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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Q: Lines and Limes in The Tempest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.055  Monday, 29 March 1999.

From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Mar 1999 17:25:46 GMT
Subject: 10.0497 Re: Lines and Limes in The Tempest
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0497 Re: Lines and Limes in The Tempest

I wonder if I can appeal to the collective wisdom of this list for help
(again) with a query of the kind that probably only bothers editors.

In The Tempest, 4.1., Ariel is instructed by Prospero to hang the
glistering apparel with which Caliban etc. are to be seduced from their
conspiratorial action 'on this line'.  As editors point out 'line' is a
variant of 'lind', meaning 'lime-tree or linden'.  As far as I can
recall, in every production I have seen, the clothes are in fact hung
upon some kind of 'clothes-line', yet, as Orgel points out,  'there are
no contemporary references to clothes-lines', and so he concludes that
the apparel is draped over a property tree (and we learn later that
there is a 'line-grove that weather-fends [Prospero's] cell').  It's
certainly true that clothing was hung out to dry on bushes or hedges
during the period (cf. Autolycus in WT,4.3.5)  but the lime-tree
scarcely sounds a likely candidate, given its stickiness (and some at
least of the domestic manuals I have consulted encourage draping
clothing over herbs such as rosemary to give a pleasant aroma to the
clothes).

Does anyone know of any evidence to contradict Orgel's assertion (which
so far seems to me entirely well-founded)?  Has anyone ever seen a
production which took any notice of the academic conviction that a
'lime-tree' is meant here? I'd be grateful for any suggestions of places
to look.

David Lindley
School of English
University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT
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