E.A. Bucchianeri's Blog: Books, Babble and Blarney
March 16, 2013
Why was fasting and penance so important to him? According to Catholic teaching, if you do not make reparation for your sins, even if you are saved, you must still make satisfaction for them in the next life in Purgatory where your sins are ‘purged’ from your soul before you may enter Eternal bliss. Saints and mystics who had been granted visions of the dreaded place of cleansing described the various torments endured there, each torture depending on the nature of the sins committed. One poor soul who had been granted permission to come back and tell of his sufferings said the pains were so bad that minutes felt like hours if not whole days. Also, there were many poor souls there with years, even centuries, left to serve on their sentences in that woeful prison. In all, the soul warned it was far better to do penance on earth than see what may await you in Purgatory.
Returning to St. Patrick, Station Island situated on Lough Derg, County Donegal became famed for his teaching on the subject. According to one story, he gave a sermon on Hell and Purgatory to the locals, but they remained sceptical about the existence of these places saying they would not be so doubtful if one of them could be permitted to descend, see what was there, and return to tell the tale. The saint was so upset by this lack of faith he wondered how he could convince the Irish and prayed to God for assistance. Christ appeared and showed the entrance to a cave on the island which led to Purgatory and Hell. A man was sent down to see these strange abodes, and according to the story, returned to describe what he had seen. In other stories, St. Patrick ordered a pit to be dug into which the man descended. Medieval accounts describe the ‘pit’ as a shaft that was a low and narrow kiln. Ever since, the island has sometimes been referred to as ‘St. Patrick’s Purgatory’.
Illustration of Station Island by Thomas Carve, (1666). 'Caverna Purgatory' marks the site of the cave.
Was it just a legend? There is in a fact a cave on the island, which has been closed to the public since October 25, 1632. Some authorities claim it received the name ‘purgatory’ from the Latin medical term of ‘purgatorium’, a room to purge the body of all ailments and impurities, further pointing out that the ancient druids would often use caves to smoke medicinal herbs to cleanse the body through sweating similar to modern saunas. In addition, historians note that the ‘purgatorial’ nature of the cave was not attached to St. Patrick and the Christian doctrine of Purgatory until much later in medieval documents. Despite these observations, the old texts are still fascinating. They tell of other brave souls who wished to follow in that first adventurer’s footsteps and see the gloomy realms of the Christian underworld for themselves. By the time the monastery was built on the island, the brave pilgrims had to seek the permission of its founder, St. Dabheog, who was one of St. Patrick’s disciples, before they could venture into the pit, or a series of nine ‘pits’, after which they were lowered into the final dreaded shaft.
Picture of the chapel, bell tower, and 'penential pits' or 'beds of the saints'on Station Island. The cave lies under the bell tower.
What did the penitents endure? Here legend becomes blurred. One story relates that St. Patrick was attacked by demons in the shape of black crows for forty days on the island as a penance, and that those who came to the island were assaulted by the same bird-like demons. If they survived, they had accomplished their purgatory. The text by the famed medieval chronicler of Ireland, Giraldus Cambrensis, relates a different description. According Giraldus, the island was occupied by the monks on one side and a hoard of demons on the other that continued to cause an uproar and disrupt the monks’ peace with their pagan festivities. By then, the pilgrimage had developed a set ritual. Before they were permitted on the island, the pilgrims had to seek permission of the local bishop whose duty it was to dissuade them from undertaking this perilous journey. First they would be reminded of the horrific torments they would endure, then learn about the fate of those penitents who had never been seen again. Tales abounded of those reprobates who were not worthy of salvation and were dragged body and soul to hell instead. If the pilgrims persisted in performing the penance, they were conducted to the shaft with all due ceremony and lowered down by means of a rope with nothing but a loaf of bread and a vessel of water to sustain them in their fight against the evil demons. The pilgrims spent a night in each of the nine ‘pits’ and were tormented in a thousand different ways by devils for those nine nights before being lowered into the cave. At the end of each night, if the pilgrim survived, he was taken to the church in a joyous procession bearing the cross and chanting psalms. If a pilgrim was not to be found, the sacristan simply closed the doors to the church, that soul was lost for all time.
In some texts there is evidence the ritual of the pilgrimage had changed in the later Medieval period, that the penitents were allowed only one drink a day from the sacred lake, but were not expected to go into the nine ‘pits’. Instead, they took part in procession and prayed at the ‘stations’, or ‘penitential beds of the saints’ for nine days. On the ninth day they listened to sermons telling them of the danger they were about to undergo by venturing into the cave, and if they still wished to undertake the penance of staying a full day and night in the kiln, they forgave their enemies and said farewell to each other before they were lowered into the cave in case they might never be seen again.
The various legends state that several people returned to bear witness of the terrible sights they had seen of Purgatory and sometimes Hell. The place was so terrifying they could laugh no more and could no longer take part in anything mirthful on earth. The reputation of the island became so great during the Middle Ages that it was a continual point of reference for preachers when people doubted the existence of Purgatory. Many flocked there to perform penance, and perhaps, to see what awaited them in the next world. A ‘Knight Owen’ supposedly made a descent in 1153 and came back to tell of his experiences. In 1358 Edward III gave a Hungarian nobleman letters patent attesting that he had indeed ‘undergone his purgatory’.
Believe it or not, the island is still a popular place of penance and is often booked out. For three days pilgrims ‘undertake their purgatory’ by going barefoot and saying prayers, walking around to the famous ‘prayer stations’ or ‘beds of the saints’ in all weather be it rain or shine. On the first day, a twenty-four hour prayer vigil is commenced, only on the second day are they allowed to sleep. Until then, each pilgrim must watch out for their neighbours and prod them awake if they happen to nod off. Mass is also celebrated, and of course, penitents participate in the sacrament of confession. Furthermore, a strict fast of one meal a day is observed and consists of dry toast, oatcakes and black weak tea or coffee. If this is too unbearable, I have heard that the staff will provide a bowl of broth, but don’t expect it to be fancy! The penitential soup is so watery that the poor pilgrim is wondering what was boiled in it, if indeed, anything made it into the pot at all besides a dash of salt and pepper. Lough Derg is considered the toughest Christian pilgrimage sites in all of Europe if not the world, and not recommended for anyone under the age of fifteen or who has health issues. At least the ordeal now lasts only three days instead of nine!
Interested in booking a pilgrimage? Visit: http://www.loughderg.org
For those who are curious about Purgatory, this is one of my favourite books on the subject:
(Commentary for this blog post about the medieval legends of St. Patrick’s Purgatory taken from: ‘The Poetry of the Celtic Races’ by Ernest Renan (1823-1892), The Harvard Classics, Vol. 32, pp. 177-178.)
February 14, 2013
Ah yes, tales of doomed love. The first that springs to mind is Shakespeare's celebrated Romeo and Juliet, lovers from feuding households fated to meet a tragic end.
One cannot help but wonder what masterful drama the Great Bard might have penned if he had turned to Portugal instead of Verona for his inspiration. If I may dare make a suggestion, no doubt the tale of King Pedro I and Inês de Castro would be foremost on his list.
King Afonso IV (1291-1357), Pedro's father, promised him in marriage to a Castillian princess, Constance of Peñafiel. As with all members of royal dynasties in those days, Pedro was left with no choice and married the princess to secure the alliance between their two kingdoms, but immediately he fell in love with one of her ladies-in-waiting, Inês, who was the daughter of a prominent Castillian nobleman.
King Afonso hoped that nothing would come of the affair, but to his dismay, Pedro went to live with Inês in Coimbra after Constance's death, openly declared their love and had several illegitimate children, whom Pedro publicly recognized. The last straw occured when Pedro went so far as to grant several important posts to the Castillians. While Afonso wished to secure alliances with the court of Castille, there was always the danger that one day the Spanish could use these marriage alliances between their households to take over the crown of Portugal. Fearing that Inês and her supporters were growing in power and influence over his son, Afonso ordered that she be murdered. The horrific deed was accomplished in the town of Coimbra on January 7th, 1355. To this day, locals show the site where Inês was stabbed by three assassins. According to legend, a spring immediately began to flow that is now called the 'Fonte dos Amores'.
That is not the end of the story...
After Afonso´s death, the inconsolable Pedro ascended the throne and immediately sentenced to death the two assassins that were apprehended. Hanging would be too good for them, so would a quick beheading.
What did Pedro demand as the mode of execution? He ordered their hearts to be ripped out, the perfect demise for those who had killed his lady love and in the process, tore out his own heart. According to some reports, he executed them with his own hands. Although there is no proof this ever happened, he was forever called Pedro 'The Cruel'. Next, he stunned the royal court by announcing that he and Inês were married. No one believed him, there was no proof of his claim as the wedding was obviously conducted in secret and therefore invalid, and yet, he commanded Inês´ body to be exhumed, that her corpse be dressed in the full royal regalia befitting a queen, that she be placed on throne beside him, and that all the royal court bow and kiss her hand, thereby publicly recognizing their true queen. He then had her body taken to the monastery of Alcobaça, and had his own tomb prepared facing hers, declaring that she was the first person whom he wanted see when the dead would rise again on the Day of Judgement. Pedro died in 1367 and was buried according to his wishes. Today you can visit their elaborately carved Gothic tombs in the monastery of Alcobaça.
Verily a sad tale of love and grief turned to madness.
(Tomb of King Pedro)
(Inês' Tomb, Detail of the Last Judgement)
September 28, 2012
( New to this blog post? Click Here to read Part 1.)
“Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.” ~ C.S. Lewis
He most certainly offered excellent advice. Whatever you choose to write, be it historical, fictitious, academic or poetic, if you do not write about subjects and themes that interest you, it is difficult to keep the fires of inspiration burning bright for long. Motivation smoulders quickly with the death of inspiration and a creative project may die with them, or be hurried in anxious anticipation to reach the end of the tedium, which in the end will reflect poorly on the author. Write about subjects that fascinate and intrigue you, and you are assured of presenting your finest work to the reading public.
“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” ~ Saul Bellow
Amusing, but yes, it is true. Inspiration can strike at the strangest times when you are not thinking or working on your book at all, and this includes more than the story line, actual sentences will fall on you from out of the blue, forcing you to drop everything and sprint to the closest sheet of paper at hand lest everything that the invisible muse has whispered disappears for good. It is a mystery, but these lightning bolts are near perfect when they strike and need very little revision in comparison to lines poured over and pondered on for hours at the desk or computer screen. Some instances, I have had these “midnight bolts” while just settling into my best sleep of the night, but more often when I’m house cleaning, especially vacuuming! Scientists may attribute this to the limbic system, that when you move and exercise, brain cell growth is stimulated and hence stimulate new ideas. While this explanation is not as romantic as the image of the “hidden muse”, whatever gives these inspirations, long may it continue.
“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” ~ F. Scot Fitzgerald
Guilty, guilty, guilty. What is it about us lady authors and our fascination for the exclamation mark? My personal e-mails are heavily peppered with the dastardly things, and my first drafts are no better. Dashes are also a glaring weakness and cost many hours of revision time. Out they must go, and still, I cannot bear to part with a number of them. Are men also afflicted with punctuation addictions? Enquiring minds would like to know. I am comforted by the fact that it is not just this age in which we ladies have been afflicted with this mania as Louisa May Alcott discloses in “Little Women” when Josephine prepares to send her latest short story to the local paper:
“Lying back on the sofa, she read the manuscript carefully through, making dashes here and there, and putting in many exclamation points, which looked like little balloons, then she tied it up with a smart, red ribbon, and sat a minute looking at it with a sober wistful expression, which plainly showed how earnest her work had been.”
I suppose it is a good sign a writer has learned to recognise this fault when they remove exclamation points and dashes from a manuscript and not add more of them before going to the press.
“The hardest part about writing a novel is finishing it.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Hard? It’s downright torture. Not that you run out of things to say, you have too much that will remain unsaid. The author creates a whole world of characters and has only just begun to scratch the surface of their story. How to stop is the question. Eventually, one does come some point they can call ‘the end’, only to find no else wants the book to end either. When having reached the finale of “Brushstrokes”, my greatest critic, vis my mother, was in turmoil. “You can’t leave them all like that! You can’t! It’s not right! I can’t see it end there! Not like that! You’ll have to go on! I want to know what happens!” Yes, I shared her sentiments, including the exclamation points in her voice. I cannot say goodbye to Katherine and her world just yet, and so, work begins on the sequel. I shall see what new lessons lie in store with the new project.
To be continued...
July 6, 2012
Our family is no exception. If I may say so, my mother and I are an explosive combination: “Kitchen Philosophy 101” as she has dubbed our little Open Academy of Free Thinking.
As with all academies, we are provided with ample material for study and comment, vis the antics of the world at large brought straight to the table vis the information and entertainment machine in the corner ~ the television. When we are not in the lecture hall preparing lunch or supper, there are plenty of opportunities for fieldwork, vis, the hundred and one observations of daily life as we head out from the walls of our academy to fulfil the tasks necessary to keep a household well-organized, grocery-shopping, bill-paying, all those manifold duties that must be taken care of. Little escapes our scrutiny, and many times we have reached some hard-to-forget conclusions, observations and philosophical questions that leave us meditating or laughing for days on end.
Since I am a writer, everything heard and said can and will be used in a story or blog, therefore, it was time to start a series publishing the work of our honourable academy lest its words of wisdom be lost for all time. Yes, you have guessed it: this new series is entitled “Kitchen Philosophy 101”.
To begin, here are a few examples of our various ponderings of late:
“When all is said and done, we are the sum total of the decisions we have made.” ~ This conclusion was reached after much deliberation on why events in life turn out the way they do. Yes, it all boils down to us at some point or another!
“Will the Almighty God allow mankind to reduce Him to a subatomic particle?” ~ A thought proposed for deliberation on the day the scientists of CERN announced their discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. Look how far the physicists will go to try and prove how the Universe came to be. For what purpose? ´To gain a better understanding of how everything came to be´, is the general answer. Don´t get me wrong, I'm excited about many scientific discoveries, but the travail the physicists are subjecting themselves to is pathetic when viewed from the aspect of Eternity. So, scientists discovered the micro-cosmic glue that keeps subatomic particles together, that is no different than discovering Michaelangelo used paint layer on layer to make his frescoes. One must never set aside the mind behind the masterpiece. Yes, God is a humble and patient God, but the worldly-wise are distracting themselves with work that will not bring them any closer to understanding Him, only the materials He created. Of course, if they do not want to acknowledge that a Creator exists, what a shame, all they are left with then is their cosmic dust and particles, for a limited time only.
“Think before you speak, particularly when you are about to ask a question or give your opinion, your intelligence may be questioned.” It is mind-boggling some of the questions members of the media ask their guests. In a documentary highlighting the shortage of water and the management of the world's water supplies, a reporter asked a Chilean fish-farmer ´How important is water for your business?´ And this question was put forward as they stood amidst his fish tanks. All he could do was reply with a smile, `It's essential´. I witnessed this, I kid you not! That is no different than asking a corn farmer how important the sun is for their line of work. Another example of comic moments at the Kitchen Academy, CNBC recently requested viewers to Tweet or e-mail what they think of the employment situation in America today. My mother and I just looked at each other and it hit us both at once: “That IS the problem! There IS nothing to think about!”
By now you have probably tumbled to the obvious conclusion: despite everything that is going on around you, going up or down, day by day, it's important we keep our sense of humour. One belly laugh a day adds a year to your life they say.
If you enjoyed this introductory course to Kitchen Philosophy 101, considered yourself enrolled in our College of Common Sense, or the lack thereof. For the students' question and answer session, just leave your comments below for the consideration of the absent-minded professors. Stay tuned for the next lecture. Pot-Walloping Diplomas and Kitchen Mechanic Degrees will be awarded on the completion of the course. Lecture adjourned.
June 12, 2012
How do we address the distressing reality of unjust criticism? The general rule has been to accept everyone is entitled to their opinions, be they good, bad, or incorrect, and simply ignore their bad comments. However, there are times when reviews are completely erroneous they leave us wondering if the reviewer had actually read the book and could comprehend its contents. Or, might we dare suggest, are deliberately condemning a work for some unknown ulterior motive? I have read reviews on other people's work that I had studied and the results were totally perplexing, and now I too have fallen prey to the poison pen.
Must we authors stay silent, or are we entitled to defend our work and beat back the flames of unjust criticism? With your permission, I offer you an example below: a review of my work,Faust: My Soul Be Damned for the World Volume 1 , written by Nicholas Holland for Folklore, the Journal of the Folklore Society UK, published March / April 2012. My defence is presented in Italics.
“E.A. Bucchianeri's book, the first of a two-volume study, surveys works concerned with the famous magician Doctor Faustus from the earliest German notices to Christopher Marlowe's eponymous play. A short final section discusses seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century works before Goethe. The first chapter reviews German accounts of Faustus prior to the earliest known version of the German Faust Book, and places a particular emphasis on the search for biographical evidence about the historical Faustus. Bucchianeri surveys the various early accounts, including those of Trithemius, Melanchthon, and Weyer. The majority of the material covered will be familiar from other modern studies, but whereas the studies of Frank Baron, for example, draw out the complexities of the relationship between historical evidence and the subsequent fashioning of the legend, this study tends to place great emphasis on searching for insight into the biography of the historical Faustus; an approach that can be detrimental to the consideration of the sources surveyed in their historical context.”
(I tend to place more emphasis on the biography? Of course, we cannot see how the folklore developed without arriving at a clear picture of Faustus, this historical man of mystery. To all intents and purposes, I followed Baron's analytical example in discovering the historical Faustus, and offered additional findings / observations to the material Baron provided and discussed. The chapter dealing with Faustus' biography is only one quarter of Volume I, (125 pages) and roughly half of this chapter also examines the legend-formation process. The rest of Volume I (nearly 400 pages), features the Faust folklore / literature. Holland then declares in so many words it is 'detrimental' to piece together a biography of Faustus from the sources that exist and that I did not consider their historical context. Did Mr. Holland actually read and comprehend my work? ~ E.A.B.)
“For example, when considering the account of the famous abbot and philosopher Trithemius that Faustus declared himself the source of the necromancers, Bucchianeri's bewilderment that Faustus "would freely choose a profession that would utterly ruin his reputation" (p. 28) seemingly takes Trithemius's report at face value. Trithemius's opinions concerning Faustus surely demand more cautious consideration in the light of his own possible motivations, reputation, and interests; in particular since so little concerning the historical Faustus and his magical practices can confidently be corroborated using other sources. More generally, Bucchianeri's biographical focus in the early part of the book tends to direct the reader's attention away from what must be the most significant and astonishing aspect of the documentary legacy: the impact, durability, and openness to further interpretation of the legend of Faustus through the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, first in German and later in English culture. Whereas the historical Faustus is an almost invisible footnote in early modern intellectual history, the legend of Faustus became, in the hands of a number of important writers, a means of expressing early modern interest concerning both the potential power and also the potential dangers of magic.”
(I could find no evidence presented to date to doubt Trithemius' letter written to a friend and colleague, warning him to be wary of Faustus. The letter was reprinted during Faustus' lifetime, it could not be a bogus document. Trithemius may have aggrandized Faustus' claims concerning his magic skills, but this topic is discussed in detail. Faustus was known to declare himself a "necromancer" according to well-documented historical sources, therefore, according to the historical evidence, Trithemius was accurate in describing Faustus. I have examined the content of Trithemius' letter minutely from all aspects, similar to Frank Baron. To declare oneself a 'necromancer' was a serious matter in those times, Faustus could have been tried and executed. Why take such a risk? His motives had to be questioned, and these questions hypothetically answered. I find it curious Mr. Holland believes the biographical material in Volume I detracts from the efforts to describe the "impact" and the "openness to further investigation" of the legend: as I said, three quarters of Volume I (about 400 pages) explores the rich Faustian material inspired by his legend over the centuries and how it was used to deter people from studying magic in addition to admonishing people to live good Christian lives. Holland's conclusion that I digressed from explaining the "early modern" fascination and fear of black magic is erroneous. ~ E.A.B.)
“The remainder of the volume is mostly dedicated to substantial descriptive accounts of the German and English Faust books, and of Marlowe's Doctor Fautus. Bucchianeri's major new proposition concerning the latter is that the B-text shows that "Marlowe had regained a considerable measure of the defiant 'Machiavellian' optimism", which was absent from the A-Text (p. 368). Although precisely what she means by "Machiavellian" (or "liberal Epicurean," a phrase she applies to Marlowe's Faustus in the same passage) is unclear, her reading of the play evidently belongs to the school of interpretations which considers the overarching admonitory message of the play as being in some way questioned by the manner of its presentation. However, her core interest again is in trying to establish firm connections between biography and text. Her proposal is that the B-text of the play is a revision of the A-text chiefly undertaken by Marlowe himself in the light of personal experiences and historical events that enable it to be dated to 1592. This is an unusually precise stance concerning the genesis and authorship of this text, but ultimately fails to persuade. For example, some basic textual evidence seems to conflict with such a precise and confident dating. The author argues, in particular, that the references to the Anti-Pope Bruno in the B-Text are inspired by news of the arrest of Giordano Bruno in Venice in 1592. However, if a similar method is applied to the reading of two of the most striking points of similarity between the fictional Bruno and the historical Bruno, these events have no direct connection to 1592. The fictional Bruno undergoes excommunication, a punishment which the historical Bruno stated to his interrogators in Venice he knew had been imposed on him in absentia by a hearing convened by the Dominicans in Naples prior to this period in England (1583-5). The execution by burning for heresy, pronounced on the fictional Bruno by Faustus in disguise, was visited on the historical Bruno as late as 1600, seven years after Marlowe's death. While there is a case to be made for the influence of the historical Bruno's person and thought on Marlowe via the circle of Earl of Northumberland, there is in fact nothing tangible to link the scene in Doctor Faustus more strongly to the news of 1592 than to the news of any other year of a period spanning the whole of Marlowe's writing career. Furthermore, by attempting to bind the play's genesis too tightly to Marlowe's biography, the author underestimates not only the imaginative capacities of Marlowe himself and of the other writers who most probably had a hand in the B-Text, but also the uncertainties that cloud our understanding of Marlowe's personal beliefs. Such an approach also fails to place sufficient emphasis on the need to understand the contents of Doctor Faustus in the context of the early modern performance traditions upon which it draws.”
(The terms "Machiavellian" and "Epicurean" may be on the same page, but not in the same paragraph. From the context of the study, Holland should have understood the term "machiavellian" to mean Faustus' thirst for power and his determination to acquire it by whatever means or cost. The philosophical term Epicurean was explained in the first chapter, but possibly Holland forgot: "... pleasure is the supreme goal one should aim for in life, particularly intellectual pleasures above those of sensual ones. Epicurus taught that one could only acquire true happiness and serenity by conquering one’s fear of the gods, death, and the afterlife. He also believed that humans ceased to exist after death, declaring the soul died with the body." The term was referred to in this philosophical context throughout the chapter on Marlowe, and we note Faustus in Marlowe's play begs his soul to dissolve at death. The context of Epicurean should have been clear from the beginning.
I am sorry if my argument concerning the dating of the A and B Texts "failed to persuade" Mr. Holland, but I notice he discussed only one piece of evidence I presented, and omitted to mention all other observations pertaining to the 1592 date. If it was a matter of that one detail, Bruno's arrest, then there would not be enough evidence, but a good detective should look at all the evidence presented.
I also notice Mr. Holland points out every historical detail of the the real Bruno, and how this factual information does not match the action of Marlowe's play: must everything in the drama display historical fact? Surely, Marlowe had the creativity to imagine the scene of Bruno's arrest and make artistic predictions concerning the possible outcome of that event, even if they proved incorrect in the future. In this instance, Holland has failed to follow his own conclusion and has committed the same supposed 'error' he condemns me for, that is, trying to find the historical details that correspond with Marlowe's biography and are included in the play ~ let us note that Holland's states "by attempting to bind the play's genesis too tightly to Marlowe's biography, the author underestimates not only the imaginative capacities of Marlowe himself and the other writers who most probably had a hand in the B Text". In so many words, Holland has proposed that authors, playwrights and artists are uncreative and unimaginative when they draw upon their life experiences, (and therefore, contemporary history), for their material. Interesting observation, Mr. Holland.
He also says by binding the play´s genesis too closely to Marlowe's biography, I also "underestimated the uncertainties" that cloud everyone's understanding of Marlowe's personal beliefs. Not so. It was due to these uncertainties I conducted a close reading of Doctor Faustus with Marlowe's known biography. I simply examined the claims Marlowe was an "atheist" in that he did not believe in the established Christian religions, and noted how these claims may have a basis in fact through a close reading of Doctor Faustus. I endeavoured to shed some light on the accusations levied against Marlowe, and if possible, display how close the creative soul of the writer is to his work. ~ E.A.B)
“The stated aim of this study is to provide a "comprehensive exploration" of Faustus and his legacy. It provides lengthy descriptive discussion of the contents of the texts surveyed and, to some extent, it offers a useful single point of reference for them, although it must also be noted that the author's digressive style makes it relatively hard to read. As a work of analysis, however, its most serious failing is that it does not examine more fully and in a more systematic way the complex forces that worked to shape the legend of Faustus within a wider cultural context, and instead places its primary focus on an attempt to find close relationships between biography and text. As a consequence, it fails to offer readings of the material under consideration which have the depth of insight or nuance of the most valuable works already written on the various works it surveys.”
(The aim of this study was to provide "a comprehensive exploration of Dr. Faustus, the man who sold his soul to the devil, and those who lived to tell his tale" ~ so yes, providing detailed explanations of the texts and why each author presented the Faust material as they did was the object of the work. I do not see how Holland thinks this does not present the "complex forces" that shaped the legend of Faustus, when everything from religious intolerance, the Reformation, academic competition, fear of black magic, the scientific discoveries of the day such as the Copernican / Galileo controversy, folklore and history, and how they were included in the Faustian tales, are discussed. Can the "cultural context" become any wider? If this study lacks "the depth of insight or nuance of the most valuable works" already written on the subject of Faust and Faustian literature, I shall leave it to you, the reader, to discover if this be true or not. I thank Mr. Holland for his review, albeit it took nearly four years for it to appear from the time the paperback edition was published and sent in for review. E.A.B.)
Faust: My Soul Be Damned for the World Volume 1
May 16, 2012
For 2012 presidential campaign season I thought I would share another excerpt from my novel, "Brushstrokes of a Gadfly", recently entitled:
Liberty Peals Silent in Our Times
How this fits into a romance novel, you will have to read Brushstrokes of a Gadfly to find out!
May 13, 2012
If you have encountered this problem, please send me a message by clicking here:
Contact the Author
I apologize for any confusion regarding the free availability of "We Are Warned".
May 3, 2012
In honour of his birthday, and to celebrate the 2012 Olympics, the Globe Theatre in London is presenting a marathon festival featuring a host of international drama companies presenting his plays in their native languages. Anyone up for The Merry Wives of Windsor in Swahili?
To highlight the event, BCC World News aired a news feature with actors from the numerous companies delivering in their own language one of Shakespeare’s most memorable lines: “To be, or not to be: that is the question.”
As I watched the news clip, I was struck by that famous cogitation of Hamlet, the mad, melancholic Prince of Denmark as he ponders upon the philosophical conundrums of life, death, existence or non-existence, and how important a topic it was in the philosophical circles of Shakespeare's era. Many famous thinkers and playwrights grappled with the issue of how we perceive the very essence of existence, of being alive, and in the process invented their own famous one-liners. The French philosopher, writer and mathematician René Descartes concluded: Cogito ergo sum ~ “I think, therefore I am.” The author Kurt Vonnegut also reminds us of this philosophical conundrum albeit with humour by quoting Socrates, Sartre and Frank Sinatra in succession: “To be is to do,” “To do is to be,” “Do Be Do Be Do”.
Other playwrights of Shakespeare's time also dissected the issue, although their attempts at exploring “To be or not to be,” may not have become as well-known as their contemporaries' succinct phrases. In this instance, Christopher Marlowe and his drama,The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus . In lieu of describing the point of existence, Marlowe, through the doomed character of Faustus who sells his soul to Hell, mocks the entire system of philosophical disputation used to explore the question vis the academic policy in the universities of strict adherence to Aristotle's reasoning methods. The philosopher Aristotle was so highly regarded that students were forbidden to disagree with Analytics, his treatise on logic: students at Oxford were fined if they did! Thus the universities of Marlowe and Shakespeare's time paradoxically threw the whole point of open debate and disputation askew, the focal point of their esteemed philosophical and theological curriculum.
How does Marlowe satirize the issue?
With the enigmatic line: “Bid Oncaymaeon farewell.”
Below I have included a excerpt from Faust: My Soul Be Damned for the World Volume 1 unravelling the meaning of that cryptic statement:
“Act I opens with Faustus alone in his study restlessly contemplating the subjects he studied, initially focusing his attention on Aristotle and logic:
Settle thy studies, Faustus, and begin
To sound the depth of that thou wilt profess.
Having commenced, be a divine in show,
Yet level at the end of every art,
And live and die in Aristotle’s works. […]
[I. i. 1–5]
Faustus has recently attained his MA degree. Although the Chorus relates Faustus earned the title of “Doctor”, in Act I he is deciding which of the subjects he will “profess” to continue his advanced studies. According to Harrison in Holinshed’s Chronicles, an English MA student could be referred to as “doctor” should they profess one or be generally skilled in all of the liberal sciences they previously studied during the BA and MA years. From thence, they could elect to study divinity, law or medicine for their Doctorate. Faustus sarcastically muses he may as well continue with the divinity studies he started, as a respectable front, while he decides to “level”, or find the purpose of each subject, to discover which is worthy of his time and effort, and yield substantial rewards. We detect here Marlowe’s resentment with the Parker Scholarship stipulation stating the prerequisite for recipients to express an interest in receiving Holy Orders before they could continue with their education.
Faustus declares he will “live” and “die” with Aristotle’s works, and then amusingly exclaims: “Sweet Analytics,‘tis thou hast ravished me!” [I. i. 6] (Analytics was the name applied to two of Aristotle’s works on the nature of proof in argument.) — Marlowe in his BA years may have submissively “lived” for nothing else and figuratively “died” with his extensive disputation course grounded on logic and rhetoric. In this instance “ravished” could also signify being “seized” and academically molested. Taking up Aristotle’s Analytics, a single sentence claims his attention and he ponders upon its significance:
[He reads] Bene disserere est finis logices.
(‘To dispute well is the end of logic’.)
Is to dispute well logic’s chiefest end?
Affords this art no greater miracle?
Then read no more; thou hast attained that end.
A greater subject fitteth Faustus’ wit.
Bid Oncaymaeon farewell. […]
[I. i. 7–12]
Faustus discovers that logic simply prepared him to dispute and argue a topic, that is all. He then dismisses logic, which he terms “being and not being” (On kai me on), considering he has already become a master in this art. We also detect a phonetic sound-game with ‘Organon’, the logic treatise by Aristotle that Oxford students were not permitted to disagree with! Ironically, these two quotations are not from Aristotle. “Bene dissere” was Cicero’s definition of logic, later assumed by the French dialectician Petrus Ramus (1515–1572) whose attempt to reform Aristotelian logic was received with hostility, his detractors considered he had reduced Aristotle’s work to superficialities. “On kai me on” is a diminutive synopsis of Gorgias’ (c. 485–380 B.C.) tripartite nihilistic philosophy — nothing exists. If anything exists, it cannot be known; if it exists and can be known, it cannot be explained. Marlovian commentators are generally puzzled why Faustus, an intellectual, should quote his sources incorrectly. We might assume he is an inept scholar, but he is supposedly reading directly from university texts on the table in front of him. Is he actually comprehending the material he is reading? Marlowe may be stabbing at a paradox in the Elizabethan third-level course on logic. His lecturers failed to practise Aristotle’s reason for disputation, i.e. to question an issue in order to discover what is true or false in philosophy, not to simply dispute well for the sake of argument whereby error can be persuasive and accepted as truth. Faustus ‘fails’ to “sound logic to its depths” for he should have immediately raised the question: if disputing well is the end of logic, then what is the purpose of argument but to find or to conclude upon an answer? Disputing well with no tangible result but to dispute, is similar to making the pointless query whether we truly exist or not, rather than asking why we exist and attempt to discover the answer. To be, or not to be: what a question! Marlowe highlights the illogical nature of his lessons in dialectic through Faustus’ apparent ignorance. Having spent years mastering the art of incessant argument, Marlowe’s mind was truly “ravished”. (…)”
Examining each subject taught at the university and disillusioned with their shallow depths, Faustus is eventually swayed by the dark allure of occult studies and decides to sell his soul for the power and knowledge he craves. How does this come about? You will have to read Faust: My Soul Be Damned for the World Volume 1 to find out!
March 17, 2012
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
According to Tradition, when asked by the Irish people to explain how the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost could exist as three Divine Persons yet remain one God, St. Patrick plucked a shamrock growing at his feet and showed that the humble little green sprig had three leaves on a single stem.
The Irish have always said that the shamrock will only grow in Ireland, but we have dicovered otherwise here in Fatima. When we first arrived in Portugal, my mother and I were surprised to find shamrocks growing in abundance here, enormous sprays are spreading beside our house. It is wonderful that we don't have to go without St. Patrick's special plant on his feast day. We have also heard that Irish pilgrims to France have discovered shamrock growing on the ground where St. Joan of Arc musterd the troops before heading into battle. The shamrock is considered a blessed sign of faith.
Although Wikipedia says shamrock is from the “clover family” because the word “shamrock” is derived from the diminutive of the Irish word for clover, the Irish members of my family, and everyone I have ever met in Ireland who are “Shamrock Purists”, have emphatically told me the true shamrock is not considered a “clover” at all by the people, despite the Irish word and the scientific classification. If you even dared to say it is related to clover, you would be considered daft!
Today we see shamrocks being used by the media in all shapes and sizes, but not all are what the purists would call a “true” shamrock. In fact, it is astounding that these shapes are also being used by many Irish in Ireland! It is no wonder a considerable number of people have no idea what it should look like. So on this auspicious day, I am taking the opportunity to give you a few tips on recognizing what is and isn't a St. Patrick shamrock according to the purist.
What should an authentic St. Patrick's shamrock look like?
It has three round-top leaves that have no white ring at all showing in the middle. Anything that has even the slightest hint of a white ring in the centre of the three-leaf part is “clover”. The plant also grows from a single stalk, not in separate tufts or individual stalks like the common clover you see in lawns that have the white or white-pinkish flowers. Shamrock spreads flat on the ground as a spray, and never grows upward like a clover. No doubt the shamrock was the inspiration for the trefoil or “three leaf” window that also represented the Trinity in Gothic architecture.
Therefore, the real St. Patrick's shamrock to the purists is distinct from other “three leaf” or “trefoil / trefolium” plants, but according to Wikipedia, the "trifolium repens" is “sometimes” used as shamrocks. What! Are ye daft?! The "Trifolium repens” should not be considered a St. Patrick shamrock at all because it has a white ring in it. The Irish also refer to this “T-repens” interloper separately as “white clover” ~ “ seamair bhán” and not “seamróg” or shamrock. This image below is a “repens”, notice the white ring:
Also, anything that is a hybrid with flat-topped leaves, black or purple colours in the centre is not a true St. Patrick's shamrock. The most common shape for the shamrock symbol used today is the heart shaped variety, even the Irish national airline Aer Lingus uses it ~ ah, the shame! This is the common wood sorrel! Just because it has three leaves, do not assume it is an honest-to-goodness St. Patrick shamrock:
Perhaps the most “blasphemous” form of the plant is the four-leafed heart-shaped variety~definitely a deviation from St. Patrick's holy three-leaf. To think they use four-leaf clovers and “shamrocks” for St. Patrick's Day decorations, alack!
In case you are wondering where the “lucky” four-leaf clover tradition came from, it was not a luck charm at all. According to an old superstition held among the Irish peasantry, a four-leafed clover was a charm against witchcraft and spells. In the book Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend & Folklore edited by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, Yeats called this old charm a four-leaf shamrock hence the possible cause for the confusion between the old clover and a “lucky shamrock”.
A word to the wise, the Irish were never “lucky”, but always blessed when they remain true to the faith St. Patrick taught them.
February 25, 2012
This poetic prayer was allegedly composed by a fifteen year old student who wished to remain anonymous, which is a shame as they certainly deserve credit for this poignant critique of how the once-honoured values of our country have been overturned for one nation under a licentious police state with liberty and justice for some as displayed in the school system these days. If the children of the nation are our future, God help us!
"Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule,
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.
If Scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights,
And any time my head I bow,
Becomes a Federal matter now.
Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That's no offence; it's a freedom scene.
The law is specific, the law is precise,
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.
For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate,
God's name is prohibited by State.
We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They've outlawed guns, but first the Bible,
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.
We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the unwed daddy our Senior King.
It's 'inappropriate' to teach right from wrong,
We're taught that such 'judgements' do not belong.
We can get our condoms and birth control,
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles,
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No Word of God must reach this crowd.
It's scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns, the school's a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make,
Should I be shot, my soul please take!
If you found this interesting, you might like Brushstrokes of a Gadfly.
- E.A. Bucchianeri's profile
- 17 fans