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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: January ::
Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0116  Thursday, 21 January 1999.

[1]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jan 1999 10:05:32 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0106 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat

[2]     From:   Catherine Loomis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jan 1999 12:27:21 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0106 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat

[3]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jan 1999 20:50:16 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0106 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat

[4]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Jan 1999 22:30:07 -0600
        Subj:   moth mote etc.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jan 1999 10:05:32 -0600
Subject: 10.0106 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0106 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat

Mike Field wrote:

>Catherine Loomis cited Helge Kokeritz's book, "Shakespeare's
>Pronunciation" (1953) and I see in library catalog he has a second book
>"Shakespeare's Names: A Pronouncing Dictionary" (1959). Both of these
>titles strike me as very useful books to have in my personal collection,
>especially for directing and performing. Before I start to try to track
>down available copies for purchase, I wonder if they are considered
>definitive (or nearly so) and if not, if there are alternate works
>people would recommend. I'd especially like to hear from list members
>who work with the texts for performance.

A more recent and reliable book than Kokeritz' is Fausto Cercignani's
Shakespeare's Works and Elizabethan Pronunciation (1981).  Cercignani
levels some criticism against certain of Kokeritz' methods and
conclusions, which I think are largely justified.

Dave Kathman

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[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Catherine Loomis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jan 1999 12:27:21 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 10.0106 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0106 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat

> Catherine Loomis cited Helge Kokeritz's book, "Shakespeare's
> Pronunciation" (1953) and I see in library catalog he has a second book
> "Shakespeare's Names: A Pronouncing Dictionary" (1959). Both of these
> titles strike me as very useful books to have in my personal collection,
> especially for directing and performing. Before I start to try to track
> down available copies for purchase, I wonder if they are considered
> definitive (or nearly so) and if not, if there are alternate works
> people would recommend. I'd especially like to hear from list members
> who work with the texts for performance.

I'd add Bruce Smith's The Acoustic World of Early Modern England (Univ.
of Chicago Press, 1999) to the list, and I'd pay careful attention to
his bibliography.IYou may also want to see Ciceley Berry's book on voice
work for the RSC.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jan 1999 20:50:16 -0000
Subject: 10.0106 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0106 Re: Moth, mote, mought, moat

Mike Field writes:

>Catherine Loomis cited Helge Kokeritz's book, "Shakespeare's
>Pronunciation" (1953) and I see in library catalog he has a second book
>"Shakespeare's Names: A Pronouncing Dictionary" (1959).

The closest thing to a definitive text in this area would be Fausto
Cercignani, Shakespeare's Works and Elizabethan Pronunciation (Oxford,
1981) [which incidentally deals with the moth/mote issue in fair
detail].

Fran Teague writes:

>Regarding mote/moth: Scholarship's a terrible burthen sometimes, but it
>can, like a bright lanthorn, shed a little light on things. There is
>actually evidence that words spelled with "th" were pronounced with a
>"t" sound and you can't get around. Like murther, some evidence will
>out.

Indeed-and as early as 1904, H.H.Furness was summing up the strengths
and weaknesses of of this argument with regard to "Moth" (or "Mote") in
MSND (New Variorum, note to 'Moth' in the Dramatis Personae, p. 7).

It's not, I think, whether or not it was +possible+ for puns to be made
on moth and mote, but whether the evidence is strong enough to justify
an emendation of the original text, when that text makes (at the least)
perfectly adequate sense.

The Textual Companion justifies emending in these terms:  (3.1.154)
"Mote] QF (_Moth_) Since we learn nothing of this character, it is hard
to judge which meaning was uppermost in Shakespeare's mind [...] he
refers to 'mote(s)' much more frequently."

By Norton, this has become: Text: 'MOTE'.  Note: "Speck.  "Mote" and
"moth" were pronounced alike.  The names of the fairy retinue all
suggest tiny size."

It's not as if the Norton editors weren't prepared to overrule editorial
decisions when they felt Oxford got it wrong-as they rightly do over the
ludicrous reverse-engineering of Falstaff to Oldcastle in 1HIV ...

Admittedly there is only one substantive text being challenged, as Q2
reprints Q1, and F reprints Q2, but I'd always assumed, in the case of
an emendation, the onus was on the editor to justify the necessity for
changing the copy-text.

It's not just that the argument is loaded-by the time we reach Norton,
the possibility that there is even an argument has vanished.  Given that
Norton (rightly I think-this and other little complaints aside, I think
Norton, as a Complete Shakespeare, is the greatest thing since sliced
bread) looks set to become central, this may be a small matter but it's
not a trivial issue.

It's unfair to quote him out of context (given that from his complete
post, I imagine he's with Fran Teague rather than me over this issue),
but Richard Dutton concludes an earlier post with:

>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 ...).

I don't think the implications of this have yet been addressed.

The instance may constitute a mote, but the implications weigh as a beam
...

Robin Hamilton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Jan 1999 22:30:07 -0600
Subject:        moth mote etc.

A footnote to Fran Teague's comments on mought and moat etc.:  The pun
in the title of Much Ado About Nothing depends on the th as t.  The play
is much ado about Noting things.  Note (!) that the Friar says he
discovered Hero's innocence "by noting of the lady" and chk out "notes
forsooth" etc. much earlier in the play.  Claudio and Don Pedro note
badly on the night before the first wedding, making much ado about
nothing/noting.  Elaine Showalter in an essay in *Shakespeare and the
Question of Theory* stunned my graduate students every year I used that
book, as she argued that "nothing" (pron. "noting") is an Elizabethan
euphemism for female genitalia because nothing is an O.  So this in her
view adds a further pun to the strangely involuted title (involuted,
yes; note [!] that it is not only much ado, but also much adieu in 4.1,
the rotten orange scene)

Cheers from
John Velz (now working on his second retirement, though he has no
ambition to catch up with Hardin Craig's three).
 

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