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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: R & J Query
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1509  Thursday, 14 June 2001

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 09:53:06 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1502 Re: R & J Query

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 12:46:58 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1502 Re: R & J Query

[3]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 19:27:41 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1502 Re: R & J Query

[4]     From:   Ira Zinman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 21:32:35 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1502 Re: R & J Query


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 09:53:06 -0500
Subject: 12.1502 Re: R & J Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1502 Re: R & J Query

Although Rainbow's analysis of the putative sexual punning in dialogue
between Capulet and Paris is very learned, it also strikes me as very
counter-intuitive.

Perhaps I tend to take things too literally, but I try to imagine what
sort of man would engage in this extended dirty joking about his
daughter- with a man hoping to marry her. And I fail. I suppose we can
make ourselves believe almost anything about WS and his desire to play
to one element or another of his audience, but this kind of Capulet lies
beyond my belief. I don't deny that such a disgusting pig might exist,
probably has existed all to often, I just don't see him in this position
in this play.

Sorry,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 12:46:58 -0400
Subject: 12.1502 Re: R & J Query
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1502 Re: R & J Query

My Slang  and Euphemism dictionary doesn't list "Peter" as a synonym for
"penis" until the 1800s but it's really hard to believe that a word that
comes from the Latin for "rock" didn't appeal to British schoolboys much
earlier.

Rubinstein has an entry for Peter's first appearance in R&J:

Nurse: My fan, Peter.
Mercutio: Good Peter, to hide her face, for her fan's the fairer face.

The entry refers to "fan" as meaning "buttocks." Gosh, the name "Peter"
just seems to bob up in moments of intense sexual punning there, doesn't
it?

Rainbow brings in'"Redeem thy brother By yielding up thy body to my
will'.  Will here, must have echoed in the minds of many original
auditors as 'penis'. '

In that context it might help to note that Q2 has "enter Will Kempe"
instead of "Enter Peter." Could Shakespeare have been using a synonym in
choosing that name for the servant?

I recall being shot down long ago when I suggested that the nun,
Francisca (which means "French" which means "syphilis" to the
Elizabethan) and the friars, Peter and Thomas are deliberately sexual
names. Friar Peter ("upon this rock my church is founded") was the
Duke's confidant the moment he became actively instead of passively
involved in the events in Measure for Measure. Friar Thomas was his
confidant when he was passive, content only to watch. I couldn't prove
that Shakespeare associated Peter with a hard dick and Thomas with a
limp one. I still believe he backformed a limp dick association for
Thomas from "tomfool" which meant "oaf," and "tomboy" which meant a
"rude and sexually uncontrolled girl" or "an effeminate boy." "Fool" is
another of the words that crop up when you are not saying "penis:"

K: Aye, if the fool could find it where it lies. (TS)

J: A fool! A fool! I met a fool i' the forest! (AYLT) which means he met
Touchstone but links up to the sad, sweet description of the wounded
stag, which the more jaded amongst us see as a vivid description of
Jaques jerking off in the woods. (How do we know the self-reliever is
Jaques? "From Cupid's arrow he hath ta'en a hurt." Jaques is clearly
described as wounded by Cupid which could be seen , again by the jaded,
as meaning he's got venereal disease-an excellent reason not to return
to society.)

Our Will was a very bad boy.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 19:27:41 +0100
Subject: 12.1502 Re: R & J Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1502 Re: R & J Query

> From:           Rainbow Saari <
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> Enough ? I'll agree there's plenty of 'overt bawdry' in Romeo and
> Juliet, but I don't see why that precludes the presence of covert
> ribaldry as well. Shakespeare's plays seem to me to contain plenty of
> examples of both. I looked again at this passage and  I still stand by
> my earlier perceptions. ( I noticed WS uses the word 'stand' 26 times in
> R & J, exploiting its wide variety of meaning.)

I think what's at issue here is, in the largest sense, when and to what
degree subtextual readings can be brought into play.  The arena of puns
is a rather neat way of focusing this, and gives an element of
concreteness to the discussion.  (I'd surely hesitate about venturing a
generalised answer to the question, if indeed it +can+ be answered)
Rainbow and I seem to stand at opposite poles (oops! I'm doing it myself
now) on this.

"WS uses the word 'stand' 26 times in R & J".

Implicitly, if "stand" is used once with a sexual connotation in R&J,
then this connotation can be available every time that "stand" is used
in the play.  Abstractly, this is certainly the case (with the emphasis
on "can") -- concretely, we're down to a case-by-case basis.  A similar
focus would apply a range of other words ("part", for instance, in
Rainbow's earlier post) and aural/sexual puns.

(Shifting outside the play for a moment, there's the similar problematic
around "die" in it's Renaissance usage-because it can be [and sometimes
is] used as a synonym for sexual climax, does this connotation always
apply when the word is used?  Pretty obviously, not.)

[I.1 Gregory and Samson moving to I.2 Capulet and Paris]

> My point in mentioning this is that when the next scene begins, with
> Capulet and Paris discussing  Juliet's marriage, the 'ear' of at least
> some of the audience is primed to hear in the phrase " may stand in
> number, though in reck'ning none" the possibility of a sexual allusion.
> The 'earth-treading stars', the' fresh female buds' that Capulet
> describes are also, to use Sampson's words, at one level "pretty
> piece[s] of flesh" and I think the language Capulet (Shakespeare) uses
> suggests this, albeit in a subtle way.

I think the juxtaposition between the two scenes could be used to make
exactly the opposite point.  We shift from two lower class characters
indulging in clearly-signalled bawdy by-play in prose, to two upper
class figures speaking in verse --  different contexts, different
registers, quite different expectations.

Further, "when the next scene begins, with Capulet and Paris discussing
Juliet's marriage" ...  There's somewhat of an elision here-certainly
the Gregory/Samson dialogue occurs in I.1 and the Capulet/Paris dialogue
in I.2, but between the two dramatic moments, there are a large number
of varied scenes and incidents.  (Relatively) much dramatic time has
passed, sufficient (I'd argue) that when we come to the occurrence of
"stand" in Capulet's mouth, we've moved far away from the beginning of
the play.  As an audience watching and hearing the play, certainly-as
readers, it's so much easier to turn back to the opening of the play and
reread it.  But we experience a dramatic performance in a strictly
linear fashion.

>  These lines from Marlowe's  ed. Ovid's Amores Bk 1.10 come to mind
>
>  The whore stands to be bought for each man's money
> And seeks vild wealth by selling of her cony.

Perhaps they do, but the +primary+ meaning of "coney" here, as the
context affirms, is "The female genitals, the vulva" (SOED 4b).  There's
(in this case) no pun involved.  And as in Marlowe, it is the (female)
whore who is "standing", I'm not quite sure what exact sexual loading is
supposed to be being given to "stand".  The double-play on "stand" would
seem to be firstly that the whore exists, is present ["stands"], to be
bought; and secondarily the visual image of the whore standing waiting
for her clients.  Clever of Kit to make the more concrete reading the
secondary one, but not really in any way pertinent to a possible pun on
"stand" directing us towards an erect penis.

> Surely by choosing the name Paris for Juliet's suitor ( I don't know if
> the name occurs in his source texts)

The County Paris is lifted straight out of Brooke's _Romeus and Juliet_:

Emong the rest was one inflamde with her desire,
Who County Paris cliped was, an Earle he had to syre ...

[Arden (1980), p. 264]

cf. earlier in the poem:

At length he saw a mayd, right fayre of perfect shape
Which Theseus, or Paris would have chosen to their rape ...

[p 244]

>Shakespeare is connecting the
> character to the Paris of  Trojan War fame; the young man, son of Priam
> and Hecuba, who chose Venus as the most beautiful over Juno and Minerva;
> who abandoned the wife of his youth, Oenone, and abducted Helen, wife of
> Menelaus, thus initiating years of ' war for a placket' ( Troilus and
> Cressida 2.iii). A man of questionable sexual integrity?

Again, calling up Troilus and Cressida at this point works against
rather than for the bawdy argument.  Inter alia, T&C is a deliberate
debunking of the conventional expectations of the figures involved in
the Trojan war (Achilles is a cheap bully, Helen is an even cheaper
whore).  Also, of course, it hadn't been written in 1595 when R&J is
performed.  The 1595 audience would more likely associate Paris with
high romance than low sexual innuendo.

So we're back to a scene in which an aged and respectable father is
discussing the possible marriage of his daughter to an upper-class
figure with a name with classical connotations directing us towards 'the
greatest love story ever told'.   While it's +possible+ (I suppose
nothing can finally be ruled out), that they're indulging in a series of
sexual innuendos, it seems to me on, the face of it, highly unlikely.
The case has to be made pretty strongly for this to apply, and I'm not
at all convinced by Rainbow's arguments.

> When the servant Peter is given instructions to invite the persons on
> Capulet's list to the evening's festivities, his reaction is to say "It
> is written that the shoemaker should meddle with his yard  and the
> tailor with his last..." etc. He links each artisan to the wrong tools (
> ! ); the shoemaker meddles with / mends soles of shoes, to be worn on
> peoples feet, on his last. Many in   the audience would hear a sexual
> play on words in 'the shoemaker should meddle with his yard" because a
> man's 'yard' was then a common term for his penis, as indeed both the
> words 'foot' and 'sole' could  mean penis or vagina. (See Martin Green's
> the Labyrinth of Shakespeare's Sonnets )

Indeed they would hear sexual (word) play here, but we're back to the
arena in which Gregory and Samson play their parts.

> I do not  believe I am dragging
> bawdry into the Capulet/ Paris scene;  it is surrounded by scenes that
> utilise sexual imagery and their discussion contains  overt sexual
> imagery.

Two things:  "surrounded by scenes that utilise sexual imagery" seems to
me to wildly overstate the dramatic context of the Capulet/Paris
dialogue; and (all else aside) a bawdy reading of the scene reduces R&J
to a monotonic text rather than one which runs contrasts across a whole
range of dramatic and linguistic registers.

To deploy a parallel argument:  Mercutio throughout much of the play has
been indulging in pointed and witty bawdy jokes, much to the amusement
and delight of the audience.  When he comes to die-"No, 'tis not so deep
as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but 'tis enough, 'twill
serve"-he carries on this line of linguistic wordplay, comparing his
wound to the female genitalia and dying transformed into a strange
hermaphroditic figure.  As if.

> When Capulet says "Let two more summers wither in their pride,
> Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride" he is employing what I call the
> language of  fecundity; 'pride' , to stand proud, equates to male sexual
> readiness. Juliet's 'ripe'-ness refers to,( among other considerations,
> no doubt ), her sexual readiness, her being ripe for the taking. I doubt
> the sexual connotations of this would be lost on the original audiences.

There's a difference between sensuality and sexuality.  I'm happy to
agree to the implications of fecundity here, but that's a different
issue from whether we detect a direct +sexuality+ (manifested by
innuendo) in the scene.  "Ripeness is all."

> I don't claim the 'one is reckoned none' of Son. 136 and the line from R
> & J mean the same. However I do see the author deliberately playing with
> the ribald potential of the same collection of words in both Sonnet and
> Play and that is what I meant when I said I saw a 'corresponding subtext
> in the Capulet/ Paris scene' . Perhaps I didn't make that clear.

Again, the problem is just this - whether there +is+ a corresponding
subtext in R&J.  That one kind of wordplay occurs in Sonnet 136 doesn't
necessarily mean that the same (or even a similar) kind of wordplay
occurs at this point in R&J.

> I was recently given a copy of Frankie Rubinstein's A Dictionary of
> Shakespeare's Sexual Puns and their Significance and it pleases me to
> note that she also sees in many words that begin with 'con' ,depending
> on their context,  carry the burden of puns on cunt. Such puns are
> indeed aural, as pointed out. I note that Marlowe ( above ) rhymes
> 'money' with 'cony'.

See above-he certainly does, but he's +not+ (very much not) making a
pun.  And if you follow this through, the money/coney rhyme in Hero and
Leander rhymes on 'u' (pronunciation trumps orthography), whereas the
first syllable of "consent" has the 'o' vowel.  Which rather undermines
the possibility of an aural pun on 'consent' [o] and 'cunt' [u].  Or at
the least means that you have to strain rather hard to reach it.

> If beauty exists in the eye of the beholder then
> puns  surely exist in the ear of the hearer.

Not entirely, unless we're in a world in which any pun which +can+ exist
+does+ exist.

> She directs the reader (
> pg. 55) to Measure for Measure, 2.iv, where Angelo instructs Isabella to
> "Fit thy consent to my sharp appetite" One sense of this, undoubtedly
> crude, is 'make ready your cunt for my sharp [sexual] appetite'. She is
> told to "Redeem thy brother By yielding up thy body to my will'. Will
> here, must have echoed in the minds of many original auditors as
> 'penis'. Earlier in this same scene there occurs this exchange.

Um ... I think you (or Rubinstein) are on stronger ground here, but I'd
still have reservations, and certainly wouldn't want to reduce Angelo's
speeches to mere innuendo.  The element of sexual threat is obvious, the
underlying linguistic elements at play more dubious.

> Isabella; Sir, believe this. I had rather give my body than my soul.
> Angelo;   I talk not of your soul. Our compelled sins
>                  Stand more for number than for account.
>
> Interesting, the similarity of language to Son 136 and the passage from
> R & J, here, where Angelo definitely is talking about his immoral
> interest in becoming the possessor of Isabella's 'soul', where he is
> asking her to prostitute herself to save her brother's life.

Certainly (as Pervez Rizvi pointed out in an earlier post on this
thread) the last two lines from MforM quoted above are relevant to R&J.
But the same argument applies here-that while there +may+ be an element
of implicit sexual and verbal underplay in Angelo's earlier speech, this
doesn't necessarily mean that here he's comparing his sins to an erect
penis.

> As I read Shakespeare's works and those of his contemporaries, I'm
> endeavoring to develop a sense of  what an Elizabethan or Jacobean
> hearer would/ could understand listening to them. I want to learn to
> think, as much as is possible, like an Elizabethan.

Some words of that archetypal Elizabethan punster Jack Donne spring to
mind here --

     In this thy booke, such will their nothing see,
As in the Bible some can finde out Alchimy.

("Valediction to his booke")

For the Elizabethans (or at the least, for Donne in the above lines),
there were inappropriate ways of reading things into a text.  Nothing
new under the sun, as is said in Ecclesiastes.

Robin Hamilton

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ira Zinman <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 21:32:35 EDT
Subject: 12.1502 Re: R & J Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1502 Re: R & J Query

Well, Rainbow,

I think you hit on it when you said that Shakespeare writes on many
levels.  As for the Sonnets, first mentioned by Meres in 1598, I suggest
you have a look at PALLIDIS TAMIA and wonder no more about overt and
covert meanings.  Also since you alluded to Ovid, have a look at the
Epistle to the Reader of Arthur Golding whose 1567 translation was
probably Shakespeare's source.  You can find the text on line.

Ribald and earthy meanings are the one level of interpretation.  Each in
the audience finds and goes to the level he or she is seeking and can or
is ready to assimilate.  Shakespeare's beauty is that he has something
for every body, mind, heart and soul.

Ira

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