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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: March ::
Re: Motto
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0209  Wednesday, 11 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Lawrence Manley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 10:34:22 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0206  Q: Help with Motto

[2]     From:   Helen Ostovich <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 10:35:09 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0206  Q: Help with Motto

[3]     From:   Kent Vandenberg <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 09:10:13 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0206  Help with Motto

[4]     From:   Peter L Groves <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Mar 1998 15:17:13 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0206  Q: Help with Motto


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lawrence Manley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 10:34:22 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.0206  Q: Help with Motto
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0206  Q: Help with Motto

See E.R. Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, ch.
7.5.  Curtius argues that the Globe motto (totus mundus agit histrionem)
is from John of Salisbury's paraphrase of Petronius in the Policraticus
(quod fere totus mundus iuxta Petronium exerceat histrionem).

Lawrence Manley
Yale University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Helen Ostovich <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 10:35:09 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.0206  Q: Help with Motto
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0206  Q: Help with Motto

Isn't "totus mundus facit histrionem" simply a telescoped version of
Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage, / And all the men and women
merely players" (AYL 2.7.138-9)?

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kent Vandenberg <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Mar 1998 09:10:13 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 9.0206  Help with Motto
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0206  Help with Motto

The motto was "Totus mundus agit histrionem."  Ernst Schanzer reviews
the evidence in "Hercules and his Load," _Review of English Studies_,
n.s., 19 (1968): 51-53.  He doubts that the Globe had as its emblem
Hercules holding the world because he finds no correspondence between
the picture and the motto, and because "a picture of Hercules carrying
the terrestrial globe offends against bothy mythology and common
sense."  I have argued that the paradox of holding up the world while
standing on it is precisely what makes the emblem expressive.  By
picturing a literal impossibility, it invites interpretation as a symbol
and application as a metaphor.  While its range of significance is
large, all of its meanaings are related to the new mode of subjective
freedom implicit in the Renaissance concepts of the poem as heterocosm,
man as actor, and the world as stage.  The emblem pictures our capacity
to contain in thought the world that actually contains us, reversing the
usual relation of microcosm to macrocosm.  In Whitney's _Choice of
Emblemes_ (1586), a man is pictured carrying a large globe on his back
to demonstrate that worldly greed is contrary to the true nature of
things, and that ambition is ultimately impossible.  The motto there is
"Nemo potest duobus dominis seruire" (No man can serve two masters).
Mercator offers a more heroic reading of the emblem in his "Preface upon
Atlas": Atlas is pictured lifting the world because he is the founder of
astronomy and cartogoraphy and is the first maker of globes.  See also
William Cuningham's _Cosmographical Glasse_ (1599), which show3s Atlas
kneeling and holding a globe encased in a large armillary sphere.  On
the frontispiece of Ralegh's _History of the World_ (1614), History
holds up the globe while trampling Death and Oblivion.  Schanzer himself
cites the title page of Lafreri's atlas (ca. 1570), which shows Atlas
holding the earth.  There are a few references that seem to associate
Hercules or Atlas with the Globe: in _Hamlet_, in Marston's _Antonio and
Mellida_, and in an elegy on Richard Burbage.  In _Playhouse and Cosmos:
Shakespearean Theater as Metaphor," I offered the following conclusion:
"If Shakespeare's theater had this emblem-I have not, of course,
_proved_ that it did-the globe carried by its Hercules or Atlas is the
theater itself.  The emblem symbolizes the achievement of the players in
sustaining their own theatrical realm and holding it up as an equivalent
of the real world.  The motto-for it _is_ appropriate-proclaims this
equivalence: Totus mundus agit histrionem" (p.  38).

Kent van den Berg

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter L Groves <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Mar 1998 15:17:13 +1000
Subject: 9.0206  Q: Help with Motto
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0206  Q: Help with Motto

> "The Classics list has been arguing about a Latin motto supposedly
> painted on the Globe-"totus mundus facit histrionem" or some such. They
> want to know where it came from and what it's supposed to mean (it's
> pretty bad Latin). Do you know? "

Bad Latin it may be, but don't blame the Globe, whose motto was "Totus
mundus agit histrionem": 'Everyone's an actor', or less literally, 'All
the world's a stage, / And all the men and women merely players'.

Peter Groves, Monash Univ.
 

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