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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: April ::
Re: Wooden O
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0665  Monday, 3 April 2000.

From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Friday, 31 Mar 2000 13:26:28 +0000
Subject: 11.0561 Re: Wooden O
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0561 Re: Wooden O

The Unnecessary Zed ;  The Unnecessary Zero

Kent's words in King Lear, 2.2.65 to Oswald, "Thou whoreson zed! Thou
unnecessary letter!" has been related in the discussion with the
prologue in "Henry V" because of the O or naught  "within this wooden O
the very casques /  That did affright the air at Agincourt" There is a
connection, if a fool can be a philosopher and his skull, like Yorick's,
is remembered to hold a brain with abilities just  like the  wooden,
playhouse does.  Yes, and both require life. Thus the perimeter, the O,
of the Globe theater is compared to the skull of a man. But those
connotations seem to lead away from the mood of Kent and not toward it
-except as we will see, by the ciphering  tendency that is in the
prologue.  For Kent is addressing a man as if with an unnecessary
appendage upon his shoulders.  How is it related to a Zed, the last
letter of the alphabet?  It would be hard to get along without the
letter:  no Zider Zee, no Wizard of Oz, no zounds!   However the zed  is
much less significant  when the alphabet is inscribed as a
'Christ-cross-row' as were found in old primers and mentioned in"Richard
III ( i 1) "heakens after prophesies and dreams;/And from the cross-row
plucks the letter G." In position the Zed is just the tip of the graphic
construction. Its erasure would not displace the rest. Further, if the
sound be translated into the Hebrew letter 'zien', Kent's  rhetoric is
made even stronger  Because a  zien is also a man's penis, the tip of
the human construction and Kent is saying that an emasculated person
does not  require it.

The Hebrew is not arbitrary in connection to the fool. I have sometimes
described how the Tarot enigmas appear in the plays and particularly in
"Romeo and Juliet" I will describe that here.  The word 'tarot' means
order and pertaining to order are the Hebrew letters that the various
arcana  are assigned -  except for the 'fool' who is exceptional in that
he has no letter, just a naught. Thus a fool may be an 'unnecessary
letter' - to the Hebrew alphabet, where all else have their place.

Bill Butler , ("Dictionary of The Tarot",  Shocken,  1975) p.109
observes the pairing of  arcanae and in particular the Fool and the
Minstrel. In recent times there has been some confusion between the
two,  perhaps because of Jung's choice of the term trickster, which more
suitably has been used as an alternative word for  'minstrel' ,
'juggler', and 'magician', regarding the first (aleph) arcana.  But he
has said that a 'trickster' is a kind of fool  'the archetype of the
unconscious'  (Paul Radin).  Maybe to a puzzled psychoanalyst it is a
trickster.

However the difference is very clear. Although both are performers and
marginal in society, the Minstrel  is the manipulator and the Fool -
manipulated: straight man and dope, Costello and Abbot.  No better
example is there of minstrel-trickster  then  Iago who attempts to turn
everyone near him into a fool. Without a compliment he is an ee ego
(Heb. negation and an island)  lacking the wholesomeness of Cassio . "He
has a daily beauty in his life/ that makes me ugly"

In "Hamlet"( III,ii)  this is  what happens when  fools are found out
while trying to play as minstrels:

     Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of
     me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know
     my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my
     mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to
     the top of my compass: and there is much music,
     excellent voice, in this little organ; yet cannot
     you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am
     easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what
     instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you
     cannot play upon me.

It is they who are played upon by Claudius.and indeed Hamlet too,
unavoidably.

Who is the Fool and who the Minstrel in "Romeo and Juliet" ?  The Tarot
are laid out inexorably, because the young lovers must rely upon ' the
Wheel of Fortune' rather than  the desired protection of their
families.  It is a jurisdiction that is very swift and remorseless. We
see the Stars and Moon when  good things happen;  the Sun's dominion
when there is catastrophe. We see the World,  (Tybolt's name is the
Hebrew 'Tevel' v=b, meaning world). We see the Lovers, a Hermit, and
Death. These are all enigmas of the Tarot cards. There are the suits of
Swords, of  Cups, Scepters and Wheels.  While the action is determined
by the Wheel of Fortune the families are allocated suits. Surely the
golden suit of Wheels are the Capulets. There is the significance  of
Rome and Jerusalem - Romeo and Juliet, which would make a Circle an
appropriate historical symbol for the one and  Swords for the other.
Scepters belong to the sovereign; leaving Cups the symbol of sacrifice
for the ill-fated couple.

So then who is the Fool? Many take a turn. Romeo recognizably, at the
outset, when he is in love with love. Capulet when he is moved from
tolerance to tyranny; the Friar; the nurse who condescends to change
from doting Fool to conspirator, from mother to madam. Even the
permissive Duke has been Foolish. Who is the Minstrel? Is it the rash
Tyboldt - the World? Mercutio?  His name, one may read, leads straight
to that arcana. But the best are ineffectual under Fortunes Wheel.  Even
the Empress, Juliet must succumb and be a naught.

Florence Amit
 

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