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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: May ::
Re: Ghosts and Nightgowns
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1026  Friday, 12 May 2000.

[1]     From:   Dana Shilling <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 May 2000 11:30:07 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1015 Re: Ghosts

[2]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 May 2000 13:44:58 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1015 Re: Ghosts

[3]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 May 2000 14:01:14 -0500
        Subj:   Ghosts and Nightgowns

[4]     From:   John Jowett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 May 2000 20:55:46 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1015 Re: Ghosts

[5]     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Friday, May 12, 2000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1015 Re: Ghosts


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 May 2000 11:30:07 -0400
Subject: 11.1015 Re: Ghosts
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1015 Re: Ghosts

>[Editor's Note: Next to "Exit pursued by a Beare," this stage direction
>from Q1 Hamlet is exceeding intriguing in that during the period the
>custom was to sleep in the nude.  --Hardy]

Well, yes. I think the "nightgown" was what we would call a "dressing
gown" or "bathrobe"-what you put over nonexistent sleepwear when it was
necessary to get out of bed but not feasible to dress fully.

And aren't ghosts flapping around in white because a shroud is the
ghostly equivalent of a nightgown?

Dana

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 May 2000 13:44:58 -0400
Subject: 11.1015 Re: Ghosts
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1015 Re: Ghosts

Following John Velz's waggish comment on the ghosts third appearance "in
his nightgown" Hardy brings out the thing about early moderns sleeping
in the nude.  The first OED definition is "a loose gown specially used
for putting on at (or during the) night in place of the ordinary
clothes; a dressing gown."  The occurrence is dated 1400; there is a
reference from 1546 to "a gowne furrid with lambe whiche is my night
gowne" and one from 1582 to "His night gowne [which] was made of blacke
velvet, after the French use laced aboute, with lace of golde"
(appropriate for Hamlet, Sr., but definitely not white), and one from
Pepys, I suppose anent one of his amorous adventures, "She . . . ran out
in her smock into her aviary [all a-twitter, no doubt], and thither her
woman brought her her nightgown."  The earliest reference to a garment
unequivocally worn for sleeping in seems to be not earlier than C19.

But the whiteness of ghosts surely has to do with the shroud; this was
indeed white; it was the last garment in which people were seen, and
would be at almost any point in European history a natural association.
Which does not mean that people routinely made the association prior to
some period at which the reference began to be commonplace.

Drowsily,
Dave Evett

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 May 2000 14:01:14 -0500
Subject:        Ghosts and Nightgowns

In re 11. 1015

In his nightgown.  A frequent ref. in Sh.  JC 2.2., and many other
places.  A nightgown was not a sleeping nightshirt or pajamas.  It was
what we now call a housecoat or a bathrobe.  Housecoat is the best
translation of the term, because it meant emphatically NOT STREET
CLOTHES. Shakespeare uses these costumes to signal a domestic scene as
opposed to a public one.  Brutus probably would be wearing one in 2.1 of
JC in his orchard.   It would not be white.  Indeed it would in the case
of aristocrats be elaborately adorned, with fur or velvet or satin
lapels.  As for KBP echoing Macbeth, I think not, as Mac. is 1606 and
KBP is (if memory serves) earlier.  As for sleeping in the nude, Roman
Polanski seemed to believe that, as he brought out his centerfold Lady
Macbeth for the sleepwalking scene in the altogether in the
Hugh-Hefner-produced film.  Whereupon the irreverent Kenneth Tynan
observed, "the Scottish Doctor may not be able to minister to a mind
diseased, but in that icey castle, he could at least have sent the
waiting woman for a cloak."  My favorite comment on *The Playboy
Macbeth*.

Cheers for nightgowns

John

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Jowett <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 May 2000 20:55:46 GMT
Subject: 11.1015 Re: Ghosts
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1015 Re: Ghosts

Hardy, I presume Old Hamlet's nightgown in Q1 is what we would now call
a dressing gown, this being the standard sense in the period.  Whether
it would be white or not I don't know, but I do seem to recall a
reference somewhere to a dusting of flour being used to whiten the skin
for ghost roles...

John Jowett

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Friday, May 12, 2000
Subject: 11.1015 Re: Ghosts
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1015 Re: Ghosts

I stand corrected that the Q1 stage direction is not so "intriguing"
after all, but I shall keep my annotation to line 397 of my modern
edition of *Venus and Adonis*.

<L=397> <Q>Who sees his true-love in her naked bed,
<L=398> Teaching the sheets a whiter hue than white;
<L=399> But when his glutton eye so full hath fed,
<L=400> His other agents aim at like delight?
<L=401> <IN n=2>Who is so faint that dares not be so bold
<L=402> <IN n=2>To touch the fire, the weather being cold?

<NOTE><L=397><A>in her naked bed</A><LEVEL=1>naked in her bed because
the custom of the time was to sleep without clothing. Cf. <Q>2.b.
<B>naked bed</B>, orig. used with reference to the custom of sleeping
entirely naked; in later use denoting the removal of the ordinary
wearing apparel. Now arch.</Q> (<I>OED</I> adj.). <Q>1592 Kyd <I>Sp.
Trag.</I> ii. v. 1 What out-cries pluck me from my naked bed .
.?</Q></LEVEL></NOTE>

As soon as classes are over and I write the two essays I have promised,
I will be completing the annotations and the modern edition will be
ready, after peer review, for mounting on the Internet Shakespeare
Editions. Currently, the diplomatic transcription of Q1 and a facsimile
of it are available at
http://castle.uvic.ca/shakespeare/Library/Texts/Poems/Ven/index.html

VVho sees his true-loue in her naked bed,
Teaching the sheets a whiter hew then white,
But when his glutton eye so full hath fed,
His other agents ayme at like delight?
  VVho is so faint that dares not be so bold,
  To touch the fier the weather being cold?

I also have produced a number of other versions of *Venus and Adonis*
that I plan to discuss in my essay for the International Shakespeare
Conference this summer: "Varieties of the Electronic Textual
Experience."
 

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