Shakespeare Fans discussion

26 views
Literary Criticism & Bard > Shakespeare and Belief/Disbelief

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by William (new)

William This discussion is based on four posts extracted from the AWTEW Reading Thread. Those posts are reproduced immediately following this comment and were by Martin, Candy, Martin, and Candy.

If there is a Belief/Disbelief divide, I am interested to know on which side of that divide readers think Shakespeare himself stood.

Perhaps someone will add a comment to those posted below. Perhaps not.


message 2: by William (new)

William 1st Post from AWTEW Reading Thread by Martin

Yes, I think Bertram is part of that comic tradition where what you want is right under your nose and you don't see it. Like Marlow in She Stoops to Conquer, or the Meg Ryan character in You've got Mail, which is based on the Jimmy Stewart film The Shop around the Corner, which is based on a Hungarian stage play, which I suppose might be based on something else ...

And talking of origins, when I was about 11, I read some modernisations of the Arthurian tales. The one I remember was about an ugly old hag who comes to the King's Court, and renders some service in exchange for marriage with one of the knights. I don't recall if she chooses the knight, or if the knight volunteers, but she gets her man and they are married. After the ceremony she demands one kiss. He kisses her, and she is transformed into a beautiful woman, who explains that she has been under a spell, and that what has happened was the only way to break it. But she then says that she can only be beautiful half the time, either by day or by night (this idea is used in Shrek), and the knight must choose which. But when he then leaves the choice to her the spell is completely broken, and she is permanently beautiful. (The joke in Shrek being that they make the opposite choice.)

I know very little about the Arthurian legends, can't at the moment trace this story. Does anyone else know it? I imagine it (or something similar) would have been familiar to Shakespeare's audience, and it adds something to the moment when, after their marriage, Bertram does not (so I take it) kiss Helena,

Helena: Something; and scarce so much:--nothing, indeed.--
I would not tell you what I would, my lord:--Faith, yes;--
Strangers and foes do sunder and not kiss.

Bertram: I pray you, stay not, but in haste to horse.

The "spell" is in Bertram's mind, and you feel if he could have kissed her it would have been broken.

-----------

Something Lafew said I like,

we have our philosophical persons to make modern and familiar, things [which are:] supernatural and causeless.

So like Richard Dawkins today.

(I regard as "supernatural and causeless" the colon which miraculously appears before any closing square bracket you type in this wretchedly small post box.)



message 3: by William (new)

William 2nd Post from AWTEW Reading Thread by Candy

Regarding Jonathan Miller and his BBc plays. I have wanted to get a hold of them ever since you told me about them Martin. I've been googling for them today...and I found something online..."a making of book"

You can read some of it here...

http://books.google.com/books?id=NgPGBCF...

Is Jonathan Miller, the Shakespeare director, the same fellow who hosted "A Rough History of disbelief"?



message 4: by William (new)

William 3rd Post from AWTEW Reading Thread by Martin

Candy, ah yes, I see now what you mean! Response: I don't know. There are many sayings attributed to Shakespeare ("dead as a doornail" etc) which were already current in his day and he just made use of them.

When I read this speech I was mentally ticking off the phrases I understood:

As fit as ten groats is for the hand of an attorney (yes), as your French crown for your taffeta punk (no), as Tib's rush for Tom's forefinger (no), as a pancake for Shrove Tuesday (yes), a morris for May-day (yes), as the nail to his hole (yes - easy), the cuckold to his horn (yes), as a scolding queen
to a wrangling knave (yes, I guess), as the nun's lip to the friar's mouth (yes - but...), nay, as the pudding to his skin (yes).

Is Jonathan Miller, the Shakespeare director, the same fellow who hosted "A Rough History of disbelief"?

The same guy. I did not see the series, so cannot comment, but Miller has given his name to so many ideas and causes, that he has come to seem rather ridiculous to many people. But his work as a Shakespearean director seems to me extraordinarily good.



message 5: by William (new)

William 4th Post from AWTEW Reading Thread by Candy

Okay. Maybe it's at least as old an adage as the play.

I love the list, groats, pancakes, horn, pudding.

Well, I have watched the series and MIller has a very impressive career! I watched the whole series (4 hours or so?) last year or so online.



message 6: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Let me think about thi some. It's a great idea for a discussion if anyone bites.

I see about 6 things here I'd love to pursue...but need to think about a bit.

Question...what exactly do you see as the divide in Belief/Disbelief? I'm not being sassy William...I am almost seeing three or so separate issues revolving around "belief/disbelief".

Do you mean ...whether a kiss is "magic" and will allow Bertram (or a knight/cursed woman to love as Martin's archetype?)?

Or do you mean belief regarding a "commited bachelor" and Bertram?

Just a little lost ...it's the middle of the night and silly me...I decided to check in here...now I'll probably never fall asleepe thinking about this stuff...

Or do you mean belief/disbelief divide regarding jonathan Millers series on disbelief?

:) or all of the above! and then some!


message 7: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Okay...I did some thinking and a little surfing on "the googles".

Martin, I could kick myself...because I am sorry I didn't notice the kiss and it's failure as I was reading that section. Now it seems so obvious.

Okay...so a kiss is often part of the tradition in stories/lit of cannibalism.

This cannibalism is tied to the real core of fear by men of women, that they will "swallow them" ie...castrate them. A kiss has always been a kind of cannibalism and not only a threat to the sex of the man...after all he "disappears" ina woman...frightening as far as castration...but also as his ego or identity disappears.

I have a fantastic book by Marina Warner who is a British folk tale academic. I don't know if others here are familiar with her work but she is so handy to have as a reference for the histories of where folk stories and anecdotes come from and how they change over decades and centuries.

Martin mentioned the Arthurian legend of the witch and the kiss. This is the "loathly Lady" tale. It may be traced back to The Odyssey and Scylla...and I suggest it may also be taken further back...to Shiva and Indian goddesses.

The Loathly Lady is a stand in for the concept of soverneignty in these stories. Again, this is interesting in the image of consumption, cannibalism, kissing...and why a woman is often "the other"...

Here:

The play is often compared to a fairy tale, and with good reason. It follows the general pattern of what is sometimes called the "Loathly Lady" story, familiar from Chaucer's "Wife of Bath's Tale." A woman despised by a haughty knight (in Chaucer, because she is old and ugly; in All's Well, because she is not a nobleman's daughter) knows the answer to a crucial, lifesaving question. Once she has provided the answer, she gets to choose her husband. (Garber 622)

Loathly Lady glossary:

http://www.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/shakespe...

http://www.maryjones.us/jce/loathlyla...

http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/student_o...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loathly_...



message 8: by Candy (last edited Feb 10, 2009 08:55AM) (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Amazon.com Review
One dare not even call it seminal, yet in this ground-breaking work, English novelist and historian Marina Warner casts herself as the female Joseph Campbell in a fascinating and lively book that opens with the observation that "storytelling makes women thrive -- and not exclusively women," and then lifts the veil on both tellers and tales ranging from Sibyl to the late, great Angela Carter, from Lot's daughters to Disney's "Little Mermaid." She finds a not-so-hidden history of women, sex, power, fear -- and even healing -- lurking therein. An eye-opening reworking of our common myth pool. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly
Notwithstanding the prominence of the Grimm Brothers and Charles Perrault, most narrators of fairy tales, asserts Warner, have been women?nannies, grannies, 18th-century literary ladies, sibyls of antiquity. In this richly illustrated, erudite, digressive feminist study, cultural historian Warner (Alone of All Her Sex) argues that instead of seeking psychoanalytic meanings in fairy tales, we must first understand them in their social and emotional context. In her analysis, "Bluebeard" and "Beauty and the Beast" reflect girls' realistic fears of marrige in an era when women married young, had multiple children and often died in childbirth. Her delightfully subversive inquiry profiles reluctant brides, silent daughters, crones, witches, fates, muses, sirens, Saint Anne (image of the old wise woman), the biblical Queen of Sheba and Saint Uncumber, who grew a beard to avoid marriage but was crucified for her rebellion. Angela Carter's fiction, surrealist Leonora Carrington's comic fairy tales, Walt Disney movies and French aristocratic fairy tales of veiled protofeminist protest by Marie-Jeanne L'Heritier and Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy provide grist for her mill.



A page about Marina Warner...whose books I find inspiring and very useful!

http://www.marinawarner.com/

An idea I have long been interested in is memory chambers or maps...especially in shakespeare...

here:

http://www.vam.ac.uk/activ_events/adu...



message 9: by William (new)

William Candy wrote: Or do you mean belief/disbelief divide regarding jonathan Millers series on disbelief?

YES.

My own inteterest is only what I wrote above: If there is a Belief/Disbelief divide, I am interested to know on which side of that divide readers think Shakespeare himself stood.

I myself have nothing to say on the subject, but to accommodate others who might, I created this discussion to avoid cluttering the AWTEW Reading Thread with so general a subject.

That's all from me, folks!


message 10: by Martin (new)

Martin | 16 comments
Well how disappointing. We were expecting you to wax lyrical on this subject William. I think perhaps that's all from anybody folks.




message 11: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Do you remember in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when they took a risk (okay they took many) but on the cliff? They did it together.

I might have some risk taking impulses on this topic....but to know I was just talking to myself or the only person just doesn't sound fun.

I already say tons of crazy things here...but to jump in and say whether I think Shakespeare had faith/disbelief/belief...etc all by myself....?

I can hear people laughing already!

I'm gullible but not that gullible.

:)


message 12: by Martin (new)

Martin | 16 comments
Come on William, we're ready to jump off the cliff, but you have to go first!



message 13: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker (lechatquilit) William wrote: "I know very little about the Arthurian legends, can't at the moment trace this story. Does anyone else know it?"

Was toodling by lurking when this caught my eye. The story is about Sir Gawain. More specifically, it's the wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell.

I'd love to take part in the Shakespeare thread, but it seems a bit too far advanced for me to catch up. I shall be watching for the next play. :-)


message 14: by William (new)

William Well, Whitaker, your William is unknown to me, though I have made the acquaintance of one Sir Gawain, who was taught a lesson by someone with a decidedly mouldy complexion.

It's good that you will join our reading of the next play. I will let you know when we start.


message 15: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker (lechatquilit) William wrote: "Well, Whitaker, your William is unknown to me, though I have made the acquaintance of one Sir Gawain, who was taught a lesson by someone with a decidedly mouldy complexion."

My apologies, William. I can be such a space cadet. Yes, it was Martin's post wasn't it?




message 16: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Whitaker, very good to see you. Um, I am not an academic of Shakespeare, just a poor sod who reads all kinds of stuff sourrounding Shakespeare and his era. But not even enough stuff to be any kind of "expert". I read Shakspeare more intuitively and really just let my mind wander. I don't think anyone here is "advanced" at all...probably only Harold bloom could take that kind of credit as being "advanced".

I feel terrible if some way I have written on any of these posts is unaccessible...I find that hard to believe...I'm walking in the forest with a blind fold and I feel that is the best way to read his work.

Whitaker...I am just a lay reader who loves Shakespeare nothing advanced bout THAT! The only tools a reader needs to enjoy his plays is patience and a discussion really really helps!




message 17: by Martin (new)

Martin | 16 comments
Come and join us Whitaker, when you told me about Gawain and Ragnell I realised how much we need you.


message 18: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker (lechatquilit) I will. Promise. But for the next one. :-)


message 19: by Jenna (new)

Jenna | 40 comments Candy wrote: A page about Marina Warner...whose books I find inspiring and very useful!

I agree; I find her books inspiring and provcative. I have her Six Myths for Our Time and Alone of All Her Sex on my bookshelf. (The latter, I admit, I have not had time to finish.) I remember reading her essay on Frankenstein in an undergraduate lit class, and it really changed how I viewed Shelley's work thereafter.


back to top