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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: January ::
Re: Mote and Moth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0076  Saturday, 16 January 1999.

[1]     From:   Carol Fortunato <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jan 1999 11:02:48 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0068 Q: Mote and Moth

[2]     From:   Richard Dutton <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jan 1999 16:47:05 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.0068 Q: Mote and Moth

[3]     From:   Catherine Loomis <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Jan 1999 12:08:07 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0068 Q: Mote and Moth


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Fortunato <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jan 1999 11:02:48 EST
Subject: 10.0068 Q: Mote and Moth
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0068 Q: Mote and Moth

>  I haven't done my homework for this one, here at the beginning of the
>  term, but I have noticed that recent editions of Midsummer Night's Dream
>  differ in representing the name of one of Bottom's attendants.  Should
>  it be Mote or Moth, and what is the textual evidence that has caused the
>  split?

I believe that it is spelled "Moth," but it was pronouced "Mote" causing
some editors to prefer that spelling.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Dutton <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jan 1999 16:47:05 -0000
Subject: 10.0068 Q: Mote and Moth
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.0068 Q: Mote and Moth

It is 'Moth' in all the early editions. But there is considerable
evidence that 'Moth' and 'Mote' (a speck) were interchangeable in
Elizabethan usage, both spoken and written. So later in the play
(5.1.306, Norton), Demetrius says 'A mote will turn the balance'-that,
too, is 'A moth will turn the balance' in the originals. The decision
that the character should be 'Mote' (speck) rather than 'Moth' (bug)
seems to be driven by the diminutive implications of the other fairy
names, especially Mustardseed. The Oxford edition seems to have
precipitated the current preference for 'Mote' (though I don't know why
they used it in the Old-Spelling Version ...).

Richard Dutton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Catherine Loomis <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jan 1999 12:08:07 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 10.0068 Q: Mote and Moth
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0068 Q: Mote and Moth

 The Riverside's "Note of the Text" for Love's Labor's Lost offers a
good explanation:

"The spelling of the name of Armado's page raises a difficulty.
Shakespeare regularly used the single spelling moth (and apparently the
single pronunciation mot or mote; see H. Kokeritz, *Shakespeare's
Pronunciation* [New Have, 1953], p. 320) for the senses now
differentiated by the spellings moth and mote.  It seems highly likely
that in naming the diminutive page (and also one of the fairies in A
Midsummer Night's Dream) he intended the sense of mote, that is, an atom
or tiny particle; if so, consistency would require modernization of the
spelling in this text (cf. the treatment of the same spelling in
IV.iii.159).  Since, however, there is a possibility that Shakespeare
was thinking primaily of the insect (likewise a diminutive creature), it
has seemed best not to depart from the traditional spelling."

What seemed best to the Oxford/Norton textual editors was Mote, and the
Oxford textual companion explains why.  Also, with Mote you get another
bad French pun in LLL.
 

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