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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: November ::
Re: Fops
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2096  Wednesday, 15 November 2000.

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Nov 2000 14:21:07 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2085 Re: Fops

[2]     From:   Brian Vickers <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Nov 2000 15:44:27 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 11.2028 Re: Fops


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 14 Nov 2000 14:21:07 -0500
Subject: 11.2085 Re: Fops
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2085 Re: Fops

>Fictive characters have no
>agency.  Hamlet, for example, cannot decide to do anything.

True; but then what is the difference between a fictional character and
a dead person?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Vickers <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 15 Nov 2000 15:44:27 +0100
Subject: Re: Fops
Comment:        SHK 11.2028 Re: Fops

SHK 11.2028 Re: Fops

Terence Hawkes, quondam author of *Shakespeare's Talking Animals*, asks
me to provide one example of a linguistic marker indicating to the
reader or theatregoer that Lady Macbeth displays 'falsehood or
insincerity' when she welcomes Duncan to Dunsinane.

I remind him of Ezra Pound's fundamental point that 'the medium of drama
is not words, but persons moving about on stage using words'. In the
preceding scene we have seen Lady Macbeth receiving her husband's letter
reporting how the witches hailed him as 'King that shall be' and
instantly resolving to help (or make) him achieve that goal. As news
arrives of Duncan's imminent visit she welcomes his 'fatal entrance',
after which her 'direst cruelty', aided by the 'murd'ring ministers',
will guide her 'keen knife' to effect his murder. The language
Shakespeare gives her in this soliloquy is extraordinarily economical,
the verse movement gestural, the metaphors vivid and frightening. When
Macbeth arrives, she tells him 'to beguile the time / ... look like
th'innocent flower, / But be the serpent under't', to 'bear welcome in
your eye' while planning how Duncan can 'be provided for', the
rhetorical figure syllepsis embodying a threatening double meaning
(hospitality/homicide).

Knowing her real intentions towards Duncan, the reader and theatregoer
instantly perceives the gap between them and the surface politeness of
her effusive welcome:

                        All our service,
        In every point twice done and then done double,
        Were poor and single business to contend
        Against those honours deep and broad wherewith
        Your majesty loads our house.

The first linguistic marker to catch our attention is the empty verbiage
of these loyal subjects' service 'In every point twice done and then
done double / Were poor and single business', a heaping up of words to
make a completely obvious point, made more obvious by the repetition of
'done', and the self-conscious antithesis 'twice ... double ... single'.
These puffy tautologies are quite unlike her language in the previous 54
lines she has been given. Secondly, the equally diffuse acknowledgment
of the 'honours deep and broad' with which Duncan 'loads' their house. I
can remember, at Cambridge in the 1960s, hearing F. R. Leavis discuss
these lines and suggesting that behind them lay the metaphor of a river,
and thinking that there was nothing there so clearly depicted as that,
only a vague gesture of value and indebtedness, such as the equally
empty assurance in her next speech:

                Your servants ever
        Have theirs, themselves, and what is theirs in compt
        To make their audit at your highness' pleasure,
        Still to return your own.

Here the repetition of the pronouns 'theirs, themselves, and what is
theirs' (the figure plok

 

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