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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: March ::
Re: Motto
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0215  Thursday, 12 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Paul Nelsen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Mar 1998 09:06:43 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0206  Help with Motto

[2]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Mar 1998 12:35:19 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 9.0209  Re: Motto

[3]     From:   Franklin J. Hildy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Mar 1998 18:33:01 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0209  Re: Motto


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Nelsen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Mar 1998 09:06:43 -0400
Subject: 9.0206  Help with Motto
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0206  Help with Motto

The emblem of the Globe was supposed to have read "Totus mundus agit
histrionem." The proper Latin verb is *agere* (to drive), not *facere*
(to do). Loosely translated, the phrase is associated with Jacques' oft
cited phrase, "All the world's a stage" (AYLI 2.7.147).  Classicists
should be less befuddled by a phrase that describes a world that drives
or compels actors.

Frank's question about the origin and pedigree of the Latin leads one
into some  intriguing byways. For example, Steevens' gloss on the AYLI
line includes this reference: "This observation occurs in one of the
Fragments (No. X) of Petronius: 'Non duco contentionis funem, dum
constet inter nos, quod fere totus mundus exerceat histrioniam.'" (my
little Latin strains to translate the phrase in question seems to
something like "the world keeps the actor at work[?] ").  Interesting.
Steevens also cites this fascinating extract from scrapbook of
biographical matter assembled by Oldys: "Verses by Ben Jonson and
Shakespeare, occasioned by the motto to the Globe Theatre-Totus mundus
agit histrionem.

        Jonson.-'If, but stage actors, all the world displays,
                Where shall we find spectators of their plays?'
        Shakespeare.-'Little, or much, of what we see, we do;
                We are all both actors and spectators too.'"

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Mar 1998 12:35:19 -0500
Subject: Re: Motto
Comment:        SHK 9.0209  Re: Motto

The motto above the entrance to the new Globe is much simpler: 'Play It
Again, Sam'.

T. Hawkes

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Franklin J. Hildy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Mar 1998 18:33:01 -0500
Subject: 9.0209  Re: Motto
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0209  Re: Motto

Many thanks to all you who have responded to the request for information
on the motto at the Globe. I've passed all the comments on to the
classics list.

A few interesting points for the Shakespeare list to ponder.

Everyone seems to assume that, if the motto existed,  it is a rough
translation into Latin of "All the world's a stage" (though actually
it's a lot closer to a translation of "all the men and women merely
players.") This assumes that the play pre-dates the motto. Is there any
reason not to think that the motto pre-dated the play ?

It is clear from the messages I received that the Elizabethan's knew
their mythology a lot better than we do. Kent Vandenberg was kind enough
to point us to Ernst Schanzer review of the evidence in "Hercules and
his Load," _Review of English Studies_, n.s., 19 (1968): 51-53 and
quoted from it  "a picture of Hercules carrying the terrestrial globe
offends against both mythology and common sense." Several others
expressed similar opinions. But according to Professor Elizabeth
Vandiver of Northwestern University (who happens to be doing a book on
the mythology in Shakespeare) Heracles holding the Globe is part of the
story of his 11th labor. (The 12 labors of Hercules were very popular in
Shakespeare's day.)  Originally the story involved Heracles going to
Atlas for help in getting the golden apples from the Hesperides. Atlas
agrees to get them on condition that Heracles hold up the sky for him.
Atlas gets the apples but then is not willing to return to his task of
holding up the sky and Heracles has to trick Atlas into taking the sky
back.

In the museum at Naples there is a very interesting classical statue
showing Atlas holding up a celestial globe. The question is, when did
this celestial globe become mistaken for a terrestrial globe.  One would
think that must be a post Copernican development but there are some
interesting implications here.

Try bending your mind around the idea that the emblem of the Globe
Playhouse was Heracles holding up the celestial Globe with the motto
"all the men and women merely players." Put on the TEMPEST in front of
that backdrop!   My best to all.

Franklin J.  Hildy
 

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