Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Upbraiding Modernity--Then

Thou has traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar school; and whereas, before, our forefathers had no other books but the score and the tally, thou hast caused printing to be u’sd, and, contrary to the King, his crown, and dignity, thou hast built a paper-mill.

The speaker here is Jack Cade, a rebel, addressing one Lord Say. The work is Shakespeare’s King Henry the Sixth, Part II, Act 4, Scene VII. The play is thought to have been written in 1591. King Henry VI lived his forty-nine years on earth between 1421 and 1471.

The context of this entry. I used a quote from Christina Rossetti in the last post then followed that up by reading other Rossetti snippets to Brigitte. We got to talking about linguistic changes between the nineteenth century (Rossetti’s years were 1830-1894) and today. She sounds quite modern. We went on then, armed with Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, to see how much had changed since the sixteenth century. And Mr. Cade’s little railing just happened to come up.

We both laughed. Ah yes. Arsen’s endless railings about Modernity are a mere echo of what came naturally to Shakespeare—looking back about a century himself. “You must put that up,” said my Editor in Chief—just seconds before the same thought would have occurred to me too. But then, you see, she is fast!

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