Archive for Shakespeare

13 Oct 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 13, 2013 by spinoza1111

First-thing workout at 6:04: 20 minutes included 150 supine movements with weights, walking, 100 midrise steps (steps in stairwell, not lowrise steps in ward), and 50 slow dancing with walking stick (the old soft shoe: acceptable pain accompanied this return to the OSS.)

Notes on  a Pain Episode

For unknown reason, on the last few weekends, especially Sundays, I have had intense bouts of direct and referred pain; I think it was last Sunday when I first crossed “the screaming barrier”, bothering the other patients.

However, today I was able to endure 10/10+ pain in my butt and was able to practise Acceptance instead of “exclaiming”:  for as Lovel admonishes Hastings i’th’old play (Richard III), “Come, come, dispatch; ’tis bootless to exclaim.”

Notes on the Incomprehensible War

Some heroes included Sgt. “Breathless”. The Kid said, gee, Sarge, it hurts to breathe”. Sgt. Breathless. eyes scanning the dark, said, “so don’t breathe.” So the Kid figured that that meant finding a way to breathe at  a low level, more through his skin almost. So the Kid did this, and survived.

There was also Sgt. Rock who kept firing with his ass shot off. When the position, still held by his men and a dead Sgt. Rock, was relieved, the commander of the relief troops collected his leather belt bitten clean thru because the Sarge was busy killing Cheeseballs whilst in pain. This gruesome artifact hangs today in the Incomprehensible Museum.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 5.00.36 PM

On the Absence of Beasts in Shakespeare

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 23, 2013 by spinoza1111

Two Gentlemen of Verona, finished yesterday: Nicely wrought but formulaic and forgettable: The only Shakespeare play with a dog in it. The rest of Shakespeare’s works marked, if that’s the word, by the absence of animals with certain revealing exceptions.

Famously, the Winter’s Tale features a bear (“Exit pursued by a bear”).

But I rack my brains for any other roles for animals in Shakespeare. The first Elizabethan theaters featured bear baiting for the low fellows, and bear baiting was precisely what its name implies: testing, “baiting” and wounding the bear until it was enraged, and would attack the bravos. Sickening, like bullfighting: just as care-for-the-stranger marks the Chinese and the Jews as civilized people, no society in which animals aren’t protected from abuse can claim to be civilized.

My guess is that Shakespeare didn’t go for bear-baiting. The Duke of York is “baited” in Henry VI part 3 and it’s clear Shakespeare found “baiting” and slowly killing a man or beast reprehensible.

But I can’t think of any Shakespeare passages condemning the use of animals in war: in Richard III, Richard tells a flunky (Catesby?) to “saddle white Surrey for the field tomorrow”, and in a much more famous line, Richard is on foot crying “my kingdom for a horse”. This implies that poor White Surrey was killed in the affray unless White Surrey threw Richard and escaped to a cozy barn in Leicester with plenty of hay.

Tenderness towards horses does appear in Richard II, the deposed Richard laments the theft of his horse Roan Barbary by Henry IV.

So I fall into a watch, and then a reverie, about discovering a Shakespeare play: The Lamentable History of Spot, the Dog of Avon.

6 May 2013: Get thee a wife?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 6, 2013 by spinoza1111

First thing “supine angel” workout, Congee (watery today), completed the Grand High Reread of All’s Well That Ends Well.

All’s Well a pleasant surprise. Not only was AWTEW written at a relatively late date in Shakespeare’s life it bears no marks (unlike its companion piece considered superior, Measure for Measure) of co-authorship and as such seems to flow, with characters that announce their personalities in language. But like Measure for Measure and unlike Twelfth Night or As You Like It, AWTEW could have been quickly field stripped and made into a tragedy with Bertram and Parolles as two good old boys that do Helena in.

But we like Helena too much, along with Diana and most of the significant characters in the play including Parolles. Shakespeare therefore followed the comedic rule (“nobody dies”). I cannot think of any Shakespeare play designated “comedy” in which a character dies as his or her punishment for villainy. But this reasoning might be circular; Shakespeare never said “the Tempest, All’s Well , … are to be called “comedies”. The designation, unlike “tragedy” never appears in the known titles of Shakespeare quartos nor in the first Folio; comedy is the default, so the mere appearance of “The Taming of the Shrew” announces a comedy, whereas Romeo and Juliet had to be “marked” as Lamentable. But this test is also flawed; the Winter’s Tale is a comedy by this test in which the counselor of Leontes is eaten by a bear. My head as well as my butt hurts.

But let’s drop these speculations (in the “textual ontology” of the Shakespearean canon) or now and turn to a lighter matter: Shakespeare’s attitude towards marriage.

It is strange indeed that Shakespeare was so pro-marriage in his plays; at the end of Much Ado About Nothing a profoundly contented Benedick happily recommends marriage to all and sundry:

First, of my word; therefore play, music. Prince,
thou art sad; get thee a wife, get thee a wife:
there is no staff more reverend than one tipped with horn.

His favorite female character, Rosalinde of As You Like It, eagerly pairs people up in the penultimate “act” to the finale, one of marriage. In Shakespeare, illicit romance and shacking up without a prospect of marriage never thrives. Yet he abandoned his wife…perhaps.

It is thought to take a cold bastard to pull a stunt like that, but a deeper Wisdom admonishes us here, asking if the cold bastard might not want to take a step with such salvific/redemptory potential, preferring pickles and wines in Stratford to supporting two households.

Perhaps, and I write with considerable bias since I took Shakespeare’s step in 1981, it takes the better man to face the truth of love’s absence. A married man looks forward to coming home from work; in ’81 I needed a double martini to face the guilt and pain of home. Shakespeare’s poetry is written by someone equally “sensitive”, which is to say useless until he mans up and does what is necessary, from leaving his wife (while supporting the kids) or facing a cancer diagnosis.

Merely “sensitive” men turn into rats under what TS Eliot called “the pain of living and the drug of dreams” like Pasternak’s Pasha in Dr Zhivago, a Trotsky figure who flees Lara’s love but dies a mile from her home. He’s like Zhivago when young in his idealism but unlike Zhivago doesn’t follow the path of love. Shakespeare I think did so; for one thing a job in theater may have allowed him to remit money to Anne Hathaway through trusty friends traveling to Stratford.

Today likely shall be a dual workout day for after this morning’s workout I look forward to physio this afternoon.

05042013: All is True

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 4, 2013 by spinoza1111

Congee and All Is True/Henry VIII Act 4, following a first-thing 20 minute workout supine.

According to Wells and Taylor, no part of Act 4 is by Shakespeare. Nonetheless I read it because it is part of the traditional canon. Many people thought that Shakespeare meant to chronicle English history all the way to the birth of Elizabeth even as Ralph Holinshed had chronicled English/British/Scottish history by taking the story back to Genesis in his history.

But that’s absurd. Shakespeare, of course, never filled in the spaces between King John and Edward III (assuming that Shakespeare wrote more than a bit if Edward III). And how the devil would one make a play about ANY incident in Henry VII’s deliberately boring reign? Your best bet would be the Perkin Warbeck nonsense.

My dual thesis, which my cancer-foreshortened life may, perhaps, never allow me to defend, is that we must be aware of a divide in the canon of plays more or less by Shakespeare, into plays expressing his genius as a forerunner of the Romantic single author of the single text, and his more workaday genius at making money by being a team member or team leader.

On the one hand, Shakespeare, as Ted Hughes maintains, was almost Ground Zero, the epicenter of several historical collisions who reacted by creating single-author works of genius from Romeo and Juliet to the second version of King Lear. We can discern his world-view which happens to be important by studying the careful architecture of these plays.

Individuals, especially those whose lives are spent mostly in taking care of a family, from my father to Shakespeare, are not thought to have a useful or novel world-view. But somehow Shakespeare’s multiple shocks prior to 1597, from unknown shocks causing him to flee to London to the death of his son, acted upon him tectonically, and very coincidentally he had, unlike most other people of his time, an outlet in the theater.

But by the mid 1610s it seems he had finished and was content to use embers of his fire to collaborate. The fire may have burned him: the blinding of Gloucester in Lear is bad enough to watch, writing it must have been worse.

Change Record

4 May 2012 Changes from proofreading

23 April 2013: More on the “Shakespeare authorship question”.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 23, 2013 by spinoza1111

I apologize for the extensive revisions that this piece is undergoing online as you watch. I think its thesis, that there exists an unaltered Shakespeare text if we take out plays before about 1595 and after about 1600 except for the “big” tragedies (except for the Scottish play), and that we best draw conclusions from this distilled text, is unheard, and important.

Here’s a BBC story for St George’s day which rather sadly continues to waste time on “Shakespeare authorship” where we know that half educated Philistines who swotted A-levels with a tutor and hate Shakespeare, not ever, not once, hearing his music like to vent their destructive, animalistic, Troglodyte hatred by claiming that “Shakespeare” did not write “Shakespeare”.

William Leahy is the chair of “Shakespeare authorship studies” at Brunel University in the UK. As in Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Great Eastern, etc. Oh dear.

Snobbery? Moi? Well, it’s like this. As a graduate of Roosevelt University, a fifth rate nonetheless genuine university in Chicago charter’d in 1945 to not exclude any racial or gender group, and a quondam perfesser at DeVry, a time-honored if for-profit institution in Chicago, I have trusted academic fraud once too often, fraud I do not regard myself as participating in, and one form of academic fraud I find is the exaltation of engineers such as Isambard “Kingdom” Brunel.

The devil of it that that a part or subset of his “authorship studies” is a legitimate pursuit. We’d like to know more about what lines in what plays were penned, as we know most were penned, by an inspired actor-businessman. Of course, Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor have already done much of this research but you lot could go look for Cardenio, I suppose.

Leahy, while being a responsible academic, “questions authorship” not in the sense of advancing a different candidate for the author of the Shakespeare corpus but by trying to show that Shakespeare was a co-author and broker and not a single “author”. Well, guess what. He was, but only for a part of his career. He seems to have preferred single authorship to arbitrage until a distinct shock of the early 17th century, possibly the death of his son experienced as a delayed reaction (as these things often are: as I may experience the death of my son). Other speculations include the fear of having acquired syphilis (cf. Measure for Measure).

Our favorite plays are to all appearances written by a non-depressed, rather jocund single author who sounds like a kind and decent man as opposed, say, to the author of Edward II (the very likely self-hating closet fairy Christopher Marlowe). Our favorite plays are in a “Shakespearean” style, earmarks of which include an architectonic sense that would be violated by co-authorship. Measure for Measure is harder to like because even in S’s time, most folks could not find it in themselves to condemn “fornication”, but for social cohesion, and the maintenance of a brutal class system and property ownership, even the more liberal authorities, like Duke in Measure for Measure, had to act a necessary charade of propriety at variance at least with human instincts until those instincts wither with age.

What’s an “architectonic sense”? Well, we find a clear analysis of Romeo and Juliet in Wells’ and Taylor’s Oxford Works. The ground of the plot is laid in a sonnet by Prologue. Escalus’ interventions divide the action into blocks above the level of the scene so we always know where we stand, whereas we are dazzled and confused in Henry VI part 1, less so in 2, and still less in Part 3: High School students can understand Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet is a crowd pleaser and Love’s Labour’s Lost a cult favorite only. Working unbothered because at the time of Romeo and Juliet Henslowe et al. knew best to stand back, and Shakespeare’s concentration was unbroken and the initial fight, a skylark darkened with Tybalt’s introduction of killing, is balanced by the later fight for much more serious stakes after Tybalt accidentally kills Mercutio.

It was not until the Romantic era that it was thought that a novel or play might be best written either by a single author or at most two chaps more or less engaged in a Vulcan mind-meld. This held sway and by the 1960s was the ruling ideology: the “New” Criticism actually was a conservative backlash to this, which insisted that the author, not the text, had the intentions we must find. Then deconstruction and feminism focused our attention on the text, for as Derrida had said, there’s nothing BUT the text.

But before that and at a very late date in the American midwest, we all wanted to be Dead White Males.

Hacks, thought Orson Welles and Scott Fitzgerald, in all probability, work cheerfully as script doctors in a “team”, and Welles and Fitzgerald paid a heavy price for having Romantic desires in the twentieth century.

Welles destroyed RKO Radio Pictures and went on to a life of failure, intoning “we will sell no wine before its time” in the 1970s to pay the rent; he beggared himself to make pictures such as Chimes at Midnight whose worth is only now evident.

Fitz, more subject than Welles to the rigors of alcoholism, just couldn’t find the money or hours in the alcoholic’s foreshortened day to do much more than fragments save where his payment depended on finishing, for example the Pat Hobby stories about a painfully self-destructive screen writer.

To return to the main topic, by “our favorite plays” I mean the set of plays derived using this algorithm:

* Take the Collected Works

* Remove the early plays, roughly, those written before 1595

* Remove the later plays except for the big tragedies, except for the Scottish play (remove it): the big tragedies are the quartet Hamlet, Othello, Lear and the Scottish Play (sigh, Macbeth) but of Macbeth we have no uncorrupted text according to Wells, Taylor et al. A collaborator in Macbeth enters clearly when Hecate enters to scold the three Shakespearean witches and lead them in a dance. Shakespeare generally subcontracted the masque and dancing save when he had complete artistic control, in the Tempest and perhaps the Winter’s Tale, where the magic and masque is integrated with the plot seamlessly (“our revels now are ended”)

* Of the “late Roman” plays Antony and Cleopatra, Timon of Athens and Coriolanus retain Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus, discard Timon (Wells and Taylor of the Oxford Complete Works demonstrate that Timon was a collaboration

Bingo, this is core Shakespeare from which we can draw the best and most distilled conclusions; and this is no broker, this is no actor manager. It’s a Romantic artist struggling towards Bethlehem in the unimaginably brutal conditions of a proto Stalinist police state.

Let’s look closer.

The plays writ approximately before 1595 (before Richard II and Romeo and Juliet) have for us the markers of a journeyman and not a Shakespeare in full mastership: these plays are the Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, the “Henrician Trilogy”, Titus Andronicus, Richard III, A Comedy of Errors. In most of them there are signs of at least editorial supervision and at most co-authorship

Of course, it is itself “lamentable” that Richard III must be squeezed

“Deform’d, unfinished, scarce half made up
And that so lamely and unfashionable…”

into the one-dimensional, Procrustean bed of our model as that same poor chap was found deformed for centuries in Leicester until this year but in general all these plays, while not except for the Henrician Trilogy being co-authored, bear the marks of an incredible, almost exponential learning process, culminating in Richard III. This still has the one thought per one or two lines and avoidance of enjambement of the Henrician trilogy but it’s clear that by Richard III, having learned history play writing sitting possibly with Marlowe and writing the Henrician Trilogy, Shakespeare was set free on Richard III. He might make mistakes in romantic comedy (something he’d disprove shortly in Romeo and Juliet) but not in history.

We include the zenith of the comedic Shakespeare between, roughly, 1595 and 1600 with the apogee being 1599: Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King John, The Merchant of Venice, the “second” Henrician trilogy (Henry IV 1/2, Henry V), the Merry Wives, Much Ado, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, the golden Rosalinde almost destroying her creator, almost dazzling the poor chap.

Our assay forces us to consider whether S’s greatest work was As You Like It, whether his greatest character was Rosalinde and whether his genius was comedic and not tragic in the solution of what Ted Hughes calls “the tragic equation”. But Hamlet like Rosalinde is unflawed.

So we keep the “great” tragedies excluding the Scottish play (Macbeth if you’re not superstitious) for which we have no reliable text, and I’d guess that the Hecate scenes, so clearly not Shakespeare, are the result of this aporia independent of Shakespeare’s will: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra. Note that per Wells and Taylor there are two bona-fide versions of Lear, the 1608 Lear with its marvelous remedies for the eye gouge and the more compact 1623 Lear.

Coriolanus is an anomaly since it echoes the intensity, and single authorship, of Julius Caesar. Timon on the other hand might’ve been partly co-authored although not clearly in response to popular demand: almost in defiance. This is why I say we add these “to taste”, like eye of newt or toe of dog.

Our method may be unfamiliar to the literary scholar who’s more like to add “eye of newt”, but it’s perhaps more familiar in its reductionism to a mathematical procedure. Just because S was perforce an actor-manager didn’t mean that was his essence…what he wanted to be.

The Tempest, which among the late, co-authored romances and All is True (Henry VIII) stands alone, as if after some years after the apogee tragedies, Shakespeare had one more play in him and was able, as an actor-manager with equity, to write as a farewell to authorship as opposed to script doctoring and arbitrage…which would explain Cardenio, the Two Noble Kinsmen and Henry VIII; they are collaborations which follow The Tempest, where S’s architectonic expertise and facility with the verse of critical passages was needed.

If I wax poetic, too goddamn bad: all except pomo turds (but not all pomos) fail to recognize that to write about the history of philosophy is to philosophize: this is why Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy is still in print: Bertie unlike modern midgets was self-confident enough to be the single author of a History. Literary criticism is itself literature because it ain’t science, for sure, and it violates Occam’s Razor to give it its own territory outside of either literature or science.

OK. We’ve nailed the set of “great” Shakespeare at the expense, of course, of violating the “deconstructive” rule, that we may not create a male/female, major/minor “binary opposition” because the “major” feeds off the minor. This is, as Fluellen would say, an excellent moral, but denies what to me is a pretty obvious narrative line concerning Shakespeare’s life: he hit a wall in the early 16th century and thereafter preferred to arbitrage and co-author.

Owing to the failed harvests of the onset of what we now know was a bit of an Ice Age lasting until the mid 19th century, Shakespeare may have been under a lot of financial pressure, his colleagues now less willing to risk full plays on the more keenly critical upper-class audience of the Jacobean onset, his wife needing money. Just as I’m still numbed by the loss of my eldest son last year (damn? You mean I cannot email my son? WTF?) Shakespeare may have been undergoing a delayed reaction to Hamnet’s death in 1596.

But characteristic of our so-called “favorite plays”, something that to me exhibits a remarkable uniformity, is that none of these plays bear any mark of collaboration and despite the groaned warnings of deconstruction, their speaker is a unitary, kind male voice epitomized by Duke Senior in As You Like It…even in the abominable Titus: watch Sir Anthony Hopkins in Julie Taymor’s straight up traditional version: Shakespeare, like Titus, is trying to find a way out of the “revenge” formula. Perhaps because he could not in Titus, we get no more Guignol or buckets of blood from Shakespeare.

Literary criticism as practiced today, in the schools only, of course would probably exclude my efforts, so it’s not the case that one can in an institutionalized setting write anything considered valuable except as vetted by a fairly brutal process which I don’t, owing the First Amendment, have to agree to endure. Theses advisers in English departments feel that there should be some rather strict criteria precisely to avoid questioning of more than minimal funding in all but first-tier places such as Princeton. This essay meets none of them in order to theorize why focusing on collaborative Shakespeare, while not as bad as what is usually written under the heading “The Shakespeare Authorship Question”, misses the point and fails to add to the layperson’s understanding of Shakespeare.

Change Record (Dates in international style)
01052013 Added this change record
01052013 Timon of Athens NOT a single-author play
01052013 Added an extended discussion of architectonics

22 April 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 22, 2013 by spinoza1111

Congee, Midsummer Night’s Dream Acts 1 and 2. Bad side effects from chemo include sleeping all the time and diarrhea.

More and more struck by the fact that while the academic fashion is to focus on the Shakespeare plays of the 17th century except for The Tempest and the great Tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra), “problematic” plays, like Measure for Measure, and to ignore The Tempest and the best 16th century plays such as Romeo and Juliet as somehow “entry level”, the plays that have come down to us in good texts, known to be authored by Shakespeare alone being relatively ignored, Shakespeare’s true greatness remains in his single-authored plays and not in his problem plays. Of course, the problem plays probably merit more academic study than the straightforwardly great plays; but for students, overemphasis on problem plays can be a turnoff.

As soul and body begin to fall asunder…the misery of repeated onsets of diarrhea on Saturday with copious and unmanageable shits, not able to go to the toilet on my own. Instead I am in an adult diaper with the nurses uncomplainingly and expertly changing me. Because I used to change my son’s own copious shits, I know expertise in doing so without a mess when I see, and feel, it done to me. But this one more immobilizing humiliation. I may need some sort of medication when next I’m out to prevent an incident.

Absolutely horrid, inedible, dry pork for lunch, and the feeble noises of a neighbor whose cough turns into weeping, for through emphysema, I believe, he has no air left for coughing. This seems to be a rough patch indeed.

15 April 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 15, 2013 by spinoza1111

Congee, fortified with Ensure nutrition milk, later, at midday.

Ensure is becoming rather tasty which is a bad sign that like Robert de Niro in The Deer Hunter, I’m adapting to an environment perhaps too well.

Finished the Sonnets and A Lover’s Complaint (a technically perfect but forgettable poem that no-one reads; I hardly could be bothered to try to understand, from the poem, what was going on; Sparknotes heah Ah comes).

The Sonnets on the other hand are magnificent. Like Glenn Gould as a performer or Bach as a composer, the Sonnets start with an eerie technical perfection.

Ben Jonson claimed that Shakespeare “never blotted [erased or crossed-out]” a line. I found as a poet *maudit* that revisions before the invention of word processors running on unshared computers uglified the poem.

You want to see the poem as a sensuous and neat creation lying well on the page but a mere mortal needs to fake this using a computer. Shakespeare, it appears, did not.

The sonnets go on to reveal that at the time of their writing Shakespeare may have been experiencing a repeat of an episode in Stratford ten years prior, when perhaps (perhaps! Always perhaps!): his homosexual’s disgust with the female body and idealization of the male body.

That this was a “homosexual’s” disgust doesn’t mean Shakespeare was gay. The bad news is that straight men can behave like queers and go to the opera or weary of their wives temporarily in a madness as Leontes wearies of Hermione in the Winter’s Tale.

I’d guess that S left Stratford willingly because he was rather sick of getting jumped by an aging and perhaps large Anne Hathaway demanding money for the straw bill, and this soured him on her body. But as Ted Hughes shows in “Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being”, Shakespeare’s plays may have been an expiation of this flight from the Goddess.

Workout, later at 2:00 PM: 20 minutes rackety row, 4 laps walk.