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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Hemp and Hanging
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1303  Thursday, 31 May 2001

From:           Rainbow Saari <
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Date:           Thursday, 31 May 2001 11:14:49 +1200
Subject:        Re: 12.1250 Hemp and Hanging

My thanks to Peter Groves for that lovely/ absurd image of Brutus
puffing away onstage, and to Gary Allen for the informative tobacco
history link. I do realise smoking was new among the general populace
(that it hadn't taken off as a practice when Hawkins and his sailors
first brought it to England)  and I agree Shakespeare set his plays
outside of his contemporary world,  presumably for the freedom that gave
him to comment, obliquely, on the here and now. His characters seem to
have solidly Elizabethan values, if not practices, and for that reason I
found it curious there was no reference to the growing fashionable
practice of  'taking tobacco'.   I suspected that if such an anachronism
existed, I'd find it in the Merry Wives of Windsor, his most thoroughly
Elizabethan play. Not so.

The nearest I come to it is in 3.2 when the Host says " I will to my
honest knight Falstaff and drink canary with him." to which the jealous
Ford mutters an aside, "I think I shall drink in pipe-wine first with
him; I'll make him dance." Dyce's glossary is the only one I have that
mentions 'pipe-wine'. A canary is, of course, also a dance and it was
apparently performed to a tabor and pipe. Fair enough. But the terms
'drink in' and 'pipe' also have application to smoking; to 'drink a
pipe' of  tobacco. I imagine that in postulating a double meaning for
the phrase 'I shall drink in pipe-wine first ' as 'I shall smoke him out
first' I may be aligning myself with that great cross-gartered gull
Malvolio who would "crush this a little, [so] it would bow to me". Ah
well.

There's also the " ' whiff' and wind of his fell sword" (I'm joking.)
All this does indeed point out Shakespeare's customary scrupulous
attention to detail. One suspects he was mercilessly ribbed about that
clock in Julius Caesar.

Thanks again,
Rainbow

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