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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: R & J Query
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1473  Tuesday, 12 June 2001

From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Jun 2001 20:08:55 +0100
Subject: 12.1432 Re: R & J Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1432 Re: R & J Query

> From:           Rainbow Saari <
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> In things of great receipt with ease we prove
> Among a number one is reckoned none.
> Then in thy number let me pass untold,
> Though in thy store's account I one must be.
>
> I thought the  'one is none' came from Pythagoras; hopefully someone can
> enlighten us on that.

Not difficult, as "one is no number" is pretty much a commonplace.
Shakespeare would have known of it from (at least) _Hero and Leander_ I,
225.  The relevant Greek author is Aristotle (_Metaphysics_).  The
Katherine Duncan-Jones edition of the sonnets will provide a relevant
note, and the admirable edition by John Kerrigan will provide several
cross-references within the Sonnets.

More cogently, "one is no number"/"one is reckoned none" is +not+ the
same as R&J's "mine, being one, / May stand in number", which says
exactly the opposite -- one +is+ a number, stands in the rank of
numbers.

But, ah ha, we have 'reckon' in both places, as there are, as Fluellen
says, rivers in both ...

In Sonnet 136, the narrator says that one is no number but will
nevertheless be accounted as such.  In R&J, Capulet says that one
(Juliet) is a number, but isn't really to be accounted as such -- almost
the exact opposite.

The conclusion would seem to be that either the segue from Sonnet 136 to
R&J doesn't apply, or if it +does+ apply, applies by direct contrast.

In neither case can a rather crude reading of Sonnet 136 be plastered
willy-nillly on top of Capulet's words in R&J.

> In Son. 136 Will is of course exploiting the
> ribald potential of much of the language in the lines above, and I
> believe there is a corresponding subtext in the Capulet/ Paris scene.

See above ..

> Paris points out that Capulet and Montague are both men of honorable
> reckoning; counted with other members of their class they have equal
> standing in their community. The phallic/ yonic language in this last
> sentence is not unintentional.

Your intention, (if we may speak of intentions) but perhaps not the
intention of the play or the playwright.

> The issue these two men are discussing is of whether Capulet thinks his
> Juliet is sexually 'ripe' enough to be Paris' bride. Her father thinks
> it too early but admits that if Paris can 'get her heart; My will to her
> consent is but a part '. In the context of such ambiguous sexual terms
> as ' my will' (genitals),  'her consent' ( her cunt ) and 'a part' ( the
> genitals again ) the phrase 'get her heart' loses some of its innocence.

It is, of course, a linguistic commonplace that when any one of a group
of terms acquires a sexual connotation, every one of the group
participates.  Unfortunately for the argument, this isn't the case
here.  The equation of "my will" = (male) genitalia is drawn, obliquely,
from the Sonnets, and as I've suggested above, this is already
straining.  "consent" = (female) genitalia, if it applies at all,  would
be based on an aural pun (and I can't think offhand of an instance where
this pun is used in the Renaissance).  "part" is so neutral that it can,
if necessary, take on any colouring -- why not, here, Juliet's dowry
rather than her genitals?

> I think he's saying 'But if she desires you sexually' therein 'lies my
> consent' ( again the suggested sexual imagery; 'lies', my approval of
> 'my cunt's [Juliet] actions.) There's a fair bit of the old " nudge,
> nudge, wink, wink, say no more" about this conversation.

Well, really and truly there isn't.  There's enough overt bawdry in
_Romeo and Juliet_ (do Mercutio and the Nurse spring to mind here?)
without dragging it, higgledy pigglety by the scruff of several
linguistic misconceptions, into a context where it doesn't apply.

When Shakespeare (as in, to take only one example, the dialogue between
Sir Toby and Maria) indulges in such bravura bawdry, he indulges in it
(always, dare one say?) with a degree of linguistic coherence.  It's
simply the name of the game, the difference between wit and smut.

I could go on, but if my point hasn't been made by now...

Robin Hamilton

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