Presentation on theme: "Middle Shakespeare Nov 2014 The year 1600 approx the dead centre of Shakespeare’s career (writing: ?1589 - ?1613)…"— Presentation transcript:
Middle Shakespeare Nov 2014 The year 1600 approx the dead centre of Shakespeare’s career (writing: ? ?1613)…
Denmark, Illyria, Troy, Vienna, Venice / Cyprus Hamlet 1601Twelfth Night 1602Troilus and Cressida Measure for Measure Othello (based on Oxford Shakespeare chronology)
Genre Bending Richard Westall, ‘William Shakespeare between Tragedy and Comedy’, 1835
The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical- comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited… Hamlet 1601Twelfth Night 1602Troilus and Cressida Measure for Measure Othello Satirico-tragi-comical… Monstruous hybrids
Form: Verse/prose proportions King John, Richard II, Henry VI, 1 and 3 = 100% verse (Richard III 98%); Shrew and Dream = 80% (But Nb: Henry IV, 1 (55/45) and 2 (50/50); Falstaff) Hamlet 75/25 Twelfth Night 40/60 Troilus 70/30 Measure 65/35 Othello 80/20
Form: Loosening the line O God! methinks it were a happy life, To be no better than a homely swain; To sit upon a hill, as I do now, To carve out dials quaintly, point by point, Thereby to see the minutes how they run, How many make the hour full complete; How many hours bring about the day; How many days will finish up the year; How many years a mortal man may live. When this is known, then to divide the times: So many hours must I tend my flock; So many hours must I take my rest; So many hours must I contemplate; So many hours must I sport myself; So many days my ewes have been with young; So many weeks ere the poor fools will ean: So many years ere I shall shear the fleece: So minutes, hours, days, months, and years, Pass'd over to the end they were created, Would bring white hairs unto a quiet grave. (3 Henry VI, 2.5. c.1591)
Middle to Late Style A series of feminine endings makes blank verse seem more speechlike, less patterned, exactly because, as in phrases of ordinary speech, rhyme is absent and the final unstressed syllables fail to match […] Shakespeare’s late plays, in fact, show four related style changes: feminine endings appear much more frequently; the verse in which they appear is usually blank; the phrasing breaks more often after the sixth syllable (or later) rather than the fourth or fifth; and most of the lines are enjambed. Shakespeare’s Metrical Art, George T Wright (Berkeley, 1988) pp.162-3
ANGELO: What's this? what's this? is this her fault or mine? The tempter, or the tempted, who sins most? Ha! Not she, nor doth she tempt; / but it is I That, lying by the violet in the sun, Do as the carrion does, not as the flower, Corrupt with virtuous season./ Can it be That modesty may more betray our sense Than woman's lightness? Having waste ground enough, Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary And pitch our evils there? / O fie, fie, fie! What dost thou? or what are thou, Angelo? Dost thou desire her foully for those things That make her good? O, let her brother live: Thieves for their robbery have authority When judges steal themselves. What, do I love her, That I desire to hear her speak again, And feast upon her eyes? what is't I dream on? O cunning enemy that, to catch a saint, With saints dost bait thy hook: / most dangerous Is that temptation that doth goad us on To sin in loving virtue. Never could the strumpet With all her double vigor, art and nature, Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid Subdues me quite. / Ever till now, When men were fond, I smiled and wondered how.
The Bed – Hamlet: Let not the royal bed of Denmark be A couch for luxury and damned incest. Nay, but to live In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love Over the nasty sty… Let not the royal bed of Denmark be A couch for luxury and damned incest.
The Bed – Twelfth Night Calling my officers about me, in my branched velvet gown; having come from a day-bed, where I have left Olivia sleeping,— Wilt thou go to bed, Malvolio? To bed? Aye, sweetheart, and I’ll come to thee.
The Bed – Measure for Measure Claudio: upon a true contract I got possession of Julietta's bed (1.2) Isabella: Were I under the terms of death, The impression of keen whips I'd wear as rubies, And strip myself to death, as to a bed That longing have been sick for, ere I'd yield My body up to shame. (2.4) Duke to Isabella: Haste you speedily to Angelo: if for this night he entreat you to his bed, give him promise of satisfaction. (3.1) ‘Bed-trick’ (see also All’s Well that Ends Well)
The Bed – Troilus and Cressida Achilles and Patroclus: Upon a lazy bed the livelong day Breaks scurril jests; (1.3)
Whereupon I will show you a chamber with a bed; which bed, because it shall not speak of your pretty encounters, press it to death: away! And Cupid grant all tongue-tied maidens here Bed, chamber, Pandar to provide this gear!
The Bed - Othello
Material Culture See e.g. Sasha Roberts, ‘“Let me the curtains draw”: the dramatic and symbolic properties of the bed in Shakespearean tragedy’ in Staged Properties (eds Gil and Korda), 2002 Catherine Richardson, ‘Households, rooms, and the spaces within’ in her Shakespeare and Material Culture (Oxford, 2011) Carol Rutter, ‘“Her first remembrance from the Moor”: Actors and the Materials of Memory’ in Peter Holland (ed.), Shakespeare, Memory and Performance (Cambridge, 2006)
Lust / Punishment / Prisons / Disease Claustrophobia – no Green Worlds Plague of would close theatres and kill 36,000 Londoners
Sonnet 129 The expense of spirit in a waste of shame Is lust in action; and till action, lust Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame, Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust, Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight, Past reason hunted, and no sooner had Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait On purpose laid to make the taker mad; Mad in pursuit and in possession so; Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme; A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe; Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream. All this the world well knows; yet none knows well To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
Reading symptomatically: A Medical Diagnosis Shakespeare’s obsession with syphilis in the plays and Sonnets— and the contemporary gossip about his promiscuity— provides circumstantial evidence that he may have had an STD. The Elizabethan sweating treatment for syphilis could be surpri singly effective in curing syphilis, given Treponema pallidum’s ex quisite sensitivity to heat. However, Shakespeare might have be en cured of syphilis only to be poisoned by mercury vapor, ev entually leading to a tremor and personality changes. Shakespe are’s suppressed rage at this experience may surface in plays s uch as Timon of Athens and Troilus and Cressida and certain o f the Sonnets. However, it appears that Shakespeare’s unusually large capacity for empathy enabled him to overcome his bitt erness and anger. Shakespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough: The Medical Lives of Famous Writers (2012), John J. Ross, M.D.
From ‘Lines to the master’, Vernon Scannell In middle age I hold few certainties But here is one to last me to the grave: He was, and is, the Master of them all. He wrote our own and Everyman’s biography And at the last, alone in the sterile cave On the desolate shore, his unrecorded cry Would not have echoed battered Timon’s roar. He who embodied all the savage truths, Dissecting rage, ambition, lust and hate, Possessed a serum that protected him From his own creatures’ worst contagions: He was philanthropos and loved mankind.
The Four Dogmas of Subjective Biography 1) that the actual evolution of Shakespeare’s personal life must be read into his poetic and dramatic work 2) that dramatists write tragedies when their mood is tragic, and comedies when they are feeling pleased with life 3) that Shakespeare was so far a child of his own age that he faithfully reflected its spirit in his literary work 4) that the spirit of the age was heroic and optimistic under Elizabeth, degenerating towards the end of her reign into the cynicism, disillusionment, and pessimism which marked the reign of James the First. C.J. Sissons ‘The Mythical Sorrows of Shakespeare’ 1934.
In defence of imaginative criticism ‘Yet no formal life of Shakespeare laying claim to serious regard can limit itself to the facts and to logical deductions from the facts alone; the writing of literary biography after all requires the play of literary imagination’ Samuel Schoenbaum, Shakespeare’s Lives p.527
Regime Change 1603 Nor doth the silver tongued Melicert, Drop from his honied Muse one sable teare To mourne her death that graced his desert, And to his laies opend her Royall eare. Shepheard remember our Elizabeth, And sing her Rape, done by that Tarquin, Death. (Henry Chettle, ‘England’s Mourning Garment’ 1603) ‘Melicert’ may be Shakespeare; either way, no elegy or memorial poem by Shakespeare survives
The New King James to Parliament in 1604: ‘What God hath conjoined then, let no man separate. I am the husband, and all the whole isle is my lawful wife; I am the head and it is my body; I am the shepherd and it is my flock’ 16 May 1603 royal patent issued to Shakes and Co ‘freely to use and exercise the art and faculty of playing comedies, tragedies, histories, interludes, morals, pastorals, stage plays and such like as they have already studied or hereafter shall use or study, as well as for the recreation of our loving subjects, as for our solace and pleasure when we shall think good to see them during our pleasure’. Will play at least 138 times at Court from
The King’s Men Shakespeare may have stopped acting – he is in the cast lists of Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour (1598) and Sejanus (1603) as published in Jonson’s folio (1616), but not those of Volpone (1605), The Alchemist (1610) and Catiline (1611)
Life and Business 1601death of father John Shakespeare May 1602purchases a conveyance of land in fields to North and East of Stratford (127 acres) for £320 (= c£225k in current terms) 1605purchases from Stratford Corporation tithes for £440 (= c£300k in current terms) – a 31 year lease on these tithes allowing him to charge and make c.£40 profit per annum – i.e. make investment back in 11 years with 20 of profit to follow. Nb: he would die in Nb: playwrights customarily paid between £5 – 8 per play in 1590s/1600s
Segue: an unpopular play… I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never acted. Or, if it was, not above once, for the play, I remember, pleased not the million: ‘twas caviare to the general…