3 April 2013

Congee, Edward III: wondering why on earth Wells and Taylor, the editors of the Oxford Shakespeare, think this is a Shakespeare play. It is but a hack job using the Chronicles (by one Jean Froissart) of this early stage of the Hundred Years’ war(s). Shakespeare seems to have only contributed scraps but this isn’t a “Shakespeare” play.

There’s no low character speaking prose wiser than the toffs: Henry IV and V were explorations of the class system of 15th century England whereas Edward III is a stiff mediaeval miniature which takes chivalry for granted, unlike say Falstaff in his speech on “honour” in Henry IV-2. And yet Edward III post-dates Henry IV.

This is the last time I shall go outside the canon in this Grand High Shakespeare reread. A play shall have to have been in the Folio or be otherwise traditionally accepted.

Scholars, perhaps overambitious to get noticed, are IMO entirely too anxious to add to artistic or literary canons works without real merit that meet their conventional, narrow and safe views of quality.

“Shall I die?” (A Song) is in the Oxford Shakespeare, but I find it hard to accept “A Song” compared to Venus and Adonis:

EVEN as the sun with purple-colour’d face
Had ta’en his last leave of the weeping morn,
Rose-cheek’d Adonis hied him to the chase;
Hunting he loved, but love he laugh’d to scorn;
Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him,
And like a bold-faced suitor ‘gins to woo him.

Compare this running metre with the halting rhythm of what we now must accept as also by Shakespeare: “Shall I die? Shall I fly Lovers’ baits and deceits, sorrow breeding? Shall I fend? Shall I send? Shall I shew, and not rue my proceeding?”

Of course, a halting metre may be appropriate where what I’ve called a running metre is not but the sentiment isn’t worth it. Moreover, there is a general consensus today that “A Song” is “A Turkey”. Which makes the real question why must we believe that Shakespeare wrote a lot, or even a little, of bad stuff. It is true that his output was less under his control than that of Ben Jonson because S was “on the game” to make money but I believe that S was at least conflicted about that. His drama could be the product of collaboration but his poetry could not, which is why his major works of poetry (Adonis, Lucrece and the Sonnets) are, like works of art of the 19th century, single works with a clear text written by one author.

The idea of S collaborating on plays is natural but the idea of him collaborating on poems, or even writing bad verse on spec, seems like nonsense. Which means that early in his career S had the experience of being an Author courtesy of his friend Henry Wriothesley. But unlike Peter Shaffer’s Mozart (in Amadeus) S chose to make money through collaboration in the theater. This could have destroyed him as a playwright through excess collaboration were it not his friends’ (not his) decision to publish the Folio. Mozart wanted to write, and get paid for, integral works of art produced by his single genius but S, perhaps, could care less (to use an American solecism). They come closest together in the forms of Die Zauberflote and The Tempest, both single-authored celebrations of life. As compared to the late Romances, the Tempest is accounted to be a single-author work, and the idea of any other fist is absurd.

An example from art is here.

A blundering and second-rate work probably by Honthorst or another Dutchman is celebrated strictly for financial reasons by the museum that owns it as a “Rubens”. The museum needed the attention and the money the attention would bring and I fear that’s the same reason Wells, Taylor et al. decided that this turkey (Edward III) was a Shakespeare, so I get to waste time reading a hack version of what I read, years ago, in Froissart’s Chronicles: Edward’s noble chastity towards the Countess of Salisbury, the “confident and o’erlusty French” before Sluys and Crecy, etc. zzzzz…

The French, as in Henry V, are in Edward III “confident and o’erlusty”. The difference is in the way Shakespeare shows this: in Henry V, Shakespeare devotes a scene to French braggadocio in the night before the battle, which also exposes splits within the French high command (notably between the Constable and the Dauphin) and this explains the French loss at Agincourt, whereas S as the putative author of Edward III, writing after he wrote Henry V, did not feel obligated to dramatically (as a dramatist) to dramatize the explanation of the French defeat as in part due to the splits within the French leadership (recall that the Dauphin’s father, in Act 3 Sc 5, commands his son the Dauphin to stay with him in Rouen: the Dauphin was not supposed to be at Agincourt).

Academics know, today, that culture is being rapidly destroyed by finance from within. My English friends in Hong Kong speak of the wonders of London where today you can hear several major orchestras and see Shakespeare performed by first rate troupes: but the likes of us can neither get positions within those troupes, for they are too few in number to but skim the cream of new theater graduates, nor afford the culture without also getting jobs, primarily in financial services that in my experience are soul-destroying.

i could prophesy, as I have said before. Indeed, as a runner, I have done so with a loud voice in the agora more than once. You should probably feel like a real insider having discovered these words, this blog, for it may be the next big thing…or maybe not.

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