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Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Paul Dry publishers should be commended for bringing this classic book back into print. I believe it had been out of print for decades and the fortunate few who had a copy or who were lucky enough to uncover a used copy, cherished this book as if it were a treasure. Sister Miriam Joseph displays an encyclopedic knowledge of Shakepeare's entire works including all the plays, the Sonnets & the narrative poems. She demonstrates Shakespeare's use of a wide variety of rhetorical terms as well as showing his use of the forms of argument, logic, and persuasion. Shakespeare's use of the rhetorical terms and the other "arts of language" is often the best example of anyone, ever! I really believe this book is of great value to a wide variety of readers and needs to be on more college and high school book lists; it is that good. Specifically, it will be of value to any writers; serious students of Shakespeare; or anyone interested in improving their communication skills. Close and careful study of this book will be time well spent.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2007
Two years ago I paid $145 for this unabridged version, which had gone out of print. At that time, the only version in print had been eviscerated of several hundred pages highlighting Shakespeare's own examples of rhetorical craft. Now the the unabridged version is back at an amazingly affordable price and remains the best work yet for those who want to use or teach this invaluable science of style.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
The best thing this reprint needs is a Glossary.

As our current custom in education through college ignores rhetoric, and logic, altogether, those terms and concepts once second hand to everyone with a high school education are now completely unknown to us, and so a supplemental glossary is sought.

We are now not taught rhetoric nor logic in order the more easily to control us, and to keep us as happy consumers of waste products. Read the transcript of the recent Vice Presidential "debates" and compare them with The Complete Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858.

What is a debate? What is logic? What is Rhetoric?

Get thee to a glossary, go!

As this book reveals, in Shakespeare's day select small boys arose from before sunrise until after sunset to study rhetoric, and logic, if they were not serfs out in the fields for those same hours.

This present work was originally published over sixty years ago, written by a Catholic nun at a time any woman was rare in higher education, yet who spent the war years carefully researching this comprehensive work.

In Shakespeare's day those small boys fortunate enough for schooling studied rhetorical forms using Biblical citations. This work demonstrates rhetorical forms using Shakespearean citations, which are marvelous and impel us to further Shakespearean studies.

How often have you read Timon of Athens (Arden Shakespeare) or The Oxford Shakespeare: The Tragedy of Coriolanus (The Oxford Shakespeare: Oxford World's Classics), or delved into the delights of the comic characters as in the comedies like Love's Labour's Lost (Arden Shakespeare: Third Series) or the Histories? Here we find with Sister Miriam Joseph a compelling introduction to all his plays and poems.

As if apologetic of her formidable and nearly insurmountable scholarship regarding the history of rhetoric which informs the first Part of this tome, Sister Miriam repeatedly explains her purpose. In the Preface she writes: "The contribution of this present work is to present in organized detail essentially complete the general theory of composition current during the Renaissance (as contrasted with special theories for particular forms of composition) and the illustration of Shakespeare's use of it (p. viii)."

In her first chapter on the General Theory of Composition she writes: "This study undertakes to establish four points: first, that the general theory of composition and of reading current in Shakespeare's England is to be found in one form in the contemporary works on logic and rhetoric combined; second, that it is to be found in another form in the work of the figurists which, surprisingly, treats of approximately the same matter as do the logic and rhetoric texts combined; third, that these two forms, though outwardly different, are fundamentally alike; fourth, that the theory in its entire scope, whether in the one form or in the other, is, with two or three negligible exceptions, illustrated in Shakespeare's plays and poems, where it contributes to the power and richness of his language and even of his thought, while it accounts for certain peculiar differences between the characteristic mode of expression of his time and of ours. Included also in this study are the vices of language, treated by the figurists in connection with the figures of grammar, and the fallacies and captious arguments, treated by the logicians in connection with correct forms of reasoning. Shakespeare makes capital use of them to create humor and to depict villainy and low life (p. 4)."

That selection might at least give you a taste of her style of writing in this opening section. Readers are encouraged to skip to the section of Shakespearean selections, which are more engaging for the modern (or post-literate) reader, as they are more brief sound-bites than this marvelously elaborate syntax.

On page thirteen Sister Miriam Joseph stresses in the midst of a meticulous presentation, as if to urge our continued reading: "To show how Shakespeare used the whole body of logical-rhetorical knowledge of his time is essentially the undertaking of the present study."

The Introductory Part One, consisting really of the one chapter on the General Theory of Composition, very carefully and minutely therefore examines the history and development of rhetoric and logic derived from Aristotle (for whom we and Saint Thomas Aquinas must forever thank the Muslim Averroes: His Life, Works, and Influence (Great Islamic Writings)). This may be of lesser interest to the casual reader, who may do well to skip to part two. In fact, Sister Miriam politely provides this same suggestion:

"The essential general theory of composition and of reading current in Shakespeare's England, as expressed in the definitions, illustrations, and comments of the Tudor logicians and rhetoricians, is presented at the end of this volume in an eclectic handbook constructed by selecting each item form the author who seems to have treated it best and by arranging the whole in a pattern outlined above. The entire theory, with a few negligible exceptions, is illustrated from Shakespeare's plays and poems in the following chapters (p. 37)."

In a footnote on that same page 37, Sister Miriam Joseph provides this gentle and most merciful suggestion to her hardworking readers: "The reader may study the theory in Part Three (Chapters VI-IX) either a section at a time or a chapter at a time before he reads the illustration from Shakespeare in Part Two (Chapters II-V). He may even want to read all of Part Three before beginning Chapter II. The headings of sections and the order of topics within sections in Parts Two and Three are identical to facilitate reference. The reader who is not interested in the theory either for proof or for flavor may disregard Part III entirely, since the chapters on Shakespeare are intelligible without it (p. 37b)."

I take the liberty of such liberal citations as no one can explain her monumental work here better than Sister Miriam Joseph herself. I add my estimation to hers that the suggestion most capable of holding the interest of myself and my contemporaries in this brave new millennium will be Part Two, which, like the Bard, is a delight beyond measure. Hopefully it will inspire the serious and advanced student to enter what for us now in our fallen times are unknown waters: Logic and her sweet sister Rhetoric, and to read more seriously and with greater appreciation Shakespeare himself.

Read this book when free for months, for the rest of your life, like Ulysses (Gabler Edition). Better study it in a decent class of some several semesters' time, with a kindly professor who neither bullies nor intimidates graduate students, but guides and instructs them. Certainly that awe-inspiring opening chapter has proved the bane of several generations of students confronted with quick quizzes of convolutions of names and dates and schools of Rhetoric (I like the Ramists myself, or Fraunce). Stick to Part Two, and go on to a better reading of the Bard, to better self-expression, and to more efficient thought and the evaluation of that which is said.

Get thee to a Glossary! Go!

(and perceive the rhetorical and logical substance of that which is currently broadcast and published for our dubious benefit)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2011
This is a scholarly book that methodically explores William Shakespeare's creative use of Elizabethan English in his plays. The book consists of three parts: (1) an introduction to the prevalent theories of composition in England in Shakespeare's lifetime; (2) an extensive survey of Shakespeare's use of the tools of the Trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) in his plays; and (3) a review of the theories of composition espoused by logicians and rhetoricians in Tudor England.

The first part provides an informative background that provides a conceptual and theoretical context by which the reader can better understand and appreciate the author's analysis and discussion of Shakespeare's creative use of Elizabethan English in his plays. Although the first part is somewhat technical in nature, a reader who takes the time and devotes the attention needed to follow the author's discussion will be better able to follow and appreciate the author's later discussion of Shakespeare's creative use of language in his plays.

The second part looks at many passages from Shakespeare's plays to illustrate and discuss how Shakespeare creatively used grammatical schemes, figures of speech, logic, and elements of classical rhetoric to make his plays lively, interesting, and memorable for his audiences. The second part is the heart of the book and the part most likely to be of interest to readers wanting to learn about Shakespeare's creative use of language, or to better understand and appreciate his plays.

The third part is a review of the theories of composition espoused by logicians and rhetoricians in Tudor England. The third part is not essential for readers only interested in Shakespeare, but it does provide material against which a reader can compare and contrast Shakespeare's use of language in his plays.

This book is a scholarly book that is not suitable for casual reading. It is very methodical and erudite and requires a reader to invest time and careful attention to follow the author's discussion and commentary. The author's analysis and discussion are insightful, informative, and thought-provoking. I recommend this book to anyone interested in: (1) a scholarly approach to understanding and appreciating Shakespeare's plays; or (2) the use of the tools of the Trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) in Shakespeare's lifetime.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2008
This book examines the influence of a typical grammar school education on the word power and appreciation of the likes of Shakespeare. It is presumed that Shakespeare enjoyed a reasonable degree of schooling and in the last section of this wonderful book, the author outlines the typical course in language and its uses that a student would cover.

Firstly it certainly puts to shame the watered down nonsense that passes for English grammar and clear thinking in schools today. Secondly, it helps us to understand just where some of the theoretical genius of Shakepeare developed from.

A wonderful work. It has thrown me further into the study of language..
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This book centers on the "flowers" of Rhetoric. Each one is described and provided with examples. Originally written in the first half of the twentieth century, it has not been equaled nor approached. A solid addition to anyone's Shakespeare reference shelf.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2010
A brilliant and classic book, required reading for anyone studying Shakespeare's use of rhetoric and Renaissance codes of argumentation.
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on April 4, 2015
This book is bookish, and being bookish it is complex, and being complex it is a slow read, and being a slow read it requires much labor - well suited for a highly focused graduate student in Creative Writing or someone teaching a course on Elizabethan letters. Not that the topic - Shakespeare's use of language - isn't fascinating, but the treatment is thoroughly thorough:top-heavy and wide-ranging. For example, the author is not content merely to focus in on the topic; she pulls in copious amounts of supporting historical and background information. So if you're seeking an Everyman's analysis of how Shakespeare used language, move on, Gentle Reader, this be not the book you want. Rewording my words above, this is an ambitious work of sound scholarship.

Here's an example:

"A sorites [pronounced so-RAI-teez] is a chain of reasoning, a series of abridged syllogisms or enthymemes. A sorites normally involves repetition of the last word of each sentence or clause at the beginning of the next, a figure which the rhetoricians called climax or gradation, because it marks the degrees of steps in an argument. Using sorites with climax, Rosalind refers to the figure almost in terms of its definition: '[To Orlando] For your brother and my sister no sooner met but they look'd; no sooner look'd but they lov'd; no sooner lov'd but they sigh'd; no sooner sigh'd but they asked one another the reason; no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy; and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage' (AYLI 5.2.35)" (p. 180).

If we're not teaching our children this sort of thing, I'm not 100% certain that's a bad thing. See for example The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto.

The book has three major sections: The General Theory of Composition and of Reading in Shakespeare's England, Shakespeare's Use of the Theory (the book's largest section), and The General Theory of Composition and Reading as Defined and Illustrated by Tudor Logicians and Rhetoricians. The second section is the most fascinating and most germane to this book's ostensible topic.

I personally do not cling to the idea that William Shakespeare wrote the plays. I consider that idea an overly romantic concept, and find the idea that Sir Francis Bacon or the 17th Earl of Oxford (Edward de Vere) wrote them far more realistic. So the repeated assertions of how a Tudor grammar school boy would have acquired sufficient active literacy to write the plays of Shakespeare is a chronic minor distraction when reading this book. I suspect when you finish this book you won't be writing Shakespearean plays, either. See for example Mark Twain's essay Is Shakespeare Dead? From my autobiography., in which Twain states: "I only believed Bacon wrote Shakespeare, whereas I *knew* Shakespeare didn't." See also The Great Cryptogram: Francis Bacon's Cipher in the So-Called Shakespeare Plays.

To the degree you're very familiar with the Shakespearean plays you will enjoy this book. Again, it's dense going and you really need to bring your pick and shovel to profitably mine from this book, as is the case with The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric. But this certainly seems to me a good reference for those wishing to fine tune their facility with the English language, widen their familiarity with the nuts and bolts of Shakespearean style, and immerse themselves in a serious study of the Trivium through the medium of Shakespeare's plays. Again, no light read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2013
The wordcraft books are a must for anyones library! Do not get them on kindle cause they are the kind of books to mark and notate!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2014
This is a major scholarly work done by a conscientious researcher who detailed, with precision, Shakespeare's linguistic brilliance.
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