Culture: The Flavors of Philadelphia Life
Philadelphia began as a religious colony, a utopia if you will. But all religions were welcome, so Quakerism mainly persists in its effects on others, both locally and in America, in Art, clubs, and the way of life.
Sociology: Philadelphia and the Quaker Colonies
The early Philadelphia had many faces, its people were varied and interesting; its history turbulent and of lasting importance.
They made their fortunes in the West, but spent them in Philadelphia. Until they settled in the West, themselves.
Shakspere Society of PhiladelphiaThe overall plan of this site is to display the minutes of this loyal society of gentlemen back to its founding. That is fairly easy to do for the past decade since the minutes were recorded on magnetic medium. Prior to that it will require scanning of typescript. But the majority of the meetings were recorded by hand, so this display will take some time to appear on the web. Since the thirty-six plays of the Bard of Avon were each discussed eight or ten times, it is planned to group them by individual play as well as chronologically. In this way, perhaps some interesting sociological differences between generations of Philadelphians will appear, as well as conflicting viewpoints about the meaning of individual plays.
Or perhaps not, but this sort of comprehensive collection of varying interpretations is in the spirit of the Variorum Shakespeare, which was the crowning achievement of this society.
We begin with Shakspere's last will and testament, in order to justify the spelling of his name which the Society chooses to use. Following that, a short description of the sort of people we are in Philadelphia, written by one who was a close observer who felt she never quite belonged.George Ross Fisher, Member
|Margaret of Anjou|
Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) died and was buried two centuries before William Penn arrived on the Delaware River. She'd been Queen of England as the wife of Henry VI from 1445-1471, and a central figure in the so-called War of the Roses. Not a name plausibly associated with Philadelphia.
Until, of course, you understand that the Shakespere Society of Philadelphia, world's oldest continuously meeting Shakespeare club, is making her a current focus of attention. It was the idea of Robert Thomas Fallon, the vice-dean of the society, that Margaret of Anjou appears in four Shakespeare plays. The three histories of >Henry VI and Richard III all get relatively little present attention, but perhaps parts could be extracted and fused into one great play about Margaret. Think of that, a new Shakespeare play after all these centuries.
|English-occupied France at the time of Henry VI|
Disconcertingly, when you examine what the new play would be all about, there's more material than you can handle. Margaret starts out as the most beautiful girl in France and ends up as a scolding, vicious old hag; is that the story, or is it really two plays? The Duke of Suffolk had it in his power to make this starlet into Queen of England, if she perhaps cared to visit his casting couch. Her answer was she had to ask her father, and if you believe that, you will believe anything. With the right stage directions you might imply she was a remarkably dutiful victim, unless the stage directions strongly implied: OK, buddy, you've got a deal.
That's just the beginning, almost the preliminary. You can can go on to portray her quite another way, as the ambitious mother of the Prince of Wales, about to lose his title to the throne because his cuckholded father was a useless coward. She wasn't going to let that happen, no matter who got stabbed to prevent it.
Or, Margaret the Survivor, losing battles with the York faction, then like Saint Joan rallying the hesitant Lancastrians to lose yet another battle and get killed some more. Then fleeing over the channel, to see if the King of France couldn't be sweet-talked into supporting her cause. Thanks, pal; and then she lost his army, too. As we say in South Philadelphia, that dame is Big Trouble.
The Shakespere (be sure you spell it right) Society meets regularly in a cobble-stoned alley near the Philadelphia theater district. The tables don't have carved initials on them, like Mory's, but they don't have tablecloths, either. They admit a new member every few years when someone dies, and they take their Elizabethan literature pretty seriously. The Variorum Shakespeare was created by this group. It was founded by Horace Howard Furness, the brother of Frank Furness the architect. That name is pronounced a little funny, too, which if you are from Philadelphia I don't need to instruct you about.
|the battles and kings associated with the War of the Roses|
Laboring under the burden of this intellectual heritage, the society has to consider some broader implications of the story of Margaret of Anjou. The decontructionists who have recently achieved university tenure tend to challenge most of the settled views on Shakespeare, but in this matter we start with a fresh slate. Doesn't the chaotic period of the War of the Roses stand between two strong Kings, Henry V of Agincourt, and Henry VIII? Wouldn't Shakespeare, that stalwart defender of anointed majesty, have approved the moral that any strong king is better for the nation than any weak one? Maybe that's a theme that should run through our new Shakespearean play. Maybe our play ought to start with Henry V on a high step behind a stage screen, giving his speech to rally the English longbows (We happy few, we band of brothers); and end with Henry VIII, always ready to rise above principle.
Or perhaps the play might make English-French relationships be the core, from William the Conqueror through five centuries, until the English finally do discard the Continent, and Britainnia rules the waves. It's a little hard to imagine Shakespeare, the ultra-English patriot, as an apologist for a united Europe, but perhaps it could be managed.
If that seems too partisan, perhaps Philadelphia could find a peaceful theme. What, after all, was accomplished by the War of the Roses? Does anyone really care who got promoted from earl to duke, or whose great-grandfather had which great grand nephew? One is reminded that the two branches of Philadelphia Quakerdom, the Hicksites and the Orthodox, for a century scolded each other bitterly over doctrinal matters of little present concern. And then Rufus Jones brought them together for annual luncheons, giving a white rose to members of one faction as they entered the door, and a red rose to members of the other. The rules of the luncheon were always the same: nobody could sit next to a person wearing the same color of rose.
|William Lyon Phelps|
Billy Phelps, that's William Lyon Phelps, once remarked he had watched a performance of every single Shakepeare play, except two. That put the idea in my young impressionable head, and eventually my wife and I watched a performance of every single one of those plays. Some of these blur in my recollection, a little. And although watching those thirty-six performances was a great overall experience, I would have to say that about fifteen of them seemed very poor. It's particularly vexing that several of the bad plays were written after most of the divinely wonderful ones, so their poor quality can't be blamed on inexperience, and the whole thing is a little hard to explain.
Indeed, if you did nothing but read the plays, you would think many more of them are of poor quality. But in the hands of a clever director, the bloody plays like Titus Andronicusare extremely effective; one easily sees why Elizabethan audiences flocked to see the melodrama. That's also true of the scenes of shipwrecks and storms , as seen in The Tempest and ,Pericles, or on land in King Lear. And the silly little comedies, with ladies in disguise or twins confused, are delightful little jigs on the stage when you actually see them performed. The experience leads to the question whether some of the other plays are not poor at all, just misunderstood.
After sixty years of intense devotion to a scientific specialty, the Shakespere Society of Philadelphia created a refuge to return to. After long sensing that scientific colleagues regarded attendance at thirty-six plays as a strange quirk, here was a group which regarded it as an achievement to be respected. A group which understood that the only times Shakespeare signed his own name, he spelled it Shakespere. And who took seriously the idea that some of the inferior plays in the canon might well have been written, wholly or in part, by some other person.
It thus happens that this group, after fifty years of avoiding it, was restudying Pericles. The tradition has been that this secondary play was written about the same time as King Lear, although it is hard to believe. Eminent scholars regard the first two acts as having been written by someone else, while the last three acts were written by Shakespeare, but this group thought it questionable that any of Pericles measured up to standard. The speeches are choppy, the plot jumps all about, the characters seem unreal. And then we come to neglection. As in the speech by
The following is nearly verbatim recounting of a conversation which took place in Philadelphia, between two Philadelphians, in the year 2006, Elizabeth II reigning. The scene is the dressing room for the basement exercise area of a private club. There are about forty stalls for members to hang up their clothes before going into the gym. Although clothes are usually seen hanging in no more than three or four stalls, on this particular day there was only one empty stall, at the far end of the long corridor.
FIRST STRANGER: Well, we certainly have a lot of athletes in the club, today.
SECOND STRANGER: You're very generous with that description of our members.
FIRST STRANGER: Perhaps I ought to call them athlete-wannabees.
SECOND STRANGER: Yes, that's apt.
Shakespeare would have expressed it a little better, but anyone can recognize in this little exchange, the elements of those short interlude scenes in Shakespearean plays. The bit players create brief background while the stagehands shift scenery between major acts. Nobody actually has an Elizabethan accent these days, but in Quaker and Upper-Crust Philadelphia circles, the Elizabethan manner of speaking pops out at odd moments, as a code way of asking strangers, "Are you a native Philadelphian? You sort of look like one." If the stranger doesn't seem to grasp the idea, well, let it pass.
In the more remote sections of the Delmarva peninsula, it is claimed the natives often do speak in a pure Elizabethan accent. Somehow I am dubious of that, having listened for it over sixty years of travel in those regions. Rural Delaware talks with a softened version of a Southern accent, even softer than you hear in Tidewater Virginia. It's hard to believe that Marlowe and Shakespeare talked like that. But go into a roadside coffee shop and listen to the truck drivers joshing the waitress; it's not an accent but an Elizabethan manner of address that's recognizable. They self-consciously stop talking that way when obvious strangers come into the shop.
Because of Dr. Samuel Johnson's dictionary, Shakespearean adjectives pepper English speech in all regions of the world. Johnson was a theater critic in his early days, so when he needed familiar quotations to illustrate the words in his dictionary, he drew heavily from Shakespeare. William Shakespeare's tendency to invent likely vocabulary was thus enshrined by Johnson's dictionary as
|Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead|
A few Broadway seasons ago, Tom Stoppard's play and movie Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead described an experience, resonating with the early years of the Reagan presidential administration. If you are a small witness to palace politics, you mostly have no clue about what is actually happening. At that time, it was widely accepted among Washington gossips that the appointees who filled the Executive Office Building belonged to three hostile tribes in temporary alliance, and the Libertarian tribe was cast out. According to this recounting, the other two tribes were the Religious Right, and the Win-at-any-cost California political professionals. A more mature view of it might be that all administrations of all parties contain hard-noses who make a profession of the ruthless winning of elections. An ideological president can't win without hard-ball lieutenants, so although their presence is inevitable, what matters is how well they are controlled.
Ignoring these unattractive fixtures of political machinery, David Stockman seemed to symbolize a libertarian economic ideology within the Reagan White House, and Caspar Weinberger a militaristic one. When Stockman was sacrificed to power realities in Congress, the Libertarians followed the lead of William Niskanen and bitterly retreated to the neighborhood think tanks. But a few years later, Weinberger was similarly sacrificed over the Star Wars and Iran-Contra matters.These functionaries working at EOB thought they ran the country, but that most affable of men, Ronald Reagan, ran things. He seriously meant to discredit New Deal economics and to win the Cold War. To do so, he willingly sacrificed small improvements in our economic system like the Medical Savings Account, and minor enhancements of military hardware like the Strategic Defense Initiative. He would like to see these things succeed, but they would have to do it on their own, without cost to his political capital.
And so, in time, John McClaughry went back to Vermont, founded a think tank called the Ethan Allen Institute, ran unsuccessfully for governor against Howard Dean, and became Majority Leader in the Vermont Senate. Meanwhile, I devoted my efforts to selling the Medical Savings Account concept to that most reserved of audiences, the American Medical Association.
|Elizabeth Robbins Pennell|
There are several million people living in Philadelphia, but of course, not all of them are real Philadelphians. >Elizabeth Robbins Pennell, a friend and biographer of James McNeill Whistler, tells us the definition of a real Philadelphian in 1914.
"I think I have a right to call myself a Philadelphian, though I am not sure if Philadelphia is of the same opinion. I was born in Philadelphia, as my father was before me, but my ancestors, having had the sense to emigrate to America in time to make me as American as an American can be, were then so inconsiderate as to waste a couple of centuries in Virginia and Maryland, and my Grandfather was the first of the family to settle in a town where it is important, if you belong at all, to have belonged from the beginning. However, [my husband's] ancestors, with greater wisdom, became at the earliest available moment not only Philadelphians, but Philadelphia Friends, and how much more that means Philadelphians know without my telling them. And so, as he does belong from the beginning, and as I would have belonged had I had my choice, for I would rather be a Philadelphian than any other sort of American, I do not see why I cannot call myself one despite the blunder of my forefathers in so long calling themselves something else."
--Our Philadelphia, 1914
|Paul Robeson 1898-1976|
Everyone with international fame and fortune seems to belong to another planet, but Paul Robeson belongs to the Philadelphia region as much as to any locality. He was born in Princeton, of a black minister who went to Lincoln University, and a mother of Quaker heritage. Not only an All-American football player, he won twelve varsity letters. He not only was accepted to Columbia Law School, but the only black person in the class became its Valedictorian. Later on, his amazing baritone voice made him the perfect person to sing "Old Man River" in the musical Showboat, and quite a different dimension emerged in his highly memorable portrayal of
|Paul Robeson as Othello|
Shakespeare's Othello. He was combative athlete, nobody's fool, and had a commanding stage presence. It was scarcely surprising that he resented the social slights he encountered in his upward mobility, or in a time when many people -- not just in show business -- were leaning leftward, that he frightened people with his praise of Communist Russia and seeming incitement of his race to rebellion.
Probably the first false note in this tragedy was his resignation from a prestigious New York law firm because a white secretary insulted him. No defensive explanation from his admirers could quite justify this unlikely story of a promising career cast aside for a trifling affront. Some of his foreign travels may have been entirely motivated by a search for social progress, but his several hospitalizations abroad do raise the possibility that he hoped to avoid publicity about his illness. The last two decades of his life were destroyed by undeniable mental illness. There are schools of psychiatric theory which contend that depression can be caused by severe life stresses, but majority opinion now mostly views such illness as an inherited disorder. In any event, he was born too soon. In recent years, the treatment of depression has much improved.
The failure of early promise is an old story, but in Robeson's case it was far more than personal decline, and more the hunting-down of a wounded animal. The son of an ex-slave, Robeson evoked memories of slave rebellions in the past with his mournful song of the Mississippi laborer, as did his vengeful destruction of the innocent Desdemona. His exploiters in the entertainment industry probably deserve some criticism for pushing him too far into a rebel image, and the ruthless manipulation of communist agitators during the 1930s is not a myth. So, there was really not much to prevent Senator Joseph McCarthy and his associates Cohn, Shine and Kennedy from converting the post-war fears of the nation into a circus of fearful demagoguery. Millions of people had just died in foreign wars, nations had been reduced to rubble, and vengeful heedlessness was on every side. It was not a pleasant time.
More than twenty years later, Paul Robeson died where he had been living with his sister, in West Philadelphia.
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, JANUARY 9, 2008:
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present: Ake, Bartlett, Bornemann, Di Stefano, Dobson, Dunn, Dupee, Fallon, Fisher, Friedman, Green, Hopkinson, Ingersoll, King, Madeira, and Peck. We were happy to welcome Mr. Dunn's guest Celeste Di Nucci, a graduate student in English at Penn, and a winner of large sums on TV for her vast fund of general knowledge. Her dissertation studies the history of performance of Shakspere's plays. We also welcomed Mr. Madeira's guest Luigi Sottile, a local actor who will appear this spring in the Lantern Theater's eagerly awaited production of Othello, starring Pete Pryor as Iago and Frank X as the noble Moor. Frank was a remarkable Prospero in Lantern's Tempest a year or two ago; Pete was a riveting Richard III in a fine recent Lantern production.
The hosts for the annual meeting and dinner on Shakspere's birthday will be the same group who hosted our 1997 dinner: Messrs. Cheston, Ingersoll and Wheeler. The venue will be announced shortly. Many thanks to these kind friends!
The Shakspere Festival of Philadelphia will stage Romeo and Juliet and Pericles in repertory from March till May of this year. This will be the first production of Pericles in our city in at least 150 yearsï¿½perhaps the first in Philadelphia history.
The Dean had a recent visit with our fellow member Spencer Ervin, a Maine resident who seldom has the chance to attend meetings, unhappily for all of us.
The Bartlett committee has met to discuss a plan for choosing a new Vice Dean; Dr. Fallon has urged the Society to find a successor for him in this post. We will try to identify likely academic candidates and invite them to lead some discussions next season.
The Vice Dean asked us how we respond to the "wringer/rollercoaster effect" of Lear's career in the tragedy that bears his name. Lear is absent from the stage from 3.6till 4.6. Meanwhile, in 4.2, the Bard underlines Albany's angry attack on his wife ("Thou changed and self-covered thing!")and her sister and brother in law for their savage treatment of the old king, out in the terrible storm, the gates shut on him and his few companions. His wife sneers: "Marry, your manhood, mew!" She privately expresses her lust for the macho bastard (in every sense) Edmund. Albany sees heavenly justice (a central concern of this play, the Vice Dean reminds us) in the killing of Cornwall by a servant after the nasty duke has gouged out Gloucester's eyes. Goneril denounces him for failing to form an army to attack the invading French. The Vice Dean suggested that many spectators in 1605 might have agreed with her! But the French come to protect the abused English king, not to take power from him.
4.3ï¿½Kent hears of Cordelia's landing in England with a French army to succor her father. He wonders how to explain the moral contrast between Cordelia and her vicious sisters: "The stars above us govern our conditions."
Lear feels "A sovereign shame" that "elbows him" because he had "stripped her from his benediction": a striking moral change for the better in the blustering autocrat of Act One.
4.4ï¿½Cordelia appears for the first time since Lear's denunciation of her in Act One; she says to herself, "O dear father, It is thy business that I go about": a striking reference, Dr. Fallon reminded us, to Christ's words in the Gospels. Is this loving daughter is a Christ figure? Surely not, he declared! Cordelia comes, not to sacrifice herself for others, but to win a military victory on her father's behalf!
Lear, we are told, has bedecked himself with wildflowers and weeds; as he becomes less rational, Dr. F. thinks, he becomes more sensitive to nature, and when he appears on stage so bedecked, he looks to us like a part of the natural world, the opposite of the vainglorious egotist obsessed with proclaiming his power in Act One. Madness is morally acute. We remember that the king has said when he first began to sympathize with the weak and poor, "See better, Lear; / Expose thyself to feel what others feel."
4.6---Edgar in disguise leads his father to the cliff's edge so that he may kill himself, and then assures the dazed old man that his life has been saved: "ï¿½the clearest godsï¿½have preserved theeï¿½Bear free and patient thoughts." The Vice Dean reminded us how hard it is to make this episode palatable on stage, but it makes sense thematically: the son uses shock therapy to reconcile his father to life. Vigorous discussion ensued! Edgar robs dad of his dignity, said one member. Another: The old man is reduced to an even more pitiable figure, even by the son who loves him.
WE MEET NEXT ON JANUARY THE TWENTY-THIRD. WE WILL RECOMMENCE READING AT THE POINT OF LEAR'S ENTRANCE IN ACT FOUR, SCENE SIX.
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, JANUARY 23, 2008:
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present: Ake, Bartlett, Binnion, Bornemann, Bovaird, Di Stefano, Fallon, Fisher, Griffin, Hopkinson, King, Mabry, Madeira, O'Malley, Peck, Pope, and Warden. We welcomed Mr. Madeira's guest Jacob Eden. Jacob was enthusiastic about his annual visits to the Oregon Shakspere Festival in Ashland (an appealing small town in the foothills of the mountains near the California border). The Secretary spent a week there with a lively Yale group last summer and strongly concurs with Jacob's praise of Ashland productions of plays both Bardish and contemporary.
Rudi has advised the Dean that the price of dinner must rise by three dollars a meal henceforth. It is our first increase in price in three years.
The April 23 annual meeting and dinner of the Society, hosted by Messrs. Cheston, Ingersoll and Wheeler, will be held at Guildford.
Professor Fallon recently was elected Milton Scholar of the Year for 2007 by the august Milton Society of America. Well done, thou good and faithful servant! The Vice Dean reported that the Modern Language Association, that huge confraternity of academic students of Eng. Lit., held a session during its annual meeting in late December entitled, in classic MLA style, "Epistemology of Crux." (Can't Letterman do something with that phrase?) It focused on subtle (tortured?) interpretations of Hamlet's confrontation with Gertrude in the Closet Scene, including discussions of flamboyant bedroom shenanigans in film versions.
Dr. Fallon reminded us of the Dean's long list of references to nature in King Lear. In Act Four, Lear shows himself more sensitive to the natural world. This affinity with nature is linked to the old man's demand for justice. Lear enters early in 4.6, after a long absence from the stage (at just about the same time in the dramatic action as Hamlet's extended absence after his departure for England). He is mentally unbalanced, and crowned with wildflowers. The Vice Dean thinks of Lear as talking truth, good sense, now that he is unhinged; his speech is "stripped of superficiality."
In 4.6, Lear raves at length about justice, his most frequent theme. The Vice Dean referred to the king's new compassion for the common man: the moral education of Lear continues. But Lear is also angry at the sexual corruption of judges, and (satirically?) denounces restrictions on the reign of riotous appetite, which, he proclaims, dominates all women. He is callous to the blinded Gloucester, but he speaks some of the play's most memorable phrases to the despairing duke: "Thou must be patient:/ We came crying hitherï¿½.When we are born, we cry that we are come/ To this great stage of fools." Then Lear fantasizes a jihad against his "son-in-laws": "Then kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!" And a minute later, he runs from the stage as if taking part in a children's game.
The Vice Dean wondered to what degree we now feel sympathy for Lear, still not exactly a warm, fuzzy fellow. A member was unmoved: the old autocrat caused his own problems, however villainous his enemies.
As if in echo of the king's bloodthirsty thoughts, Oswald now appears lusting for the blood of poor Gloucester, a murder that would win the servant reward from Goneril. Edgar confronts him, speaking like an unlettered West Country bumpkin; he is disdainfully cursed by the snobbish Oswald. Edgar then kills this tool of villainy and defends his vulnerable old father. We note the parallel and contrast with Cordelia's attempts to defend Lear.
The Vice Dean returned to the topic of justice in the play. Goneril and Regan have not broken the law, however strongly we condemn their callousness towards their father and their mutual hatred as they lust after Edmund. And then there are Edmund and Cornwall: BAD! Lear memorably pictures justice rendered in courts of law as a fraud, as judges eagerly seek money and sex in return for favorable verdicts. We recall Angelo's sexual demands on Isabella in order to save her randy brother's life. Lear's urge to condemn and even kill those he finds morally at fault reminded a member of the old man's horrifying attacks on Cordelia in the play's opening scenes. And we recall his later savage condemnations of his "unnatural" older daughters in later scenes.
Dr. Fallon emphasized the similar roles of Cordelia and Edgar in this fourth act. A Gentleman refers to Cordelia in religious terms: she "redeems nature from the general curse" of sinfulness so dramatically demonstrated in Lear's elder daughters. She of course is killed trying to defend her father. Edgar risks his life in combat with Oswald, as he has risked it in helping Gloucester after the duke's condemnation by Cornwall, Goneril, Regan and Edmund. Meanwhile Edmund hopes for his father's death and plays Goneril and Regan against each other.
WE MEET NEXT ON FEBRUARY 6, AND WILL RECOMMENCE OUR STUDY OF KING LEAR WITH DISCUSSION OF THE WONDERFUL SEVENTH SCENE OF ACT FOUR.
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, DECEMBER 12, 2001:
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present: Ake, Bartlett, Binnion, Bornemann, Cheston, Di Stefano, Dobson, Dunn, Dupee, Fallon, Griffin, Hopkinson, Madeira, O'Malley, Peck, Rivinus. Guest: J. Goldstein.
We were very happy to welcome to our midst the president of the Franklin Inn Club, Jonathan Goldstein, who read the words of the Bard with vigor and commented crisply and thoughtfully on the fifth act of Antony and Cleopatra. He welcomed us and assured us of the members' pleasure at our regular use of their clubhouse. Jonathan has found a number of old Shakespere texts in the library of the Franklin Inn Club that evidently have been left here at various times by members of the Society, and he has kindly donated or sent back to their place of origin these copies of the Bard's plays.
A member pointed out to us that beginning on December 23, thee will be versions of some of Shakspere's most famous plays presented on TV on the ITV cable network. The descriptions in print of the plots of these versions look like a bad joke, but if they arouse serious interest in the work of the Bard among a few of the young who might see these telecasts, honi soit qui mal y pense.
Mr. Griffin told us that he had recently had lunch with his Princeton classmate, our great good friend and fellow member Roland Frye, and that the Vice Dean emeritus had announced that he was "alive and well and living in Strafford." Secretary for Meetings Mr. Di Stefano asked that all those who had changed addresses recently would let him know promptly.
A member told us of his visit to a recent production of Macbeth at the Shakspere theater at the Folger Library (the scholar J.Q. Adams' version of the Globe in smaller dimensions, designed a half-century ago), with Huey Long's Louisiana as the setting, and the witches as political appointees assigned the task of vote counting. No report of hanging chads was forthcoming. Another member saw a recent production of Hamlet at the Shakspere Theater of Washington, enjoyed the work of Wallace Acton as Hamlet, but commented on the jarring nature of the introduction of modern rifles and soldiers' helmets adorning the armies in the battle scenes as the end of the play.
We commenced our reading of Antony and Cleopatra at the beginning of the long final scene , Act Five, Scene Two. Cleopatra confronts Caesar and negotiates to save her life. She first speaks to her courtiers about her readiness to kill herself rather than be humiliated, to do that great deed "which shackles accidents and bolts up change," in her wonderfully eloquent summary of the Roman stoic philosophy which guided Brutus and Cassius at the end of their lives. Antony, we were reminded, had told her that she should trust only Proculeius, but he in fact betrays her. Dolabella is her only trustworthy friend among the Romans, as in Plutarch, Shakspere's source. Cleopatra wants the throne of Egypt to descend to her sons; Caesar agrees, but in fact, Dolabella tells her , he intends to lead her captive to Rome to show off in a triumphal procession. We wonder if she will be able to kill herself before this humiliation which she has feared occurs.
A member commented on the jarring combination in Cleo. of eloquent nobility and her attempts to cling to Egyptian treasure for herself or her children. Members remarked on her usual duplicity here, wanting to keep power and to please others. She sees that Caesar is lying and trying to exploit her. Another member declared that Cleopatra never struggled with a moral question, in contrast to Antony, a more impressive figure.
Cleopatra prepares herself for death in a scene with a bizarrely comic element, the clown who brings her the poison asp that kills her. The Vice Dean commented on the appropriateness of a comic touch at this point, since her death is also her victory over Caesar. But of course cheek by jowl with farce we find some of the most gloriously moving language ever written in English. Iras tells the Queen, "Finish, good lady; the bright day is done,/And we are for the dark." Does any other minor character in Shakspere speak so eloquently in so few words? Cleo. thinks with vivid disgust of an adolescent boy (which, in fact, the actor of this part was in 1607) parodying her in the Roman theater: "I shall see/Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness/ I'the posture of a whore." When she is ready to face death, she declares herself "marble-constant, now the fleeting moon/Is no planet of mine." She dresses ceremonially for death: "Give me my robe, put on my crown: I have/Immortal longings in me.husband, I come/ Now to that name my courage prove my title! In a wonderful coup de theatre underlined by the Vice Dean, her companion Charmian reaches over to straighten Cleopatra's crown as she dies: "Now boast thee, death, in thy possession lies/ A lass unparallel'd.Your crown's awry:/I'll mend it, and go play."
Cleopatra is eloquent and brave at the end, but she betrays Antony perhaps three times earlier in the play. Members puzzled over her motives: to keep Antony's love and also protect her power, and her sons' chance to inherit power? Does love of Antony or of self dominate her? A member had the good luck to see Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench perform the parts of A and C in England in 1987. "They bring out the worst in each other," this member thinks of A and C, and Antony is the more important of the two, but both are sympathetic to the audience in contrast to the obnoxious, egotistical prig Caesar! A and C, others concluded, must be seen as a pair, not separated so that one can be blamed more than the other for the fall of both.
We turned to a few comments on our next play for study, Measure for Measure. A member recalled that Roland Frye had worked on the play when writing his doctoral thesis, after discovering that in a copy of the First Folio in the library of the Escorial in Spain, a part of the text of the play had been excised by a reader evidently appalled that the Duke would have the effrontery to take on a disguise and play the false part of a Catholic priest.
The Vice Dean reminded us that Measure for Measure is not a love story but an "Un-love story" where political power is the chief focus: corrupt authority both denies love and tries to force sexual compliance by threat.
Our next meeting will be January 9, 2002. We will begin our reading of Measure for Measure at that time.
Respectfully submitted, Robert G. Peck, Secretary for Minutes
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, NOVEMBER 28, 2001:
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present: Bartlett, Binnion, Bornemann, Cramer, Di Stefano, Dupee, Fallon, Fisher, Green, Hanna, Hopkinson, Madeira, Peck, Simmons, Warden, Wheeler.
Your scribe apologizes for a mistake in the last meeting's minutes: the current head of the Franklin Inn Club was not among us during that meeting, but we expect to greet him soon.-- Notice was taken of an article in a July issue of U.S. News, on the views of that hardy crew that insists that the Earl of Oxford wrote the Bard's plays. Appended documents quote a long list of famous actors and scholars who have swallowed this nonsense over the past few decades. Your scribe will provide a short digest of these documents at the next meeting, and in the minutes of that meeting. --Members are asked to inform Secretary for Meetings Di Stefano that they wish to attend a meeting at least twenty-four hours in advance of that meeting. A member called our attention to the fine chapter on Antony in the recently published collection of lectures on Shakspere by W. H. Auden. This was Auden's favorite of the Bard's plays. To Auden, the historical material is not important; the personal relationship of the two lovers gives the play its power because that is what kindles Shakspere's imagination and brings to life its extraordinary language. Cleopatra's desertion of Antony at Actium is the great crux of this relationship, in Auden's view. Only two members have been lucky enough to have seen productions of this play in the theater; one in Central Park, one in London with the great Helen Mirren as Cleopatra but Miss Mirren was roundly panned by the reviewers for her work in this production!
We began our reading with Act Four, Scene Two of Antony. Vice Dean Fallon noted that in Scene Two, Antony predicts his death, and reminded us that when a character has such premonitions in a play of the Bard, that death is sure to occur. All the rest of the play is set in Alexandria, in contrast to the vast geographical sweep of earlier scenes.
4.3A famous moment: unearthly music is heard, and a guard comments, "Tis the god Hercules, whom Antony lov'd, / Now leaves him." The Vice Dean pointed out that there is little of the supernatural in this play, as is generally true of Shakspere's plays. Macbeth and Hamlet are of course the notable exceptions, and we recall the brief appearance of Caesar's ghost to Brutus late in Julius Caesar. (One might also think of the wonderful moment when Hermione's "statue" seems to come to life at the end of The Winter's Tale. Her overwhelmed husband's reaction: "If this be magic, let it be an art/ Lawful as eating!")
4.4---A comic moment in preparation for the disaster at Actium that seals the fate of the famous lovers: Cleopatra "helps" Antony arm for battle, and of course is all thumbs, childishly ignorant about battle armor, costume from a realm alien to Egypt's erotic enchantress. The lovers play, as they do so often, it was pointed out; but the scene is poignant to auditors and readers. We know the story: soon they will both die.
4.5, 4.6---Enobarbus finally leaves Antony, after delaying almost as long as Hamlet in doing what he feels he must do. Once in Caesar's camp, he is full of remorse and self-castigation, vowing, "I'll not fight thee." In 4.9, Enobarbus commits suicide, saying, "My revolt is infamous" and denouncing himself as "A master-leaver." It was remarked that these final scenes with Enobarbus enhance Antony's character in our minds, since his often cynical, witty, unsparing critic is so despairing at leaving his master.
Actium: Cleopatra for the second flees the battle scene. Antony immediately declares that "All is lost./ This foul Egyptian has betrayed me." Her motives? We do not know them, but Antony is certain that her desertion is calculated, and he loses all will to carry on his contest with Caesar. However, we were reminded, in the play's final scenes Cleopatra seems utterly loyal to Antony, full of grief, devotion, love. Almost all their followers leave them, so they are left to focus entirely on each other and their intense mutual devotion, as Antony dies in his lover's arms.-- Antony has fallen on his sword earlier, after his loyal servant Eros has killed himself rather than fulfill his promise to kill his master to save him from capture and public humiliation in Rome. Members commented on the many repetitions of the name "Eros" by Antony in this scene, with its powerful symbolic overtones. -- Finding Antony's corpse, the victorious Caesar grieves and praises his great adversary--as he had, we were reminded, over the corpse of Brutus at the end of Julius Caesar. Caesar, a member remarked, has lost his most splendid opportunity to shine in the public arena now that his greatest adversary is gone.
Our next meeting is December 12, 2001. We will begin reading with Act Five, Scene Two of Antony and Cleopatra. We will then start reading our next play for study and discussion, Measure for Measure.
Respectfully submitted, Robert G. Peck, Secretary for Minutes
MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, NOVEMBER 7. 2001:
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members attending: Ake, Bornemann, Di Stefano, Dobson, Dunn, Fallon, Fisher, Green, Griffin, Madeira, Peck, Pickering, Pope, Simmons, Warden, Wheeler. Guest: J. Goldstein.
The Dean announced the happy news that Messrs. Green, Dunn, and Cramer have volunteered to host the 2002 annual dinner of the Society in honor of the Bard's birthday. We were concerned to hear that Matt Dupee has had to undergo a heart catheterization procedure, but "heartened" to know that all has gone well. An up-to date directory of the membership is included with these minutes, courtesy of our indefatigable Secretary for Meetings. As we prepared to read after dinner, we welcomed to our midst the current president of the Franklin Inn Club, Jonathan Goldstein.
We began our reading with Act Three, Scene Two of Antony and Cleopatra, and we read through the rest of this long and complex act. The text stimulated one of the most animated evenings of discussion in recent memory, with almost every member present anxious to air his views on one point or another. The Vice Dean stressed the rapid change of scenes and shifting settings of the action. A member recalled hearing in his youth Lord David Cecil's lecture on the play at Oxford, and Cecil's emphasis on the importance of panorama in Antony. In III.ii, we are touched by the painful parting of Octavia from her brother Octavius, who is so cold to all but his sister. Antony and his new bride are off to Greece, but we know where Antony's next travels will take him!
III.iii We are with Cleopatra and her court in Egypt. "Time stopped" while we were in Rome with Antony, commented the Vice Dean: Shakspere continues with the action in Egypt exactly where he left off in the last Egyptian scene in Act Two. The messenger from Rome, whom she beat earlier for unwelcome news, now carefully tells her what she wants to hear: Octavia is short, has a low forehead, is dull in speech, and worst/best of all, she is thirty!
III.iv--- Antony is furious at Octavius for insults to him, and loudly tells his new wife that he must defend his honor. Poor Octavia speaks eloquently of her divided loyalties, and of the terrible bloodshed that will follow if Antony does not restrain himself: "Wars 'twixt you twain would be/As if the world should cleave, and that slain men/ Should solder up the rift." She goes to seek her brother and to try to mend the quarrel; Antony has travel plans of his own the minute his new wife has turned the corner. A member commented on the interesting contrast of Octavia, full of moral integrity, to the scheming and selfish Cleopatra.
III.vi---Octavia pleads with her brother to make up the quarrel with her husband, but Octavius is as bitter against Antony as the latter is against him. He tells his naively unbelieving sister that her husband "gives his potent regiment to a trull." Octavius has had Lepidus liquidated, and has seized his possessions; the Vice Dean pointed out that Octavius made no effort to justify this gangland hit against a weaker rival for power. Octavius is "all business, a prig" so we are more sympathetic to Antony than we would otherwise be, despite his petulance and his adolescent emotional impetuosity. Antony has won big battles and has the respect of his veterans; Octavius, his rival, wins no hearts. But Antony is tied to Cleopatra, who to Romans is the very incarnation of moral decadence.
III.vii---Antony makes an irrational, unexplained decision to fight on sea, not on land, where he is the legendary world champion, against Octavius at Actium. Enobarbus eloquently protests, to no avail. Shakspere implies, without explicit statement, that Antony follows Cleopatra's will in this disastrous decision. He then flees the battle when she does, leaving the field for his rival. Is Cleopatra testing Antony's love? Is she protecting the Egyptian fleet? Is she only interested in protecting Egypt's interests, irrespective of Antony's fate? The Vice Dean commented on the notable contrast between Cleopatra and Elizabeth's brave eloquence addressing her troops when the Spanish threatened invasion when the Armada sailed in 1588. As to Cleo's influence over Antony, a member commented on the parallel to Lady Macbeth's disastrous influence on Macbeth in the play that the Bard probably wrote just before Antony.
III.x---Antony sails after the fleeing Cleo. The Roman Scarus comments that "Experience, manhood, honour, ne'er before/ Did so violate itself." Roman commanders plan to kneel to Octavius. Enobarbus stays with Antony, though reason argues against him.
III.xi---Antony, bitterly ashamed, asks his commanders to divide his gold and be gone to safety. Cleopatra enters to him; Antony condemns her influence over him, while acknowledging how completely she commands him. But once she has asked pardon, he is wholly in love again: "Fall not a tear, I say, one of them rates/ All that is won and lost."
III.xii---Antony in humiliation must send a mere schoolmaster to bargain with Octavius. Octavius will not listen to Antony's requests to retire to Greece to private life, but Cleopatra will be protected if she kills or hands over Antony to his rival.
III.xiii---Thidius, sent by Octavius to Cleopatra, is found kissing her hand by Antony, who has him whipped a shocking offense to Octavius. Antony challenges Octavius to a duel to settle their quarrel, provoking satiric scorn from Enobarbus. But Enobarbus struggles to justify staying true to Antony. As Cleopatra flatters Octavius' agent, Enobarbus declares that he must "find some way to leave" Antony. Cleopatra finds wonderful language to claim Antony's love once again. Antony, swinging from despair to jubilation, calls, "Come,/ Let's have one other gaudy night: call to us/ All my sad captains, fill our bowls once more." But Enobarbus hears only the voice of irrational infatuation, and declares, "I will find some way to leave him."
OUR NEXT MEETING WILL BE ON NOVEMBER 28. WE WILL BEGIN OUR READING AT ACT FOUR, SCENE ONE
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary for Minutes
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, OCTOBER 24, 2001
In the absence of Dean Wagner, Dean Emeritus Hopkinson in the chair. Other members present: Baird, Bartlett, Bornemann, Cramer, DiStefano, Dobson, Dupee, Fallon, Fisher, Friedman, Green, Griffin, Ingersoll, Madeira, Peck, Pope, Rivinus, Schlarbaum, Warden. Guest: Robert Fallon, Jr.
Your scribe apologized for defective minutes for the last meeting that went out to ten members; a complete minutes for the meeting of October 10, 200l is included with this mailing. Announcement was made of the fact that the Shakspere Festival of Philadelphia (producing its work upstairs at the Lutheran Church at 21st and Sansom Streets) is currently staging the Bard's historically seldom staged but currently rather fashionable late romance Cymbeline (probably written just a couple of years after our current play for reading, Antony). We were informed that our dear fellow member Roland Frye finds it a bit difficult to answer the telephone but would love to hear from his friends by mail. A new address list of members is currently in preparation; if you have not yet informed Secretary for Meetings DiStefano of changes of address or e-mail address or telephone number, please give him a call soon.
Vice Dean Fallon commented briefly before we began our reading of the second act of Antony and Cleopatra. Romantic passion did not express itself on Shakspere's stage by physical embraces and kisses, underscored by surging orchestral accompaniment, in the style of closeups in Hollywood films. Cleopatra, we must remind ourselves, was a preadolescent boy wearing a dress. (But what an actor he must have been for the bard to dare to write this part for him! Was he the same dazzling talent for whom the master created Lady Macbeth just a few months earlier?) Language creates sex appeal and passion in this play. The Vice Dean reminded us of the importance of the comments of Enobarbus as a shrewd and often sarcastic observer of this love affair: an analyst both repelled by his master's weakness in yielding to Cleopatra's seductive power and fascinated himself by the Egyptian queen's witchery. Cleo must maneuver between Antony and Octavius in order to keep her throne and to keep Egypt from succumbing completely to Roman power. Does love rule in Cleo or political desire? Or is it impossible to separate the two in her motives and actions? --In Act Two, the young Pompey is in rebellion against the triumvirate of Octavius, Antony and Lepidus, eager to rehabilitate the reputation of his father, once cheered by the Roman mob, killed in battle by Julius Caesar. The young man negotiates tensely with the triumvirs late in the act, after several scenes of tense negotiations between Octavius and his elder political partner and rival Antony. Both episodes end with peace pacts, but peace is clearly superficial and strained in both cases; we wait for explosions to come.
II.Pompey hopes Cleo will keep Antony hypnotized so as to prevent unity and military readiness among the triumvirate: he hopes that the lustful or "salt Cleopatra" will use her "witchcraft" to create "charms of love" so that the veteran seductress's "waned lip" will keep its power to "Tie up the libertine in a field of feasts" spiced by "cloyless sauce" that will endlessly sharpen Antony's appetite and dull his sense of honour. Pompey is then startled to hear that the Roman in fact is in the field, that military duty "Can from the lap of Egypt's widow pluck/ The ne'er-lust-wearied Antony."
II.iiOctavius, reunited with Antony, vigorously attacks him for dereliction of duty and wonders whether the latter did not "practice on my state" while away from Rome. Antony is hotly indignant: "My being in Egypt, / Caesar, what was't to you?...How intend you, practis'd?" Antony's relatives have warred on Octavius in Antony's name against Antony's desires, he insists. Octavius sneeringly replies, "You patch'd up your excuses" and ignored his partner's letters to Egypt "when rioting in Alexandria." Antony admits to a disabling hangover or three, but the attack goes on: "You have broken the article of your oath." "It cannot be," Octavius says a bit later, "we shall remain in friendship." But Antony leaps at the suggestion that he marry his partner/rival's sister Octavia so as to bind up past strife between them. When the great men depart, Enobarbus is grilled by his Roman friends about the orgies of Egypt. He replies with his wonderful speech about Cleo's barge on the Nile, which "like a burnish'd throne/ Burn'd on the water." Cleo conquers nature, which serves her and makes her seem a goddess. She has spellbound Antony with her pageants of beauty and with her intense and endless energy, sometimes expressed in baroque ceremonial, sometimes in its opposite: "I saw her once/Hop forty paces through the public street,/And having lost her breath, she spoke, and panted,/That she did make defect perfection,/And, breathless, power breathe forth." Antony will never leave her, since "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale /Her infinite variety.she makes hungry,/ Where most she satisfies."
II.iii Antony shows that Enobarbus is right: "I will to Egypt;/ For though I make this marriage for my peace,/ In th'East my pleasure lies." Antony moves his place, but once moved, yearns to be elsewhere.
II.v---In Egypt, Cleo wonders with her ladies how to keep Antony in the same way as "I will betray/Tawny-finn'd fishes [on] my bended hook." She recalls their erotically playful crossdressing, he as Queen Cleo, she armed with his sword. She hears the horrid news of Antony's marriage. Cursing the messenger, she "strikes him down" and "hales him up and down," in the wonderfully vivid stage directions of the old Arden edition, saying to him, "I'll spurn thine eyes/ Like balls before me."
II.vi---Back in Sicily, Pompey parleys and parties with the triumvirs and strikes a deal that avoids battle much to the disgust of his father's old military companion Menas, who had tried to get young Pompey to cut his rivals' throats while he had the chance. The young man would have loved the deed, but honor will not permit him to arrange it himself.
III.i---In this scene in Parthia, always cut in production, Ventidius refrains from gaining too great a victory for Rome over the Parthians glory must be reserved for Antony!
OUR NEXT MEETING WILL BE HELD ON NOVEMBER 7, 2001
Robert G. Peck , Secretary for Minutes
.MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, OCTOBER 10, 2001
The Shakspere Society began its new season, happy to meet again at the Franklin Inn Club, with Dean Wagner in the chair, and the following members in attendance: Binnion, Bornemann, Cramer, DiStefano, Dunn, Fallon, Friedman, Green, Griffin, Hopkinson, Lehmann, Madeira, O'Malley, Peck, Pickering, Simmons, Wagner, Wheeler. Vice Dean Fallon's son Rob Fallon, an environmentalist from Oregon, was present as his father's guest, heartily welcomed by all. Dean Wagner began with some unhappy news about our members: Harry Langhorne died in Virginia last May; Jodie Dobson's son Mark died in early September. The members of the Society extend their heartfelt sympathy and condolences to member of Harry Langhorne's family and to our dear friend Jodie Dobson. Roland Frye has suffered from bad health but is recovering and is expected back among us shortly, we were very happy to hear. Jim Warden, after several years in London, is now back in Philadelphia, and we hope to see him at dinner with us in the near future. Jim Massey, who is living in London, has resigned his membership in the Society.
Your scribe was asked by the dean to say a word about his playgoing travels this summer. I was the grateful recipient of a grant from the Haverford School parents so that my wife Leila and I could spend two weeks in London and Stratford, and then five days in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, seeing plays. All in the name of duty, my friends. We saw Macbeth and King Lear at the new Globe in London, and in Stratford King John, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet. The Globe provides a remarkably intimate ambiance for playgoing relative to the size of the audience in attendance, standing around the platform and sitting in the two tiers of balconies. One is very conscious of the other theatergoersï¿½distracting to some, but to me an intensification of the emotional impact of seeing these plays. The Lear was largely traditional in concept, aside from some marginal gimmickry in staging. The acting was crisp, energetic, forceful, especially the work of the women. But the language was rushed, I thought: focus was on action, blocking, pacing, not on eloquent poetry. That was even more true of the Macbeth, which was funny and lively in the treatment of the witches (party hats, kazoos, grotesque dances, comic voices), and always clever in staging. Lady M was chilling, arresting, powerful. But where was the anguish of Macbeth and his queen? Where was the moral crisis each one faced, the religious judgment Macbeth felt with such agony in the play's late scenes? Where was the actor who would treasure the most wonderful language ever written in English for the stage? In Stratford, a lively, extravagant pageant for King John, which your scribe wrote about at excruciating length for his dissertation and never expected to see on stage in this life; a uniformly spectacular Twelfth Night, captivating in every scene, every speech, every word of dialogueï¿½although the Viola might have been more varied, artful and nuanced in her speeches of love; and an impressive but rather cold Hamlet, spectacular rather than moving. The staging of Hamlet was wonderfully suited to the play's psychological world: a huge and bare stage, lighting either cold and glaring or deeply obscured; characters often physically separated from each other by huge sterile spaces, so that speeches seemed launched into emptiness, unheard or unheeded by others. The ghost, for once, was not silly or flat or embarrassing. But Hamlet, though articulate and intense, speaking every word with crisp conviction, seemed irritable, angry, gloomy, depressedï¿½but never a man facing ultimate questions about the meaning of life and the nature of familial or erotic love.
As to the Shaw, no Shakspere, but eight shows, all wonderfully well staged and acted. One was a stinker, Edwin Drood, but the others great fun,and the production of Pirandello's Six Characters a revelation about the psychological power of a play I had seen as only of Philosophical interest.
Bill Madeira reported that a summer Twelfth Night was beautiful in stagingï¿½"like a Watteau"ï¿½and enlivened by fine acting, especially the work of Paxton Whitehead as Malvolio. The PA Shakspere Festival put on a wonderful Romeo this summer; Bob Fallon thought the Juliet especially fine. A recent Princeton Romeo production at McCarter was criticized in comparison. Winter's Tale in Williamstown featured a remarkable performance by Kate Burton. (Your scribe has just seen MissBurton as an arresting Hedda Gabler on Broadwayï¿½but in his opinion, our friend Grace Gonglewski offered a more nuanced and complete portrait two seasons ago at the Arden). A portrait of an Elizabethan man has appeared in Ontario which purports to show the Bard at 39. It evidently dates from the early 1600's, but whether the subject is Shakspere is debatable.
Vice Dean Fallon introduced our reading and discussion of Antony and Cleopatra. The play is a sequel, historically, to Julius Caesar, though written perhaps eight years later, after the other major tragedies of the Bard. The action coversabout ten years, from 40 till 30 BC (BCE to politically correct readers). The second triumvirate have divided the empire. Antony rules all the Roman lands east of the capital. He has gone to Egypt and become entranced,mesmerized, drugged by Cleopatra. Antony is 42, the queen 29ï¿½old enough in the ancient world so that in the play she is haunted by the specter of age. Cleo is Shakspere's best portrait of a mature woman. She is a legend: even in Rome, she is the principal subject of gossip and worry. She keeps her hold on Antony by constantly keeping him off balance, surprised, defensive, puzzled, charmed by her changing moods. Cleo's magic is in her language, as rich and varied as the words the master gave to any of his creations. The Roman Enobarbus is a frequent commentator on Cleo's words and actions, how she keeps Antony from his Roman duty. Egyptian decadence is dramatized in early scenes: "sensuous, self-indulgent, trivial," in the vice dean's words. In scene two, Antony tries to recover his sense of Roman duty, reflecting on the death of his wife : "She's good, being gone"ï¿½and determines thathe must "from this enchanting queen break off" and return to Rome. "These strong Egyptian fetters I must break/ Or lose myself in bondage," says Antony, reprogrammed for the moment as a dutiful Roman. In scene three, Cleo plays her usual part: "If you find him sad, / Say I am dancing; if in mirth, report/ That I am sudden sick." But Antony declares that duty calls him to Rome, though "my full heart/ Remains in use to you." Cleo accuses him of "excellent dissembling" in declaring love, that she is "all forgotten." Antony hotly declares that "I should take you for idleness itself." Rome rules in himï¿½for the moment.
OUR NEXT MEETING IS WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24.
Respectfully submitted, Robert G. Peck, Secretary for Minutes
THE ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTIETH ANNUAL DINNER OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA ON SHAKSPERE'S BIRTHDAY, APRIL 23,2001, AT BOLINGBROKE, RADNOR, PA.
Members present at the auspicious occasion of the sesquicentennial annual dinner of the Society: Ake, Baird, Bartlett, Binnion, Bornemann, Cheston, Cooke, Cramer, Di Stefano, Dobson, Dunn, Dupee, Ervin, Fallon, Fisher, Friedman, Frye, Green, Griffin, Hanna, Hopkinson, Horwitz, Ingersoll, O'Malley, Peck, Pickering, Rivinus, Schlarbaum, Scott, Wagner, Wheeler.
Dean Wagner, resplendent in his ceremonial chain of office, greeted a particularly festive and numerous gathering at this year's annual dinner to honor the Bard on his birthday: for the first time, the Society welcomed the spouses and partners of many of the members to the annual dinner. We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to the hosts of this splendid feast: Frank Baird, Peter Binnion, Gary Schlarbaum and Philip Wagner. Our brief formal proceedings before dinner began with a moment of sympathetic silence honoring the memory of Louisa Foulke, the recently deceased wife of 67 years of the much esteemed senior member of our Society, Bill Foulke. The Dean paid eloquent tribute to the retiring Vice Dean, our dear friend, Roland Frye, who has guided the members' after-dinner discussions of the Bard's plays with tact, patience, learning and wit for many years. We welcome with enthusiasm our new Vice Dean, the erudite Robert Thomas Fallon, who so ably led our discussions during the past season. The other officers of the Society will continue to exercise their responsibilities next season: Dean Wagner, Secretary for Minutes Peck, Secretary for Meetings Di Stefano, Treasurer O'Malley, and Librarian Binnion. Business concluded with admirable efficiency, the feast began! The gentlemen's elegant but sober formal garb set off by contrast the beautiful and graceful attire of the ladies we welcomed enthusiastically to our midst on this gala occasion. In the midst of our sumptuous repast, the Dean led the assembled gathering in the traditional birthday dinner toast: "To William Shakspere!" Members' souvenirs of this memorable moment in our Society's history included not only the traditional menu of the feast, with appropriately witty quotations from this year's plays by Sweet William, but a special poster in living color memorializing our sesquicentennial gathering. Onwards and upwards! Per aspera ad astra! And still he cried "Excelsior!"
Respectfully submitted, Robert G. Peck, Secretary for Minutes
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, JANUARY 8, 2003
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present: Ake, Bartlett, Bornemann, Cheston, Cramer, Di Stefano, Dobson, Dunn, Dupee, Fallon, Fisher, Green, Griffin, Ingersoll, Lehmann, Madeira, Peck, Pickering, Warden.
The Dean thanked the members of the ad hoc committee on membership for their prompt and thoughtful work. They included the Rt. Rev. Mr. Bartlett, chairman, and Messrs. Friedman, Green, Madeira, Warden, and Wheeler. Mr. Bartlett presented the committee's report. The committee considered the several emails and letters received by the Dean before their meeting in mid-December (including comment from some of the Society's most senior and most admired members). The committee's recommendations are summarized below.
First, the society might accept guidelines but should not bind itself by formal rules. Second, our goals in electing new members should be to further sociability among members and to increase the likelihood of stimulating discussions of Shakspere's plays. Third, we must be careful not to expand our membership to such a degree that the usual number attending our biweekly dinner meetings is so large that sociability is hindered. Many members feel that this number should on the average be less than twenty. Fourth (a related point), we now have forty-two "active" (dues-paying) members, and we do not wish to create a separate "inactive" category for those who can no longer attend regularly. These are further reasons why we must "be discreet about adding to our numbers."
The committee's next recommendations involved the election process. At the start of each season, the Society's officers should recommend guidelines for the year about membership needs: numbers, and. perhaps, "academic qualifications, age, diversity." At least two members should sponsor a candidate for membership, both of whom have a more than superficial acquaintance with the prospective member. Candidates should have attended at lest two of our dinner meetings. Proposers should then seek the advice of officers as to whether and when a candidate should be proposed for election. Election should be by secret ballot; the committee recommended a two-thirds affirmative vote of those present when the vote is taken.
Vigorous discussion ensued, with comments from many members about many aspects of these recommendations, especially as to how to decide election of a new member. Perhaps all members should be asked to vote, if they wish, for a new member, by communicating with the Dean, with notice well in advance of a final count. Perhaps three-quarters of votes cast should be needed for election. Are three or four or five negative votes sufficient to disqualify a candidate regardless of the number of affirmative votes? Given the variety of opinions expressed, Mr. Bartlett has decided to reconvene his committee to reconsider this particular issue.
The committee recommends that before we consider other candidates for membership, we vote on the two gentlemen who were proposed for membership this fall by Messrs. Ake and Lehmann. The committee suggested that we then consider women candidates; that we elect two women when suitable candidates are proposed; and that we then declare a temporary moratorium on election of new members, a policy to be reviewed at the start of our next season. Such a moratorium would not preclude visits to dinner meetings by guests, male or female.
More animated discussion ensued! The Dean finally proposed that all members be advised that a vote on whether women should be eligible for election to the Society will be taken at the dinner meeting of February 5, 2003. Those who cannot be present may vote by expressing their wishes to the Dean or the Secretary, by email or telephone or regular mail, before this meeting. Women will be declared eligible for election if that policy is favored by three quarters of those who vote.
The Vice Dean introduced our first reading of Two Gentlemen of Verona in half a century. This play is written in the long tradition of literature of love stemming from the rise of courtly love in the Middle Ages. The anguished lover writes poems or letters to his beloved, telling her how he worships her and how she tortures him by her disdainï¿½even though he knows how unworthy he is of her love. The topic, and the witty treatment of language, replete with lots of word play, rapid repartee in stichomythia, and both comic and serious treatment of love, remind us of other early plays of the Bard like Love's Labor's Lost and Romeo and Midsummer Night's Dream. Witty and disrespectful servants who both help and hinder lovers are frequent in this tradition of comedy from Plautus and Terence's Roman plays on. They are represented here by Speed and Lucetta. In the first act. We also meet Launce, one of Shakspere's earliest oafish farcical characters. Like Dogberry, he murders the language and cannot keep a train of thought going without tripping over both ideas and words.
In Act Two, we are in Milan, where Proteus has been forced to join his friend Valentinus and to leave behind his adored Julia. In the first scene, the servant Speed wittily (and laboriously) explains to his eager but dull master Valentinus that the beautiful Silvia avoids writing love letters to Val that might embarrass her if they were discovered; but she returns Val's love letters to her to the ardent lover, saying they are for him. Val doesn't get it; Speed patiently spells out the clever girl's compliment to her attractive but thickheaded pursuer.
We will begin reading of Two Gentlemen of Verona at Silvia's entrance in Act Two, Scene One when we next meet on January 22, 2003.
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
Vice Dean Fallon in the chair. Other members present: Ake, Bartlett, Binnion, Bornemann, Cramer, Friedman, Griffin, Lehmann, Madeira, Peck, Warden, Wheeler.
We remind all members of the Society that at our next meeting on February 5, a vote will be taken on whether to admit women to membership in the Society. Members who cannot be present may vote by indicating their preference to the Dean or the Secretary, by email, snail mail or telephone, before that dinner meeting. Women will be eligible for membership if three-quarters of the votes cast are in the affirmative. We will discuss other membership issues at future meetings, based on recommendations by the "Bartlett Commission.".
The Secretary wishes to thank Mr. Ingersoll, on behalf of all the members, for rediscovering a treasure trove of Society books and memorabilia in the library of the Philadelphia Club, where we held our meetings for many years. This collection includes old editions of the Bard's plays and scholarly books on Shakspere from the early and mid-twentieth century. They include Roland Frye's magisterial studies Shakespeare and Christian Doctrine and The Renaissance "Hamlet". We also have former member Alfred Harbage's Shakespeare and the Rival Traditions, given to the Society by Mrs. Harbage, presumably after Professor Harbage's death in 1976. Several of the older members of the Society, including your scribe, remember both of the Harbages with great fondness.
Most precious of the Society's volumes at the Philadelphia Club are a short history of the Society in its earliest decades, and two collections of annual dinner menus and other memorabilia from the years1856 till 1921 They are a mine of interesting information about a vanished social and cultural world. To wit:.At the annual dinner in 1856, nine courses were served, and new selections of wine were served with all but the initial oysters and the final rum cake. Brandy, vintages 1800 and1820, was served before and after dinner, and three kinds of punch were served with dessert.
Evidence from other menus suggests that annual dinners in the nineteenth century began at five or five-thirty PM and adjourned at about eleven PM. Toasts were numerous, including those to bachelor members and then to "Benedick brothers"ï¿½explained by the quotation from the fifth act of Much Ado included in one menu, "Here comes Benedick, the married man." Nineteenth-century annual dinners included "Literary Exercises,"--with a long list of topics for discussion. Were these disquisitions always welcome after nine courses, seven wines and some brandy? The quotation that accompanies one list of topics is from Bottom: "I have an exposition of sleep come upon me."
The Vice Dean introduced discussion of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which we began reading in the middle of Act Two, Scene One. The comic character Speed reminds us of a series of witty, even brazen servants in the Bard's plays, his speeches replete with outrageous plays on words. He is contrasted to the loutish Launce, who in Dogberry-like fashion murders the Queen's good English by ridiculous malapropisms. A member recalled a British student production of the play some twenty years ago, with the comic characters' lines spoken at great speed.
Members relished the soliloquy of Launce to his shoes, who become his parents as they bewail his departure for foreign shoresï¿½in sharp contrast to his dog Crab, who callously refuses to shed a tear (2.3).
More on comic language:The Vice Dean noted the sarcastic jibes of Valentine to his rival in loveThurio, about the verbose Thurio's "exchequer of words" without substance.
2.6ï¿½Proteus wrestles with his conscience in a long soliloquy, admitting that he is about to be unfaithful to both his lady and his best friend, but exclaiming that he cannot resist his sudden new passion for Silvia. He will tell Silvia's father of Valentine's plan to ascend to her balcony, so to speak, and steal her away that night. He villainously congratulates himself on his quick wit in thwarting his old friendï¿½recalling later villains like Richard of Gloucester and Iago who revel in their dastardly betrayal of those who trust them.
3.1ï¿½A scene full of tediously extended speeches by Proteus, Silvia's father, and Valentine, who is made a fool of by the duke, now aware of Proteus's plan to steal Silvia from her locked room. Members commented that Shakspere learned in later plays to be much more forcefully concise and dramatically effective in such scenes. However, we remember some similarly windy speeches by Juliet's mother and father in a later play about lovers who plot to deceive the girl's parents so that she can escape their control and go off with the man she loves.
. 4.4ï¿½Launce is given another long farcical soliloquy about Crabï¿½in language much more vivid, inventive, and entertaining than most of the blank verse in the play.
WE WILL MEET NEXT ON FEBRUARY 5 AND BEGIN READING TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA AT 4.4. 107(SILVIA'S ENTRANCE).
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, FEBRUARY 5, 2003
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present: Bartlett, Binnion, Bornemann, Cramer,Di Stefano, Dupee, Fallon, Fisher, Frye, Griffin, Hopkinson, Ingersoll, Lehmann, Madeira, O'Malley, Peck, Warden, Wheeler.
Members are grateful to Messrs. Friedman, Pope and Madeira for hosting the 2003 Annual Dinner on the Bard's birthday, Wednesday, April 23 The probable site will be the Awbury Arboretum in Germantown.
Dr. Orville "Pete" Horwitz, a longtime member of this Society, died on January 28 at the age of 93. A memorial service will be held on February 7 at eleven AM at the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr. Senior members recalled that Dr. Horwitz had loved the Society and had attended meetings faithfully for many years. He was a veteran of the Battle of Midway, and during his Navy service in World War Two he was awarded the Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters. He went on to a distinguished career as cardiologist and medical scholar in Philadelphia. He is survived by his wife of almost seventy years, Natalie, a niece of John Foster Dulles. Members grinned at memories of Dr. Horwitz's vigorous role in an annual competition among men's clubs from New York, Boston and Philadelphia to decide whose members could tell the funniest off-color stories. Dr. Horwitz starred in this competition, borrowing stories from his Trenton barber.
Mr. Dupee recently visited our senior member, Mr. Foulke, in Florida, and brings Mr. Foulke's cordial greetings to all Society members. Mr. Dupee also reported that he has arranged, on behalf of the of the annual Shakspere competition among local high schools students, for Society members Fallon and Peck to play a role this year. All twenty-eight of the young people competing will be presented with copies of Dr. Fallon's recently published reader's guide to Shakspere's plays. Dr. Peck will be one of the judges of this year's contest, to be held at the Walnut Street Theater on President's Day, February 17, from 9:00 AM through the afternoon. Each of the young people, winners of contests at their respective schools, will recite a passage of some twenty lines from one of the Bard's plays, and one of Shakspere's sonnets. The winner here goes on to a competition among regional winners in New York City.
Members voted on whether they favored allowing women to be eligible for membership in the Society. Several members not present had already expressed their opinions to the Secretary or the Dean. Dean Wagner announced that the final tally was eighteen votes in the affirmative, thirteen in the negative, and nine active members not voting. The motion was therefore defeated, since it did not receive the support of three-quarters of those voting. Women guests are of course always welcome. A couple of members commented that we have no rules either welcoming or rejecting the candidacy of women to be members of the Society. Presumably anyone proposed as a member, according to whatever criteria we decide on following in the future, is eligible for election. The Bartlett Committee will shortly make recommendations as to what these criteria should be.
We elected to membership in the Society Mr. Jonathan Schmalzbach, proposed as a candidate by Mr. Lehmann. We will welcome another dinner visit in the near future by Mr. Ake's friend Michael Mabry, who visited us twice in October.
We completed our reading of The Two Gentlemen of Verona in short order. We noted in Act Four that the disguised Julia analyzes her feelings about her perfidious lover Proteus at some length; she prefigures articulate psychologists of love in Shakspere's later and better romantic plays. Julia and Silvia are by far the most vigorous and strongminded characters in this weak play, suggesting Rosalind and Juliet and Viola and Olivia, and even, perhaps, Desdemona, in later masterpieces about conflicted love. In Act Five, we visit the forest, so often a symbolically important setting for scenes in the Bard's plays of love, as in Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It. Strong emotions cause turmoil, but are reordered after threats to lovers' happiness.
WE MEET NEXT ON FEBRUARY 19, 2003, WHEN WE WILL BEGIN READING THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, MARCH 19, 2003
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present: Ake, Bartlett, Bornemann, Cheston, Cramer, Dunn, Fallon, Griffin, Hanna, Hopkinson, Ingersoll, Lehmann, Mabry, Peck, Pope, Schmalzbach, Warden.
The Dean wondered whether we should make a point of avoiding dinner meetings on Ash Wednesday, which we do not schedule as a meeting date most seasons. The collective feeling was that this was not an issue that concerned most members. Those who feel strongly should contact the Dean.
The Rt. Rev. Mr. Bartlett summarized the report of his membership committee, stressing that their recommendations were guidelines, not rigid rules binding the Society's hands. We should take care not to expand membership much beyond our present numbers, since a fairly small number at dinners enhances comradeship, or so many feel. We encourage visits by guests as a source of enrichment of our discussions, but without suggesting to visitors that they might become members.
When a candidate for membership is to be voted on, the Secretary will notify all members well ahead of the meeting at which a vote is to take place. The candidate will have both a sponsor and a seconder, and the sponsor will make sure that several members have had a chance to get to know the candidate better than one can by a quick exchange of pleasantries over cheese before dinner. Voting will be by written messages sent to the Dean before the dinner of the vote, and by written vote at the dinner meeting when the vote is held. Election will be by a majority of those voting, which will include affirmative votes by at least fifteen members.
It was agreed that it would be in the best interests of the Society to seek out Shakspere lovers with academic expertise in English Renaissance studies as potential candidates for membership.
The Dean recommended, after hearing from a number of members about the issue of the plays to be read next season, that in 2003-2004, we read Macbeth and As You Like It, with perhaps two meetings in the middle of the season devoted to scenes from Timon of Athens, which the Society has not read in fifty years. Members present cordially agreed with this plan.
We began our evening's reading of The Taming of the Shrew at the start of Act Four, Scene Two. The two continuing main currents of the action are Petruchio's campaign to tame the shrewish Kate, whom he has just married, and the competition among several ardent wooers to capture the beautiful Bianca, Kate's younger sister, now available for marriage since Kate has been to the altar. The wily servant Tranio, pretending to be his master Lucentio, has won the assent of Bianca's father to marriage with him by boasting of his father's enormous wealth. Lucentio's father, however, must personally guarantee Bianca a huge dowry before a wedding can take place. While Tranio--in disguise-- searches out a Pedant to play father Vincentio--in disguise--Lucentio woos and wins Bianca--in disguise! The Vice Dean commented that, watching the action on stage, the audience is constantly at sea trying to remember true identities. Petruchio, too, is playing a part in acting like a madman to shock Kate into yielding to his will, whatever his strange whim may be.
4.3 Petruchio deprives Kate of both food and clean clothes after a long trip to his house during which she is dumped in the mud by her horse. The new husband plays the role of solicitous spouse who angrily spurns a series of savory dinners and stylish clothes which he deems not fit for his cherished bride. Kate must return home without food, without clean clothes, and without a night's sleep. Petruchio carries on a relentless campaign to break Kate's spirit, in the manner of twentieth-century masters of brainwashing in totalitarian prisons, or in Orwell's Ministry of Love!
4.5 The Vice Dean: Petruchio takes up a new strategy: to make Kate take his word as law no matter how absurd he seems. Otherwise, no food, no sleep, no visit home. Kate begins to play along with Petruchio's demands, to find old Vincentio a lovely young virgin and then a minute late a hoary elder. In Act Five, Kate will give her famous speech exhorting wives to yield completely to their husbands' whims. Is this change from shrew to Good Housekeeping wife of 1945 real? Convincing? The Vice Dean: "Validated by what we see in Act Five? Is Petruchio the utter and complete male chauvinist he seems?"
WE WILL MEET NEXT ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2, AND TAKE UP READING OF THE TAMING OF THE SHREW AT THE START OF ACT FIVE.
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present: Ake, Bornemann, Fallon, Friedman, Hopkinson, Ingersoll, Lehmann, Madeira, O'Malley, Peck, Pickering, Pope, Schmalzbach, Warden.
Mr. Ake said a few eloquent words on behalf of his friend Michael Mabry, whom he proposed for membership in the Society. Mr. Mabry was elected by unanimous vote of the members present.
Members were reminded that two Shakspere productions can now be seen in town: Macbeth at the Shakespeare Festival theater at 21st and Sansom Streets (until April 13) and Twelfth Night at the Arden Theatre on Second Street next to Christ Church (also until April 13). Forthcoming: the Lantern Theater, in the alley next to St. Stephen's Church on Tenth Street just south of Market, will stage The Tempest from March 28 until May 4. The Shakspere Festival and Lantern tickets are usually inexpensive. All these theaters draw on the same pool of very talented local actors who have made careers here recently (the Arden also imports occasionallyï¿½usually terrific people).
The Dean announced that at our next meeting on March 19, we will discuss which plays of the Bard we will read at next season's meetings. Members on the secretary's email list now have a memorandum of plays not read within the past eight years, with dates when each play was last read. For members who cannot receive email, your scribe will add that Winter's Tale was last read in 1989, Romeo and Troilus in 1991, and As You Like It and Macbeth in 1992. Among minor plays: Timon 1953, Cymbeline 1962, All's Well 1975.
We began reading The Taming of the Shrew in the middle of Act Two, Scene One, Kate and Petruchio's first scene together. The Vice Dean commented that we begin to see here Petruchio's strategies for taming Kate, which are various. First he "establishes control" by calling her over and over by her familiar nickname, despite her prim but vigorous demand that he call her Katharine. He physically manhandles her, too, as he does later as well; meanwhile, he repeats a series of harsh judgments he has heard about her character, loudly proclaiming that in fact she is lovable, sweet, companionable.
Members wondered whether Petruchio's motives for pursuing Kate were exclusively mercenary. He boasts to his listeners at one point about the enormous riches that his father has left him. Is he primarily drawn to the task of wooing Kate by the psychological challenge, the test of his virile prowess in conquering such a famous vixen? The Vice Dean pointed to the bizarre, embarrassingly ugly and even tattered costume that Petruchio wears on his wedding day (Act Three, Scene Two) as evidence that he means to humiliate the proud Kate, another of his strategies for taming her. He refers to her as "my goods, my chattels," reminding us that in Shakspere's day, an Englishwoman usually had to give up all of her property to her husband when she married, and she was expected to obey him in all things. He will not allow Kate to stay for the wedding feast, despite her temper tantrum: "Nay, look not big, nor stamp nor stare nor fret;/I will be master of what is mine own."
In Act Four, Scene One, we see Petruchio "wearing Kate down," as the Vice Dean commented: he allows her no food on the long trip to his estate; he makes sure that she is dumped in the mud with her horse on top of her; he again refuses her food at his house, on the pretext that the cook has burnt the joint; and he keeps her up all night, not in marriage-night frolicking but by repeated temper tantrums of his own. At the scene's end, Petruchio makes his only speech directly to the audience, calling her a falcon who can only be tamed by strong measures, and declaring, "And thus I'll cure her mad and headstrong humour./ He that knows better how to shame a shrew,/ Now let him speak, 'tis charity to shew." Her disease, an imbalance of the humours, must be cured by drastic doctoring to make her fit to live with, a woman he can love.
Mr. Bartlett has just sent the Secretary a statement of the admissions committee's recommendations, to form the basis of discussion among the members. The Secretary will pass this information along to members very shortly.
WE WILL MEET NEXT ON MARCH 19, 2003, AND BEGIN READING THE TAMING OF THE SHREW AT THE BEGINNING OF ACT FOUR, SCENE TWO.
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, APRIL 2, 2003
Dean emeritus Hopkinson in the chair. Other members present: Bartlett, Bornemann, Cramer, Di Stefano, Dobson, Fallon, Friedman, Griffin, Lehmann, Mabry, Madeira, O'Malley, Peck, Pickering, Schmalzbach, Warden, Wheeler.
Mr. Friedman presented those present with careful directions, in large font, to the Awbury Arboretum in Germantown, where we will gather at the Francis Cope House for the annual Birthday Dinner on April 23. Our collective thanks again to our industrious hosts, Messrs. Friedman, Madeira and Pope. Members who wish to attend and have not yet responded to Mr. Pope are urged to do so with dispatchï¿½and gusto! Spouses and partners are again welcome; there is an additional cost, of course.
We had a vigorous discussion of the last act of The Taming of the Shrew. The Vice Dean reminded us that here the two plotsï¿½the wooing of Bianca and the taming of Kate by Petruchioï¿½come together. Disguises again make good theater in these scenes, especially when the real and the false Vincentio confront each other and confound the other characters. Tranio robustly enjoys playing a rich man who is used to issuing orders and being quickly obeyed.
Meanwhile, Kate and Petruchio have ended their war. Has Kate given in? Have the two grown close and abandoned their mutual attempts to dominate? Petruchio insists on a public kiss; Kate demurs but quickly yields. Angry? Ashamed? Pleased? Teasing? Has Petruchio's shock treatment shown Kate that she has been outrageously willful and childish? Or has Kate simply provided good theater, both to the audience and to her family and her intended?
We talked at length about Kate's famous speech of submission, urging wives to yield utterly to their husbands' wishes, the price of happiness in marriage. The Vice Dean asked whether we accept this change in Kate in the theater. How should the speech be spoken? Ironically? Flirtatiously? Comic display to get laughs from her family and from us? Is the speech an example of absurd farcical hyperbole, or is it simply a forceful restatement of Elizabethan received ideas? A mixture? Sexy gamesmanship?
Kate makes this speech after two other new wives have refused to obey their husbands. Members asked whether Kate was continuing her earlier combat with Bianca, so pliable and admired until married! Can we believe Kate will live so submissively in the future? Should we wonder what their marriage will be like? The Vice Dean opined that we do not ordinarily ask such questions about the future at the end of any "comedy of marriage."
A member felt that Kate plays a game here, for Petruchio's enjoyment. She will play the role in an exaggerated way of the traditional Patient Griselda who has no will except her husband's, but she shows the wit and energy and playfulness that can make their marriage a joy, not just an acting out of traditionally assigned social roles.
MEMBERS WILL MEET AGAIN ON APRIL 23 FOR THE 152ND ANNUAL SHAKSPERE'S BIRTHDAY DINNER, AT THE FRANCIS COPE HOUSE IN THE AWBURY ARBORETUM, 6:45 PM.
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
The Last Will and Testament of William Shakspere
"During the winter of 1616, Shakespeare summoned his lawyer Francis Collins, who a decade earlier had drawn up the indentures for the Stratford tithes transaction, to execute his last will and testament. Apparently this event took place in January, for when Collins was called upon to revise the document some weeks later, he (or his clerk) inadvertently wrote January instead of March, copying the word from the earlier draft. Revisions were necessitated by the marriage of [his daughter] Judith.... The lawyer came on 25 March. A new first page was required, and numerous substitutions and additions in the second and third pages, although it is impossible to say how many changes were made in March and how many currente calamo, in January. Collins never got round to having a fair copy of the will made, probably because of haste occasioned by the seriousness of the testator's condition, though this attorney had a way of allowing much-corrected draft wills to stand" (@ Schoenbaum 242-6).
Words which were lined-out in the original but which are still legible are indicated by [brackets]. Words which were added interlinearly are indicated by italic text. The word "Item" is given in bold text to aid reading and is not so written in the document.
From the first line of Shakspere's will
In the name of god Amen I William Shackspeare, of Stratford upon Avon in the countrie of Warr., gent., in perfect health and memorie, God be praysed, doe make and ordayne this my last will and testament in manner and forme followeing, that ys to saye, ffirst, I comend my soule into the hands of God my Creator, hoping and assuredlie beleeving, through thonelie merites, of Jesus Christe my Saviour, to be made partaker of lyfe everlastinge, and my bodye to the earth whereof yt ys made. Item, I gyve and bequeath unto my [sonne and] daughter Judyth one hundred and fyftie poundes of lawfull English money, to be paid unto her in the manner and forme foloweng, that ys to saye, one hundred poundes in discharge of her marriage porcion within one yeare after my deceas, with consideracion after the rate of twoe shillings in the pound for soe long tyme as the same shalbe unpaied unto her after my deceas, and the fyftie poundes residwe thereof upon her surrendring of, or gyving of such sufficient securitie as the overseers of this my will shall like of, to surrender or graunte all her estate and right that shall discend or come unto her after my deceas, or that shee nowe hath, of, in, or to, one copiehold tenemente, with thappurtenaunces, lyeing and being in Stratford upon Avon aforesaied in the saied countrye of Warr., being parcell or holden of the mannour of Rowington, unto my daughter Susanna Hall and her heires for ever. Item, I gyve and bequeath unto my saied daughter Judith one hundred and fyftie poundes more, if shee or anie issue of her bodie by lyvinge att thend of three yeares next ensueing the daie of the date of this my will, during which tyme my executours are to paie her consideracion from my deceas according to the rate aforesaied; and if she dye within the saied tearme without issue of her bodye, then my will us, and I doe gyve and bequeath one hundred poundes thereof to my neece Elizabeth Hall, and the fiftie poundes to be sett fourth by my executours during the lief of my sister Johane Harte, and the use and proffitt thereof cominge shalbe payed to my saied sister Jone, and after her deceas the saied l.li.12 shall remaine amongst the children of my saied sister, equallie to be divided amongst them; but if my saied daughter Judith be lyving att thend of the saied three yeares, or anie yssue of her bodye, then my will ys, and soe I devise and bequeath the saied hundred and fyftie poundes to be sett our by my executours and overseers for the best benefitt of her and her issue, and the stock not to be paied unto her soe long as she shalbe marryed and covert baron [by my executours and overseers]; but my will ys, that she shall have the consideracion yearelie paied unto her during her lief, and, after her ceceas, the saied stocke and consideracion to be paied to her children, if she have anie, and if not, to her executours or assignes, she lyving the saied terme after my deceas. Provided that yf suche husbond as she shall att thend of the saied three years be marryed unto, or att anie after, doe sufficientlie assure unto her and thissue of her bodie landes awnswereable to the porcion by this my will gyven unto her, and to be adjudged soe by my executours and overseers, then my will ys, that the said cl.li.13 shalbe paied to such husbond as shall make such assurance, to his owne use. Item, I gyve and bequeath unto my saied sister Jone xx.li. and all my wearing apparrell, to be paied and delivered within one yeare after my deceas; and I doe will and devise unto her the house with thappurtenaunces in Stratford, wherein she dwelleth, for her naturall lief, under the yearlie rent of xij.d. Item, I gyve and bequeath Shakspere's 1st signature
unto her three sonnes, William Harte, ---- Hart, and Michaell Harte, fyve pounds a peece, to be paied within one yeare after my deceas [to be sett out for her within one yeare after my deceas by my executours, with thadvise and direccions of my overseers, for her best frofitt, untill her mariage, and then the same with the increase thereof to be paied unto her]. Item, I gyve and bequeath unto [her] the saied Elizabeth Hall, all my plate, except my brod silver and gilt bole, that I now have att the date of this my will. Item, I gyve and bequeath unto the poore of Stratford aforesaied tenn poundes; to Mr. Thomas Combe my sword; to Thomas Russell esquier fyve poundes; and to Frauncis Collins, of the borough of Warr. in the countie of Warr. gentleman, thirteene poundes, sixe shillinges, and eight pence, to be paied within one yeare after my deceas. Item, I gyve and bequeath to [Mr. Richard Tyler thelder] Hamlett Sadler xxvj.8. viij.d. to buy him a ringe; to William Raynoldes gent., xxvj.8. viij.d. to buy him a ringe; to my dogson William Walker xx8. in gold; to Anthonye Nashe gent. xxvj.8. viij.d. [in gold]; and to my fellowes John Hemynges, Richard Brubage, and Henry Cundell, xxvj.8. viij.d. a peece to buy them ringes, Item, I gyve, will, bequeath, and devise, unto my daughter Susanna Hall, for better enabling of her to performe this my will, and towards the performans thereof, all that capitall messuage or tenemente with thappurtenaunces, in Stratford aforesaid, called the New Place, wherein I nowe dwell, and two messuages or tenementes with thappurtenaunces, scituat, lyeing, and being in Henley streete, within the borough of Stratford aforesaied; and all my barnes, stables, orchardes, gardens, landes, tenementes, and hereditamentes, whatsoever, scituat, lyeing, and being, or to be had, receyved, perceyved, or taken, within the townes, hamletes, villages, fieldes, and groundes, of Stratford upon Avon, Oldstratford, Bushopton, and Welcombe, or in anie of them in the saied countie of Warr. And alsoe all that messuage or tenemente with thappurtenaunces, wherein one John Robinson dwelleth, scituat, lyeing and being, in the Balckfriers in London, nere the Wardrobe; and all my other landes, tenementes, and hereditamentes whatsoever, To have and to hold all and singuler the saied premisses, with theire appurtenaunces, unto the saied Susanna Hall, for and during the terme of her naturall lief, and after her deceas, to the first sonne of her bodie lawfullie yssueing, and to the heires males of the bodie of the saied first sonne lawfullie yssueinge; and for defalt of such issue, to the second sonne of her bodie, lawfullie issueing, and to the heires males of the bodie of the saied second sonne lawfullie yssueinge; and for defalt of such heires, to the third sonne of the bodie of the saied Susanna lawfullie yssueing, and of the heires males of the bodie of the saied third sonne lawfullie yssueing; and for defalt of such issue, the same soe to be and remaine to the ffourth [sonne], ffyfth, sixte, and seaventh sonnes of her bodie lawfullie issueing, one after another, and to the heires Shakspere's 2nd signature
males of the bodies of the bodies of the saied fourth, fifth, sixte, and seaventh sonnes lawfullie yssueing, in such manner as yt ys before lymitted to be and remaine to the first, second, and third sonns of her bodie, and to theire heires males; and for defalt of such issue, the said premisses to be and remaine to my sayed neece Hall, and the heires males of her bodie lawfullie yssueinge; and for defalt of such issue, to my daughter Judith, and the heires males of her bodie lawfullie issueinge; and for defalt of such issue, to the right heires of me the saied William Shackspeare for ever. Item, I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture, Item, I gyve and bequeath to my saied daughter Judith my broad silver gilt bole. All the rest of my goodes, chattel, leases, plate, jewels, and household stuffe whatsoever, after my dettes and legasies paied, and my funerall expenses dischardged, I give, devise, and bequeath to my sonne in lawe, John Hall gent., and my daughter Susanna, his wief, whom I ordaine and make executours of this my last will and testament. And I doe intreat and appoint the saied Thomas Russell esquier and Frauncis Collins gent. to be overseers hereof, and doe revoke all former wills, and publishe this to be my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto put my [seale] hand, the daie and yeare first abovewritten.
Witnes to the publyshing hereof Fra: Collyns Julyus Shawe John Robinson Hamnet Sadler Rovert Whattcott
Shakspere's final signature, 'By me ...'
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADLEPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB ON OCTOBER 22, 2003
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present: Ake, Baird, Bartlett, Cramer, Dunn, Dupee, Fallon, Fisher, Hopkinson, Lehmann, Mabry, Madeira, O'Malley, Peck, Schmalzbach, and Warden. Mr. Bornemann, who hardly ever misses a meeting, has recently had minor knee and back surgery; he promises to return for our next prandial and postprandial deliberations.
Some preliminary thinking about next April's birthday feast, still tentative, has begun. The dean reported that a member has shown enthusiastic interest in helping to host the annual April dinner at a very attractive and convenient site.
If members have changed addresses or telephone numbers or email addresses, please inform the Secretary.
As we turned our attention again to Macbeth, the Dean pointed out the remarkable number of asides in some early scenes, especially 1.3ï¿½speeches by Macbeth to himself or quietly to Banquo as they hear from the king's emissaries. The Vice Dean reminded us of questions raised at our last meeting about the role of the witches, their powers, and how much control they had of Macbeth's actions. We wondered about the changes in Macbeth, after early heroic acts to defend king and country, to the murderous monster we see in later scenes. We were struck by the change in Lady M. from imperious ambition and moral callousness in early scenes to frightened, morally tortured sleepwalker in a famous late scene. Why this change?
We asked questions about the witches: why three in number? A horrible antithesis to the Trinity? A reminder of the three Fates in Greek myth? Witches were much discussed in Shakspere's time; King James himself wrote on the topic. The Vice Dean told us that the Weird Sisters' knowledge of the future would be assumed to be Satanic in origin. Greymalkin is a devil's name, a member observed.
A member commented that Macbeth is not brutal enough! A better tyrant would have murdered potential enemies much more quickly and thoroughly; a host of twentieth-century examples could easily be cited. Conscience tortures Macbeth through most of his career of murder in the play.
Act two, scene threeï¿½The Porter makes his famous comic speech assuming that those knocking at the gate are eagerly making their way to hell, because of greed of one kind or another. The murder of Duncan draws a chorus of luridly rhetorical outbursts, especially from Macbeth. Earlier, Mac. could not bring himself to take the murder weapon back into Duncan's chamber; now, we discover that he has quickly stabbed to death the two bedchamber servants who are blamed for the deed. Vigorous discussion of this point: Macbeth is a veteran battlefield killer, and a particularly bloody one, as we learned in the opening scenes. Soldiers become inured to doing quickly and ruthlessly what must be done to save themselves.
2.4ï¿½Nature reacts to violent disorder among men by mimicking this violent disorder. The king's sons precipitately beat feet; Donalbain never returns to the stage, we notice
. 3.1ï¿½The men appointed to murder Banquo and Fleance are questioned by Macbeth and announce themselves as recklessly desperate characters, determined to escape their terrible present lives "by any means necessary." The Vice Dean suggested that this is precisely Big Mac's own state of mind at the end of the play.
3.2ï¿½Macbeth and his Lady are alone again, and more murder is plotted, but now Macbeth keeps his plans to himself: no spur from his steely spouse is needed to get him ready to shed blood. Lady M. tells Mac that "What's done is done," as she did after the stabbing of Duncan: Mac must simply control his thoughts and feelings! Macbeth resolves to "let the frame of things disjoint" before he will continue to live as they do now, unable to eat meals without fear, sleepless because of "the affliction of these terrible dreams/ That shake us nightly." His mind, he declares, is "full of scorpions."But conscience still pricks him: he asks heaven to hide the deed about to be done as "light thickens" with the approach of the murderers. He asks nature to cancel the bond of moral law that binds men to a life of common humanity. The Vice Dean opined that Macbeth is not thoroughly depravedï¿½that he is a good spouse, much honored as a warrior, that he is tempted by circumstance (Duncan's visit) and his Lady's powerful prodding. Much discussion ensued as to how to understand Macbeth's essential character. The banquet scene is coming up, with the appearance of Banquo's ghost , seen only by Macbeth. Is Macbeth hallucinating, a sign that he is losing rational self-control? Is the ghost an embodiment of his horrified conscience?
OUR NEXT MEETING WILL BE NOVEMBER 5. WE WILL START OUR READING AT ACT THREE, SCENE FOUR.
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB ON OCTOBER 8, 2003
Secretary Peck in the chair. Other members present: Ake, Bartlett, Bornemann, Cheston, Cramer, Fallon, Fisher, Friedman, Frye, Green, Griffin, Lehmann, Mabry, Madeira, O'Malley, Wheeler. Mr. Schmalzbach joined us as we began our reading of Macbeth.
Members joined in hearty praise of the Falstaffian Bard's birthday feast of last April hosted by Messrs. Friedman, Madeira, and Pope. Our hats are off to you, gentlemen!
The secretary has received two new email addresses from members; any others to be reported? Please let me know promptly if so. A reminder that notices of forthcoming meetings will be sent out only by email. If you wish to receive a telephone call as a reminder, please inform me: I will be happy to comply. Minutes too will be sent by email to those who are electronically up to date, and by regular mail to members who are still ensnared in snail status (so to speak).
We were sorry to hear that Edgar Scott, a member of very long standing, has decided to resign from the Society, since he feels that he can no longer make the long drive home after dinner meetings.
We were reminded that the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival is performing Julius Caesar until mid-November at its snug home one the second floor of the Lutheran Church parish building at 21st and Sansom streets. This group will stage As You Like It next February. Next March, People's Light and Theater Company in Malvern will also stage Caesar.
The Vice Dean announced that we will read Timon of Athens as soon as we finish Macbeth. Timon is not a play that most bookstores normally have in stock, so caveat emptor. Dr. Fallon mentioned how much he has enjoyed reading over the three parts of Henry VI recently. Margaret of Anjou is a particularly vivid characterï¿½and the only Shaksperian character to appear in four of the master's plays (Richard III as well as the three Sixes).
Col. Fallon asked us why the witches tempt Macbeth, and what their powers are: murky issues. They know the future, but they cannot harm the thane. How would the play be different without them? Is Macbeth a tool of the witchesï¿½in their powerï¿½or can he make moral choices? In early scenes, Macbeth is violent but virtuous, defending his king and country against invaders (Norwegians) and traitors (Cawdor). An Elizabethan audience would presumably have thought of contemporary events: the threat of invasion by powerful Spain over many years; local Roman Catholics ready to rebel against the Protestant queen whom the pope had urged them to overthrow; and the fear of civil war when Elizabeth dies only two or three years before this play was first performed.
Act One, Scene Three: Macbeth hears the bewitching promise of royal power. The seed of ambition is planted that Lady M. will force into early flower (as the gardeners among us might say). Macbeth is horrified to realize that as soon as the witches promise him a crown, he is thinking of murdering his way to power.
1.4ï¿½Lady Macbeth speaks in soliloquy about driving the morally squeamish Mac. to seize the throne. The Lady has a prominent role in only a few scenes, the Vice dean reminded us; but what an impact she makes on readers and audiences! Local opera lovers will think of Lauren Flanigan's riveting incarnation of Lady M. last season in Verdi's version of the tale. Dr. Fallon pointed out that Lady Macbeth asks supernatural power to take away the feminine nature that gives her protection, customary in Elizabethan culture. Why does she collapse at the end of the play after showing such explosive strength of will in earlier scenes? Members spoke up vigorously on these and other issues about Lady M. and her influence on her spouse.
1.5ï¿½Lady Macbeth undermines Macbeth's moral qualms about killing his king, his kinsman, and his benefactor. Is she in effect her husband's alter ego, putting into powerful and seductive words the suppressed tempter's voice inside his own heart?
1.7ï¿½Macbeth argues with himself about the horror of killing his trusting royal cousin, and then argues with his wife about the morality of the deed. By the end of his wonderful soliloquy, he seems certain to refuse to kill; but his wife's claim that he is not a man unless he seizes power by any means necessary quickly changes the direction of his thoughts: "Can we get away with it?" is all he asks. The Vice Dean reminded us of the frequent images of vulnerable children in this play. Macbeth refers to pity as a "naked newborn babe" in his soliloquy, his Lady tells him that she would smash the head of a suckling infant at her breast rather than refuse to be man enough to seize power; later, Lady Macduff's small child is murdered before her eyes by the thugs who kill her too. An infant's head appears to horrify Macbeth when the witches show him Banquo's royal progeny.
2.1ï¿½Macbeth is again powerfully smitten by conscience, as he shrinks in horror from a bloody dagger that his imagination holds before him. But he asks the stars to hide themselves, the heavens to turn their eyes away as he goes to kill his king, like Tarquin the rapist going to violate vulnerable goodness.
OUR NEXT MEETING WILL BE ON OCTOBER 22, 2003. WE WILL BEGIN READING MACBETH AT ACT TWO, SCENE THREE.
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, NOVEMBER 5, 2003
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present: Ake, Bartlett, Binnion, Bornemann, Cramer, Dunn, Fallon, Fisher, Frye, Green, Griffin, Hopkinson, Lehmann, Mabry, Madeira, Peck, Pickering, Warden. Mr. Dunn introduced his guest Daniel Richter, Professor of History at Penn and Mr. Dunn's successor as the director of the McNeil Center for the Study of Early American History.
The Secretary has been looking through the minutes and the menus of the Society in the 1850's, 60's and 70's. (These ancient documents are part of the H.H. Furness collection in the Van Pelt Library at Penn. Mr. Furness, one of the first eminent American Shakspere scholars, was the second secretary of our Society).) Minutes are at times detailed, at others minimal; the extensive minutes show that Society meetings typically were spent discussing, in excruciating detail, the meanings of a series of difficult phrases and lines from the play under study (usually one a season). Suspect textual readings were warmly debated as well. Annual dinners were at first held just after Christmas and then, from the end of the Civil War, on or near Shakspere's birthday. They were six- or seven-course affairs, with wines served with each course, followed by discussions about perhaps eight or nine different topics relevant to the play studied during the previous month. These sessions lasted for six or seven hours in some years. A heroic age!
We began our reading of Macbeth at the start of Act Three, Scene Four. The Vice Dean asked us to continue to think about why Macbeth and his Lady change as they do, and to ask ourselves how powerful the influence of the witches is on Macbeth. A member asked about the Third Murderer who appears in 3.3 and only there; is he Macbeth, as some claim? Unlikely, the Vice Dean feels: Macbeth does not know in 3.4 that Fleance has escaped. This very minor part is cut in some productions of the play.
3.4ï¿½Macbeth now shows himself a full-fledged tyrant, and is so named several times in the rest of Act Three. Earlier, he felt excruciating regret for his murder of Duncan; now he orders more murders without compunction. Discussion ensued about the nature of the ghost of Banquo: a figment of Macbeth's imagination? No one else at the banquet sees him/it. A contrast to the witches: Macbeth and Banquo both see them in Act One. Could one stage the play without a ghost appearing? Some members emphatically endorsed this idea.
Macbeth may be ruthless now, but he is still tortured by inner fears: conscience? He refers vividly to the worthlessness of the power he now enjoys: he and his Lady "eat our meals in fear" and cannot sleep without "these terrible dreams that shake us nightly." He tells himself that "blood will have blood," that inevitably murder will out. At the end of this wonderful scene, he tried to calm himself by renouncing forethought before action: as long as he kills as soon as he thinks of it, he can have mental peace. As if, Mac!
3.5ï¿½Hecate's scene with the witches is a later addition, scholars agree (Thomas Middleton was paid for additions to a later staging of the play, we know). "Oh well done, I commend your pains/ And everyone will share in the gains" sounds like Grand Ole Opry rather than the bearded crones who chant about fingers of babies "ditch-delivered by a drab" and strangled at birth.
3.6ï¿½In England, patriotic Scots get help from Edward the Confessor, as piously healing as Macbeth is ruthlessly bloodthirsty. The Vice Dean noted the imagery that makes Macbeth a source of disease to the land he rules. Overthrowing Mac, says a Lord, will allow Scots to eat their meals and sleep in peace, echoing Macbeth's language in 3.4.
4.1ï¿½Vigorous reading of this scene by all the assembled company! Do we see a decisive moment here of change by Macbeth into a complete moral monster? He decides to kill all of the escaped Macduff's family. Members commented that the tyrant behaves as irrationally, as primitively here as a Saddam Hussein or a Joseph Stalin: mindless revenge that yields no clear benefit to the ruler. Macbeth, desperate, repeats to himself that he must stop thinking about what to do to protect himself and simply act brutally, cruelly, murderously. The Vice Dean contrasted Macbeth here to Hamlet, endlessly analyzing whether and how he should act to avenge his father's murder. (Your scribe might add that Hamlet sounds rather Mac-like when he tells himself to sweep to his revenge and to "put away all trivial fond records" in Act One, and when he praises the brutal Fortinbras and castigates himself in Act Four: "O from this time forth/ My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth!")
The witches both give Macbeth false hope in 4.1 and drive him frantic with dismay: no man born of woman can kill him, he will not fall till the woods come to his castleï¿½but the progeny of Banquo will be kings for generations to come. This ambiguity of message, these mixed feelings in Macbeth, are pervasive in the play.
4.2ï¿½Lady Macduff and her son are killed, the boy before our eyesï¿½unusual in Shakspere, as members noted. Macduff, his wife, says, is a traitor and in leaving his family exposed, "wants the natural touch": more of the moral ambiguities so common in the play. 4.3ï¿½Malcolm tests Macduff's patriotism at rather tedious length; then the terrible moment when Macduff must hear the news of his family's murder. Macduff is eloquently silent at first, and then he says only, "He has no children": meant of Macbeth? No eye for eye possible? Or of young Malcolm? "He can't grasp what I feel." Malcolm urges murderous vengeance; Macduff says he must first "feel it as a man" when he hears of his family's slaughter. We remember Macbeth's brief resistance to his Lady's call for Duncan's blood: "I dare do all that may become a man. / Who dares do more is none."
A member argued that this play is Shakspere's attempt to define what a good king is. The Vice Dean noted that Macbeth is not lustful or greedy for possessions as Malcolm (at first) says he would be as king. Only the urge for power consumes Macbeth. The Vice Dean asked members to assess the further changes in Macbeth in the last act.
WE WILL MEET NEXT ON NOVEMBER 19, AND BEGIN READING MACBETH AT THE START OF ACT FIVE. Our next play will be Timon of Athens, which we will read in its entirety, contrary to the Secretary's earlier advice to members!
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, NOVEMBER 19, 2003
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present: Ake, Bartlett, Binnion, Cramer, Di Stefano, Dobson, Dupee, Fallon, Fisher, Griffin, Hopkinson, Mabry, Peck, Pickering, Pope, Simmons, Warden. We were glad to welcome Victoria Dawson of Washington, DC, goddaughter and guest of Bishop Bartlett, and the daughter of Giles Dawson, for many years a senior curator at the Folger Shakespeare Library and a famous Renaissance scholar of the past generation. We also welcomed Mr. Griffin's guest, local lawyer John Chesney, an Edinburgh native, an Oxford graduate, and a member of the Orpheus Club, who regaled us with a spirited and expert performance of a British music hall classic of yesteryear, "The Night I Appeared in Macbeth." He was greeted with raucous laughter and loud applause.
The Dean circulated a photocopy of a passage about the early days of the Society discovered by Mr. Rivinus in the new Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. The passage implies that our Society in its infancy was a very lightweight affair. Not so! Your scribe has read all the minutes of the meetings of our first thirty years, 1852-1882, and can assure the members that our forebears were serious, scrupulous students of the Bard throughout this period, guided as they were by two men of great scholarly accomplishment: Asa Fish, Dean from our genesis until his death in 1879, and H. H. Furness, Jr., an internationally renowned Shaksperian of that epoch. Furness became Dean on Fish's death, but was often absent; the office of Vice Dean was instituted at that time (1879), and Mr. Ashhurst, the Treasurer, was elected and took the chair at most meetings in the next few years. (Another frequent attendee from 1876 on was C. Stuart Pattersonï¿½my wife's great-grandfather! Her grandfather, CSP Jr, was elected in 1903.)
The Vice Dean reminded us that we begin reading selected scene from Timon of Athens at our next meeting on December 10, and he praised the dramatic vigor of this play, even though it lacks great poetry. Dean emeritus Hopkinson recalled the praise won by Brian Bedford as Timon in New York a dozen years ago. The play will be performed next summer at the Stratford Festival in Ontario.
Two members heartily praised the recently ended performances of Julius Caesar by the Shakespeare Festival of Philadelphia at 21st and Sansom Streets. This group will stage As You Like It early next year, just in time for members to supplement our reading of the play at dinner meetings.
The Vice Dean asked us why Lady Macbeth changes as she does from the ironwilled accomplice to murder of earlier scenes to the frantic sleepwalker and suicide of the fifth act. Macbeth does not confer with her after the play's midpoint; we do not see them together after 3.4. Her focus is still completely on her husband in her sleepwalking speeches, calming and encouraging him, but distraught with fear. Is she, in one aspect, a kind of alter ego to her husband, a reflection of his anguished subconscious? Does she help to humanize the monster who seems so callous a killer in the last two acts? Many of us feel close to Macbeth, almost sympathetic with him, even at his worst. Our fellow member Alfred Harbage (your scribe's mentor) wrote years ago, "If Macbeth were other than he is, less like ourselves, he would be a less powerful symbol of our own worst potentialities and the abyss we have escaped. There is nothing of him in Cornwall or Iago." (Would that today's Shakespeare scholars wrote such clear, crisp English).
Act Five, Scene Oneï¿½Lady Macbeth, asleep, jumps from topic to topicï¿½as we all do mentally, a member remarked, especially when perturbed. We discussed her strange rhyme, "The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now?" We noted the resonance of such clipped, monosyllabic language, common at moments of great emotional intensity in this play. ("She should have died hereafter." "I have supped full with horrors." "He has no children." "The time is free." "Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst.") A member claimed that here the "fiendlike queen" of early scenes shows her dual nature, lingering tenderly over the memory of the murdered wife of Macduff. Others find little tenderness in the Lady at any time. Fear, perhaps, a member suggested: "Where is she now?" may suggest "Am I next?"The Vice Dean recalled the Lady's desire earlier to lose her feminine impulses to nurture and heal and feel remorse at wrongdoing. What is left now?
Macbeth, the Vice Dean declared, is now wholly a callous killer, constantly abusing his subjects rather than protecting them as Duncan did, with almost none of the pangs of conscience he felt so powerfully in earlier scenes. But his enemy Menteith memorably claims that the monster is in inner agony: "Who then shall blame/ His pestered senses to recoil and start,/ When all that is within him does condemn/ Itself for being there?"(5.2)
5.3ï¿½Macbeth urgently asks the doctor to "minister to a mind diseased" so as to restore his wife to him. But of course he knows that there is no cure to "pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow." This great speech applies as much to the husband as to his wife. Do we have another text that renews sympathy for Macbeth? Or is he too secure in the witches' promises to win such sympathy? A member spoke of the "Sophoclean confidence" of the tragic hero whose hubris makes him cocksure that the fates are his friends. Macbeth is eager to fight his enemies; a member Bushily paraphrased, "Bring it on!" Do we admire his spirit or sneer at his machismo? Is Macbeth evil, members asked, or is that diagnosis too simple or absolute?
5.5ï¿½Macbeth cannot respond to his wife's death; after hard work to kill conscience, he has few feelings left of any kind. He remembers when he would have reacted with proper anguish to this terrible news. Now all life seems meaningless to him: a feeling not uncommon to the grief-stricken, but here linked to the moral desert that Macbeth has created as his inner landscape. Your scribe notices the collapse of the stricken man's language, as distorted and dead as his feelings: "Direnessï¿½cannot once start me." No rhythm, no metaphor, no anguish, no vision.
Members debated our responses at play's end. Oedipus, full of pride, kills, suffers, punishes himself, gains moral vision. Does Macbeth gain moral insight? He dies in action, imitating the great warrior who won fame defending his country, but he loses. Did he at least understand before he died what he had done to himself? A member saw a paradox in his own response: he "likes and respects a man who is hateful."
Members ended the reading exclaiming to each other about how lively and stimulating a discussion we had just finished of this astonishing play. Long live the Bard!
WE WILL MEET NEXT ON DECEMBER 10, THREE WEEKS HENCE, AND COMMENCE OUR READING OF TIMON OF ATHENS. We congratulate the Librarian for having laid in a bountiful supply of copies of the play for members in need!
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
xxxxxxxxxxxx MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, DECEMBER 10, 2003
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members in attendance: Bartlett, Dunn, Fallon, Fisher, Hopkinson, Madeira, Peck, and Pickering. We welcomed Mr. Madeira's guest David Stearns, the Philadelphia Inquirer's articulate and incisive classical music critic.
Attendance, the Dean remarked, was the lowest in the memory of any member present. The Secretary observed that the Society's nineteenth-century minutes show that not till the late 1890's did it become common for as many as nine or ten to attend a reading meeting. The relative intimacy of the occasion gave those present a taste of what the Society's life was like a century ago (although without the cigars commonly smoked by members then after a light supper at the end of readings).
We turned to our reading, Timon of Athens: the first time that the Society's members had read this play in half a century. (In our first half-century, 1852-1901, Timon was read only once). The play is contemporary with Lear and Macbeth, scholars tell us, but it was evidently never acted until the Restoration, and then heavily edited. Lear and Timon are alike in their initial bounty, and their later fury at others' callous ingratitude when they are in need.
Timon changes from benevolence to bitter misanthropy with a most inartistic abruptness, most readers feel. The Vice Dean suggested that Shakspere may have written a draft but abandoned the project before fleshing it out with a fuller portrait of Timon's inner life and a more convincing account of his emotional transformation. Some passages of the text are partly in prose, partly in verse, suggesting a unique glimpse into the Bard's creative process: did he write a prose summary of scenes and then transmute prose into blank verse? The almost complete absence of women in the play is striking, although women play very minor roles in some other Shakspere plays, including 1 and 2 Henry IV, the Vice Dean observed. Nor is there a strongly characterized villainous schemer--no Iago-- in Timon: "just shallow, stupid men," as a member summed up his reactions.
Act One, Scene Oneï¿½A long scene and many characters introduced, but, members felt, no one who seizes our attention. Timon himself is a mere "stick figure," a member tartly exclaimed. There is no rich language to draw us into the action, in contrast to the first scene of Lear, for instance, which also teams with characters.
1.2ï¿½This scene includes examples of the speeches of mixed prose and blank verse mentioned earlier by the Vice Dean. Members were struck by the lack of a credible psychological portrait of Timon here: his servant Flavius tells us at length that his master has spent all of his vast fortune but has ignored Flavius' repeated warnings. Timon then offers more lavish presents to fawners and flatterers; he seems mechanical, a member observed, simply a repetitive gift giver. Does he arrogantly enjoy playing Lord Bountiful? Is he a naï¿½ve but idealistic lover of deeds of Christian charity? We cannot tell.
The one character in Act One who has some force of language is the cynic Apemantus. He expresses himself vividly but crudely. ( a tradition of the Elizabethan theater for such harsh judges of the powerful, and echoed in the language of Thersites in Troilus, for instance. Enobarbus in Antony is equally cynicalï¿½usuallyï¿½but his wonderful language occupies "a world elsewhere" from the callow insults of Apemantus. And these two characters were created, probably, only a year or so apart!ï¿½RGP). Members commented on the difference between the antipathy Apemantus feels towards Timon and the animosities expressed toward Shylock and Othello. Timon seems a sketch compared to the rich expression in those plays of hatred intertwined with envy.
2.2ï¿½Timon must ask those who have taken gifts from him to help him meet his enormous debts. Members found this scene much more interesting in expression of feeling than earlier scenes. But Timon's excessive naivetï¿½ is unconvincing. Othello, too, a member observed, was often naï¿½ve when enmeshed in complicated emotional relationships away from the battlefield; but we understand his feelings and sympathize even as we shake our heads. None of us was drawn to Timon so strongly that we could feel such sympathy. 3.1ï¿½More vigorous and intriguing language in parts of this scene, too. 3.2ï¿½Again we noted mixtures of prose and blank verse in a speech or two, and again, we found more interesting language than in the first few scenes.
WE WILL MEET NEXT ON JANUARY 7, 2003, AND WILL CONTINUE OUR READING OF TIMON OF ATHENS FROM ACT THREE, SCENE THREE. MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL THE "APOSTLES" (AS THE ORIGINAL MEMBERS OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY GREETED EACH OTHER IN OUR EARLIEST DAYS!)
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA CELEBRATING THE BIRTHDAY OF WILLIAM SHAKSPERE, GENTLEMAN
The Shakspere Society's annual dinner to honor Shakspere's birthday was held this year at the Francis Cope House in the Awbury Arboretum in Germantown. I know that all members who were present join me in raising a glass to toast our gracious hosts, Messrs. Friedman, Madeira and Pope, for arranging such a splendid site for our feastï¿½a revelation to most of us, unaware of this jewel in our midst in Germantown. The feast itself beggared all description: a gourmet and gourmand's delight! Members again had the great pleasure of the presence in our midst of spouses and partners and friends of our compeers in the Society. As Dean Wagner said in his remarks on this great occasion, we may now safely say that a splendid new tradition has established itself, since this is the third consecutive annual dinner when we have been graced with the company of members' family and friends.
Members present: Ake, Baird, Bartlett, Binnion, Bornemann, Cheston, Cramer, Di Stefano, Dobson, Dunn, Dupee, Fallon, Friedman, Green, Hanna, Hopkinson, Lehmann, Mabry, Madeira, Peck, Pickering, Pope, Rivinus, Schmalzbach, Wagner, Warden, Wheeler.
The Society's officers for 2003-2004 will continue to be Dean Wagner as our fearless leader, Vice Dean Colonel Professor Doctor Fallon as our invaluable guide to the Bard's plays, your scribe as Secretary, Mr. O'Malley as Treasurer, and Dr. Binnion as Librarian. We were happy to see the courageous Librarian make his way into the Cope House for our festive gathering only two weeks after having both knees replaced. You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
Members were particularly happy to welcome to our midst our dear friend Mr. Rivinus, who has been a member of the Society for several decades and who served the Society as an officer for many years.
The plays which we will read during 2003-2004 are As You Like It, Macbeth, and a few scenes from Timon of Athens.
Speaking of Macbeth, a strong production of this shattering masterpiece is still in performance for the next couple of weeks at 21st Street and Sansom, on the second floor of the Lutheran Church parish hall there. An even better production would give us a Macbeth and Lady Macbeth of more nuance and emotional range, but these are theatrical, intense performances in many scenes: well worth a visit.
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
Lunch at the Franklin Inn Club was recently enlivened by David Wieck, who not only does the sort of thing you get an MBA degree for, but is also a noted authority on the Civil War. His topic was the wartime exploits of Frank Furness, whose name is often mispronounced but whose thumbprints are all over the architecture of 19th Century Philadelphia. Take a look at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Boathouse #13 of the Schuylkill Navy, the Fisher Building of the University of Pennsylvania, and many other surviving structures of the 600 buildings his firm built in 40 years. One of them is the Unitarian Church at 22nd and Chestnut, where his grandfather had been the fire-brand abolitionist minister.
|PennsylvaniaAcademy of Fine Arts|
The Civil War seems to have transformed Frank Furness in a number of ways. He had been sort of in the shadow of his older brother Horace, a big man on the campus of Princeton, later the founder of the Shakspere Society, and the Variorum Shakespeare. Frank was quiet, and good at drawing. However, at age 22 he was socially eligible to join Rush's Lancers, the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, which contained among other socialites the great grandson of Robert Morris, and a member of the Biddle Family who put up the money to equip the troop with 7-shot repeating rifles. Cavalry units like this were a vital weapon in the Civil War, because they needed young well-equipped expert horsemen with a strong sense of group loyalty. Rifles were considered too expensive for infantry, who were equipped with muskets that took several minutes to reload, and were unwieldy because they were only accurate if they were very long. When bands of daredevils on horseback suddenly attacked with seven-shot repeating rifles, they could be devastating against massed infantry. A flavor of their bravado emerges from their rescue of General Custer's men from a tight spot, later known in the annals of the troop as "Custer's first last stand."
|The Undine Barge Club Boathouse #13 of the Schuylkill Navy|
There are two famous stories of the exploits of Frank Furness, first as a second Lieutenant and later as a Captain at Cold Harbor two years later. In the first episode, a wounded Confederate soldier lay on the no man's land of forces only a hundred yards apart. His screams were so heart-rending that Furness ran out to him and put a handkerchief tournequet around his bleeding thigh. Because the fallen man was a Confederate soldier, the Confederates held their fire and later cheered the Union cavalryman for his kindness. The wounded man called out "
|The Fisher Building of the University of Pennsylvania|
In the second episode, the cavalry had spread out too much, leaving some isolated parties trapped and out of ammunition. Furness lifted a hundred-pound box of ammunition to his head and ran through the gunfire with it to the trapped men. For this, he later received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Somehow all of the public attention he received in the war transformed Furness from a younger brother who was good at drawing into a dynamo of energy, much in the model of what law firms call a "rainmaker". He travelled to the Yellowstone area of Wyoming at least six times, bringing back various trophies. He was known to get people's attention by using his service revolver to take pot shots at a stuffed moose head in his office.
|First Unitarian Church 22nd Chestnut Philadelphia|
His final publicity venture was to advertise, forty years later, in Southern newspapers for the whereabouts of the confederate soldier whose life he had saved. Eventually, a man named Hodge who had later been a sherif in Virginia, stepped forward to renew his blessings and thanks. Hodge was brought to Philadelphia for a celebrated 6th Cavalry reunion, and a picture of the two former enemies was spread in the newspapers. It was a little embarrassing that Furness and Hodge found they had very little to say to each other for a five-day visit, but Hodge eventually proved able to be one-up in the situation. He outlived Furness by five years.
Although the style of Furness confections seemed and seems a little strange to everyone except Victorian Philadelphians, he did leave a major stamp on American architecture. His most noted student was Louis B. Sullivan, who put an entirely different sort of stamp on Chicago. And Sullivan's best-known student was Frank Lloyd Wright who created a modernist image of architecture for the West. The buildings of these three don't look at all alike, but their rainmaker personalities are all essentially the same.
The Progressive movement of the early 20th century is most concisely viewed as a futile social reaction to the vast changes in America caused by urbanization and industrialization after the Civil War. The transcontinental railroad threatened to destroy the wild, wild West, but the enduring environmental movement had overtones of even greater hostility toward industrialization, the cause of it all. In this sense, it joined forces with socialist and labor reform movements, in hating the newly rich, the spoilers, the Robber Barons. It briefly shared sympathies with anti-immigrant groups, while simultaneously expressing great sympathy with the decisions of the people, as opposed to corrupt politicians. There was a strong Calvinist streak in Progressivism, linked back to New England and Harvard its intellectual center. Regardless of any other contradiction, it reflected the viewpoint of Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt, "that damned cowboy" in the view of conservatives, did not invent the ideas of Progressivism, but he surely personified them, illustrated them in action. This confused turmoil of resentments was knocked off the front pages by a real threat to European civilization, the First World War. A terrifyingly well organized German war machine took the place of Robber Barons as a symbol of what was wrong with the world. The crash of 1929 and its ensuing long depression finally put an end to older controversies; it pushed the "reset" button.
|Henry Brooks Adams|
To understand the position of Philadelphia's upper crust during the Progressive era, four or five names need to be fleshed out. Owen Wister and J. William White would be important Philadelphia links to the Bostonians Henry Adams and Henry James. All of them were leading literary figures, and all of them were close friends of Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt, it might be recalled, was the author of thirty-four books. This little group of literary giants were members of the leading families of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia; what they said, mattered. Although today Owen Wister is mainly known as the author of The Virginian, the first of the cowboy stories of the wild West, he was in fact an observer of the social climates of not only the West, but the deep South (Lady Baltimore ), and the East Coast ( Romney). Some idea of his political leanings can be gleaned from his presidency of the Immigrant Restriction Society, and the authorship of an article called Shall We Let the Cuckoos Crowd Us From Our Nest . Wister has been called "the best born and bred of all modern writers", referring to his descent
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB ON JANUARY 5, 2011
Vice Dean Fallon in the chair, due to the indisposition of the Dean. Other members present: Ake, Bartlett, Bovaird, Cheston, Dupee, Fisher, Friedman, Jensen, King, Mabry, Peck, and Petsopoulis. We were happy to welcome Mr. Ake's guests Erlis and John Wickersham, who visited us a couple of years ago.
We were alerted that this Sunday, January 9, at 1:00 PM, the Bryn Mawr movie theater will show Hamlet from the National Theater, with the much-praised Rory Kinnear as the gloomy prince.
The Vice Dean introduced our evening's reading of Henry IV, Part Two by reminding us of the many parallels between the two Henry IV plays. Henry's usurpation of the throne upset divinely ordained order; chaos followed. Since Henry rules by force of arms only, his reign invites rebellion. He has finally put down the last of the rebels, but he now, in Act Four, lies on his deathbed. Is his untimely demise God's judgment on the killer of Richard II?
4.2—We began to read in the middle of this scene. Hal has thought his father dead and has taken the crown from the king's side. Henry recalls the exhausting efforts he has made to restore right rule in the land and angrily predicts catastrophe for England under Hal's rule: "For the fifth Harry from curbed license plucks/ The muzzle of restraint, and the wild dog/ Shall flesh his tooth in every innocent." The Vice Dean reminded us of Henry V before Agincourt, meditating in soliloquy on the burdens of kingship.
A member saw Henry IV making a transition from justifying himself for his past acts to a more statesmanlike attitude, worrying about his country's future. Another member wondered why the king should condemn Hal so violently: what has Hal done to provoke such an attack? Others: Hal's tavern life seems to promise a debauched king who ignores law and order. Another member: "Henry sees himself in Hal." Perhaps he recalls his own disruption of proper order in winning the people's favor and then seizing the crown. A member mentioned the importance of the crown as symbolic object on stage here as it was in the
deposition scene in Richard II. The Vice Dean: Shakspere does not show us any attempt by Hal to take power, but the king sees his younger self in his son. A member: Hal in fact chose a better man than Dad as his father figure! Fat, jolly, life-affirming, a boon companion, a master of witty language.
Another member asked for sympathy for Henry: he truly fears for England's future, after the civil wars he has had to fight with a series of rebels. The king makes an eloquent final speech to Hal as he nears his death. He is full of guilt about seizing the royal power. Hal will benefit by his father's death: "For all the soil of the achievement goes/ With me into the earth." He fears God's judgment for the "by-paths and indirect crooked ways" by which "I met this crown." The Vice Dean: does Henry at last face justice here? A member: in Act Three, Henry said that he was "forced" by circumstance to become king. A refreshing readiness to take responsibility here? A member: Henry was of "mixed mind"; he allowed himself to be drafted to run, so to say, knowing he was morally wrong to do so.
5.1—Falstaff visits his old friend Justice Shallow in the boonies. A member wittily recalled Ava Gardner's comment, "Deep down, I'm shallow." Both men want to use the other for their own purposes. Falstaff has a fine long soliloquy sneering at his skinny friend, thinking of how he will entertain Hal in telling stories about this pompous, ridiculous country bumpkin who thinks himself a man of distinction.
5.2—The Lord Chief Justice meets King Henry V, expecting disaster, since he imprisoned the king when he was an unruly prince who insulted authority. The new king upbraids the Justice for his earlier behavior; the Justice eloquently retorts that he had defended "The majesty and power of law and justice." A member: a great performance as a lawyer by the LCJ! Henry V commends the old man, offers his hand, and promises, "You shall be as a father to my youth." He promises to "frustrate prophecies" that he would be a lawless monarch.
The Vice Dean called this scene the "rehabilitation of Hal," a reformation the prince had promised as early as his soliloquy in 1.4 of Part One. A member disdained Hal's "insincere fawning" over the Justice as he had over his father, in
sharp contrast to the prince's witty and frank exchanges with Falstaff, "Give and take between equals": wit, fun, a close mutual bond. Another member: Hal makes no promises as to what he will do as king, despite his airy generalities. A member: Hal never tells Falstaff before Hal becomes king that he will have to dismiss the fat man from his presence once Hal rules. A guest: we wonder how Hal will now rule as king, not convinced that he can walk the walk. A member: Henry V "takes the high ground" with the LCJ, a good augury that he will defend law and order as monarch. A member: we now have "measurable expectations" by which to judge the new king as he begins his rule.
The Vice Dean asked us to return to an old idea about Hal as prince: that he had been offered three models of how to rule, by Henry, Hotspur, and Falstaff. Only Falstaff still lives. We are left in suspense as to the model Hal will follow in ruling England as Henry V. Hal has not followed anyone else's lead up to the point that he begins his reign.
WE WILL MEET NEXT ON JANUARY 19, BEGINNING OUR READING THAT EVENING AT THE START OF ACT FIVE, SCENE THREE OF HENRY IV, PART TWO.
Robert G. Peck
In 1938 when I was 14 years old, I entered a new virtual country with its own virtual language. That is, I went to an eminent all-male boarding school during the deepest part of the worst depression the country ever had.
While it should be noted I had a scholarship, there is little doubt I was anxious to learn and emulate the customs of the world I had entered. My life-long characteristic of rebellion was born here, but at first it evoked a futile attempt to imitate. Not to challenge, but to adopt what I could afford to adopt. The afford part was a real one, because the advance instructions for new boys announced a jacket and tie were required at all meals and classes, and a dark blue suit with a white shirt for Sunday chapel. That's exactly what I arrived with, and let me tell you the green suit and brown tie were pretty well worn by the first Christmas, when I came home on the train for ten days vacation, and the opportunity to demand more clothes. As I remember, my disconcerted parents agreed to a new camel's hair jacket, for $10, which was also pretty worn-out by the following Easter vacation, permitting another campaign for proper clothes. Furthermore, the stigmatized "new boy" status was symbolized by requiring a black cap outdoors, and never, ever, walking on the grass. The penalty for not obeying the "rhinie" rules was to carry a brick around, and if discovered without a brick, to carry two bricks. But that's not what I am centered on, right now. The thing which really bothered me was unwritten, equally peer-pressured by my fellow students, the custom of addressing all my teachers as Sir. The other rules only applied until the first Christmas vacation, but the unwritten Sir rule proved to be life-long.
And it was complicated. It was Sir, as an introduction to a question, not SIR!, as a sign of disagreement. You were to use this as an introduction to a request for teaching, not as any sort of rebuke or resistance. Present-day students will be interested to know that every one of my teachers was a man; my recollection is, except for the Headmaster's secretary, the Nurse was the only female employee. The average class size was seven. Seven boys and a master. Each session of classes was preceded by an hour of homework, the assignment for which was posted outside a classroom containing a large oval oak table. Needless to say, the masters all wore a jacket and tie, mostly of the finest style and workmanship. They always knew your name, and always called on every student for answers, every day. Masters relaxed a little bit during the two daily hours of required exercise, when they took off their ties and became the coaches, but were just as formal the following day in class. I had been at the head of the class of what Time Magazine called the finest public high school in America, but I nearly flunked out of the first semester in this boarding school. It was much tougher at this private school than I felt any school had a right to be, but they really meant it. Over and over, the Headmaster in the pulpit intoned, "Of those to whom much is given, much is expected."
I had some new-boy fumbles. Arriving a day early, I found myself with only a giant and a dwarf for company at the dining table. I assumed the giant was a teacher, but he was a star on the varsity football team. And I assumed the dwarf was a student, but he was assistant house master. One was to become a buddy, the other a disciplinarian, but I had them reversed, calling the student "Sir", but the master by his first name. Bad mistake, which I have been reminded of, at numerous reunions since then.
When I later got to Yale, I began to see the rules behind the "Sir," rule. In the first place, all of the boarding school graduates used it, and none of the public school graduates, although many of the public school alumni began, falteringly, to imitate it. Without realizing it, a three-year habit had turned out to be a way of announcing a boarding school education. The effect on the professors was interesting; they rather liked it, so it was reinforced. The only time I can remember it's being scorned was eight years later, by a Viennese medical professor with a thick accent, and he was obviously puzzled by the significance. Hereditary aristocracy, perhaps. Indeed, I remember clearly the first time I was addressed as Sir. I was an unpaid hospital intern, but the medical students of one of the hospital's two medical schools, flattered me with the term. In retrospect, I can see it was a way of announcing their medical school knew what it meant, while that other medical school was just red-brick. Although they too had mostly graduated from red-brick colleges, their medical school aspired to be Ivy League.
If you travelled in Ivy League circles, the Sir convention was pretty universal until 1965, when going to school tieless reached almost all college faculties, thus extending permission to students to imitate them. Perhaps this had to do with co-education, since the sir tradition was never very strong in women's colleges, and denounced by the girls when the men's colleges went co-ed. Perhaps it had to do with the SAT test replacing school background as the major selection factor for admission. Perhaps it was the influx of central European students, children of European graduates for whom an anti-aristocratic posture was traditional, and until they came to America, largely futile. Perhaps it was economic. The American balance of trade had been positive for many decades before 1965; afterwards, the balance of trade has been steadily negative.
In Shakespeare's day, "Sirrah" was a slur about persons of inferior status. In Boswell's eighteenth Century day, his Life of Johnson immortalized his characteristic put-down with a one-liner. It survives today as a virtually text-book description of how to dominate an argument at a board-room dispute. "Why, Sir," was and remains a signal that you, you ninny, are about to be defeated with a quip. It's a curious revival of a new way of immortalizing small-group domination, and a very effective one at that, which even the soft-spoken Quakers use effectively. Whatever, whatever.
The tradition of addressing your professor as "Sir," is gone, probably for good, except among those for whom it is a deeply ingrained habit. Along with the tradition of female high school teachers, followed by male college professors.
|Posted by: Rose | Jan 16, 2016 12:47 AM|
|Posted by: Mary McMahon | Sep 23, 2013 8:43 PM|
|Posted by: g4 | Feb 1, 2008 5:52 AM|
|Posted by: g4 | Feb 1, 2008 5:28 AM|
Margaret of Anjou (1)
The Shakespere Society of Philadelphia is constructing a new play about Margaret of Anjou, out of parts of four plays in which William Shakespeare has her appear.
Shakespeare invented words freely, but unlike the rest of us, he invented good ones.
Elizabethan Accents in Philadelphia
In the birthplace of American independence, there's still a lot of Olde English buried in the speech patterns.
Rosencrantz and Gildenstern (4)
After an idea "grows legs and runs around", it no longer belongs to its originator
The Definition of a Real Philadelphian (1914)
"Mrs. Pennell states the Philadelphia case with such guileless precision that it's hilarious. Quaker ladies can wield a rapier wit without hurting feelings.
Paul Robeson 1898-1976
Valedictorian, All-American footballer, law degree, outstanding baritone, actor, film star, political activist -- Robeson rose to the top in the 1930s when by default he was always a pioneer. As a student, for example, he was the only black person on campus at Rutgers. His understandable resentments and show-biz surroundings propelled him into leftist activism. Mental infirmity and McCarthyism then brought him down.
Shakspere Society, January 9, 2008
The oldest Shakspere Society (Shakespeare Society) in America continues to discuss King Lear.
Shakspere Society, January 23, 2008
King Lear features the January 23, 2008 meeting of America's oldest Shakspere Society (Shakespeare Society).
Shakspere Society December 12, 2001
America's oldest Shakspere Society (Shakespeare Society) discusses Antony and Cleopatra.
Shakspere Society November 28, 2001
America's oldest Shakspere Society (Shakespeare Society) discusses Antony and Cleopatra.
Shakspere Society November 7, 2001
America's oldest Shakspere Society (Shakespeare Society) discusses the third Act of Antony and Cleopatra.
Shakspere Society October 24, 2001
America's oldest Shakspere Society (Shakespeare Society) discusses the second act of Antony and Cleopatra.
Shakspere Society October 10,2001
America's oldest Shakspere Society (Shakespeare Society) discusses the first act of Antony and Cleopatra.
Shakspere Society, 150th Annual Dinner April 23, 2001
The 150th annual dinner of America's oldest Shakspere Society (Shakespeare Society) on the occasion of his birthday.
SHAKSPERE SOCIETY January 8, 2003
America's oldest Shakespeare society comments on Two Gentlemen of Verona.
SHAKSPERE SOCIETY January 22, 2003
America's oldest Shakespeare society continues to discuss Two Genlemen of Verona
SHAKSPERE SOCIETY February 5, 2003
America's oldest Shakespeare society finishes Two Gentlemen of Verona.
SHAKSPERE SOCIETY March 19, 2003
America's oldest Shakespeare society takes up The Taming of the Shrew
SHAKSPERE SOCIETY March 5, 2003
America's oldest Shakespeare society continues with the Taming of the Shrew
Shakspere Society April 2,2003
America's oldest Shakespeare society completes the Taming of the Shrew
Shakspere's Last Will and Testament
Here is William Shakespeare's last will, with the spelling Shakspere. Whether that was the spelling preferred by William, or by his lawyer Francis Collins, is debatable.
SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADLEPHIA OCTOBER 22, 2003
MEETING OF THE SHAKESPEARE SOCIETY OF PHILADLEPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB ON OCTOBER 22, 2003
SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA OCTOBER 8, 2003
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB ON OCTOBER 8, 2003
SHAKASPEARE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA NOVEMBER 5, 2003
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, 11/05/ 2003
SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA NOVEMBER 19, 2003
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, NOVEMBER 19, 2003
xxSHAKeSPEaRE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA ,12/10/ 2003
xxxxMEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, 12/10/ 2003
ANNUAL MEETING AND DINNER APRIL 23, 2003
The Shakspere Society's annual dinner to honor Shakspere's birthday was held this year at the Francis Cope House in the Awbury Arboretum in Germantown.
Frank Furness,(3) Rush's Lancer
One of Philadelphia's most famous architects had two notable exploits as a Civil War cavalry officer, one of which won him the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Harvard Progressives in Philadelphia
The Progressive movement of the early 20th century was a strange hodge-podge of political reformers, nostalgic aristocrats, would-be socialists, and anti-immigrants. The central figure was Theodore Roosevelt, traveling in strange company like Owen Wister, Robert M. LaFollette, Henry James and Henry Adams. The Philadelphia link seems to have been through Harvard.
Hal Becomes Henry V
At the January 2011 meeting of the Shakspere Society of Philadelphia, a spirited debate ensued about the likeliness of the Bard's portrayal of that turning point in the "Henriad", the death of Henry IV and the uncertain competence of Henry V. Shakspere seems to be saying Henry V was England's greatest King.