Scholarly Papers for Comments

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Shakespeare

 

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The following paper is currently available: The Biblical Name Shiloch as the Source for Shakespeare's Shylock (Click on title to the left to download a pdf copy.)

 

The Biblical Name Shiloch as the Source for Shakespeare's Shylock by J. D. Markel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

 

The Merchant of Venice's Shylock bears a name of intriguing provenance. One often proffered biblical possibility derives from the name Shiloh in Genesis 49:10. The King James Bible of 1611 renders this verse, "The scepter shall not depart from Iudah, nor a Law-giver from betweene his feete, untill Shiloh come: and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." Yet a different text published that very year renders the verse, "...untill Shiloch come, & the people shall be gathered unto him." This "Shiloch" is easily visually audited as a homonym for Shylock. A Shiloh source for Shylock would be firmer if the former word had three enunciated consonants like the latter. Indeed, the previously mentioned "Shiloch" is not a typographical error, but an outcome of early modern Bible translation which owes just as much to Latin writings as to Hebrew. The spelling variations Shiloch and Shiloach were discussed in Shakespeare's day, and were an important religious topic given Genesis 49:10's prophetic and messianic semblances. But though the name Shylock derives from the Bible, the instigation for Shakespeare to use such a name arises from his contemporary competitor Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe, in his play The Jew of Venice, elected to name his main Jewish character Barabas, evoking the biblical personage Barabbas, whom Pontius Pilate pardoned over Jesus Christ. Shakespeare, in antithetical reaction to this Barabas, imbued his Jew with a Messianic appellation. The argument that Shakespeare's Merchant was in part an effort to "out do" Marlowe's Jew of Malta is a commonplace in critical literature. Indeed, my investigation into the name Shylock advances the same conclusion. But before elaboration on the dramatic and comic purposes of Shakespeare's intertextuality with Marlowe, I will the lay out the etymology of Shylock's name in isolation, in context with early modern understandings of Hebrew, and their interactions with the orthographies of Latin script languages and typographical practices.

 

You should send your comments directly to the author by J.D. Markel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>; or if you wish, you may start a thread through the normal SHAKSPER channels by sending it to the list at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

 

The following paper is currently available: Catananche caerulea – A New Identification of the Love Potion Flower in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Click on title to the left to download a pdf copy.)

 

Catananche caerulea – A New Identification of the Love Potion Flower in A Midsummer Night’s Dream By J.D. Markel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

 

Oberon the Fairy King aims to play the mischievous matchmaker. To this end he instructs Robin Goodfellow to find a “little western flower,” (2.1.116) which he later calls “Cupid’s flower.” (4.1.72) Moisture from this flower applied to the eyelid of a sleeping person will cause her or him to fall madly in love with the first human or animal seen awake. Traditional scholarship identifies this flower as Viola tricolor, the Johnny-jump-up, a species known to Elizabethans as pansy and heartsease, among other names. However, almost everything the play says about this flower, from its color change to its aphrodisiacal power, points to a very different plant, Catananche caerulea. The catananche carries the name of the ancient aphrodisiac catanance, and many of its vernacular appellations are also love-linked like Cupid’s dart, cupidone, flor de cupido, and madre d’amore. Flowing from this examination of Midsummer’s flower I discovered the catananche is also the plant which springs from the blood of Adonis in Roman author Ovid’s epic Metamorphoses, but the corresponding blood-engendered flower in Shakespeare’s poem Venus and Adonis is, oddly enough, the Johnny-jump-up. 

 

You should send your comments directly to the author by J.D. Markel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>; or if you wish, you may start a thread through the normal SHAKSPER channels by sending it to the list at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

“Shakespeare’s Women, Birds, and Ecocriticism” by Karoline Szatek-Tudor <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>:  

 

 

The following paper is currently available:  Women Birds Ecocriticism (Click on title to the left to download a pdf copy.)

 

“Shakespeare’s Women, Birds, and Ecocriticism” by Karoline Szatek-Tudor <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>:   

ABSTRACT:  “Shakespeare’s Women, Birds, and Ecocriticism"

 

Shakespeare’s plays show him to be a proto-feminist.  He may depict some women negatively—Jessica, Lady Anne, and Desdemona, to name a few—but he does so to criticize his culture’s demeaning attitude and behavior toward women.  Moreover, Shakespeare contrasts the negatively-appearing female characters against those who are strong, motivated, and independent, like Portia, Katherine, Rosalind, and even Lavinia.   As Phyllis Rackin points out in Shakespeare and Women, Shakespeare’s ladies represent the women who actually lived in early modern England.  For instance, some women worked equally as well in the fields with men, in addition to taking care of the household;  others handled the estates when husbands were away, and many approached the court on their own behalf to sue for their inheritance and/or to apply to maintain both ownership and control of their own property.    In 1528 Lady Tailbois wrote to Cardinal Wosley requesting he disallow her son more control over the estate Sir George, Duke of Richmond, left her.   

 

When depicting women in his plays, Shakespeare employs a variety of methods.  He contrasts the treatment of women against the treatment of men, thereby highlighting the lack of respect many women endured during the period.  But Shakespeare also uses one other technique; he borrowed from nature.   A proto-ecofeminist himself (Clearly the term “ecofeminist” is anachronistic.) he saw the forests disappearing due to building homes and businesses, witnessed the pollution from chimneys in London, and observed the depletion of animals due to hunting, gaming, and poaching.  One aspect of nature that Shakespeare drew upon are birds, nonhuman beings the early modern English viewed as the Other.  Women were also often placed into that category—as nonhuman—as the Other.    Ecofeminist Patrick D. Murphy argues, though, that the nonhuman should be referred to as Another, rather than the Other.   The nonhuman and the human, or the animal species, are dialogically interdependent.  Shakespeare demonstrates this interdependency when his characters refer to birds in one manner or another to draw attention to the women in his plays.  Although not all the birds he specifically names in the plays refer to women, at least 50 of them do, such as the dove, the rooster, and of course, the cuckoo.   Shakespeare’s more general references include bird flight, bird feathers, bird habitats (fields, nests,etc.), and even bird songs.  Shakespeare’s citations appear in all his plays, except Julius Caesar and Timon of Athens.  The mention of birds and women appears only once each in King John, Richard II, and 2 Henry IV.  The comedies contain the most representation of birds and women.  

 

This paper will investigate which of Shakespeare’s characters speak more often of birds, the male or the female and what that suggests;  will determine whether gender and class appear in the manner in which Shakespeare relates birds to his female characters;  will analyze how the characters’ more general allusions to birds (flight, nesting, gaming) define more certainly women’s roles versus their duties in Renaissance England; and, among other points of interest, will suppose Shakespeare ‘s proto-ecofeminist position on nature and women.

 

You should send your comments directly to the author by Karoline Szatek-Tudor <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>; or if you wish, you may start a thread through the normal SHAKSPER channels by sending it to the list at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  

 

NOTE: These papers are in PDF format; the free reader is available here.

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