[ by Charles Cameron — Shakespeare and the Shakespearean professor on argumentation and lies, then and now ]
Touchstone, in As You Like It, Act V scene 4:
Touchstone: I did dislike the cut of a certain courtier’s beard: he sent me word, if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in the mind it was: this is called the Retort Courteous. If I sent him word again ‘it was not well cut,’ he would send me word, he cut it to please himself: this is called the Quip Modest. If again ‘it was not well cut,’ he disabled my judgment: this is called the Reply Churlish. If again ‘it was not well cut,’ he would answer, I spake not true: this is called the Reproof Valiant. If again ‘it was not well cut,’ he would say I lied: this is called the Counter-cheque Quarrelsome: and so to the Lie Circumstantial and the Lie Direct.
JAQUES: And how oft did you say his beard was not well cut?
TOUCHSTONE: I durst go no further than the Lie Circumstantial, nor he durst not give me the Lie Direct; and so we measured swords and parted.
JAQUES: Can you nominate in order now the degrees of the lie?
TOUCHSTONE: O sir, we quarrel in print, by the book, as you have books for good manners. I will name you the degrees: the first, “the retort courteous”; the second, “the quip modest”; the third, “the reply churlish”; the fourth, “the reproof valiant”; the fifth, “the countercheque quarrelsome”; the sixth, “the lie with circumstance”; the seventh, “the lie direct.” All these you may avoid but the lie direct, and you may avoid that, too, with an “if.” I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel, but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an “if,” as: “If you said so, then I said so.” And they shook hands and swore brothers. Your “if” is the only peacemaker: much virtue in “if.”
Friend, poet, and Founders Professor of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas, Dallas, Frederick Turner, blogging yesterday:
I’m turning into a sort of connoisseur of lies: the lofty legalistic generalizations of Israeli politicians that skate over the ugly facts of what they are doing, the blatant lies of the terrorists that actually are a kind of boasting, the slick imitations of pious responsible journalism by the toadying Russian press, the amateurish version in the Ukrainian press (where little islands of truth poke up naively amongst the garbage), the self-serving lies of the Gaza street, which cooperates in putting its children in the line of fire to make propaganda, the deliberate promulgation of conspiracy theories by the middle eastern intelligentsia, the systematic murderous lying of Hamas where lying is a consistent policy even when it does not serve their interest (the general damage done to reason and logic is worth a bit of friendly fire), the uttermost lie to oneself that has been committed by the suicide bomber, the cowardly lies of nations like the US who are too afraid to be of any help, the sanctimonious lies of the religious Jews in the Settlements who are exempt from military duty, the convenient masquerade of measured responsible policy in European nations that are addicted to Russian and Arab oil, the two-faced bland lies of the Arab nations that would be happy to see Israel do their dirty work for them, the malignant lies of the Jew-haters and the Arab-haters, the half-truths and prevarications of the diplomats, the shocked hypocrisy of the highbrow press, the “moral equivalence” lie by apologists for the terrorists and separatists… The only people who are not lying, it sometimes seems, are the most evil of all–the jihadis of ISIS, which is sincerely committed to bringing about hell on earth and doesn’t care who knows it.
Really a merry cavalcade. But they are shitting on something that I love and honor, which is language, the sacred material of poetry.