domingo, maio 17, 2015

Life-is-Shakespeare: "William Shakespeare - A Textual Companion" by Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor

"[] All Texts of Shakespeare are editions; all have been edited; all have been mediated by agents other than the author. This complicating limitation applies as much to the earliest extant editions as to the most recent. We can only read Shakeaspeare's discourse through the filter of earlier readers, who have "translated", i.e., handed over, transmitted, transmuted his texts to us. To translate is, notorisously, to betray; to communicate is to corrupt. Shakespeare's texts have thus inevitably been betrayed by the very process of their transmission even before they are betrayed []."

(from the "General Introduction" to this volume)

It's arrived. The wait is ov'r:

"I am to wait, though waiting so be hell,
Not blame your pleasure, be it ill or well."

(Sonnet 58: "That God Forbid, That Made Me First Your Slave")

In "The Tempest", and according to Antonio, the island is ten leagues beyond man's life. That's how I feel when I came across a book like the one I'm holding in my hands, thanks to ThemisAthena, who pointed it out to me in the first place. 

Also in "The Tempest", we learn that "All tormet, trouble, wonder, and amazement Inhabits heere."

This uncharted island (read "volume") is not only uncharted, it is one on which anything can happen...As I soon as I started persusing it at leisure (not really "reading" it yet...), the concept of Sources in Shakeapeare resurfaced in my mind.

Hunting for sources is game much to my liking. Who invented the perfect method for murder? Pouring hebenon in the ear - killing without traces. Francesco Maria della Rovere was poisoned, and it is said by this method. Perhaps Shakespeare was aware of Eustachios anatomical study from 1564? Or was he influenced by Marlowe? Remember the "Neapolitan Method"  (Edward III.) - pouring powder in the ear of an enemy.  

One of the books I haven't read yet is "Hamlet in Purgatory" by Stephen Greenblatt. I own a german version of it, and started reading it a long time ago, but stopped somewhere. It is a complex problem with the religious motives in Shakespeare. I want to read Greenblatt's book together with Jacques Le Goffs "Die Geburt des Fegefeuers." It is about the historical development of the theological concept of the purgatory, starting with Clemens von Alexandria and Origenes. Purgatory is a very important concept for the history of theological thinking. I guess one cannot overestimate its relevance when reading Shakespeare's texts.

I've always felt I'm missing half the fun of Shakespeare if I ignore the malleability of his word sources. Why? Words can have figurative meanings as well as literal meanings, and no one was more conscious of this than William Shakespeare.  He used them every which way, if I can put it like that. Take for instance his last sonnet in his famous sequence of sonnets:  "The little love god, lying once asleep, / Laid by side his side his heart-inflaming brand."   Perhaps the most common meaning of the last word there, 'brand', at the time was 'torch,' but you can probably tell from the context that Shakespeare wanted the reader to be thinking of other things as well (read the rest of the sonnet if the context is not clear). 

One of the chief ways Shakespeare conveyed meaning and power in his verse was by using words in multiple ways, making suggestions, hints, innuendos--along (often) with sounds he wanted resonating there in the Globe theater.

As for the literal meaning of some of the words in the plays, the two best sources are (1) the plays themselves (i.e., how a given word is used in other plays) and (2) the OED, or Oxford English Dictionary, which provides an historical record of the meanings of words. In other words, do not always assume that one definition you might find, written by one modern editor, is the 'definitive' definition, if I can put it that way.  Words are tricky things, their meanings shifting and shifting. Shakespeare loved playing with these words and their shifting meanings.  

On the word 'shaft', you might take a look around at how Shakespeare used it elsewhere, even elsewhere in Romeo and Juliet.  The man's name, after all, was Shake-speare (the name appears hyphenated on many of the early plays).  Think not that he was unaware of his name and its various meanings and sounds (his name was spelled a dozen or more ways at the time, even by himself).   (A common meaning of the word "shaft" at the time was "spear," I guess I should make it clear.)
The first reference in R&J that I see to "shaft" comes out of the mouth of Romeo, when he and Mercutio are (as usual) bantering about love:  "I am too sore enpierced with his shaft," he says, once again referring to that god Cupid" (Act I, Scene 4).  

Anyway. Is Shakespeare not the (spiritual) father of Sherlock Holmes?

Well, enough with writing this post. Down the Rabbit Hole, awesomeness abound!

With investigative Greetings,


NB: Thanks again to ThemisAthena for pointing out this wonderful addition to my Shakespeare cannon.

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