Sunday, May 16, 2010

Links & Reviews

- If you read one thing today (well, other than this post), make it Ron Rosenbaum's Slate takedown of Arden Shakespeare's decision to put Double Falsehood into the "canon."

- Ian updates Bookride's list of 20 sites for book collectors.

- The Spring Lapham's Quarterly has a handy chart: Friends, Lovers, and Family, connecting (among others) Lord Byron and Kevin Bacon.

- New AAS Assistant Reference Librarian Tracey Kry posts some first impressions on their blog. Oh, complicated shelving systems!

- In the Guardian, a preview of Bill Bryson's next book, At Home.

- Jack Rakove was on NPR this week to talk about his new book Revolutionaries; there's also an excerpt.

- I'd been wondering about this. The judge assigned to the Google Books Settlement was recently promoted to the Second Circuit; Publisher's Weekly suggested on Friday that Denny Chin might still rule on the proposed settlement, instead of passing it off to another judge.

- Via Salon, a promo-video for Brontë sister action figures.


- Allan Massie's The Royal Stuarts: review by Noel Malcolm in the Telegraph.

- Jonathan Israel's A Revolution of the Mind (and others): review by Samuel Moyn in The Nation.

- Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder: review by Paula Findlen in The Nation.

- The Oxford Book of Parodies (edited by John Gross): review by Kevin Jackson in the Sunday Times.

- Ben Macintyre's Operation Mincemeat: review by Jennet Conant in the NYTimes.

- Steven Moore's The Novel: An Alternative History: review by Denis Donoghue in the WSJ.

- Robert Alter's Pen of Iron: reviews by Mark Noll in Books & Culture and Adam Kirsch in TNR.

1 comment:

Clark said...

According to Arden editor Brean Hammond, quoted in an article posted on the TimesOnline website,* the hand of Shakespeare can be detected in Acts I and II, and at least half of Act III, of DOUBLE FALSEHOOD (DF), as presented by Louis Theobald.

While Ron Rosenbaum quotes a number of examples in his SLATE article from DF that he maintains sound un-Shakespearean, they all come from Acts IV or V of DF, which were presumably based on the part of the original play that had been written by John Fletcher—at least according to Hammond. Unfortunately for Rosenbaum’s argument, the examples he gives do sound somewhat suspiciously like the work of Fletcher.

Rosenbaum gives us the example of “Tell me the way to the next nunnery,” which is from Act IV, Scene I, of DF. While it’s true that Shakespeare famously had Hamlet direct Ophelia to “Get thee to a nunnery,” which sounds much more pleasing, Beaumont and Fletcher also used the word “nunnery” at least ten times in their plays. For instance, in THE MAD LOVER, Act IV, Scene II, the character Chilax tells us that “There’s an old nunnery at hand.”

Rosenbaum also complains about the line “Fair-snouted skittish woman”, again from Act IV, Scene I, of DF, noting that “Theobald’s yucky” phrase “fair-snouted” does not appear in Shakespeare. While this is true, there is a similar passage in Beaumont and Fletcher’s THE COXCOMB, Act IV, Scene III, where a mother, upon hearing that her son was in the company of some gentlewoman, says “Pray God he have not cast away himself Upon some snout-fair piece! I do not like it.”

Rosenbaum next complains about “broken your complexion”, used in Act IV, Scene I, of DF to show that neither sorrow nor age has ruined a character’s complexion. Beaumont and Fletcher don’t use this particular phrase, but they do have a character in similar circumstances in THE ISLAND PRINCESS, Act II, Scene I, whose “complexion [is] firm still”. Presumably a firm complexion would be the equivalent of an unbroken one.

The next target for Rosenbaum is the Theobald line “soul-spotted hind”, used in Act IV, Scene II, of DF to describe a vicious master. In midst of the humor, Rosenbaum wonders what “soul-spotted” might mean. Beaumont and Fletcher appear to use “spotted” to mean foul (as in “the pureness of her chaste thoughts entertains not such spotted instruments”, from THE ELDER BROTHER, Act V, Scene II), and they include the phrase “you shotten-soul’d, slight fellows” in WIT WITHOUT MONEY, Act III, Scene IV, when a character upbraids his fellows. So it would appear that “soul-spotted” might mean that the master has a foul soul.

Rosenbaum next ridicules “hurt my brain,” Act IV, Scene I, of DF, contrasting it to Shakespeare’s “cut to the brains,” but the usage seems closer to Beaumont and Fletcher’s “the largest dose of camphire, opium, harms not his brain”, from Act IV, Scene I, of THE QUEEN OF CORINTH.

Rosenbaum also frowns at “aught of humane in you, or a soul that's gentle” from Act IV, Scene I, of DF, arguing that it suggests that Theobald suffered from a language learning deficit, but perhaps he would better have compared it to Beaumont and Fletcher’s “Oh let not (as you have any flesh that’s humane in you) the having of a modest wife decline him!” from Act II, Scene VI, of VALENTINIAN.

Nor does Rosenbaum appear to like “sounds the depths of falsehood”, from Act V, Scene I, of DF, but then, he might not have liked Beaumont and Fletcher’s “Yet something must be done to sound the depth on’t” from Act III, Scene V, of THE CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY, either.

Far from proving that DF was a forgery by Theobald, the best Rosenbaum has managed to do is strongly suggest that Acts IV and V were based on an earlier work by John Fletcher. It remains to be seen whether Acts I and II, and parts of Act III, may have been by Shakespeare.