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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: December ::
Q: Shakespeare's "Artifice"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1263.  Monday, 29 December 1997.

From:           Peter Hillyar-Russ <
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Date:           Saturday, 27 Dec 1997 19:02:12 -0000
Subject:        Shakespeare's "Artifice"

In 1947 Eric Partridge published a book called "Shakespeare's Bawdy",
which contains an introductory essay and a substantial glossary of the
words used by Shakespeare with sexual or otherwise indelicate
implications. At the time the work, which appeared in an extremely
expensive limited edition, was regarded as almost a piece of
pornography; but it has since been reprinted several times. The
publishers also produce[d] the highly respected (and respectable)
"Arden" edition of the works, and I bought my copy from the RSC bookshop
in Stratford, so I presume that some measure of respectability now
attaches to Partridge's work.

There is one thing, however, which Partridge will not tell us. On page
25 of the Introductory Essay he writes:

"...We - inevitably, I think - form the opinion that Shakespeare was an
exceedingly knowledgeable amorist, a versatile connoisseur, and a highly
artistic, an ingeniously skillful, practitioner of love-making, who
could have taught Ovid rather more than that facile doctrinaire could
have taught him; he evidently knew of, and probably he practiced, an
artifice accessible to few - one that I cannot becomingly mention here,
though I felt it obligatory to touch on it, very briefly, in the
Glossary."

Partridge's sense of the "becoming" is in fact remarkably liberal. He
occasionally uses his own "artifice accessible to few" and resorts to
Latin to describe exactly what Shakespeare's English means, but in
general the "dirt" is given to the reader. What could he have discovered
in his studies which he can only write about so obliquely?

If anyone knows to what "artifice" Partidge is referring in this
passage, I really should be most obliged if they could let me know. If
it is really indelicate I am over 21, can read Latin, and have a private
email address ( 
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  ).

Peter Hillyar-Russ
 

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