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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: March ::
Re: Feathers
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0710  Saturday, 24 March 2001

From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Wednesday, 21 Mar 2001 09:00:00 -0800
Subject: 12.0676 Feathers
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0676 Feathers

>There is a motif in the
>productions I don't understand.  Red and white feathers, corresponding
>to the colour of the roses, appear from time to time, usually descending
>from the ceiling, though not always.

J. D. Wilson's footnote on Hamlet's "forest of feathers" line (3.2.275)
may provide some illumination:

"Plumes were worn by tragic actors and contemporary references to the
fact are frequent. Cf. note 5.2.96-87 [re Osric taking off his hat] for
a passage from The Malcontent in which Sh.'s fellow actors appear decked
out with feathers, prob. in mockery of some other company. v. Glossary,
"Provincial roses,' 'razed.'"

That Malcontent passage (actually from Webster's Induction to the
play--1604). I can't claim to fully understand this interchange....

Condell. I beseech you, sir, be covered.

Sly. No, in good faith, for mine ease: look you, my hat's the handle to
this fan: God's so, what a beast was I, I did not leave my feather at
home! Well, but I'll take an order with you. *Puts his feather in his
pocket.*

Burbadge. Why do you conceal your feather, sir?

Sly. Why? Do you think I'll have jests broken upon me in the play, to be
laughed at? this play hat beaten all your gallants out of the feathers:
Blackfriars hat almost spoiled Blackfriars for feathers.

Sinklo. God's so, I thought 'twas for somewhat our gentlewomen at home
counselled me to wear my feather to the play....

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