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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: September ::
Re: Winters Tale
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2125  Friday, 7 September 2001

[1]     From:   Stevie Gamble <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 12:53:07 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2107 Re: Winters Tale

[2]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 16:28:39 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2107 Re: Winters Tale

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 23:20:42 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2119 Re: Winters Tale


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stevie Gamble <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 12:53:07 +0100
Subject: 12.2107 Re: Winters Tale
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2107 Re: Winters Tale

> From:           Edmund Taft <
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> 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

Indeed, so. Buttons were widely used but were often for purely
decorative purposes, lacking the limited function we are familiar with.
Ruffs, worn by both sexes at the neck and wrist, had to be pinned
because of the need to compress large amounts of material; if you look
again at the portraits you will see that buttons would have been much
too bulky.  Women's skirts were draped and pleated on the body, on top
of petticoats and farthingales, rather than pre-sewn into those shapes;
the obvious analogy would be to the saree or the tunics of the classical
period. Part of the artistry of dress was the skill at creating form
each time the garment was donned, and the multiplicity of items of
clothing-separate sleeves, for example, tied into the armsye- meant that
costume had more possible variations and a fluidity unmatched in
garments adhering to the conventional tailored norms. Hooks were also
used, but pins were vital. The sweet disorder in her dress may have been
bewitching but it was also dangerous; though not, as you say, lethal. At
least, I suppose septicemia may have carried people off, but I don't
know of any examples...

Best wishes,
Stevie Gamble

> From:           Clifford Stetner <
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> > 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.

Professor Ronald Hutton commented on The Winter's Tale, in The Rise and
Fall of Merry England, at p.166, when he noted that playwrights
incorporated folk pastimes in the 'way which had begun to be fashionable
around 1600. The greatest of them all did so in 1611, when Shakespeare
added a rural revel to 'The Winter's Tale.' Not, you will note, an
identification of Autolycus, or anyone else, as representing a fertility
deity, but an identification of a fashion in late Elizabethan early
Jacobean England. Ronald Hutton is the leading authority on this
topic...

> > 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).

It is a pity that your reading skills are so poor; you should really be
able to distinguish between the words 'men' and 'women', and as for your
grasp of chronology, it should be apparent, even to you, that the
Elizabethan age did not extend for centuries.

> 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).

That is nonsense. By that argument anything at all is proof that a
fertility deity is involved, anything can be hauled in as alleged proof.
This isn't reasoned argument, this is fantasy. No rational person would
accept that the guy standing behind the haberdashery counter in the
local department store is to be identified in part as a fertility deity.
Indeed, not even a moron in a hurry...

> > >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,

Actually, had you bothered to read the post you would have noted that
Janet Arnold was the pre-eminent scholar of clothing before her untimely
death.  It's Ronald Hutton who is the leading authority on the nature of
European pagan religions...For the benefit of anyone who didn't see the
references, which you have cut, the works in question are: Janet
Arnold's work, and, in particular _Queen  Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlocked_
and _Lost from Her Majesties Back_, and Ronald Hutton's work, and, in
particular, _The Pagan Religions of the British Isles_ , _The Rise and
Fall of Merry England_, and _The Stations of the Sun; A History of the
Ritual Year in Britain_.

>and my plate being full with
> dissertation readings does not amount to ignoring anyone's existence.
> I've read Frazier, Robinson, Gaster, etc. etc.,

I know; it is only too painfully obvious from your posts. Unfortunately,
it is also only too painfully obvious that you have not bothered to
check whether the works of any of the authors you rely on were, and are
still, regarded as accurate scholarship. They are not, and for the most
part, were not.

>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.

No. Unfortunately, at least for the purposes of your paper, no-one who
has bothered to read the scholarly research over the last nine decades
would regard that paragraph as anything other than the ramblings of
someone wholly ignorant of the subject.  For that matter, even Frazer
himself abandoned his most ludicrous fertility arguments re the alleged
status of Christ as an example of an allegedly universal ancient
tradition of a sacred king reigning for a period and then sacrificed for
the good of the realm, in 1915. The 'impression that the whole concern
of ancient paganism was with fertility' (Hutton, The Pagan Religions
p.326) was Frazer's doing, and unfortunately Frazer's lack of scholarly
rigour has been a continuing motif in his followers and supporters. You
are clinging to theories rebutted many decades ago, and since you can't
be bothered to familiarise yourself with the research, you rely on
insulting people who have done.

Stevie Gamble

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 16:28:39 +0100
Subject: 12.2107 Re: Winters Tale
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2107 Re: Winters Tale

I must have missed this last night, being somewhat tired and emotional,
but just to cross the i's and dot the t's

> From:           Clifford Stetner <
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> The Green Knight probably has his origins in a fertility god,
> not to mention Freia and probably even Arthur,

As the Green Knight actually confronts Arthur at the beginning of the
poem, is Mister Stetner suggesting that GGK is an early example of the
doppelganger theme in Scottish literature?  I suppose the case +could+
be made as the bob-and-wheel in Gawain re-emerges broadcast in various
poems in the Scottish Alliterative Revival. Wherefrom, obviously, it
moves into _Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner_ and from
thence to Jekyll & Hyde.  Via Deacon Brodie.

Just a thought.  No acknowledgement necessary if you take up this idea.

Robin

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 23:20:42 -0400
Subject: 12.2119 Re: Winters Tale
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2119 Re: Winters Tale

> _The Winter's Tale_ is temporily and geographically decentred (the
> seacoast of Bohemia and he who betrayed the best co-existing in the same
> platform as Jupiter's Oracle).

If I could make the least sense of this, I'd deal with it.  As it is,
given that the statement is a non-seqitur erected on an idiocy, I think
I'll just leave it to make its point for itself.

> The Autolycus joke is that Auto could have wandered in off the streets
> outside the theatre, as Stevie Gamble points out at great length.
> Making him into a Green Man figure or a fertility deity isn't a joke,
> it's a nonsense.

I didn't make him into a green man.  I only suggested that the
Shakespeare was discoursing on the nature of rural seasonal festivals
and that the character of Autolycus given his appearance and many verbal
puns and some of his apparently nonsensical comic dialogue indicate his
role as, in part, I repeat, in part, a kind of visiting deity.  Simon
Forman in his diary does not say he looked like he came in off the
street, but that he looked like "col-pixi," a kind of mischievous
fairy.  Rather than a green man, I see him as a kind of walking maypole,
hung with colored ribbons, which every authority I've read on the
subject acknowledges as originally a phallic symbol indicating the
original function of at least some seasonal festivals as fertility and
mating rituals.

> The Green Knight was being kicked around as a fertility symbol in the
> sixties (which, if my mathematics are accurate, was about forty years
> ago) and the idea was dubious even then.
> [And as an aside, where does Mr Stetner stand on the Gawain poems?  I
> assume Patience and Cleanliness are ruled out, but do we still have
> "Gawain was written by the author of Pearl"?  I ask in all innocence.]

Forty or four hundred, dubious or not, you seem to acknowledge the
origin of the Green Knight (written Greene Gome ie Man) as lying in the
ancient green man tradition.  It may or may not have its origins in the
green Osiris, but given the fact that all pagan religions heavily
emphasized fertility of earth, man and beast, I don't see why this point
should be doubted. There is no question that Sir Gawain and the Green
Knight deals with issues of sexual mores.  And yes, if inclusion in the
manuscript is not sufficient, the textual evidence regarding number of
verses and lines are compelling evidence of a single author.  I wasn't
aware that this had been questioned.  And I am unaware of any reason to
"rule out" Patience and Cleanliness.

> As to those standing henges ... I've been around much of Britain, and I
> still have to meet Obelix carting one around.  Other than StoneHenge.
> Please don't over-generalise.

Sorry, this was a typo for all over Europe, which should be extended to
the Middle East and Balkans as well as north and west Africa.

> > Venus and Adonis are evidence that Shakespeare was
> > familiar with the nature of pre Christian fertility religions.
>
> If I could make the least sense of this, I'd deal with it.  As it is,
> given that the statement is a non-seqitur erected on an idiocy, I think
> I'll just leave it to make its point for itself.

The myth of Venus and Adonis is one of the oldest in Western culture.
The myth is usually interpreted as a fertility myth, as the upshot is
that Adonis must spend winter with Persephone under ground and summer
with Venus making him a symbol of the fertility of the earth.  Robert
Graves claims that his rites were orgiastic and that he is based on the
god Tammuz. The rites of both of both Venus and Adonis throughout
pre-Christian Europe (etc.) were purely fertility religions.
Shakespeare treats the characters as though he knows the story and what
it is about.  It's possible that he was not aware of the mythological
and ritualistic allusions of Ovid's poem.  However, taken together with
my other non sequiturs, it seems to qualify at least as evidence that he
understood them.  Evidence is not proof and was not offered as such.

So far what I've said has been called ignorance, idiocy, hilarity and
ineptness. I don't know how I merited such superlative language. I know
I've never used it myself on this list.  Statements like "I can't make
sense of this so it's idiocy" strike me as merely substituting insulting
language for actual refutation and I'm growing weary of it and of this
discussion.

As civil as I know how to be

Clifford

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