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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
MUCH ADO about explication (paraphrase)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0340.  Sunday, 5 May 1996.

From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Friday, 03 May 1996 18:30:20 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        MUCH ADO about explication (paraphrase)

I would be interested in how others explicate this line from the "mouth" of DON
JOHN in the church scene of MUCH ADO. I have not come across an adequate
"reading" of it as of yet. The line is:

       "There is not chastity enough in language/ Without offence to
        utter them." (97-98).

At first I want to invert the order of the phrasing of the second line to "make
sense" of it. "To utter them without offence." The them refers to "hero's
'crimes'"--but what is the offence? To whom? Does JOHN mean that if only
language were more chaste, then I could utter Hero's 'crimes' without offense.
But since language lacks such chastity, I will offend YOU (since you asked) by
giving it (language) free reign, or at least a wider range than had been
previously seen in the restricted "courtesy" (which masquerades as morality) of
MESSINA." (end of my putting words in DJ's mouth)
The weirdness (for me) of this statement is that it seems to point towards
LANGUAGE as the culprit at least as much (and maybe more) as it does to Hero's
"crimes." If this is so, this seems to be consistent with Don John's function
in the play (which, in part, is to make the more "major" characters confront
the narrowness of their linguistic functional, and the emotional, ethical
consequences such a narrowness leads to (disaster in the H-C plot; stalemate in
the B-B plot). And DJ, in bringing a wider range of linguistic behavior, to
Claudio who never tempted Hero "WITH A WORD TOO WIDE"---the "ill word" that
poisons LIKING, is speaking another line that seems to call attention to this
"substratum" of the PLAY. I don't think this is overanalysis (or what R.), but
am curious what others think. Chris Stroffolino

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