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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: July ::
Re: Shakespeare's Greening (Sonnet 112)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0634.  Monday, 25 July 1994.
 
(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Sunday, 24 Jul 1994 12:02:25 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0616  Q: Shakespeare's Greening
 
(2)     From:   Piers Lewis <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Jul 1994 09:08:43 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   s.112
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Sunday, 24 Jul 1994 12:02:25 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0616  Q: Shakespeare's Greening
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0616  Q: Shakespeare's Greening
 
Terence Martin asked us to consider Barbara Everett's "Shakespeare's greening"
(TLS 8 July 1994, pp. 11-13) in which she suggests that that line 4 in Sonnet
112: "So you ore-greene my bad, my good allow" is a reference to Robert Greene.
She reads the line: "With you for a lover, who needs Greene?" (p. 13). To make
this reading feasible, Everett suggests an early dating for the sonnets --
before 1594.
 
I find the suggestion fairly far-fetched. Shakespeare uses the word "green"
over 100 times, from TITUS to TEMPEST, and surely not each is a reference to
Robert Greene.
 
Let's take MACBETH's "making the green one red" (2.2.60) as an example. Why not
read this line to mean, "I wish I had bloodied Robert Greene"? I think this is
a relatively paranoid reading of literature, in which each refers to all.
 
I think Stephen Booth's reading of the line is adequate: "o'er-green"
= overgreen, cover over (as a patch can be returfed or reseeded, or become
over-grown by neighboring plants). The green is filling "th'impression . . .
stampt vpon my brow" by "vulgar scandall" (112.1-2).
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Piers Lewis <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Jul 1994 09:08:43 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        s.112
 
        Your love and pittie doth th' impression fill,
        Which vulgar scandall stampt upon my brow,
        For what care I who calles me well or ill,
        So you ore-greene my bad, my good alow?
        You are my All the world, and I must strive,
        To know my shames and praises from your tounge,
        None else to me, nor I to none alive,
        That my steel'd sense or changes right or wrong,
        In so profound Abisme I throw all care
        Of others voyces, that my Adders sense,
        To cryttick and to flatterer stopped are:
        Marke how with my neglect I doe dispence.
                You are so strongly in my purpose bred,
                That all the world besides me thinkes y'are dead.
 
I've been scratching my head over this poem since Terence Martin asked us about
it ten days ago.  As you may remember, he asked us to comment on Barbara
Everett's argument, in TLS (6/8/94), that 'ore-greene' refers to Robert Greene
who, dying in rage and penury in 1592, got in his last licks at Shakespeare in
his _Groats-worth of witte_.  Now that she's pointed it out, the connection is
obvious and I for one am greatly indebted to her for making it.  How could
Shakespeare NOT have had Greene in mind in coining this nonce- word?  And the
connection works in the poem:  "With you as a lover, who needs Greene?" is
Everett's pertinent paraphrase.
 
Would this be Shakespeare's only direct reference, by name, to a contemporary
writer?  Or any contemporary person, for that matter. The reference to Marlowe
("Dead shepherd, now I approve thy saw of might . . .") in AYLI, while
unmistakable, doesn't name him.
 
Everett says this is one of the difficult sonnets and she's right. While her
own prose is not always clear or free of difficulties, I find her arguments
convincing.  I particularly like her point about the self-referentiality of the
last line, which makes it into a sourly ironic joke like the one about Greene.
 
The line that gives me the most difficulty is line 8.  As far as I can see, it
only works syntactically if 'right' and 'wrong' are verbs with a period at the
end of the line and a colon after 'tongue.'  Thus the difficult syntax of lines
7 & 8 points up the difficult lesson the poet strives to learn in line 6 and
creates the sense of a syntactical abyss (required by "In so profound abysm . .
. ) where he can "throw all care/ Of others voyces."  Or is that going a bit
too far?
 
Piers Lewis
 

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