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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Hawks and Handsaws

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1402  Thursday, 7 June 2001

[1]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 10:33:19 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws

[2]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 08:49:22 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Jun 2001 08:44:16 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws

[4]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 13:30:35 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws

[5]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Jun 2001 01:57:18 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 10:33:19 -0400
Subject: 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws

On Shakespeare's multiple meanings:  perhaps a more fruitful direction
for this thread to take, because it may point up the number of meanings
we ourselves are not aware of.  My favorite, as I'm sure I have
mentioned before, is "nunnery," which is used to mean both convent and
brothel.  Hamlet uses both senses of the word with Ophelia, and it is
only the context of the scene which indicates which meaning he intends,
and when.

As E. J. Burford might point out, in a book available for purchase at
the New Globe, the term "nunnery" has a special, neighborhood-specific
sense of "brothel" in Shakespeare's case, because the brothels of
Southwark were on land owned and operated by the Catholic Bishops of
Winchester for upwards of 400 years, by special agreement with Kings
Henry I - Henry VIII.  Presumably, the Catholic clerical-pimps were
replaced by more politically correct Anglican ones under H-VIII, but the
principle was still the same: the Church knowingly operated and received
proceeds from brothels on their own property.

(Not a bad business, that:  you _guarantee_ that your male parishioners
have something to talk about come confession time.)

Cheers,
Andy White

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 08:49:22 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws

> Dear Elliot, thanks for your enquiry. Mr. Maynard
> Mack was both astonished and delighted when he heard
> my explanation of the line. "Very impressive," were
> his actual words.// ...Hernshaw is a contraction of
Middle English > heronsewe,which is specifically a
young heron considered suitable for the table.
Ghengis Kahn had it on his menu!//

Goodness.  I too am "astonished."  But still confused.  Perhaps I am
just ignorant, or dense, or insufficiently ornithological...hopefully
someone will kindly enlighten me.

In Michael Jeneid's explanation, quoted above: ok, I follow the line of
thought about hawks being able to kill herons, etc.  And that "hernshaw"
is a contraction of "heronsewe".  BUT...

How do we get from "hernshaw" to "handsaw"?  Was I not paying attention
somewhere?

Or is the argument that this is something akin to those black-and-white
silhouette pictures which can be either two profiles, or a vase,
depending?  Again, we're back to the ambiguity theory: not one specific
meaning was intended, but rather a line which could be interpreted as
EITHER "I can tell two obscure, specialized tools apart" OR "I can
distinguish between two kinds of bird," OR "I can tell a bird from a
hand tool."  Perhaps this is the point: it is radically ambiguous,
intended to be so, and in fact meant NOT to hint to R&G that Hamlet's
"madness" is a ruse, but rather to further destabilize any opinion(s)
they might be building about their old school chum's sanity, or lack
thereof.

For some reason this discussion makes me recall an old Eddie Izzard
routine.  He is miming, with appropriate vocalized sound effects, the
act of cutting a plank with (you guessed it!) a HANDSAW.  He shows how
when you first start cutting the plank, you're actually making short,
fast strokes, rather than long, smooth sawing strokes (change of mime
effect and sound effects to illustrate).  He then stops, reflects, and
points out that exactly the same miming gestures and sounds could work
equally well for representing Beating Up A Baboon.

Yours for radical indeterminacy and baboons in mime,
Karen Peterson

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Jun 2001 08:44:16 -0700
Subject: 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws

Pat Dolan writes that

>Freud died of cancer of the mouth and throat did he not? Sometimes a
>cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes it's a drug of abuse. And sometimes
>it's an instrument of someone's death. The word "just" is a dangerous
>thing.

I am given to understand, though serious Freudians on this list will
probably know better, that Freud started to smoke cigars obsessively
only after the death of his wife.  Something about substitution for
sexual gratification, I assume, but it seems to call into question his
idea of a cigar being only a good smoke.

Cheers,
Seán.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Jun 2001 13:30:35 -0400
Subject: 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws

 R. A. Cantrell:

" We seem all to agree upon the meaning of handsaw and have some
question about hawk".  I

Well, no. One Hamlet I have suggests the problem is that handsaw is
really meant to be heronshaw, another kind of bird. So, Pete Wilson,
Will could be comparing two birds and not two tools.

As for why I think he is doing all of it (except the heronshaw thing,
that is really reaching)? If he knew a hawk was a bird and that a hawk
was a dungfork, how would he only know one definition at that moment of
writing?  (Why do I suddenly see Schrodinger's miserable cat?) I know
two other instances when his use of the word hawk is a signal for wicked
wordplay, a tipoff that he's about to be a bad, bad boy.

Merry Wives, III iii:

        Page. Let's go in, gentlemen; but trust me, we'll mock him. I do
invite you
to-morrow morning to my house to breakfast; after, we'll a-birding
together:
I have a fine hawk for the bush. Shall it be so?

        Ford. Any thing.

        Evans. If there is one, I shall make two in the company.

        Caius. If dere be one or two, I shall make-a de turd.

Note that 'hawk' precedes the fecal 'turd.' Will is clearly discussing
the bird, while maintaining knowledge of the dungfork.

Now, in Henry VI, part I, II ii, "Between two hawks, which flies the
higher pitch" is the opening gun in an insult fest in which, among other
things, he gets representatives of the houses of York and Lancaster to
call themselves assholes: Plantagenet's "purblind eye" and Somerset's
"blind man's eye." Will is clearly referring to the bird when he says
"hawks," but, since he carries the sense of "defile" when he uses the
word "pitch," even when it's the innocent verb, that's an indication
he's still conscious of the dungfork meaning so it can't be a surprise
when he arrives so swiftly at euphemisms for asshole.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Jun 2001 01:57:18 -0400
Subject: 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1383 Re: Hawks and Handsaws

I think the aristocratic Hamlet would be more likely to use an image
from falconry (or close to it), as he does elsewhere, than from
carpentry, as he does nowhere else--or have I missed something?

 

 

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