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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The SATAN is in the details of Romeo(us) & Juliet….AND the King James Bible, too!

In another online venue, I received two clever satirical responses from Shakespeare scholars to my recent claim re the above:

One wrote: “It occurs to me that since Brooke, Shakespeare, and Milton published their SATAN acrostics in 1562, 1597 and 1667 that there must have been one published in 1632, so that they would all appear a uniform 35 years apart. Maybe the 1632 Second Folio of Shakespeare counts, though that hardly seems fair.  Perhaps Lyly’s ‘Six Court Comedies’? And what was published in 1527 and 1702? We have some SATAN scouting to do.”

I responded as follows:

Your tongue is clearly at the edge of your cheek, but I’ll indulge in wagging mine back at you a bit ---let me point out that I attributed NO significance whatsoever to the specific year of publication of Romeo & Juliet. I merely mentioned 1597 as the year of its publication, in passing, and I assumed that most reading it here in this Shakespeare-savvy venue would know that this was merely shorthand on my part.

From what I understand, the First “Bad” Quarto of Romeo & Juliet was published in 1597, but the Second “Good” Quarto was published in 1599. The 1599 Good Quarto, by the way, actually is the first to have the SATAN acrostic-- as does the much later 1623 First Folio---whereas the 1597 First Quarto, revealingly, does NOT. This suggests to me that the SATAN acrostic was unknown to or unrecognized by the 1597 non-Shakespearean author, and/or that the SATAN acrostic was actually first added to the play text by Shakespeare himself after 1597.

But back to your clever straw man of cicada-like 35-year rhythmic cycles. As I just explained, there is not even a real superficial pattern to cleverly manipulate. Your straw man merely illustrates the danger of claiming the existence of an intentional pattern of parallels based on too few and too thin points of correspondence. It begs the question of whether a specific case with some meat on the bones is real or Memorex. And when you wrote ….
“Need I point out that the 35-year gaps are not without significance? 35 is 5 x 7; and 5 + 7 =12. So there you have the 12 tribes of Israel, the Seven Deadly Sinnes and the Five, uh.... hmmm I’ll have to get back to you on that...”
 …your tongue disappeared so DEEP into your cheek, that all I can do is applaud your wit and move on.

As for the other reply to me (extracting 6-6-6 from my hyperbolic guess of the mathematical improbability of coincidence of the three SATAN acrostics), that was also very clever, but it evades the central question, which (if I may use an apt cliché) is that the devil (or should I say, the SATAN) is in the details.

And if you look at all the specific details that converge among Brooke, Shakespeare, and Milton, focused on the SATAN acrostics in each, they collectively present a dense, large and coordinated web of parallelism that I claim really is astronomically unlikely to have occurred randomly. If you disagree, I’d love to hear some substantive argument in support of your disagreement, in which you address the actual points I made, and give some other explanation for how those specific points, connected as I showed they are, could have appeared randomly.

And the beauty and strength of my central claim is that it really does rest on the impregnable foundation of three texts which each have very clear SATAN acrostics at congruent points in their respective chronologies. All the rest of my argument are “ornaments” I have hung on that very firmly planted rhetorical ANTIChristmas tree (i.e., the one Satan decorates).   ;)

If I understand the second satirist’s point, in taking my hyperbolic claim of the mammoth size of the improbability of coincidence, and pulling out of it a Satanic numerological pattern---  it is that it demonstrates that patterns can be ingeniously generated post hoc which have a superficial veneer of prior intentionality. But, again, that should merely function as a reminder not to jump too quickly at superficial patterns. I believe that what I presented is qualitatively different from your example—and exponentially less probable to be a figment of my overheated imagination.

And one last thing---when and if anyone responds to this post, you will now have to contend with an additional major point of textual congruence, which was pointed out to me privately by a very sharp and precise scholar, a mathematician from Norway named Frode Larsen, who wrote the following response to me the other day:

“Arnie, you mention a link to the King James Bible given by the occurrence of the number 42 in both the quotation from R & J and in Revelation 13.5. When you specifically refer to the KJV, I guess the reason is that both in R & J and in the KJV, “two and forty”/“forty and two” are preceded by the word “continue”, which I don’t find in the versions of the Bishop’s Bible or the Geneva Bible I have looked at.”

And my immediate answer to Frode was,
“No, as carefully as I looked at those two lines, I did NOT consciously notice that both the Revelations verse with “two-and’forty” and the R&J verse with “two and forty’ both used the word “continue”, too! I used the KJV as my Biblical source only because it was the one that was published not long after R&J, and it is the one that has historically exerted the greatest influence over the past 4 centuries. I.e., the KJV is THE English language version of the Bible. So, Frode, I thank you very much, because you have just made my original claim that much stronger, by showing yet another hidden connection in the matrix among the KJV, Romeus & Juliet, Romeo & Juliet, and Paradise Lost. And I will honor your insight by leveraging still further, to draw more tightly into this matrix one other famous and great literary work, Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.

I.e., the skeptics must also explain why the word “continue” is there in BOTH the KJV and in Friar Laurence’s speech, in both cases modifying “two-and-forty”. I’d say, just add a few more zeroes to the string of them comprising the cosmically large improbability of coincidence.

I will write up the post I promised Frode sometime in the next week, in which I will draw Jane Austen into my web of literary SATANism. For now, I will merely add the following tantalizing additional hypothesis for you all to chew on:

The 1597 Q1 of Romeo & Juliet lacks BOTH the SATAN acrostic AND the word “continue” (which, as a classical scholar friend of mine whom I will mention in my next post, has told me, is something of a reach in translating the verb in the original Biblical Greek), but the 1599 Q2 of R&J was published BEFORE the KJV was even authorized in 1604, let alone was published in 1611.

So, how to explain this apparent allusion between Romeo & Juliet and the KJV Book of Revelation? The simplest and most likely explanation, it seems to me, is that the translator(s) of the Book of Revelation in the KJV were aware of Friar Laurence’s SATAN acrostic and its veiled allusion to the Book of Revelation! I will address that in more detail in my next post as well.

And I’ll stop there before I get hyperbolic again, and provide more fodder for clever satire.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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