Moses’ words can be literally translated as, “Wherefore wilt thou strike thy fellow?” which can be readily understood as applied to a present situation. In effect, we understand the words as saying: “Wherefore wilt thou [have the present condition of smiting (smitest)] thy fellow?” The distinction is to raise the words of Moses to the level of a timeless aphorism, a sense that exists in the Hebrew but is lost in English.


Applying this to God’s name in Exo 3:14, while it can literally be translated into English, word for word, as: “I will be that I will be,” the meaning is also, “I am that I am.”


The Hebrew future tense, as happens with Moses’ literal words, can be understood as meaning “I will be [in the present condition of being] that I will be,” thereby encompassing both tenses. This gives what Hannibal describes as a sense of “eternal immutability”—eternal being. As mentioned, to translate in the future tense in English would actually limit the meaning that the Hebrew encompasses.


David Basch



The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.193  Monday, 21 May 2012


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

Date:         May 19, 2012 8:15:29 PM EDT

Subject:     SHAKSPER Ardenwatch


The Arden3 “Romeo and Juliet” edited by René Weis has just been published (my copy is marooned somewhere in the postal system.)


There are also four (four!) editions scheduled for publication over the next 16 months or so: “Coriolanus” later this year, and “Macbeth”, “King John” and “The Comedy of Errors” in 2013.


If the sacking of Pat Parker was really “pour encourager les autres” (as some suspected), then it seems to have had the desired effect . . .


John Briggs


Pedestrians Crossing Cairncross


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.192  Friday, 18 May 2012


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

Date:         May 16, 2012 10:14:29 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Peds


Gerald Downs attributes an opinion to me:


> I gather that Gabriel Egan agrees (finally!) with

> Michael Egan and Steven Urkowitz that /Contention/ is

> not a memorially contaminated text but that it descends

> by transcription from the hand of Shakespeare.


My essay (“Foucault’s Epistemic Shift and Verbatim Repetition in Shakespeare”) that I pointed to, which is available without cost, gives my view.


Memorial reconstruction and revision may both be active in the differences between two early editions, and a transcriptional link may be intermittent. My essay factors in an additional document not usually considered in this regard: the property document holding the Articles of Peace read aloud in the first scene of CYL/2H6. In F the words read aloud from this document by Gloucester are different from those read aloud from it by the Cardinal Beaufort, while in Q they are the same. That’s the “Verbatim” part of my title and I believe it may be relevant to our problem.  But I’d rather not rehearse the entire argument here since it’s easily accessed by any interested reader.


> Of course, since /R3/ is probably a memorial report

> the same questions may arise.


See John Jowett’s elegant proof that Q1 R3 can’t be based on a memorial report (“’Derby’, ‘Stanley’, and Memorial Reconstruction in Quarto Richard IIINotes and Queries 245 (2000): 75-79.)


Gabriel Egan

CFP: 36th Annual OVSC


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.191  Friday, 18 May 2012

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

Date:         May 16, 2012 2:23:33 PM EDT

Subject:     Updated CFP: 36th Annual OVSC


Extreme(ly) Shakespeare(an)

The 36th Annual Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference 2012

Marietta College

October 18-20, 2012


The planning committee of the Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference seeks proposals for papers or panels from across today’s theoretical and methodological landscape that engage some facet of the amalgam “Extreme(ly) Shakespeare(an).” “Extreme Shakespeare” alludes to the wide variety of extremities that can be found in Shakespeare’s work. It brings to mind those occasions where the playwright demonstrates either a lack of regard for or a lack of control over the principles of proportionality and balance, to the degree either of those principles were prioritized by dramatists of the early modern period. Of course, extremity is an inherently relative value, which leads to a second facet of the amalgam open to conferees. “Extremely Shakespearean” refers to the fundamental characteristics of Shakespeare’s art, craft, thought, philosophy, etc. How might we best operationalize the term “Shakespearean”? What quality or qualities should we identify as the quintessence of Shakespeare’s work? Conversely, where do we observe Shakespeare at his least Shakespearean? Have we in the past, do we now, and/or might we ever share a persuasive understanding of what constitutes the most significant attributes of Shakespeare? Is the pursuit a noble quest, or a fool’s errand?


The OVSC publishes a volume of selected papers each year and conferees are welcome to submit revised versions of their papers for consideration. Students who present are eligible to compete for the M. Rick Smith Memorial Prize.


Plenary Speakers:


Ralph Alan Cohen

The American Shakespeare Center and Mary Baldwin College


Lina Perkins Wilder

Connecticut College


Featured conference events will include a site-specific production of Hamlet staged by the Marietta College Theatre Department as well as an Esbenshade Series concert with a Shakespearean theme. Other conference events will include a night owl screening of a recent film adaptation, an evening reception at a local establishment, our annual luncheon, coffee, tea & snack breaks that will have you stuffing your pockets “for later,” and all the October foliage your eyes can possibly take in.


Abstracts and panel proposals are due by June 8th for an early decision. The final deadline is August 31st. All submissions and inquiries should be directed to Joseph Sullivan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by mail to


Joseph Sullivan

English Department

Marietta College

Marietta, OH 45750.


Conference updates will be posted on our webpage as they become available.

Pedestrians Crossing Cairncross


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.190  Wednesday, 16 May 2012


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

Date:         May 16, 2012 1:54:46 AM EDT

Subject:     Pedestrians Crossing Cairncross


Gabriel Egan responded helpfully with some references I will follow up. As for Cairncross:


>The back-and-forth about Cairncross can be dispensed with

>quite simply. Taken to task by J. K. Walton for his faulty

>interpretation of variants between early editions, Cairncross

>confirmed his adherence to the principle that “identity of

>reading implies identity of origin” (“Dr Cairncross’s Answer”

>Review of English Studies new series 10 (1959): 139-40).


I think the exchange was about R3, where (simply) “variants between early [R3 quarto and Folio] editions” is not analogous to the question of 2H6 bad quarto agreements with Folio passages. That is, we’re not discussing which derivative quarto was copy for F, but whether quarto or manuscript was copy for the agreeing passages.


Speaking of agreement, I gather that Gabriel Egan agrees (finally!) with Michael Egan and Steven Urkowitz that Contention is not a memorially contaminated text but that it descends by transcription from the hand of Shakespeare. Otherwise, he should see that its corruption exceeds “critical” mass: it can’t switch between horrible and identical (or nearly so) by a will to believe. “Horrible” in quarto(s) is identified by text from a better manuscript and by other features. “Identical” identifies what may have been judged less horrible (by printing-house editors yet), but it’s still probably from the bad quarto. Memorial reports match authorized text only if they are well done. The Contention is not well done, by any rational stretch.


>There’s no point continuing discussing variants with someone

>who thinks that’s true, and Walton didn’t.


So much for discussing apples and oranges. I’ll point out that Walton denied Q2 influence on Folio Lear, which is generally acknowledged now, agreeing with Cairncross. Much of Walton’s work is downgraded; I prefer to take issues as they come and Walton’s input is OK at times. Not once having watched the TV show, I’m no expert. But there is no point in citing Walton here; memorial transmission is the question.


Of course, since R3 is probably a memorial report the same questions may arise. But Walton was talking about Q1, Q3, and Q6 variants, not origins, as I recall. He didn’t dismiss the idea that Q1 Lear is a report, which is unusual for his generation.


>>I seem to recall the word “blunder” and reference to a

>>principle of some sort. I don't have the book at hand.

>>Perhaps G. Egan can cite it for us.


>The word “blunder” appears nowhere in my book, The

>Struggle for Shakespeare’s Text. The closest match is

>“blindness”, as in “Cairncross’s blindness to the principle

>that only agreements-in-error are strong evidence” (p. 253).

>That restates the principle too. Nothing contentious there, I think.


An advocate of memorial contamination, I welcome all examples of my bad memory. “Blindness” is worse than “blunder,” wouldn’t you think? Poor, blind Cairncross—he’s right again. Perhaps, like me, he suffered from Weisenheimer’s. And a “principle” was there after all, though it doesn’t apply. Is it true we accept 2H6 set directions as coming from Contention because they agree? Is it a principle when we like it and not when we don’t?


Gerald E. Downs

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