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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: July ::
Re: Emilia's Inconsistency; Fin de siecle texts
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0499.  Wednesday, 3 July 1996.

(1)     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Jul 1996 19:51:47 +0200
        Subj:   Emilia's Inconsistency

(2)     From:   Genevieve Juliette Guenther <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Jul 1996 03:21:06 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0462  Q: Fin de siecle texts


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Jul 1996 19:51:47 +0200
Subject:        Emilia's Inconsistency

It is Dale Lyles' comment that makes me break a silence about Emilia that I
have been keeping from the first of this discussion.  It seems to me very
strange that no one (I think) who has contributed on this subject has noted
that there is a huge discrepancy in *Othello* between two time schemes: 1)
"short time" that has the events of the play take up one night (Act I) and a
very few days if we leave out the sea voyage to Cyprus and 2) "long time" that
suggests that a very large amount of time has passed from Act I to Act V.  No
one, for instance flinched even when quoting the lines Emilia has about her
husband asking her to filch the handkerchief a hundered times.  A hundred times
in two days?  And in Act V Othello himself tells Gratiano that "Iago knows /
That she with Cassio hath the act of shame / A thousand times committed."  Even
hyperbole in the stress of ultimate emotion cannot account for this "thousand
times" in 3 or 4 days at most.  Dale Lyles will be happy to receive
confirmation of her theatrical experience.  No one noticed the double time in
*Othello* until the middle of this present century, if I am remembering
correctly. Surely every acting company knew about it, but the scholars and
critics did not.  Nor did the audiences. Rather than regard this as a horrible
blunder, we should think of it as I was taught to think of it half a century
ago in a Shakespeare course: as a brilliant ploy on Shakespeare's part:  The
short time persuades us that Othello is swept off his feet by events and has no
chance to think it over rationally (cf. "hurry up" time in *Romeo and Juliet*);
at the same time, the long time makes us feel that Iago has worked on Othello
for a very long time to persuade this honorable man that he should think ill of
his wife (note the beginning of scene 1 Act IV where the dialogue has been
going on out of the hearing of the audience--antecedentless pronoun, "so").
Only a generation raised on Cecil B. DeMille with his agonizing efforts at
plausibility would insist on consistency in the time scheme or in the character
of Emilia.  She is what the moment needs her to be.  And as Dale Lyles says,
the audiences seldom notice.  Shakespeare does this all the time.  Portia in
*JC* has no opportunity alone with Brutus to know about the intention of the
conspiracy.  Yet in 2.4. she knows all.  Some scholars wisely nod and say
"evidence that a scene has dropped out".  But audiences respond to the moment
when Brutus promises to tell her all--and then leaves with Ligarius for
Caesar's house and for the assassination--and then later respond to the anguish
of a Portia who knows what is planned and cannot contain herself in the stress
of uncertainty about the outcome of the assassination plot.

Enough and more than enough for me to say, but I would an if I could, go on and
on about this.

Best to you all--  John V.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Genevieve Juliette Guenther <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Jul 1996 03:21:06 -0800
Subject: 7.0462  Q: Fin de siecle texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0462  Q: Fin de siecle texts

>I'm beginning to develop an undergrad honors seminar on the turn of the
>century, and I'm trying to put together a reading list of all kinds of texts
>(primary and secondary) produced in and dealing with the 1590s and 1600s.  One
>problem is selecting texts that are readily available in print or easily (and
>legally) reproducible.  (_Hamlet_ is an obvious choice in the former category.)

Perhaps Mr. Fassler has received all the information he needs to put together
his list -- my computer has been feeling neglected, and has been behaving
accordingly, so apologies if this question has been already posed, but: what do
texts from the 1590's and 1600's have to do with the turn of our century? The
connection between the two periods might not be so clear to Mr. Fassler's
addressees as it is to the questioner himself.

Genevieve Guenther
UC, Berkeley
 

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