Shakespeare’s Renaissance

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Scholarship /
Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Meta-Oxymoron / Shakespeare – Renaissance Background Basics /

For the moment [1997] I only wish to make a few simple points about Shakespeare’s Renaissance. The same geographical facts that allowed the British Empire to rule the waves in recent centuries retarded its reception of the Renaissance. It is difficult for twentieth-century man to realize the difference between artificially standardized time and natural, local time. Once upon a time “noon” was when the sun was at the “top” of its arc across the sky. (“Overhead” was never accurate at European latitudes.) People at the same picnic may agree on a moment when the sun is “overhead,” but not when the picnic is spread throughout the town or between counties. London time would not have been Stratford time let alone Rome time. In culture, London time was well behind Rome time.

London had power. London had money. But it would be a while before London had the power and money that Rome had. Chaucer wrote nice medieval stuff in London. The king sent him to Italy. He came back writing nice Renaissance stuff. Surrounded by nice medieval people.

Wherever the ancient artifacts that launched the Renaissance were dug up, they were brought to the centers of power and activity. A botanist finds a fern in Florida: he sends it to Cambridge, MA where it’s dubbed Boston Fern. A copy of Ovid unearthed in Africa would be shipped to Italy, to some major monastery. When rediscovery of ancient Greek texts tempted some to learn to read them, the Church wouldn’t have it. Jerome had translated from the Septuagint, but Church authority had grown so comfy with the Vulgate that any Luthers tempted to new readings would not be tolerated: studying Greek was made a capital offense. Church authority was based on records more fragmentary than the Church could have known (though they might have guessed). Thus, once new records came in, new evidence had to be outlawed. And the brave new monastic universities were formed. With them came the Renaissance. Realize: only the Church had literature. The kings had sheep, gold, and wheat counters, but only the most primitive of literatures. For literature the Church was a solid monopoly. That is it was until this alien literature started showing up. The old literature fertilized new. Indigenous literature went nova in Italy. Some sparks crossed the Channel. It wasn’t till the late Sixteenth Century, with Spain in the drink and the Tudor star safe that indigenous literature grew to a bonfire in England.

Rome has a Mediterranean climate. England is chilly, wet, isolated. Of course the fire got there last. Thanks to Shakespeare, it got there best. Or at least the fire then burned there equally hot as anywhere ever.

I have no original contribution to make in this specific area other than my prose. Any points I add here will just parallel stuff already widely understood. My reading of the sonnets as meta-oxymoron, related to the epistemological conflict between orthodoxy and heresy (the science to be), now that’s original, and revolutionary (and thus far successfully sabotaged by authority, but I’m not dead yet).

on Shakespeare’s Sonnets Menu

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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