Skip to comments.Shakespeare and Deep England
Posted on 01/17/2009 2:09:39 PM PST by nickcarraway
Jonathan Bate's eloquent evocation of the man from Warwickshire
At last we have a new kind of biography of Shakespeare. Starting from Ben Jonsons description of Shakespeare as Soul of the Age, and shunning the deadening march of chronological sequence that is biographys besetting vice, Jonathan Bate selects only the material that, he believes, will help to reveal Shakespeares cultural DNA. Structuring this loosely around the theme of the Seven Ages of Man from Jaquess speech in As You Like It, Bate sweeps majestically backwards and forwards in time, moving between history and criticism, appropriating whatever best brings together Shakespeares life, work and world.
Ideas, texts and language are set by Bate in their different literary, philosophical and historical contexts. Blind alleys such as the identities of the Dark Lady or Mr W. H. are sidestepped, as is speculation about Shakespeares sexuality, religion or political beliefs, or even why he set out for London to become an actor. Rare exceptions to this reticence include a faltering sortie into whether Shakespeare might have been an Epicurean, and whether references to sexual disease, and especially to the sweating-tub in Sonnets 153 and 154, indicate that he was himself being treated for syphilis. Critical essays on Shakespeares works in relation to what he may be said to have been reading, as well as to cultural trends, more than compensate for this. One of the most stimulating is on the Sonnets. Stylometric analysis suggests that they were written over a decade or more. The later ones date to about 16035, and Bate argues that the lovely boy sequences, like the poetry of John Davies of Hereford, reflect the perplexingly bisexual, homoerotic milieu of the early Jacobean court, and have nothing to do with Shakespeares own encounters.
Of the many influences on Shakespeare, his Warwickshire origins
(Excerpt) Read more at entertainment.timesonline.co.uk ...
So much without a single mention of Shakespeare’s Catholic education and recusant parents.
The U.K. is still tied up in knots about Catholicism, it seems.
The only people tied up in knots about Catholicism more than English Protestants are American Catholics.
Whatever religion Shakespeare practiced, and nobody knows for sure, it is clear that ole William was not a Puritan or Calvinist. That would be true of any one involved with the theatre in the 16th and 17th centuries.
As for learning rhetoric at school, that was the practice of education in England and Europe for centuries. So why didn't all of Shakespeare's classmates become great English playwrights since they all received the same education and all grew up in Warwickshire? This sifting of the biography of Shakespeare to explain his art has it backwards. You have to search his art to explain his life. And his life is much less interesting than his art.
O.k. So his Warwickshire upbringing is relevant, but his childhood Catholicism isn’t?
As you like it...
No, you misread what I said. His Warwickshire upbringing isn't relevant. His classmates grew up in Warwickshire and received the same education. So why aren't all of them great playwrights like Shakespeares? Because it is not possible to explain the man's art by his Warwickshire upbringing.
The thrust of the article is that Shakespeare because of his childhood background, had a new vision of England. Point being that not every Warwickshire man could express it, but that only someone from Warwickshire (or similar backwater) could have expressed it.
You may choose to criticise the article on your own grounds, then, but my criticism is that any work which wants to dwell on his childhood Warwickshire roots without dwelling on his childhood religion is being tendentious.
You instead chose to impugn me for making this criticism—which makes me think you don’t like to consider the evidence of Shakespeare’s childhood religion either.
You get a prize because you are finally beginning to understand my argument. I impugn you and the author of the article for the same reason. I don't buy the argument that if you did around in some author's biography, then you have the causes of his art.
Warwickshire and Catholicism aren't evidence of anything. They both exist, but so do stars and kidney pies. So what?
So we believe that genius just operates in a vacuum by magic?
Even Archimedes needed a place to stand.
No, not a vacuum. Let me try to explain it this way. Some years ago I took my first class in mathematical proofs at college. The instructor wrote a proposition on the board, and then he proceeded to write the deductive proof of the proposition. When he finished, a student raised his hand and asked, "How did you know where to begin with the proof?" The instructor paused and then said, "Divine intervention."
The class burst out in laughter. The instructor used humor to explain that there is no formula that can determine how to write a deductive proof. There are some guideline but no formulas to tell you how to proceed. You simply need to work a lot of problems and develop some mathematical intuition.
Shakespeare was a great artist. We don't know very much about his personal life. We do have his works of art that have given pleasure to generations of men. That art came from a great imagination. That imagination cannot be explained by theories of childhood development.
The genius of Archimedes cannot be explained from childhood development. At the age of five the great German mathematician Gauss was able to add large numbers in his head without any mathematical training. How do you explain that?
I don’t think Gauss learned to count by himself; his gift required context to operate. We don’t have to capture the essence of genius in a bottle to understand that environment shapes and channels it.
I assume the mathematical operation to which you refer was Gauss’ solution to the “birds-on-a-ladder” problem without knowledge of algebraic summations.
I believe he himself explained his key insight, which was indeed profoundly surprising for one his age, but not one demonstrating anything superhuman or, upon explanation, mysterious.
Well, if you grow up in Germany, chances are that you will count your numbers in German.
Thanks nick.Bate argues that the "lovely boy" sequences, like the poetry of John Davies of Hereford, reflect the perplexingly bisexual, homoerotic milieu of the early Jacobean court, and have nothing to do with Shakespeare's own encounters.I was really worried about that. ;') I read a couple of books on Shakespeare last year, or rather, read one, and read about half of the other (I ran out of renewals at the library). My sister or her husband borrowed another one I bought used and had read, and come to think of it, it's still over there...
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