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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: MUCH ADO about explication
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0344.  Monday, 6 May 1996.

(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Sunday, 05 May 1996 16:21:35 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0340  MUCH ADO about explication (paraphrase)

(2)     From:   Jeff Myers <
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        Date:   Sunday, 5 May 1996 21:08:59 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0340 MUCH ADO about explication (paraphrase)

(3)     From:   Joseph Lockett <
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        Date:   Sunday, 5 May 1996 20:40:51 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: MUCH ADO about explication (paraphrase)

(4)     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 May 1996 15:38:59 +0300
        Subj:   re. MUCH ADO about explication


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Sunday, 05 May 1996 16:21:35 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0340  MUCH ADO about explication (paraphrase)
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0340  MUCH ADO about explication (paraphrase)

Chris Stroffolino asks about this pssage: Don John says: "Fie, fie, they are
not to be named, my lord {Don Pedro}, / Not to be spoke of; / There is not
chastity enough in language / Without offense to utter them" (4.1.97-98).  I
assume that "they" and "them" refers back to "vile encounters" (93) in Don
Pedro's speech.  I assume that the "offense" would be given to the assembled
onstage audience -- if Don Pedro detailed Hero's supposed faults, and I further
assume that Don John does not want details to be given because details can be
falsified as readily as verified.  He wants the charges to be vague.

Chris is right in drawing our attention to Don John's strange charge that
"language" in general lacks "chastity enough" to detail Hero's "vile
encounters" without giving offense.  It may be hyperbole: e.g., she's so bad
that you can't talk about her without offending people!

Or is it a way of subtly absolving himself from the slander?  E.g., it's the
language that's at fault; don't blame me.  In any case, I wonder if Chris could
unpack his second paragraph for us.  Have some words dropped out? Obviously
"words" are important!

Yours, Bill Godshalk

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jeff Myers <
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Date:           Sunday, 5 May 1996 21:08:59 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0340 MUCH ADO about explication (paraphrase)
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0340 MUCH ADO about explication (paraphrase)

I believe Don John is saying that language does not provide words chaste enough
to describe Hero's crimes without offending the listener.  In other words, he
is lamenting the absence of euphemisms.  He is also conveniently avoiding
describing events that never happened, which is always advisable when telling a
lie.

Jeff Myers

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Lockett <
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Date:           Sunday, 5 May 1996 20:40:51 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Re: MUCH ADO about explication (paraphrase)

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

I just finished a run playing the role of Leonato, so I thought I'd comment on
this.

Our Don John played this line as "Hero's crimes are such that I cannot refer to
them, even in glancing circumlocutions, without giving offence to you by their
very nature and integral lewdness."  You cannot describe these crimes without
being offensive: there are no chaste euphemisms equal to the task.  (How would
one refer to bestiality, say, while at Victorian high tea?)

As to WHY John would interject so, look at the text and situation itself. Don
Pedro has just laid forth the whole of his and Claudio's "proof":

        "Myself, my brother, and this grieved Count
         Did see her, hear her, at that hour last night,
         Talk with a ruffian at her chamber-window,
         Who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain,
         Confess'd the vile encounters they have had
         A thousand times in secret." (IV.i.89-94)

This is an accusation that invites questions and conjecture, the very thing
that John's plot using Borachio cannot easily withstand.  Who was the ruffian?
Was Hero in her room at that time (no, as we find later).  How could this have
happened "a thousand times" if Beatrice has "until last night... this
twelvemonth been her bedfellow" (IV.i.148-9)?

John knows his plot cannot withstand such inspection, so he cleverly and
quickly brings the attention of the wedding party back to the emotional impact
of Hero's crimes themselves, and not their rational context.  He thus sets
Claudio off into his "O Hero!  What a Hero hadst thou been!" speech, and thus
their subsequent departure.

Rather than a paean to the deceptive qualities of language, John's rhetorical
slight of hand seems to me more an example of the deception he can practice, of
the false emotional masks which he can don, but which escape the rest of the
characters of the play (Benedick "Well, every one can master a grief but he
that has it" (III.ii.26), Leonato "Men can counsel and speak passion to that
grief which they themselves not feel; but, tasting it, their counsel turns to
passion" (V.i.20-23), for example).

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Monday, 06 May 1996 15:38:59 +0300
Subject:        re. MUCH ADO about explication

Reply to Chris Stoffolino:

I had not thought to examine "Much Ado About Nothing"  for Hebrew, but this
prompted viewing of the church scene, shows there is quite a lot. It does seem
profitable to continue researching the whole play, for the clues and ironies
that I anticipate will be revealed as they are in this scene. Even Hero's name
transposed into Hebrew refers to her denunciation. It is hee, meaning 'she' and
roah, meaning  'bad': ' She is bad'.  The name has other interesting
possibilities and they all come to bear.

Concerning  that  troublesome word  "utter".  When Friar Francis in his purity
of mind uses it during the wedding ceremony, saying, "charge you, on your
souls, / to utter it." , utter can have these Hebrew meanings:  aut , 'sign'
and tur, 'explore' , 'on your souls explore this sign, this significance' He
also can be saying  'hamper' itar  (alef, tof, resh) and 'remove'  ator, (aiyn,
 tet, vov, resh) " impediments".

However when the deceitful  Don John says the word other Hebrew connotations
are present. The proximity and notion of the word language  results in the
common expression  atur  lashon  meaning ornamental and insincere speech . This
is the confirmation that Chris Stoffolino sought for the criminality of
language.  The phrase can thus be continued , "without offense"  to 'embellish'
 or  by  the word for 'odor',  atar (aiyn, tof, resh) .

It is worth looking for Hebrew ironies in everything that Don John says but let
this suffice for the query.

                                                      Florence Amit
 

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