Posted By Roger Stritmatter on October 23, 2011
Ok, I know that was unfair, to post something private and password protected.
And I can tell from the number of hits the post received that a lot of you are looking for “curious inscriptions.”
So I’ll make it up to you.
In case anyone has not realized it yet, I’m taking my time with the full reveal of the de Vere Bible annotations because, well, I like to take my time.
It’s certainly not as if there aren’t plenty of related topics to blog about. I especially enjoy the chance to reflect on some of the more curious episodes of recent intellectual history or listen in on Mark Anderson at Studio 360.
And, alas, although the subject of the “curious inscription” post is near and dear to my heart, it is also, it turns out, more properly the topic for a major peer-reviewed article — after which the blogging will begin. I promise.
More than one wise adviser has told me, in no uncertain terms, not to blog this thing first, or has questioned my sanity for even entertaining such an idea.
But given the unrequited interest the padlocked post provoked, I thought I should offer a plausible substitute.
So here it is, for those who have not yet seen it: Wisdom 18.21 from the de Vere Geneva Bible:
What does it say, you ask?
Good question, and one I pondered for some time before getting it myself.
It says “[the wea] pon of [the go]dly is Praier.”
The Bible has been cropped, so we must reconstruct the missing letters. But, the Bible verse is pretty clear: “the blameless man made haste…..& toke the weapons of his ministration, even praier…and so broght miserie to an end.”
The reconstruction seems beyond reasonable doubt.
The more interesting question is, what does this mean?
Well, I’ve written a bit on this in the dissertation, and much more extensively in the book manuscript, but here are a few out-takes for you.
For starters it would appear that Queen Margaret in II Henry VI has been reading Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible, for she declares of Henry VI, none too charitably, that
his champions are the prophets and the apostles,
His weapons holy saws of sacred writ, his study his tilt yard.
Perhaps the idea is also reflected, more abstractly, in the words of Gaunt in Richard II when he urges to Gloucester’s widow, “put we our quarrel to the will of heaven” (1.2.6), rather than pursue vengeance for Gloucester’s death.
One might add to this any number of other (slightly less compelling) parallels, but there is little point in heaping these up here and now. Newcastle is already well provided with those coals, as readers of my dissertation are aware.
More importantly, the annotation — the longest in the Bible not counting corrections of missing lines in the printed text — conveys something of deep interest about how the annotator views language.
Language, to him, can be a weapon.
Hamlet agrees: I will speak daggers to her but use none.
In the caption to Jupiter’s Moons in a previous post I mentioned modern “speech act theory.” Among other only partly novel claims, my book will argue that Shakespeare understood, and pioneered, much of modern speech act theory as first articulated in J. L. Austin’s classic How to do Things with Words (1955).
This is not an entirely a novel idea, although I’m going to take the idea in a new and unprecedented direction. Linguists like Joseph A. Porter, whose The Drama of Speech Acts: Shakespeare’s Lancastrian Trilogy (1979) is a formative text on the topic, know that Shakespeare’s philosophy of language is not only profound but systematic.
The bard knows how to “do things with words” — magic things, Orphic things.