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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: February ::
More on the Ostrich
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0147  Monday, 16 February 1998.

[1]     From:   Alan Young <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Feb 1998 10:38:45 +0000
        Subj:   More on the Ostrich

[2]     From:   Chee Seng Lim <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Feb 1998 16:23:10 -0800 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0128 Qs: Gloss


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan Young <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Feb 1998 10:38:45 +0000
Subject:        More on the Ostrich

As Stephen Orgel has suggested, the 2HVI reference to an ostrich eating
iron probably alludes directly or indirectly to Pliny (see NATURALIS
HISTORIA X, 1; X, 143; and XI, 155 - see also, Aelian, DE NATURA
ANIMALIUM, XIV, 7). Familiar to Shakespeare's contemporaries was Paulo
Giovio's DIALOGO DELL' IMPRESE MILITARI E AMOROSE, the first illustrated
edition of which appeared in Lyons in 1559.  This illustrated edition
contains a woodcut (p. 82) of an ostrich with a large iron nail it its
mouth. The accompanying motto is "Spiritus durissima coquit" (A noble
mind digests even the most painful injuries). In Nuremberg in 1596
appeared Joachim Camerarius' SYMBOLORUM & EMBLEMATUM EX VOLATILIBUS ET
INSECTIS.  His emblem of the ostrich employed the same motto and central
concept. In his A COLLECTION OF EMBLEMES (1635), George Wither made use
of Rollehagen's plate of the ostrich, which shows the long-legged bird
with what appears to be a horse-shoe in its beak.  However, he used the
motto "Nil penna sed usus" (Feathers are nothing unless put to use) that
had appeared in Claude Paradin's DIVISES HEROIQUES (1557) and
subsequently in Geffrey Whitney's A CHOICE OF EMBLEMES (Leyden, 1586).
Paradin, Whitney, and Wither (this last, of course, after Shakespeare's
death) all used the ostrich as an emblem of hypocrisy and hence follow a
very different concept from that found in Giovio and Camerarius.
However, that a distinguishing attribute of an ostrich might be a nail
or piece of metal in its beak is clear from the plates in Rollenhagen
and Wither.

When one comes back to Jack Cade's threat to "make thee eat iron like an
ostrich, and swallow my sword like a great pin," it seems likely that
Shakespeare is wittily playing upon what may have been a belief about
ostriches familiar from both Classical literature and from contemporary
emblem books.

Alan R. Young (Acadia University)

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[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chee Seng Lim <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Feb 1998 16:23:10 -0800 (GMT)
Subject: 9.0128 Qs: Gloss
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0128 Qs: Gloss

Dear Clifford Stetner,

See the Arden Shakespeare 2 Henry VI edited by Andrew Cairncross (3rd
edition, London:Methuen, 1969) for a longish footnote.

Best wishes,
C.S. Lim
 

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