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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: December ::
Re: Hamlet's Books
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2246  Tuesday, 5 December 2000

From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Monday, 4 Dec 2000 17:11:35 -0800
Subject: Re: Hamlet's Books
Comment:        SHK 11.2221 Re: Hamlet's Books

Sean Lawrence responded:

> Paul Doniger writes:
>
> > Actually, Hamlet requested that the First Player perform a speech,
> > "Aeneas Tale To Dido" from an unnamed play (there has been much beating
> > about of brains as to the source of this unknown play).
>
> I thought it was broadly agreed that this comes from a precursor of
> Othello, about a military officer being killed using poisoned fish-eggs,
> I believe entitled "Caviar to the General".  No doubt someone will now
> make an argument that since he stopped people being shot and bulldozed
> into pits, he must have deserved it.

"Aeneas' Tale to Dido" has no reference to _Othello_ that I have ever
seen.  The expression, "'twas caviare to the general" is Hamlet's
comment on the quality of the play: it was too high-brow for the average
theatre-goer. I am unfamiliar with the _Othello_ reference; is it a new
discovery? The Variorum (now approaching a century and a quarter in age)
makes no mention of it.  "Aeneas' Tale to Dido" on the other hand is
clearly influenced by Virgil and Ovid (among others). The usual credo is
that Shakespeare lifted it from Marlowe's _Dido_, but I seriously doubt
that.

Any takers?

Paul E. Doniger
 

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