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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: To be or not to be
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1806  Thursday, 19 July 2001

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Jul 2001 17:46:10 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1790 SHK 12.1806

[2]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Jul 2001 18:27:47 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1790 Re: To be or not to be


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Jul 2001 17:46:10 +0100
Subject: 12.1790 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1790 Re: To be or not to be

> Okay, I'll recant on the sword/dagger business.  But truly, did they
> wear swords even indoors in their own homes in Shakespearian times?
> Surely not in bed.  Was Claudius wearing a sword at his prayers?

I'm not sure (off the top of my head) of a source referring to the
wearing of swords indoors, but Ingram Frizer had not taken off his
dagger, carried in a sheath at his back, when sitting down to dinner
with Christopher Marlowe and some other acquaintances.

The official story runs that they had an argument about the bill and
then Marlowe (lying on a bed behind Frizer, who was sitting on a bench
with his two fellows) drew Frizer's dagger and attacked him with it,
causing a small injury.  Frizer, in return, wrestled the dagger out of
Marlowe's grasp and promptly stabbed him in the eye, killing him stone
dead.

There are various suspicions about the story, Marlowe may well have been
murdered deliberately and this story prepared to escape the
consequences, but it seems obvious - especially if the story was
fabricated, in which case it was carefully prepared and meant to be
believed - that it satisfied the Coroner's jury that sat on the case as
a likely enough event.

If men wore their daggers indoors during informal social occasions, then
they quite probably wore their swords as well.

Perhaps somebody will be able to offer similar evidence for the wearing
of swords on such occasions.

Thomas Larque.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 18 Jul 2001 18:27:47 +0100
Subject: 12.1790 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1790 Re: To be or not to be

> Okay, I'll recant on the sword/dagger business.  But truly, did they
> wear swords even indoors in their own homes in Shakespearian times?
> Surely not in bed.  Was Claudius wearing a sword at his prayers?

I've just thought of a rather obvious reference to wearing swords
indoors.  In "Romeo and Juliet" Mercutio describes Benvolio as one who
"when he enters the confines of a tavern, claps me his sword upon the
table and says 'God send me no need of thee!' and by the operation of
the second cup draws him on the drawer, when indeed there is no need"
(3.1.5-9).

Apparently Benvolio does take his sword off once in the tavern,
presumably so that he can sit down, but he keeps it close to hand and is
ready to use it immediately.

Hamlet's home, of course, is a Castle - so we should look to Royal
Palaces rather than smaller domestic environments for evidence as to
when people were likely to carry swords in these circumstances (although
I would suspect that the same rules applied to both).  During the scene
in question Hamlet has just left a Royal Court performance and has
obviously not had time to change his clothes or put aside the sword that
he was carrying at this event.  There is good evidence that Elizabeth's
courtiers carried swords when in the Royal Presence at Court.  Essex,
for example, in one of the more dangerous moments of Elizabeth's reign
responded to her boxing his ears by putting his hand to his sword,
threatening to draw it.

Thomas Larque.

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