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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

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What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

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Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

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The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

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Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

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William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

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William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Terrorist of Malta, Part II

Posted by Ray Davis on 09/11/05 at 04:04 PM

And so if I knew someone who was going to read The Jew of Malta or make other people read it, I would recommend "Another Country" to them. (Or more likely give them a copy.)

Without wanting to denigrate (or re-trace) Wilson's hard work in the archives, I would also mention a few problems.

The essay's chronology is hodge-podged, sometimes to the point of incoherence: it uses the single name "Walsingham" to refer to Francis Walsingham (who wrote the position paper quoted above, and who died in 1590), to a chief investor in the Levant Company (formed in 1592), and to Thomas Walsingham (a younger relative, and Marlowe's patron). Also, unnecessary stress is put on an uncertainly placed line. 1

Well, that second issue is trivial, and the first is minor enough.

Oddly, though, Wilson shares with his art-for-author's-sake precursors a compulsion to deny the play's explicit attacks on Judaism. The Chewbacca Defense is employed.

All of these points are interesting, and they all seem enticingly germane. But none of them deal with the actual evidence of the play.

They don't eliminate or excuse Marlowe's utilization of prejudice. Instead, they emphasize its hypocrisy. Wilson's defense has taken a regrettable matter of fact which only needed brief acknowledgment and made it a problem to be solved.

1 Wilson assumes that the "lofty turrets that command the town" were demolished in the Turkish attack on Malta. There's plenty of reason to suspect what we nowadays call a cut-and-paste error in in the Quarto at line 10:

Thus have we view'd the city, seen the sack,
And caus'd the ruins to be new-repair'd,
Which with our bombards' shot and basilisk
We rent in sunder at our entry:
And, now I see the situation,
And how secure this conquer'd island stands,
Environ'd with the Mediterranean sea,
Strong-countermin'd with other petty isles,
And, toward Calabria, back'd by Sicily,
Two lofty turrets that command the town.
When Syracusian Dionysius reign'd;
I wonder how it could be conquer'd thus.

But its most recent transplantation to line 5 seems just as awkward and not very sensible. Having taken the city by strategem, the new owner would have more reason to maintain its towers than to destroy them.

... to be continued ...


Don’t know how seriously to take your offer, but I just ordered a complete works of Marlowe.

My angle on this is that Early Modern Europe was a chaos where no one really could be sure what they believed any more, with all different kinds of world-views, both archaic and innovative, orthodox and heterodox on the table, but also an era of openness and possibility. Marlowe embodyies this uncertainty as well as anyone, especially in Faustus, even though he is not the greatest writer of the time.

Regarding the earlier post, I think that the equation “anti-Semite = proto-Nazi” (not explicitly stated here an seldom elsewhere, but always lurking in the background) is to be avoided. Naziism was a peculiarly efficient and relentless form of state exterminism, and even though the target people was the same, medieval anti-Semitism was something much different.

By John Emerson, first poster on 09/12/05 at 07:16 AM | Permanent link to this comment

For the most part, I agree, John. I hope you enjoy the Marlowe. I wish it was easier to order the complete Nashe!

I do think that, despite the chaos, some people in the Renaissance seemed pretty damn sure of themselves, even if they might sometimes be disconcertingly quick to switch orthodoxies. As a personal matter, I (and you?) tend to prefer those who explicitly live in uncertainty, which is probably why I’m so drawn to the Restoration period.

Your Nazi equation certainly isn’t lurking in my background, but you may be right that some readers might be less aware of anti-Semitism’s extensive historical and geographical range, and that it may be worth being explicit about the difference. The Final Solution lasted a couple of years more or less under wraps in a limited chunk of Europe. “Modern anti-Semitism” covers much more ground—it enabled the death camps, but can’t be equated with them. (North American slavery lasted a long time, but North American racism lasts longer.)

By Ray Davis on 09/12/05 at 09:44 AM | Permanent link to this comment

What I see in many figures of the time is the jusxtaposition of beliefs without clear decision. For example, in his last speech wishes for his soul to pass to an animal (metempsychosis) so that he can escape hell, since animals’ souls are not immortal, but dissolved into their elements (which means he switches back to the Christian belief about animals, dropping metempsychosis.) The Portuguese romance/pastoral/fiction Menina E Moca apparently came from a milieu where Judaism, Catholicism, humanism, Lutheranism, Islam, neo-Platonism, and perhaps Manichaeanism coexisted, and the book itself (possibly by an exiled crypto-Jew) and the characters in it are all very desparate and confused.

By John Emerson, first poster on 09/12/05 at 01:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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