Sunday, July 10, 2011

Was Greek 'Greek' to Shake-Speare?

Casca: Ay, he spoke Greek.

Brutus: To what effect?

Casca: Nay, and I tell you that I’ll ne’er look you in the face again:
but those that understood him smiled at one another, and
shook their heads; but for mine own part, it was Greek to me.

Julius Caesar: Act I, Scene 2
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Was Greek ‘Greek’ to Shake-Speare?

This question was explored in a nice article by Andrew Werth.

Opening paragraph:
“DESPITE important evidence, orthodox scholars have ruled out Shakespeare’s ability to read Greek. Implying the matter is closed, they tell us Shakespeare relied on few translated Greek writers, and read none in the original. We suggest that, on the contrary, the Greek classics were important to Shakespeare, and that he read them in Greek.”

“That Shakespeare used Homer for Troilus and Cressida is called “tantalizing” by one critic (Barton, Troilus 479), and the same commentator also offers parallels between Shakespeare and Homer in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (though she does not directly compare the two). For example, the characters in the play “stress the richness of their encompassing world by listing its components” (Dream 252-253). Listing was a favorite technique of Ben Jonson, a devoted Greek scholar, which he demonstrated in Volpone, The Alchemist, and BartholomewFair. But, Barton notes, Jonson’s lists are “stifling” and seem to inventory “the dusty corners of some Gothic lumber room,” while Shakespeare’s are “inexhaustively rich and various [and are made] relevant to the whole” (253). Jonson, a classics scholar—and always looking to imitate the masters—likely drew his obsession with lists from Homer. The Iliad provides an endless source of lists, but Shakespeare’s lists are closer in effect to Homer’s; they provide depth and richness, and contribute to the whole.”

“Greek plots, names, passages, philosophy, dramatic technique and, most important, the Greek “spirit,” enhance and inform Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. Shakespeare’s Warwick reminds us, “There is a history in all men’s lives.” But what of Warwick’s creator? Where is his history? Do his works suggest an untutored rustic who left no books, writings, or evidence of literary activity? Or do they suggest one who was given an advanced classical education in both Greek literature and the Greek language? As the authorship debate advances, it will move beyond the opinions of such scholars as the Martindales, who at present can only gush that Shakespeare’s apparent intimacy with the classics is “a miracle we cannot explain” (12). It is no miracle, and the explanation leads us away from the man from Stratford.”

Read the whole article here: (16 pages):

And now to some further connections between Shake-Speare and Francis Bacon (adding to the multiple proofs of common authorship in Bacon and Shakespeare excerpts previously posted here):

Francis Bacon’s mother Anne (from Wikipedia):

“Anne Bacon was born in Essex, England, one of the five daughters of Anthony Cooke, tutor to Henry VIII’s only son Edward. Cooke ensured that each daughter received a thorough humanist education in languages and the classics. Anne mastered Greek, Latin, and Italian.”

And from The Bacon-Shakespeare Question (most often quoted and cited here):

“As a young child he (Francis) was no doubt taught by his parents and by private tutors. He was well versed in languages, ancient and modern. He wrote some of his works in Latin. He knew Greek too, which featured prominently in the Universities at that time. At Trinity a bill for him and his  brother shows that they purchased Homer’s Iliad in Greek and Zenephon (a philosopher) in Greek and Latin. Occasionally in Bacon’s writings one comes across a Greek word, and if he made a note which he wished to conceal from prying eyes he would sometimes write it in Greek characters.”

“He was fluent in French and sometimes wrote letters in that tongue. Italian was also at his command. According to the Baconian Nathaniel Holmes in his The Authorship of Shakespeare, p. 6, he cites more than a dozen Italian authors in The Advancement of Learning alone. He evidently had some Spanish too, since he cites some 40 Spanish proverbs in the Promus, and occasionally uses Spanish tags in letters.”

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