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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: March ::
Re: "looking-glass" and Emendations
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0275  Saturday, 28 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Kenneth Meaney <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Mar 1998 14:29:10 +0200
        Subj:   Re: "looking-glass"

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Mar 1998 20:00:11 -0500
        Subj:   Emendations


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Meaney <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Mar 1998 14:29:10 +0200
Subject:        Re: "looking-glass"

>Might the phrase "amorous looking glass" in performance be relatively
>indistinguishable for a casual listener (someone not following a text)
>from the phrase "amorous looking lass"?

Well, no, I don't think so, not unless there's something wrong with the
actor's speech. A plosive, such as the "g" at the beginning of glass is
a rather prominent sound and I don't see how it could be elided.
Besides, the phrases are rhymically different: "Amorous + LOOking glass"
versus "Amorous looking + LASS".

Ken Meaney,
University of Finland

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Mar 1998 20:00:11 -0500
Subject:        Emendations

John McWilliams suggests that the exercise of unemending a text and
trying to find some meaning in it doesn't work for Theobald's "truly
inspired" emendation of  "a table of green fields" to "'a babbl'd of
green fields."  Funny he should mention it, as I have long toyed with
the notion that a far slighter emendation provides a meaningful text,
albeit one with a vastly different meaning.

Suppose "and" were "on" (certainly a possible misreading) and "green
fields" were "Greenfield's" (also conceivable in light of WS's light
pointing and possible habit of breaking words in the middle [cf. Hand D
in Sir Thomas More]).  Then the passage would read "and his nose was as
sharp as a pen on a table of Greenfield's."

Still gibberish, you say.  Maybe not.  "Table" did not necessarily mean
a piece of furniture (mensa); it could have meant a writing tablet
(tabala), as in "My tables, meet it is I write it down that one may
smile and smile, and be a villain."   According to Bartlett's,
Shakespeare used the word 38 times in the mensa sense and 15 times in
the tabala sense (not counting "table-book" [2 uses], "tabled" and
"tablet").  Understood in this way there is a correspondence between the
pen and table images.  But what or who is "Greenfield"?

I postulate a not overly scrupulous stationery merchant who was
notorious for selling cheap writing paper, something with which
Shakespeare would have been familiar.  Cheap paper is smoother and less
absorbent than the better kind, and therefore more destructive of quill
pens, which would become dull sooner than they should.  This provides a
secondary joke:  If Falstaff's nose is as sharp as such a pen, it is
really dull.  And isn't a dying man's nose more likely to become flat
and bulbous (edematous) than sharp?

Gary Taylor's gloss on the Oxford edition pretty much dashes this
conjecture, as he cites Elizabethan authority for the popular notion
that a dying man's nose becomes sharper; but I suppose that Shakespeare
might have meant it in the contrary sense.  In any case, this conjecture
was fun while it lasted.
 

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