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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  September 2004

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION September 2004

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Subject:

Re: saints of the day 30. August

From:

Rochelle Altman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 1 Sep 2004 13:23:12 +0200

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Oh, I see your point. Nobody denies the
Italian part in the "Renaissance," nor does
anyone deny knowledge of Italian plays in
England...just be sure not to place too much
emphasis on Italian influence on Shakespeare.
And be cautious about the ideas of "will" and
"power" as being specifically Elizabethan... or
a product of the Renaissance.

We cannot ignore the elements (not influence,
elements) of the "mystery" plays in English
drama -- particularly not in Shakespeare.

Now, something I noticed in a close examination
of  Junius MS XI -- the "Caedmon" MS,
mid-9th CE. Speaker's cues...roughly 4-5
lines before each actor/actress is supposed
to "come on" -- interesting, no? Sure looks
like they are not merely "poems" -- but the
blank verse of  the earliest English "mystery"
plays... I haven't been able to get a look at the
originial of Old Saxon version of Genesis, but
it'd be interesting to see if it has speaker's
cues,
as well.

Of course Chaucer needs to be "glossed." -- but
not in all the tales. Somehow it seems that the
Miller's Tale gets across without much need for
glossing... gee, I wonder why? Unfortunately
textually, so does Shakespeare (and Dante).
Professional companies can bring the plays to
life for audiences -- and if they are good, they
will illustrate some of  the multiple references
for them. Audiences do not need to understand
all references swept along by the movement as
they are, but please do not tell students
struggling
to understand the multiplicity of connotations
that
he can be *read* as-is... it just t'aint so.

Homer (and the Greeks) loved (still do) metaphors;
Chaucer loved envelope patterns, metaphors, and
single level word play. The only other author in
Western Literature with whom we can compare
Shakespeare in the use of intricately linked
envelope
patterns, connotative meanings to the fourth and
fifth
levels, sound-sense links, outright puns, and who
slips back and forth between domains with nary a
false move is David ben Ishai, Master Songsmith
of antiquity...Shakespeare is a categorical,
too...
there are few categoricals. (Enheduanna was
another.
as were Homer and Dante.)

This multiplicity, the love of word play, multiple
layered meanings, black comedy, even slap-
stick, right along with Biblical deeper
meanings --
is quite apparent in the first two-thirds of
Beowulf...
these are features of the finest English poetry,
prose,
drama, and oratory as far back as we can trace
them.
Shakespeare incorporates and exemplifies this
tradition....
(falls into audience expectations)

I don't know what knowledge of Italian plays has
to do with linguistic anchors -- Please do not
forget
that the KJV was required reading. As was the
Book of Common Prayer. Shakespeare wrote for
the stage... and certainly not as "texts" meant
for
publication and dissemination.

The credit for Shakespeare still being performed,
appreciated, and superficially understood by
modern
audiences goes to the KJV. As great as Shakespeare
was, and is, without the anchor, he would have
been
as confusing to a modern audience as the York
cycles...

I happen to be a Shakepearophile -- (if there's
such
a word) but I do not conflate his genius and his
magnificent use of  language with what clearly was
a mode of discourse reflected in the equally
magnificent
prose (but not poetry) of the KJV. Shakespeare has
to be read (and mentally heard) with one eye on
the
Bible; one eye on the political situation at the
time,
one eye on the mystery plays, one eye on foreign
concepts, and another on the intended Elizabethan
and Jacobean audiences and their expectations. It
does tend to make one cross-eyed. <G>

BTW, I am perfectly aware that Jonson took
his plot for the Alchemist from an Italian play.
Marlowe didn't borrow plots? Webster?
So, plots were borrowed; they all did it... and
the best writers wove their own versions.

Kindest regards,

risa

----- Original Message -----
From: "Cecil T Ault" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, September 01, 2004 10:10 AM
Subject: Re: [M-R] saints of the day 30. August


> medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of
medieval religion and culture
>
> O.K, Rochelle,  Your comments are very
enlightening but they ignore
> the Italians who laid the ground for post
classical drama a full
> hundred years before Shakespeare or any of his
friends got around to
> doing their work.  Also, Chaucer needs an
interpreter and an extensive
> glossary to be read by anyone who is not an
expert like yourself.
>  Shakespeare uses archaic words, but is fully
intelligible to a modern
> reader and audiences to whom he is played to
this day to audiences
> that are definitely not medieval and appreciate
the "modern" dilemmas,
> especially the will & power.  Hamlet, Romeo &
Juliet, & Julius Caesar
> are reflections of a new, Renaissance mind.
Compare them to any of
> the Craft cycles and you will see my point.
Ditto for his friends,
> especially Jonson, who, incidentally, pirated
the _Alchemist_ from an
> Italian source.  Of course, it was the
neoclassicists who later
> invented the grammar we still sort of use and
still doesn't work very
> well since it is essentially Latin in concept
and English is not a
> Latin language.  yrs, c. thomas ault
>
> On Tue, 31 Aug 2004 20:21:42 +0200
>   Rochelle Altman <[log in to unmask]>
wrote:
> >medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of
medieval religion and
> >culture
> >
> >Oh, dear, mentioning Shakespeare is as
> >hazardous as mentioning "Essenes" or
> >"Eponyms" on some lists...
> >
> >The point is that the line between Medieval
> >and Renaissance is tenuous at best,
> >particularly in the religious sphere.... and
> >this list is devoted to Medieval religion
> >and various facets of the subject, no?
> >
> >If the iconography and the politics of
> >religion during E I's reign is more Medieval
> >than ""Renaissance" (as the term is generally
> >applied), then why not bring an example up
> >out here? VK's example was appropriate...
> >and that was the point.
> >
> >This is no place to get into the Shakespeare
> >factory, but Ben Jonson's comment that he
> >had "small Latin and less Greek" has become
> >quite doubtful now that the curriculum of his
> >school is known.... what he did not have
> >was an Oxford or Cambridge education. He
> >just had genius.Of course he wrote in English;
> >he was a playwright with a demanding English-
> >speaking audience. What was he supposed
> >to write in?
> >
> >No, Shakespeare did not set the standard
> >for English use.You need an anchor to
> >permit earlier works to be accessible to
> >later readers. The KJV was the anchor,
> >not  Shakespeare. If it were not for the
> >KJV, Shakespeare would be as opaque
> >today as is Orm. Most of his (constant)
> >word play was already opaque by Samuel
> >Johnson's day -- and Johnson was better
> >than most. The anchor has been generally
> >replaced now with a plethora of new
> >translations, and the semantic drift is
> >increasing. Nor do we have a new anchor.
> >
> >Incidentally, Chaucer frequently is
> >considered the first "modern."  So,
> >where do we draw the lines anyway?
> >
> >Cheerfully yours, risa
> >
[snip]

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