12 May 2013: A Prologue to Congee and an Egge and then a Massacree

First thing 30 minute supine workout, congee and an egg. Having completed Cymbeline, started on Julius Caesar in the Grand High Shakespeare Reread and Massacree, looking forward to the Grand High Rereading and Massacree of the Critique of Pure Reason in Which the “Massacree” will be a critical analysis of what I’ve read most mornings.

In a new taxonomy of the Shakespeare plays, Cymbeline might be considered a “Roman” play, since it is set in Roman Britain (and of all places, “Milford Haven” as if it were on a railway stop). But of course it’s not, since with Lear it shares the property of being derived from Holinshed’s chronicles of ancient Britain which Holinshed sort of made up, or derived from older books at best. As such, Cymbeline is closer to Lear than Coriolanus: all the “Roman” plays (Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra) that are “Roman” by virtue of setting in Plutarch’s Rome) share a certain tightness of classical construction, even Antony and Cleopatra which Cymbeline and Lear (the “British” plays) do not share.

Set theory should teach English studies, specifically Shakespeare studies, that taxonomy is always need-driven and arbitrary, and all we need to do is be able to specify the rule used. So for a book, article or Massacree on “Classifying the Works of Shakespeare” we could have:

1. The traditional, received, time-honored division, inherited from the Romantics and the 19th century, into comedies, histories and tragedies, each genre defined in turn by “nobody dies” for the genre of comedy (not even that rat Don John in Much Ado About Nothing as far as is known: Benedick merely schedules unidentified “brave punishments” for him): “history of England from John to Henry VIII with aporias” for the genre of history: and “one or more people die including the hero” for the genre of tragedy.

These divisions can be “marked” as are the “problem” comedies Measure for Measure and All’s Well That Ends Well.

3. Taxonomies based on source (Plutarch, Holinshed, trashy Italian novellas, etc.).

4. Taxonomies based on the development of Shakespeare’s art at the time the play under consideration: early, middle or late. These have the problem that we are uncertain of the date at which any play was written and that this must be inferred from Francis Meres’ Palladis Tamia, other references and so on.

“Polon. The best Actors in the world, either for Tragedie, Comedie, Historie, Pastorall: Pastoricall-Comicall-Historicall-Pastorall: Tragicall-Historicall: Tragicall-Comicall-Historicall-Pastorall: Scene indiuidible: or Poem unlimited.”

Shakespeare, Hamlet


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