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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: September ::
Re: Winters Tale
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2107  Wednesday, 5 September 2001

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 04 Sep 2001 16:00:48 -0400
        Subj:   The Winter's Tale

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Sep 2001 16:25:39 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2101 Re: Winters Tale


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Tuesday, 04 Sep 2001 16:00:48 -0400
Subject:        The Winter's Tale

Stevie Gamble's explanation of the ways in which pins could be lethal
(or nearly so) makes me appreciate that the invention of the safety pin
was indeed a major advance!

More to the point (so to speak), why weren't buttons used in more
women's clothing during the Renaissance? It appears that Lear's clothes
have buttons in the final scene of his play (?)

Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Sep 2001 16:25:39 -0400
Subject: 12.2101 Re: Winters Tale
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2101 Re: Winters Tale

Dear Stevie Gamble:

Please refrain from insulting me as a vehicle to plug your artistic
projects.

> I think it was Robin Hamilton who pointed out that there is a huge (and
> in my view unbridgeable) gulf between wit and smut, and Sean Lawrence
> who noted that whilst the Beavises and Buttheads of the world may be
> able to find a snigger in everything they see, there is no justification
> in assuming that we are all, Shakespeare included, Beavises and
> Buttheads.  This isn't poetic double entendre; this is you finding
> things to snigger over in the fond delusion that everyone else shares
> your ignorance of life in western Europe during the Renaissance.

Right.  And I suppose Autolycus' tumbling in the hay with his "aunts"
refers to a hayride at the family reunion.  I suppose the ballad he
sells: "two maids wooing a man" has nothing to do with Mopsa, Dorcas,
the Clown or him, and so when he tells them it is his profession to
"bear my part," he can only mean his part of the song.

> It was written in the early 17th century, and the items referred to in
> the lines you quoted as proof that Autolycus should be identified in
> part as a fertility god, "pins and poking sticks of steel, what maidens
> lack from head to heel..." were sold in vast quantities across Europe
> for centuries. Poking sticks were for ruffs, at the throat and wrists,
> worn by both men and women, and as for pins: much of a maiden's
> clothing  was held on by pins, every morning, and every time she changed
> her clothes during the day, from headdresses to ruffs to her skirts,
> literally from her head to her heel; it was a commonplace which everyone
> knew: no pins, no clothes. I have yet to encounter a fertility deity
> interested in putting a maiden's clothing on; it's the other way around.

I'm sure everybody is impressed by your command of ladies' clothing of
the Elizabethan age (I'm sorry, that should be Jacobean, shouldn't it).
Fertility gods are interested in stimulating fertility.  If that
requires a nice ruffled dress, or a bawdy ballad, so be it (please don't
lecture me on the absence of ruffled dresses in the first decade of the
17th c).

> >There were no oracles either, yet there it is.
>
> The oracle is clearly identified in the play as the oracle; there is
> nothing whatsoever in the play to identify Autolycus in the way you
> assert. I note that you are unwilling to cite any authority whatsoever
> for your statements, and have not commented on the work of Janet Arnold
> or Ronald Hutton. If you think that they are wrong then it is usual to
> explain why you think that they are wrong, not just ignore their
> existence...

This is an annoying device foisted along with peevish charges of
ignorance and ineptness.  These are not the only authorities on the
nature of European pagan religions, and my plate being full with
dissertation readings does not amount to ignoring anyone's existence.
I've read Frazier, Robinson, Gaster, etc. etc., and the upshot is that
there is much more lost than preserved of the nature of pre Christian
deities.  The Green Knight probably has his origins in a fertility god,
not to mention Freia and probably even Arthur, while the monoliths and
standing stones all over England probably hearken back to an ithyphallic
fertility religion.  Venus and Adonis are evidence that Shakespeare was
familiar with the nature of pre Christian fertility religions.  The
fairies of Midsummer Night's Dream spend half their time stimulating
human intercourse. The Lupercalia at the beginning of Julius Caesar is a
fertility ritual. And Shakespeare may well have known that Whitsuntide
and Sheepshearing festivals were held on occasions devoted to pagan
worship in pre Christian times during which both the above mentioned
trio and Florizel and Perdita are hotly courting.  Let me know when
Beavis and Butthead do Hamlet (no pun intended).

Clifford

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