Good morning and welcome back to the Blackfriar’s Conference LiveBlog! This is Lauren Romagnano and I will be blogging this morning’s keynote speaker Dympna Callaghan, who will be speaking on Language and Liberty in As You Like It. Ralph Cohen introduces Callaghan as a Professor of Modern Letters at Syracuse University. He also mentions her prior office as President of the Shakespeare Association of America. Cohen also goes on to list Callaghan’s extensive variety of topics in her work, such as Shakespeare’s life, Shakespeare’s sonnets, Shakespearean Pedagogy, and perhaps most relevant to the Shakespeare and Performance Students, women’s studies and feminism in Renaissance theatre. He warmly welcomes Callaghan to the podium.
Callaghan begins by thanking everyone, including third year MFA student Allison Jones who will be assisting her this morning. Callaghan begins by asking Allison to read the quote that leads her speech today, Jaques remark to Orlando, “You speak in blank verse” (4.1.35). Callaghan believes that Jaques serves as the identifier of the permeability between blank verse and prose in Orlando’s language. After quoting such writers as William Wordsworth, Stephen Greenblatt, and Ezra Pound, she discusses the regulation and censorship of language that led to the belief that blank verse was not suited to the English language. She includes a quote from John Florio, listing a series of dangerous terms against blank verse, including the notable, “licentious.”
Callaghan believes that free speech, and the freeness therein by granted from it, was not perceived as the inalienable right it is today. Instead, the free dimensions of public speech focused more on speaking truth to power, not the powerless speaking true. She continues that liberty in turn was the positive aspects of freedom, instead of freeness from an ideal. This is examined the ‘outlaw rhetoric’ of Duke Senior and the others of the forest, who use eloquence in the vernacular language. These primordial liberties stem from the views of early England as the original green world.
Callaghan notes that, though Rosalind is also worthy of examination in terms of blank verse and prose, she will only focus on Orlando today. Orlando writes and publishes poems in a world beyond the licensing laws of England. Although he is metrically inept, he speaks with spontaneous blank verse eloquence. Callaghan wants to call to mind the images of the tongues in the trees, something representative of the aesthetics of the free forest where anyone can reading anything anywhere. She continues by detailing the history of the Anglican Church of England and the regulations and charges of treason under the laws of licensing in that time.
This takes us through the echoing political regulations within Arden as noted through the repeated imagery of marred text, two instances that both feature Orlando. This marred text is felt by editors who struggle to determine where lines are prose and where they are blank verse. Callaghan argues this is an experiment Shakespeare is conducting in the interest in the distinction and intersection of prose and verse. Many editors discover iambic prose and lyrical prose, fossils of instances where Shakespeare played between the two forms. Ultimately, she remarks that in the Arden Third Edition of this play, lines that have until now been written as prose have now been written as blank verse.
Callaghan concludes that this alternation between forms is another layer to the jest Jaques makes towards Orlando. She notes that Shakespeare has already noted blank verse as a form of freedom in Hamlet and ad libbing as a form of dangerous talk to be avoided. Ultimately, the use of prose and blank verse to explore freedom is Shakespeare’s experiment of prose as verse and verse as prose to study the freedom of a poet in a time of harsh regulation of speech and written language.